Dr James Howlin was the doctor in Dalby when the town was starting to develop. Medical assistance was primitive and often slow to arrive.
Dr James Howlin was the doctor in Dalby when the town was starting to develop. Medical assistance was primitive and often slow to arrive. Contributed

Early medicine was elementary

DR JAMES Howlin served the people of the Dalby area very well during the 1860s and 1870s.

Many a time he had to make long rides to country districts and sometimes these were at night.

With his limited skills and facilities he was unable to save many who suffered serious injury.

This must have concerned him greatly, especially when it was those he knew well.

One night a horseman rode in with the news that his wife was having a baby and she appeared to be in trouble.

Dr Howlin and the husband left at daylight for the long ride to some 50km to the Bunya Mountains.

However they were too late as the young mother haemorrhaged and it was doubtful if the doctor could have saved her if he had been in attendance.

The story of Gertrude Carbines has been documented many times, illustrating how life and death was always part of living in remote areas.

A few years later, the doctor was called to make another ride to the Bunyas.

John Bourke, a teamster, was preparing to leave his camping ground and was handling his double-barrel musket when it accidentally discharged.

The bullet smashed one rib and pierced a lung to lodge near his shoulder blade.

He was found unconscious in a pool of blood.

Dr Howlin was called and he rode into the night to arrive at the scene at 1.30am.

By lantern light he extracted the bullet.

Although Bourke was taken to hospital, he died a few days later.

The doctor kept several horses needed for long rides into the country. He employed a young South Sea Island lad to look after them.

They needed to be fed and taken to water every day.

As the lad was young and inexperienced, the doctor warned him not to get on any of the horses.

One day in 1870 as he was taking one of the horses down across Marble St to water it at the creek, the boy decided to mount it.

As it was already saddled he found that no problem.

He was almost at the creek when a dog ran up beside them so he took off his hat and threw it at the dog, causing the horse to jump to one side.

The lad lost his balance and fell off but was unlucky to have his foot go through the stirrup. This caused the horse to take fright and bolt, dragging the boy behind it.

The stirrup leather broke after about 50m but when bystanders reached him they found him unconscious.

Dr Howlin tended him the best he could but discovered his skull was fractured. The boy died a few days later.

Apparently there were a number of South Sea Islanders in Dalby at the time and the locals noted the sad expressions on their faces as they proceeded to the cemetery for the burial.

The young lad's name was not revealed but it was another chapter in the record of serious horse accidents that took place in the early days.


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