Monday, 31 August 2020

Frank Wisewould of Pakenham Upper

Some years ago I read Dr Gweneth Wisewould's book, Outpost: a Doctor on the Divide (1) about her life as a doctor at Trentham. Dr Wisewould had sold her practice in Elwood as she felt that the changing nature of city practices meant doctors were becoming clearing houses for the specialists, and anything more serious than cut fingers and gravel rash were referred on. Dr Wisewould's first love was for the patient as a whole individual in a general practice (2) and she found this in her practice at Trentham, where she lived from 1938 until her death in 1972. It's a great book, written in 1971 and republished in 2019, well worth tracking down.

Dr Gweneth Wisewould, in 1972. 
A very practical, highly skilled, caring and hard working woman. 
Herald & Weekly Times collection, State Library of Victoria Image H38849/5818

Recently I came across a programme of events of the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria for 1910-1911 (3). It was an extensive program and included such activities as a trip to Eltham to see the silver wattles, a trip to Croydon to study entomology and botany and a trip to Williamstown to study marine life. The President of the Field Naturalists' Club was a  Mr F. Wisewould. I put his name into Trove (4) and discovered amongst other things that he was Gweneth Wisewould's father and that he had a property at Pakenham Upper.

The Field Naturalists' Club programme from 1910/1911.

This is the story of Frank Wisewould and we can get an overview of his life from his obituary, which was published in The Argus on November 29, 1926 (5).
The many friends of Mr Frank Wisewould, who was for years one of the leading figure in legal circles in Melbourne, will learn with regret of his death, which took place in a private hospital on Saturday. Mr Wisewould became suddenly ill at his residence at Pakenham Upper early in the week, and was removed to Melbourne for treatment. He showed some improvement after an operation, and the fatal ending of his illness was not expected. Mr Frank Wisewould was the son of Mr James Wisewould, an English solicitor who came to Melbourne in 1853, and a year or two latter founded the legal firm of Wisewould and Gibbs which is now known as Wisewould, Duncan and Wisewould. Mr Frank Wisewould was born at Brighton in 1858 and was educated at Scotch College, being one of Dr. Morrison's early pupils. He entered his father's office at the age of 15 years and subsequently became a partner in the firm. He retired in 1922, after having been connected with the firm for 49 years. He then purchased a property at Pakenham Upper, where he engaged in country pursuits until his death. Mr Wisewould was an ardent nature student and was one of the original founders of the Field Naturalists' Society, of which he was made a life member in recognition of his services. He was instrumental in inaugurating the wildflower show which has now become an annual fixture and was always one of its leading exhibitors. A keen interest was taken by Mr Wisewould in the Royal Society of Victoria of which he had been president, and at the time of his death he was a member of the council. While in practice he acted as honorary solicitor for the Melbourne Athenaeum and the Eye and Ear Hospital. He leaves a widow and one daughter, Dr. Gweneth Wisewould.

I will look at a few aspects of Frank's life that were mentioned in his obituary. Firstly the Field Naturalists' Society or ClubThe Field Naturalists' Club was formed in 1880 for the purpose of  affording observers and lovers of Natural History regular and frequent opportunities for discussing those special subjects in which they are mutually interested (6).  During the meetings, members read papers on topics that they were interested in and could display nature specimens. In April 1882, Frank displayed Snakes, also opossums in various stages of growth in spirits (7).  In December 1882, he displayed an English Viper and also snakes from the  Darling River (8). Frank read a paper in July 1885 on a visit to Chudleigh Caves in Tasmania (9). In 1887 he displayed some carnelian from Tasmania (10).  Frank clearly had an interest in snakes and in science more broadly as he was also a member of the Royal Society of Victoria and President from 1922-1923. The Royal Society was formed in 1854 for the promotion of science for the benefit of the community.

