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John Mitchell Young Stewart (1865–1940)

by J. B. Hopley

This article was published:

John Mitchell Young Stewart (1865-1940), medical practitioner, was born on 14 December 1865 at Tarland, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, eldest of four children of Robert Stewart, minister of the Free Church of Scotland, and his wife Isabella Henrietta, née Fergusson. Mitchell, as his family called him, was educated at Merchiston Castle School and the University of Glasgow (M.B., C.M., 1887).

After practising briefly in Glasgow, he came to Western Australia in 1887; he assisted a doctor at Albany and acted as port medical officer and quarantine officer. Stewart later practised at York where, on 4 June 1890 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, he married Annie Selina Taylor; they were to have three children. In 1891 he began general practice at Guildford where he was appointed district government medical officer and resident magistrate (1894). There he was joined in partnership by his brother James Edmund Fergusson and sister Roberta Henrietta Margaritta, fellow graduates from the University of Glasgow. All three attended a meeting in Perth in 1898 to form a Western Australian branch of the British Medical Association; Mitchell was later elected to the first council. He moved to Perth in 1906 to practise as a gynaecologist.

In Scotland Stewart had served five years in the Lanarkshire Volunteers. Commissioned second lieutenant in the Guildford Rifles, Western Australian Volunteer Force, in 1894, he was appointed captain on the medical staff in 1899 and served as medical officer with Western Australia's 2nd contingent to the South African War in 1900-01. Promoted major in 1901, he held various medical appointments until resigning in 1912.

In that year Stewart registered as a medical practitioner in New South Wales and practised at Bangalow until his appointment on 14 November 1914 as major in the 2nd Australian General Hospital, Australian Imperial Force. Two weeks later he embarked for Egypt where in early 1915 he transferred to the 12th Battalion as regimental medical officer. During the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April Stewart suffered a displaced cartilage in his right knee, but tended the wounded until he was evacuated to Egypt two days later. Transferred to hospital in England in May, he was discharged on 3 June but re-admitted a day later with enteric fever. He was transferred to the supernumerary list in November and served at convalescent depots until appointed to the 11th Australian Field Ambulance at Larkhill in August 1916. The unit served on the Western Front from November and in May 1917 Stewart was promoted lieutenant-colonel to command the 15th Australian Field Ambulance. His organizing skills were recognized by the award in December of the Distinguished Service Order. He had previously been mentioned in dispatches for his service in France and Belgium. Stewart's next appointment was as colonel commanding the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford, Wiltshire, England, from January 1918 to December 1919 when he returned to Australia. For this service, he was appointed C.B.E. His A.I.F. appointment ended in 1920 and he was transferred to the retired list in 1923.

Stewart's first marriage had been dissolved on 13 July 1915; fifteen days later he married Australian-born Muriel Fredda Heaverside Meallin at Camberwell, London. After demobilization Stewart practised at Temora, New South Wales; in 1924 he moved to England and bought a practice in Shenley, Hertfordshire. Deteriorating health forced him to sell it in 1925, at considerable financial loss, and from then he was unable to practise. An enteric carrier, Stewart had received a war disability pension since 1920 and was accepted as totally and permanently incapacitated. He went to Canada in 1927, Bermuda in 1930-33 and Jersey, Channel Islands, from 1933 until September 1935 when he was taken to Surrey, England. Described then as a 'big, stout man', he remained hospitalized, except for a few months in 1936, until he died at the Red Cross Hospital for Officers, Brighton, on 24 April 1940 of typhoid fever and cerebral haemorrhage. The Repatriation Commission granted a pension to his widow.

Stewart's brother James (1874-1937) also served as an A.I.F. medical officer in Egypt, France and Belgium.

Select Bibliography

  • B. C. Cohen, A History of Medicine in Western Australia to 1900 (Perth, 1965)
  • 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), Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vol 1 (Melb, 1938)
  • London Gazette, 28 Dec 1917, 1 Jan 1918, 12 Dec 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Apr 1933
  • Western Mail (Perth), 20 Jan, 3, 10 Feb, 7 Apr, 26 May, 2 June, 7 July, 18 Aug 1900, 16 Feb, 2 Mar 1901
  • Temora Independent, 2, 27 Feb 1924
  • war diaries, 11th and 15th Australian Field Ambulance, and 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital, AIF (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

J. B. Hopley, 'Stewart, John Mitchell Young (1865–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 December, 1865
Tarland, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


24 April, 1940 (aged 74)
Brighton, Sussex, England

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