Potted Histories

Mornington District Hospital 1909 – 1953

Mornington District Hospital was opened in July 1909. Although Millars had opened hospitals in the early days of their Denmark and Yarloop Mills, it was nearly 10 years after Mornington Mill was built that the citizens pushed for a hospital there. Prior to 1909, if Mornington residents required hospitalisation, they went to Yarloop. Although the hospital closed for four years during World War 1, it reopened in 1919.[1] It continued to operate as a hospital until July 1953 when it became an annex of Yarloop Hospital with a Sister-in- Charge. [2] When it closed as an annex is not known but it would have been before 1965 when milling operations ceased at Mornington. The history of the establishment of the hospital is described well in the articles below.

In preparation for opening, the following advertisement was placed:

MORNINGTON DISTRICT HOSPITAL APPLICATIONS are called for the POSITION of NURSE to the above Hospital. Salary, £90 per annum. Successful applicant to enter upon duties August 1, 1909. Applications, with testimonials and age, close with the Secretary on or before July 7, 1909.  More particulars can be obtained from A. LOGAN, Secretary, Mornington.[3]

Opening of Mornington Hospital. Some Interesting Speeches.

…The visiting party, which included Mr. A. McNeil, General Manager for the Millars Co., and Messrs. J. B. Holman, T. Hudson and P. O’Loghlen,  M’s.L.A., were stuck up at Yarloop through some mishap to the electric staff and did not reach Mornington until two hours after the anticipated time so that the proceedings were considerably delayed. At half past four, Mr. T. Robertson (President of the Hospital Committee), Mr. P. Logan (Secretary) Messrs. Anthony, Butler, Hart. McLeod, Buck, Kilburn and McKinnon (Committeemen) and Dr. F. J. Walden (Health Officer) welcomed the visitors and others present to the Hospital. The President read a letter from the Colonial Secretary in which the latter expressed his regret at his inability to attend and in congratulating the Committee said that their shouldering of a responsibility like this was a work the Government desired to see cultivated.

Mr. Robertson said that on behalf of the Committee of the Mornington District Hospital it afforded him great pleasure to welcome them there that afternoon on the occasion of the opening of the Institution. It was some eighteen months since it was first mooted that they should approach the Company and see if they could not obtain better medical attendance for the public, as under the old system of amalgamation with Yarloop everybody could plainly see that a Doctor could not possibly attend to, and give satisfaction to the people of Yarloop and Mornington as the area over which the district extended was too great.

At the expiration of Dr. Lovegrove’s term with the Company, they obtained permission to manage their own medical affairs, and then in conjunction with Worsley obtained the services of Dr. Walden as Medical Officer, who, he was pleased to say, had carried out his duties in a highly satisfactory manner and they believed he had the confidence of the community, and he trusted that they would long retain his services. The Committee, recognising that something more was wanted than the attendance of a Medical Officer twice a week, as soon as they felt their feet, obtained plans for a proposed Hospital, and submitted them to the Company, and they without demur promised to erect the building. They had to thank them for the very great help they had given in the furtherance of the scheme and the Committee also had to thank Mr. Harry Smith, the local Manager, as he had been a most enthusiastic supporter and had helped them in every possible way in his power. He said, without fear of contradiction, that if they had not received the assistance of the Company and the local Manager, they would never have been there that afternoon to perform the opening ceremony.

After the Company had promised to build the Hospital, the Committee formed a deputation to wait on the Colonial Secretary for the purpose of asking for a subsidy as the funds at their disposal would not have been sufficient to finance such an undertaking. The deputation was introduced by their member, Mr. P. O’ Loghlen, and was accompanied also by Mr. J. B. Holman, M.L.A. To these gentlemen great credit was due for obtaining for them a grant of £152 per annum, the best thanks of the public being due to Mr. O’Loghlen for the zeal and energy he had displayed in helping them through with the undertaking. Nobody knew better than he (the speaker) did the amount of work they had put on his shoulders, and he assured him they deeply appreciated his services. They would realize if they thought of it the difference between the old and the new schemes. Under the old system a man seriously injured more than likely would be nearly a day before he could be removed to Yarloop or Bunbury, to say nothing of the suffering that he would endure being shifted to those places by train and the possibility of perhaps bleeding to death before his arrival at the Hospital, whilst from that day he would be put straight to bed, first aid rendered by a trained nurse and the Doctor on the spot in a very short time. How much better, therefore, was the scheme they were working under to-day, to the one they worked under for ten years.

