Lives of the fellows

Richmond Jeremy

b.7 August 1899 d.30 March 1995
OBE(1978) MB BS Sydney(1923) MRCP(1926) FRACP(1938) FRCP(1953)

Richmond Jeremy, a second generation Australian, was born into a non-medical family in rural New South Wales at Wagga Wagga, where his father was a stock and station agent. He was educated in Sydney, as a boarder at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School (‘Shore’) where he excelled at rowing and at rugby union. He continued to play rugby for the University of Sydney, gaining his blue in 1922, and followed the club games with his wife until late in life. He lived in St Paul’s College while he studied medicine and was a clinical student at the Sydney Hospital where, on graduation, he was a resident medical officer. From 1923 to 1925 he was a junior and senior RMO and assistant medical superintendent. He left in 1926 to go to London for training and obtained membership of the College in the same year.

Returning from London he entered general practice, and in 1934 bought an established practice at Rushcutters Bay near King’s Cross, the site of the activities of the infamous ‘razor gang’ in the depression years - on occasion Richmond had to attend to some of their victims. In 1936 he visited a number of medical centres in America with his close surgical friend, Archie Telfer, and, when he returned, gave up general practice to set up as a consultant physician in Sydney. He served with the RAAMC in the 2/6 Australian General Hospital from 1940 to 1941, in Palestine and then in Greece and Crete, which he left the day before the Germans invaded. After demobilization he returned to consulting practice and was appointed a visiting physician at the Repatriation Hospital caring for returned servicemen.

He was appointed a clinical assistant to the out-patients at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1929, as honorary assistant physician in 1934 and honorary physician in 1939 and became the senior physician in 1953, retiring to become a consultant in 1959. As a physician he maintained a special interest in haematology and in later years specialized in cardiology. He was a foundation member of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, a member of the Haematology Society of Australia and of the British and Australian Medical Associations. In addition to his honourary appointment at St Vincent’s Hospital, he was a visiting physician at Prince Henry Hospital for 20 years, and consulting physician to St Luke’s and the Women’s Hospital, Crown Street. He was also principal medical officer to the Mercantile Mutual Life Insurance Company.

He was a popular teacher with students, who expressed themselves in their usual perceptive manner over many years. "The giant figure and somewhat formidable appearance of Dr Jeremy." "Although a man of Herculean stature, we shall not readily forget the great gentleness and quiet sustaining humour in his approach to his patients and easy unassuming manner with us, the students." "He is no doubt the quietest and most unassuming person in the hospital…’’(He was then the senior physician). "On our first acquaintance with Jerry, he appeared to us to be a big mild physician of the old guard. It did not take us long to realize that the latest research on some obscure point was not beyond his knowledge." He was also regarded as an excellent teacher by the academic staff, who persuaded him to return to teach after he had retired from the active staff. He enjoyed postgraduate teaching and some thought him a better teacher at postgraduate level than undergraduate. He was better in discussion and responding to questions than in giving extempore didactic talks on patients or their diseases. He finally ceased teaching in 1979, when his eyesight began to fail.

He took an active part in professional matters in his hospital, in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and in the community. At St Vincent’s Hospital he served as tutor and lecturer in medicine, as a member of the board of studies and of the research committee and he served as chairman of the medical board. He was a foundation fellow of the RACP and received a life fellowship in 1969; he was an acting censor in 1948 and 1951 and a substitute councillor in 1952; member of the New South Wales State Committee from 1946 to 1962 and chairman of it from 1959 to 1962; honorary librarian (1946 to 1949) and chairman of the library committee (1955 to 1958). He served on the council of the University of New South Wales and on the New South Wales Medical Board.

Medicine was the dominating influence in Richmond’s life. In a letter to a colleague he expressed regret that he "did not achieve the MD". He had not received the stimulus and guidance to do it. In his thirties he was a good tennis player and had played regularly with a group of medical colleagues at weekends, but the exigencies of his practice ended this. He ceased playing golf for the same reason - the need to see a patient could prevent him from being on the first tee on time. His extensive medical reading left little time for other reading until his vision began to fail, then his wife Joan read biography, history and the lives of adventurous men to him. He liked music but he did not commit time to it until he ceased practice; then he became almost as addicted to high quality classical CDs as he had been to medicine.

His reserved nature inhibited the formation of intimate relationships, but he enjoyed the company of a group of medical friends, most of whom he outlived. He had a great pride in his family. In 1929 he married Joan Wedgwood who came from rural New South Wales. She supported him in his earliest years when he was establishing his practice and, with tireless devotion to his ever increasing needs, in his last 15 years of progressing blindness. They had three sons.

CRB Blackburn

(Volume X, page 260)

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