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Nott, Lewis Windermere (1886–1951)

by John Farquharson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Lewis Windermere Nott (1886-1951), politician, medical practitioner and hospital superintendent, was born on 12 February 1886 at Windermere sugar-plantation, near Bundaberg, Queensland, seventh child of Frederick Lewis Nott, sugar-planter, and his wife Jean, née Blair, both from New South Wales. After attending Maryborough Grammar School, young Lew studied assaying at the School of Mines, Ballarat, Victoria, and medicine at the University of Sydney. On 28 July 1913 at Woolwich he married with Unitarian forms Doris Ashbury, a 20-year-old student. They travelled to Scotland where he continued his medical training with the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and the Royal Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow.

At the outbreak of World War I Nott enlisted in the Royal Scots Greys on 7 August 1914 and was drafted to the Lovat's Scouts. Commissioned in the Royal Horse Artillery in May 1915, he transferred in October to the 15th Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), in which he was promoted captain and made adjutant. While serving on the Western Front in 1916, he was wounded and twice mentioned in dispatches. His affectionate letters to his wife, describing conditions in the field, were edited by his son David and published as Somewhere in France (Sydney, 1996).

Relinquishing his commission, Nott returned to Scotland in December 1916, resumed his medical studies and qualified (L.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. and L.R.F.P.S.) in 1918. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, then worked as a resident surgeon (1919) at the Pilkington Special (Orthopaedic) Hospital, St Helens, Lancashire, England. Returning to Australia, he took part in the hookworm campaign in Central and North Queensland before being appointed medical superintendent of Mackay District Hospital. In 1924-27 he was mayor of Mackay. On 14 November 1925 he won the Federal seat of Herbert for the National Party, defeating E. G. Theodore by 268 votes. After he lost Herbert in 1928, he unsuccessfully contested the seats of North Sydney (1929), Calare (1934) and East Sydney (1940).

With the relocation of the Commonwealth parliament in the Federal (Australian) Capital Territory in 1927, Nott had settled in Canberra. He identified with the community's aspirations and promoted its interests. In April 1928 he presented petitions from the Territory's citizens seeking representation in Federal parliament and on the Federal Capital Commission. Although he failed to win the new position of elected member on the F.C.C. in 1929, he was returned to the F.C.T. (A.C.T.) Advisory Council from 1935 to 1949. On 10 December 1949, standing as an Independent, he became the A.C.T.'s first member of the House of Representatives; he had limited voting rights, but could speak on any issue. He advocated building a road from Canberra to the New South Wales coast, and the provision of more money and facilities for the Aborigines at Wreck Bay.

Nott had begun a long association with Canberra (Community) Hospital in 1928 when he was appointed to a board of three to inquire into its administration. In November 1929 he was gazetted medical superintendent, with the right to practise privately. He held the post until 1934 and again in 1941-49. Not only did he contribute to the development of the hospital and its school of nursing, he also fought to ensure that patients received the best possible care. His ability to relate to people was unquestionable, but his touch was less sure where administration was concerned. He reverted to private practice (1934-40) and criticized the hospital's management, precipitating another inquiry (1937).

Described as 'a man of an extroverted, even flamboyant disposition with a strong social conscience and a compassionate concern for the underprivileged', Nott had set up and manned a soup-and-sandwich kitchen in Canberra's Causeway area during the Depression. His interests were varied: he was involved in Legacy, the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, the Canberra Repertory Society, the Canberra Philharmonic Society and the Horticultural Society of Canberra.

In April 1951 Nott was defeated for the seat of the A.C.T. by Jim Fraser. Appointed medical officer at the Newborough Clinic, Yallourn, Victoria, he flew to Melbourne on 26 October. He had been suffering from leukaemia for a number of years and collapsed on board the aircraft; he died on 27 October 1951 in Royal Melbourne Hospital and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Presbyterian forms. His wife, two daughters and one of his three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Ide, Royal Canberra Hospital (Canb, 1994)
  • A. J. Proust (ed), History of Medicine in Canberra and Queanbeyan (Gundaroo, NSW, 1994)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Nov 1925
  • Canberra Times, 29 Oct 1951
  • private information.

Citation details

John Farquharson, 'Nott, Lewis Windermere (1886–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nott-lewis-windermere-11265/text20095, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 18 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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