Collingwood Notables Database
Doctor, surgeon, amateur ethnographer, amateur ornithologist
George Horne was a doctor in Queens Parade Clifton Hill and a surgeon at the Women’s Hospital. As well as his busy professional life he immersed himself in studying Aboriginal life and customs, and amassed a significant collection of stone implements and weapons. His book Savage life in Central Australia was regarded as a notable addition to the scientific literature of Australia. Natural history, especially the study of birds, was another of his passions. His obituary described him as ‘a notable figure in the medical and intellectual life of the city’.
George was born in Brunswick in 1860, and was educated at Carlton College, Hawthorn Grammar School and Melbourne University. Here he showed his intellectual capacity by completing an arts and medical course in the same year, graduating as Master of Arts, Doctor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. In his youth he was also distinguished in the sporting field, and was a University champion sprinter. He went into partnership with Dr Daniel of Queens Parade North Fitzroy, and a year later commenced practice on his own account, moving over the road into the distinctive two-storeyed house still standing at 59 Queens Parade Clifton Hill.
In 1888 Dr Horne was appointed a Captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps, later reaching the level of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was involved with the St John Ambulance Association. He became the St John Ambulance first Commissioner of the Victoria District in 1909, serving until 1921. There was still time for fun, both indoors and outdoors. The young doctor was one of the vice-presidents of the Clifton Hill quadrille assembly, as well as the Clifton Hill Trades Cricket Club, which played at the Darling Gardens
Horne’s first marriage was brief, as his wife Jessie died of tuberculosis in 1888. In 1890 he re-married, to Helen Bowie. Helen had arrived in Melbourne with her parents in 1852, and in later life reminisced about the family’s early life in Melbourne at the time of the gold rush. Her father, Dr Robert Bowie, was appointed Medical Superintendent at Yarra Bend Asylum and instituted important treatment reforms. Shewas a committee member of the Melbourne Ladies Benevolent Society for many years, including periods as president and treasurer, and was the Collingwood District correspondent to the Boarded-out Children’s department (later called the Children’s Welfare department). She was an active member of several hospital auxiliaries and was associated with the ground-breaking Collingwood Creche from 1892 onwards. Dr Horne was honorary surgeon of the Creche, the first of its kind in Australia, as well as of the Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Northcote.
The couple were childless, but Helen’s niece, also called Helen Bowie, whose mother had died when the girl was young, became a constant companion of her aunt’s and was frequently in attendance at charitable fund-raising events. She moved in with Dr and Mrs Horne, undertook nursing training, and assisted Dr Horne as a surgical nurse. Helen Bowie developed an interest in a hobby of her uncle’s; he was a keen member of the Bird Observers Club and hosted meetings at the house. He established an aviary at Clifton Hill where he succeeded in keeping native birds such as honeyeaters and blue wrens in captivity, regarded by ornithologists as an impressive feat. Uncle and niece also bred pheasants for the table and for ornamental purposes.
Horne specialised in gynaecology. In 1895 he was appointed to the prestigious position of Honorary Physician to the Midwifery Department at the Women’s Hospital, and Infirmary Surgeon the following year. He lectured and examined in obstetrics at Melbourne University and published Practical gynaecology: a manual for students and general practitionersin 1911.
Dr Norman L Speirs joined Dr Horne’s practice in 1911, later became a partner, and took charge while Dr Horne was absent overseas. In February 1914 Dr and Mrs Horne set sail with Helen for an extended tour through Egypt and Europe. They were in London when war broke out; Dr Horne promptly joined the Australian voluntary hospital unit. He was on active duty in France until 1915. Helen Bowie worked as a nurse and bacteriologist in a military hospital in France.
After his return he started a city practice. He was one of a group of seven medical practitioners who banded together to build Lister House, medical consulting rooms at 61-65 Collins Street with residential areas on upper floors. This building was in the vanguard of the new vogue for flat-dwelling, and well-to-do people ‘gave up housekeeping’ to live in modern comfort and convenience. Among those taking up residence was Margaretta Shelmerdine, who was known to Mrs Horne through charitable work in Collingwood. Dr Speirs continued practising at 59 Queens Parade after the Hornes moved into Lister House, as well as sharing the Collins Street surgery.
In 1921 Horne’s book Aboriginal stone implements of south-eastern Victoriawas published. In 1922 he collaborated with George Aiston and Dr Brooke-Nicholls on an early ethnographic film, and with Aiston co-authored Savage life in Central Australia(which was published in 1924). He was regarded as an authority on the subject of Aboriginal lore and customs and made the classification of a collection of stone implements and weapons his life’s work. In this too he was helped by his niece, Helen Bowie. In 1926 they presented the Horne-Bowie collection of stone implements and weapons to the Australian Museum of Natural History (now National Museum of Australia). This was regarded as the most valuable and remarkable collection of its kind in Australia.
After an expedition to Central Australia in 1923 his health was affected and led to his death in 1927, following some months as an invalid. He left half his estate to his niece, including 4000 shares in Lister House Pty. Ltd. Helen Horne and Helen Bowie remained in the Lister House flat, where the older woman died two years later.
The Queens Parade house remained as the home/surgery of doctors until at least 1974, when Dr W P Heslop was resident. The single-storey section of the house on the east side was added some time in the twentieth century, possibly to serve as the doctor’s surgery.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Jessie Sarah Hewetson 1857-1888||1886 Gooramadda, Victoria||None|
|Helen Bowie 1843-1929||1890 Adelaide, South Australia||None|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|59 Queens Parade||Clifton Hill||Extant|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|14 November 1927||Melbourne||Boroondara|
Leader; The Age; The Argus; Advocate; Herald; Australasian; Punch; The Prahran Telegraph; Fitzroy City Press; MMBW Detail Plan 1217; The Book of Remembrance, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne c. 1960 (source Royal Women’s Hospital Archives); Giese, The maddest place on earth.