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Creed, John Mildred (1842–1930)

by Brian Dickey

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

John Mildred Creed (1842-1930), by unknown photographer

John Mildred Creed (1842-1930), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 2 - 08227

John Mildred Creed (1842-1930), physician and politician, was born on 21 November 1842 at Ashbrook, near Cirencester, Gloucester, England, son of John Creed and his wife Mary, née Sanger. His parents' families had been tenant farmers on Hicks-Beach land for two generations. After education at a diocesan school at Cowley and at Kingsdown College, Bristol, Creed was apprenticed in 1858 to R. F. Wells, F.R.C.S., in London. He went with his family to Melbourne in 1861. After a year on Riverina sheep stations he returned to England to complete his medical studies at University College, London (M.R.C.S., 1866), and Edinburgh (L.R.C.P., 1866).

As surgeon in the Anglesey Creed returned to Sydney where he was appointed resident physician at the Sydney Infirmary. In 1867 as medical officer he joined the Northern Territory expedition mounted by the South Australian government under Captain Francis Cadell. By ship they explored the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, visited Port Darwin and Timor and returned to Adelaide. In April 1868 Creed was registered by the New South Wales Medical Board and settled at Scone, where he established a large practice and served as a magistrate. In the Legislative Assembly he represented the Upper Hunter in 1872-74, generally supporting Henry Parkes. With flattering testimonials he left Scone in 1882 and established a practice at Woollahra. He was also editor of the Australasian Medical Gazette in 1882-93, an honorary surgeon at Sydney Hospital in 1883 and secretary of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association in 1883-86, serving as its president in 1887 and 1892.

In August 1885 Creed was nominated to the Legislative Council. He held his seat until 1930, a willing speaker on a wide range of subjects. Apart from such measures as divorce reform and compulsory vaccination in which he supported the efforts of other members, he had a leading part in initiating the passage of such Acts as the licensing of medical practitioners in 1900, protection of children in 1892 and 1900, marriage validation in 1892 and care of inebriates in 1900. Acidly he criticized the Parkes ministries in 1887-89 and 1889-91 for lack of defence preparedness. After the master of the Australian-owned whaler, Costa Rica Packet, was imprisoned in the Moluccas for twelve days in November 1891 and then extradited, Creed was very active in urging the British government to claim compensation from the Netherlands government for the owners and crew; his efforts, backed by many petitions to London, led to redress in 1897.

To achieve social reforms at a time when governments did not take a strong lead in legislation, Creed exploited the select committee as an instrument of propaganda, notably the Legislative Council inquiry of 1887 into the laws relating to medicine and surgery. To the evidence and reports of such committees he added many lengthy letters to Sydney and London newspapers, made direct approaches to Australian and British prime ministers, peers and cabinet ministers and published numerous pamphlets, some of them on cremation. Like (Sir) Henry MacLaurin and Billy Hughes, he opposed Federation for taking insufficient cognizance of the wealth and status of New South Wales. A critic of the White Australia policy, he published papers emphasizing the abilities of the Aboriginals and the Japanese. He was successful in urging the Deakin government in 1903-04 to allow Japanese travellers and traders with passports to visit Australia. To Creed 'the undiscriminating effort of a proportion of the electors of Australia to exclude all coloured races [was] fraught with peril to the well-being of every class'.

Creed's papers in the Australasian Medical Gazette reveal him as an energetic and opinionated physician, innocent of bacteriology but willing to employ empirically a wide variety of techniques. Most notably he was an early and long-standing advocate of the use of hypnosis, especially in the treatment of inebriety. His greatest concern was the proper qualification of medical practitioners and the consolidation of the profession. He cared little that his reforms were unpopular, for he believed strongly that the social and political milieu allowed a large initiative to independent and public-spirited men.

In 1916 Creed published in London My Recollections of Australia and Elsewhere, 1842-1914. He died in North Sydney on 30 October 1930 and was cremated at Rookwood cemetery. At 26 he had married Clara Farmer in Sydney. After her death he married a widow, Agnes Williams, née Nicholson, in 1905. He was survived by his only child, a daughter of the first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (South Australia), 1867 (178), 1868 (24)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1887, 1892, 1893, 1900, 1908
  • J. M. Creed, 'My Experience of Hypnotic Suggestion as a Therapeutic Agent', Australasian Medical Gazette, vol 18, 20 Jan 1899, pp 8-20
  • Creed papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • printed sources catalogue under Creed (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Brian Dickey, 'Creed, John Mildred (1842–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/creed-john-mildred-3287/text4993, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 28 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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