The institution has accommodation for six beds in the male and four beds in the female wards with complete administrative departments, and they would see when they inspected the building later on that the Committee had endeavoured to make the institution as comfortable as they could with the limited funds at their disposal. He might say that the Committee were a proud body that afternoon, when they surveyed the result of their labour, but they must not think for one moment that all the trouble was at an end with the ceremony to be performed that afternoon. The Committee had a hard task in front of them still to make both ends meet and without the hearty co-operation of the whole of the community, it would be impossible to do so. (Applause.) He then called upon Dr. Walden to say a few words before calling upon Mr. P. O’Loghlen, M.L.A., to open the Hospital.

Dr. Walden said that Mr. Robertson had so ably stated the position that he thought very little remained for him to say. When he took up the duties of Health Officer at Mornington some twelve or more months ago he then said most emphatically that Mornington, because of its isolated position and because of the hazardous nature of its industry, should have either a casualty ward, a cottage or a general hospital. The advantages of a local hospital were very apparent to him and must now to all. He had a very varied experience of the two chief industries of this State—an experience of these industries from the copper and goldfields of the Nor-West, through the Mornington timber district and right on to the other end of his practice, Collie, the Coalopolis of Western Australia—and could safely say that the percentage of accidents was higher in a timber mill, and the bush that feeds that mill, than in the mining industry. He ventured to say that there were ten, more or less unavoidable accidents in the former to one in the latter. Against this the percentage of ordinary preventable illnesses was higher in the mining centres. These facts could surely be easily understood.

Where were the funds for this Hospital to come from? Mr. Robertson had told them how much or perhaps he should say how little, the Government were prepared to grant. He had also indicated that there was raised local[y] for hospital purposes the sum of £50 or more per month. They had all heard the old fable of the man whose cart was stuck in the rut and who called on Hercules to help him out of his difficulty and was told to put their shoulder to the wheel and get it out himself. They put their shoulder to the wheel and their cart was out of the rut and presently he was going to call on the member for the district to formally declare open for use an hospital suitable in every way for the requirements of the district. This was a local hospital, locally managed, and mainly locally financed in contradistinction to many of the Hospitals of Western Australia which were centrally controlled and centrally financed by a more or less autocratic relic of what was good enough in the old Colonial days, but was altogether quite unfitted for these times of many men, and many towns separated by magnificent distances. It was an object lesson, for what Mornington had done other places could and would do, and in this way only could the general usefulness of the West Australian hospitals be broadened, instead of contracted as may possibly have been the case in some districts. As a professional man he recognised a fly in the ointment and that was that local committees were too apt to interfere with their doctors’ work, but he was pleased to say that the Mornington Committee was an exception to this, what he might call, feature of human nature, and, in passing, he thought it would not be out of place to pay a tribute, without individualising too much, to Secretary Logan, who had devoted his best energies to the consummation of this scheme and who was undoubtedly the right man in the right place.

They had heard in the address of the President of the Board of Management how much they were indebted to Mr. Smith, as Millars’ Manager, and he was going to say right there that if there had been no Harry Smith there would that day have been no Mornington Hospital.

At the conclusion of the ceremony he invited all interested to inspect the buildings, which, although not completely finished, were yet sufficiently so to enable him to receive patients, and he had very much pleasure in asking Mr. O’Loghlen to take the key and formally declare the buildings open and no doubt that gentleman would keep the key as a pleasing memento o of a memorable moment in Mornington Mill’s life history.

Mr. P. O’Loghlen, M.L.A., said he was glad to think the people of Mornington had struck out for themselves in this matter. The institution was a credit to them. So far as his support was concerned, he had only done his duty. When asking the Government for assistance he had taken up the position that the electors of Forrest having so few occasions to go to them were justified in making the request. Men getting low wages, it was difficult to get in big contributions. They had obtained assistance from the Government to the extent of £200 for the first year and £152 per year after, and with the local contributions they would be able to manage. If the time came that the strain was too great for them they could reasonably ask the Government for more.

Many accidents did occur in the industry but the percentage of fatal accidents was not so great as in other industries. He hoped their success in this matter would be continued and felt that they might well be proud of the building. He had much pleasure in declaring the Mornington District Hospital open. (Applause.)

The visitors and residents were then shown over the building by Dr. Walden.