This photo from the Field Naturalists' Club photo album is of the Cardinia Creek bridge at Berwick, taken 1887. The album has been digitised by the State Library of Victoria. Did Frank go on this excursion?
Bridge over Kardinia Ck. [i.e. Cardinia Creek], Berwick. State Library of Victoria Image  H2012.114/1

The obituary mentions that Frank Wisewould purchased his property at Pakenham Upper, after his retirement. However, the Shire of Berwick Rate books show that he purchased his property of 317 acres in 1894/1895. It was Allotment 17h, Parish of Nar Nar Goon, his land is bordered to the south by Army Settlement Road and Gordon Road to the west. The property was called Mona and I wonder if Frank kept all his specimens at the Pakenham Upper house or his house in Melbourne. It is likely that many of the wildflowers that Frank exhibited at the annual wildflower show came from his Pakenham Upper property.

Mr Wisewould took an active role in community life at Pakenham Upper - he was the legal advisor to the Pakenham Upper Fruit Company (11). He was a member of the Progress Association where at one meeting in 1914 he spoke of the advantages of forming a debating society (12). He was also the chair of various functions such as the Pakenham Upper Red Cross concert (13). Perhaps his greatest honour was that he was selected to unveil the Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour at a Red Cross concert on September 22, 1917, due to the absence of the local member, Mr Keast (14).  He speech was reported in the Pakenham Gazette (15).

Mr Wisewould spoke of the bravery and unselfishness of the men who had gone. They did not go for gain, and if it was to be that they might not be spared to come back they gave their lives, counting it nothing more than their duty to die for their country. The imperishable bravery of our lads at the landing on Gallipoli had been re-enacted on the bloody fields of Pozieres and Ypres. They were sons worthy of the fathers who had begotten them and the mothers who had nurtured them and their names and gallant deeds would be handed down to their children and their children's children to posterity.

You can read about the Pakenham Upper Honor Board on Patrick Ferry's website A Century After the Guns Fell Silent: Remembering the Pakenham District's WWI Diggers 1914- 1918   Three of Frank's nephews are listed in Patrick's website - Albert, Frank and Harold Wisewould. They are the sons of Edward and Elizabeth Wisewould and appear on the Pakenham State School Honor Board.

Frank, was the son of  James and Sophia (nee Drewitt) Wisewould. He married Isabel Alice Field in Westbury in Tasmania on March 28, 1883. It was two years after his marriage that Frank presented his report on the Chudleigh Caves in Tasmania to the Field Naturalists Club. The caves are about 35 kilometres from Westbury - did Frank visit the caves when he was in Tasmania courting Isabel or did he take a trip to Tasmania to see the caves and when he was there he met Isabel, perhaps through mutual friends or was she on the cave expedition as well?  I cannot tell you, but I rather like the idea that they met and fell in love amongst the stalactites at Chudleigh Caves. Isabel was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (nee Lindsay) Field. Thomas was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, you can read his obituary here.  Frank and Isabel had the one child, Gweneth who was born in Brighton, in Melbourne, on August 30, 1884. Frank died on November 27, 1926 and Isabel on October 27, 1928 and they are both buried at the Brighton Cemetery (16).


(1) Wisewould, Gweneth Outpost: a Doctor on the Divide (Lowden Publishing, 1971)
(2) Wisewould, op. cit., p. 1.
(3) When I say I came across it, actually my research colleague, Isaac Hermann, who found it for sale on EBay.
(4) Trove
(5) The Argus, November 29, 1926, see here.
(6) Field Naturalists' Club programme from 1910/1911, back page.
(7) The Age, April 27, 1882, see here.
(8) The Age, December 19, 1882, see here.
(9) The Age, July 14, 1885, see here.
(10) The Herald, January 24, 1887, see here.
(11) Pakenham Gazette, November 8, 1918, see here.
(12) Dandenong Advertiser, February 26, 1914, see here.
(13) Pakenham Gazette, August 30, 1918, see here.
(14) Willian Stephen Keast (1866-1927). Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1900 to 1917
(15) Pakenham Gazette, September 28, 1917, see here.
(16) Family information comes from the Victorian Index to the Births, Deaths and Marriages, see here; the Tasmanian Archives, see here; and Birth and Death notices in the newspapers on Trove

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