Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David Keith Ballow (1804–1850)

by Kathleen O'Donoghue

This article was published:

David Keith Ballow (1804-1850), medical officer, was born on 27 October 1804 at Montrose, Scotland, the eldest son of John Ballow. He was educated at Edinburgh University and came to Sydney in 1834. He was appointed assistant surgeon in August 1836 at Invermein (Scone) and transferred to Moreton Bay in December 1838 after serving as assistant surgeon at the Sydney general hospital. Although the convicts were soon withdrawn Ballow had other patients as increasing numbers of settlers came to the district. After the military garrison was recalled and the establishment broken up, Ballow resigned in 1849. The old government hospital on the site of the Supreme Court was reopened as the Brisbane General Hospital. At the first meeting in January 1849, Ballow was appointed one of the trustees and resident surgeon, with the right of private practice. He was also a magistrate and district coroner.

On 8 August 1850 the Emigrant, a Colonial Land and Emigration Commission ship, arrived in Moreton Bay with sixty-four cases of typhus fever on board. By the time she was put in quarantine at Dunwich, fourteen deaths had already occurred and the ship's surgeon was among the increasing number of victims. Dr Mallon, the health officer, took charge but he was stricken. Ballow then undertook the responsibilities of surgeon superintendent at the quarantine station. He too took the infection and died on 29 September 1850. A tablet on Ballow Chambers, Wickham Terrace, and a tombstone at Dunwich commemorate this 'gallant and jovial Scotsman'.

Ballow was an energetic man of varied interests. He was among the first to grow cotton in Queensland, getting his plants from Dr Thompson, inspector of hospitals in New South Wales. He discovered and commercialized a chalybeate spring in a tea-tree swamp near Deception Bay. A member of the Church of England, he was one of three patrons elected in accordance with the regulations of the Denominational Schools Board.

Ballow predeceased his wife, Margaret Campbell, youngest daughter of Captain Peter McArthur of the 6th Royal Veteran Battalion, whom he had married on 21 October 1837. They had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • manuscript catalogue under D. K. Ballow (State Library of Queensland).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Kathleen O'Donoghue, 'Ballow, David Keith (1804–1850)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 October, 1804
Montrose, Forfarshire, Scotland


29 September, 1850 (aged 45)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

typhoid fever

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.