The hospital which is erected cruciform consists of a Surgery and Operating Room ; Female Ward, at present equipped with two beds ; Male Ward, capable of accommodating six patients ; Matron’s Duty Room, connected with observation windows for both male and female wards Main Hall ; Matron’s Bed room ; Servant’s Bedroom Male and Female Bathrooms Kitchen ; Pantry, Scullery and Woodshed. Detached from the main building are the laundry, Mortuary, Residence for Orderly, and coach shed and usual outhouses. The hospital was designed by Dr. Walden, and is arranged so that the administrative rooms are in the centre and the place can be worked with as small a staff as possible. A better equipped, or more modern hospital could not be imagined. The architect was Mr. J. Montgomery, of Mornington, and the hospital and other buildings which have been erected at a cost of a little over £500 and were built by the Millars’ Company are available to the Committee at a weekly rental of £1.

Rules and regulations to govern the institution have been drawn up by the Committee at the suggestion of the Medical Officer. Nurse Sturman, who is well known at the sawmill centres, has kindly undertaken the duties of Matron until such times as a permanent appointment can be made by the Board of Management.

At the conclusion of the inspection of the building, the visitors were entertained by the Committee.[4]


To celebrate the opening of the hospital, a Smoke Social was held in the evening. The speeches show the importance of the timber industry, especially to the region and ultimately the State.

THE SMOKE SOCIAL.[5] On Saturday a smoke social was held in the Mornington Hall in honour of the occasion. President Robertson occupied the chair, and there were over 200 present, including Mr. A. McNeil (Chairman of Millars’ Co.), Messrs. O’Loughlen, Hudson and Holman, M’s.L.A., Mr. Hayward (Harvey), and Mr. H. Smith (Manager Mornington Mill).

…Mr Hart gave the toast of the “Timber Industry.” When they reviewed the history of the industry from the time of pit sawing and spot milling to the present date they must realise what great progress had been made. As it increased so an avenue of employment had been found for those out of work, therefore he felt that in dealing with the timber industry, which to them was the most important in the State, and concerned everyone, the Government and everyone should do all they could to further it. The greater the output of timber the greater number of men became employed, either as mill hands, bush workers, railway men, or wharf labourers and sailors.

…Mr. A. McNeil (general manager of the Millars’ Co.), responded. … He did not like responding to toasts, but he might say the timber industry was absolutely supporting and carrying the South-West at the present time, and their concern was not an inconsiderable proportion of the industry. On looking at their returns it was found that from twenty-five to twenty-eight thousand pounds were sent down in wages to the mill monthly. They paid the Railway Department one hundred thousand pounds in 12 months, and kept 200 lumpers going in Bunbury. They were also a big item in the shipping market, always having three or four vessels loading, which meant a big thing. There were only 270,000 people in W.A., and when one industry was bringing in £700,000 of foreign money, every year they could realise its importance….He was sorry he did not know a speech was expected from him or he would have brought some figures to show them what the industry meant. When he told them that £750,000 a year was spent they would have an idea what an enormous venture it was. He did not know whether it was due to the management or the men, but so far as he was personally concerned he had less worry with Mornington than with any of the other mills. It was a place that Mr. Harry Smith started from the jump—(A Voice : “May he continue.”). Mr. McNeil hoped Mr. Smith would for many years yet. There was a lot of timber at Mornington, and they would shortly be running logs 25 miles to the mill. They knew what an enormous amount of money had to be laid out to do that. He would not attempt to go into it, but would have to get two or three men to work out the cost. Mr. Teesdale Smith on one occasion had reckoned that 25 per cent, of the capital of the Company (£1,200,100) was laid out there. This money had been borrowed, and they had to give the people who lent it a fair deal. If they did not, well they could not expect more money to play with. As things were they had a better hope of giving these people a fair run for their money, and he thought, this year the Company would pay a small dividend, which would be the first that had been paid out of timber for the last ten years.

…Mr. Harry Smith, who also responded to the toast, said it had been a pleasure to him to assist in the establishment of an hospital. Once they had the authority of the head office to expend money in the erection of a building (and he knew Mr. McNeil had done everything in his power), the rest had been easy and a pleasure to him. He had been associated with Millars’ Company for years, and they had always done something in the way of providing hospital accommodation for their employees. When they first came to W.A. they built hospitals at Denmark and Yarloop, and did not even charge rent for the buildings. He was glad to find the men realised the responsibility which rested on them in this matter. They had a good committee and anything he could do to help them he would be found ready and willing to do. (Hear, hear.).

