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Dick, James Adam (1866–1942)

by Patricia Morison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

James Adam Dick (1866-1942), physician and army officer was born on 28 January 1866 at Windsor, New South Wales, eldest son of James Adam Dick, postmaster, and his wife Jean, née Benson. He was educated at Windsor public and grammar schools, at the universities of Sydney (B.A., 1886) and Edinburgh (M.B., C.M., 1891; M.D., 1892; F.R.C.S.E., 1901) and the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin (L.M., 1891). In religion he was Presbyterian.

In 1893 Dick settled at Randwick, Sydney, where he developed a huge practice and a high reputation as doctor and citizen. In 1894 he was appointed honorary medical officer to the Home for the Aged and Infirm, Randwick, and the Asylum for Children. On 25 April 1911, at St Jude's Church of England, Randwick, he married Lillian Louise Wall. It was a grand function, complete with military ceremonial, and attracted several thousand spectators. The couple lived in formal style at Catfoss, Belmore Road, a two-storied sandstone mansion.

A strong sense of duty and good organizing ability found expression in serving professional and community organizations long and well. Dick was particularly active in the British Medical Association, being State president in 1910-11 and a federal councillor in 1932-36. For many years he was also a member of the Medical Board of New South Wales and a councillor of St Andrew's College, University of Sydney. A regular attender at medical congresses, he contributed a notable paper on bubonic plague, jointly with Dr F. Tidswell, to the Intercolonial Medical Congress, 1899. Bubonic plague hit Sydney in 1900, recurring sporadically for a decade. A brother, Dr Robert Dick (1869-1943), worked in a team under Dr J. Ashburton Thompson, which demonstrated to the world how this scourge could be beaten. Robert Dick became director-general of public health for New South Wales in 1924-34. After service with the British Army in World War I, he had retired from the Australian Military Forces as colonel in 1925.

Like his father and brother, James Adam Dick had an enthusiasm for military pursuits. During the South African War he enlisted with the second contingent of the New South Wales Army Medical Corps which embarked in January 1900. With the first contingent, this formed a well-trained, well-equipped and impressively mobile medical corps, which drew special praise from Lord Roberts. Lieutenant Dick served at Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Vet River, Zand River, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Diamond Hill and east of Pretoria. He was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Queen's medal with six clasps.

Dick joined the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915 as lieutenant-colonel. He was second-in-command, 3rd Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, until transferred in January 1916 to the 2nd A.G.H., Cairo, crossing with it to Wimereux, France, in March. In October he took command of No.1 Casualty Clearing Station. As colonel he was sent in October 1917 to command the 1st A.G.H. at Rouen, removing with it to England after the Armistice. He returned to Australia in 1919. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and was appointed C.M.G. in 1919.

A medical colleague described Dick as 'a sturdy, industrious fellow, of high principle—a first class doctor, who made it his business to learn drill and much else … He had a huge kit and was something of a high class old maid in his habits, but I am glad to be able to add, an eminently virtuous one … I take off my hat to him'. He died on 23 December 1942 at his Randwick home and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Randwick cemetery. His wife survived him. They had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Scot Skirving, Our Army in South Africa (Syd, 1901)
  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • A. G. Butler (ed), The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vols 1-3 (Melb, 1930, Canb, 1940, 1943)
  • Book of Remembrance of the University of Sydney in the Great War, 1914-1918 (Syd, 1939)
  • L. M. Field, The Forgotten War (Melb, 1979)
  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal, 77 (1943), p 173
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 27 Mar 1943
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr 1911
  • R. Scot Skirving, Memoirs, vol 3 (Australian Academy of Science Library)
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Patricia Morison, 'Dick, James Adam (1866–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 October 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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