…During the evening, which proved most enjoyable, a number of songs were rendered by Messrs. Anthony, Buzzard, Braithwaite, Hart, James, and Brodie, and recitations by Mr. Ackland and Dr. Walden.[6]

Correspondence on Mornington District Hospital letterhead from James Collier to Mr P O’Loghlen, 2 November 1910.[7]

From Memories of Mornington Mills by Viv Morton.

For many years the hospital was run by a board elected by the citizens of the town. At one time there was a resident doctor in attendance. Three early doctors I recall were Drs Cameron, Day-Lewis and McDonald, who were all there in the twenties. Although he never lived at Mornington Dr. Stimson played an important part in the local affairs. His son Ian, supplied me with an interesting account of the early days in the district. Dr. Gordon Stimson graduated with First Class Honours in Obstetrics at the Sydney University and after a short term in Perth, he decided to take up a practice in the Harvey district. When he arrived in 1934, which was in the depression years, his only assured income was five pounds a week from Mornington Hospital Board. For many years he paid his weekly visit to the Mornington Hospital, where his kindly and efficient manner endeared him to everyone, especially to expectant mothers, who always received the best possible attention during their confinement. During the Second World War, when petrol was rationed, Dr. Stimson like many others in those days, fitted a gas producer to his car, and travelled more than 100,000 miles with it. It was a sad day for the district, when he died of a heart attack, after more than twenty years of dedicated service to its people.

Dr. Arthur Burkitt, who became a partner with Dr. Stimson, carried on in the same tradition. The two of them made alternative visits on the well attended “Doctor’s Day” Thursday afternoons, and Dr. Burkitt also became very highly respected.

Hospital Matrons also played an important role on the medical scene. The Matron, about the time of the First World War was a Mrs. Larsen. Later matrons were Matrons Backhouse, Steele, Mathews, Hope Briggs (Patterson), Astbury, Dorothy Moore (Liebrick) McDonald, McNerney and Armstrong. The last named served twice, returning a second time as Matron Robinson. At one time most babies were born at home, and two midwives were always at the ready for this purpose. One was known as Granny Westwood and the other Granny Smith. The families of both these ladies were for many years the social life and workforce of the town.[8]

Ian Stimson added a little more detail. ‘In the early 1930’s the hospital was serviced by Dr Arthur Merritt from Collie. In 1934 my father purchased the practice rights to the hospital and held them to 1958, the year that he died, visiting the hospital every Thursday. The fund that ran the hospital paid five pounds per week for his services, this was the only assured income for Doctor F Gordon Stimson during the depression.[9]

Ian further adds: Drs Merritt and McCall both men from Collie used to service Mornington as they could come into Mornington Mills via what was termed the back road from Collie in the 1930s. There were two roads into Mornington; the first was opposite Beau Clark’s farm (about 2 miles from Uduc Road), this was shorter but got washed out so the longer route was carved into the hills, it’s the existing road that goes in past the Wokalup Ag School.

I took my very first photo looking over Mornington Mill, Dad used to take me with him. Many years later I would go with the Jefferies Brothers to screen the pictures on a Monday night, they would carry a generator set in their van. The projection box was in a room behind the stage back wall, that hall was a beautiful venue.[10]

Rules and Regulations of the Mornington District Hospital.[11]


[1] Westralian Worker, 28 March 1919, p. 5.

[2] WA State Records Office, AU WA S268-cons 1003 1962/6132

[3] West Australian, 21 June 1909, p. 10.

[4] Southern Times, 6 July 1909, p. 4.

[5] Note: Large groups of Australian men gathered in a venue to smoke tobacco together in what they termed a smoke night. These lasted until the early 1940s. These events were socially significant, and often coupled with a formal dinner, an annual general meeting or a musical revue. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/smoke_night)

[6] Southern Times, 8 July 1909, p. 6.

[7] WA State Records Office, Mornington Hospital, Rules and Regulations, AU WA S268-cons1003 1962/6132

[8] Viv Morton, Memories of Mornington Mill, p. 6.

[9] Email from Ian Stimson, 23 March 2022.

[10] Ibid., 17 June 2022.

[11] WA State Records Office, Mornington Hospital, Rules and Regulations, AU WA S268-cons1003 1962/6132