THE CROLL MEMORIAL PRECINCT 

 

2 Clewley Street

Corinda Brisbane

 

 

A Heritage Memorial to

Colonel David Gifford Croll CBE VD MB ChM (1885 - 1948)

and

Sister Marion Winifred Croll AANS (d.1954)

 

 

Major General John Pearn AM RFD

 

A Tribute and Account

of the life and works of

Dr Gifford Croll -Paediatrician, Pathologist, General

Medical Practitioner, doctor-soldier and philanthropist.

 

On the occasion of the unveiling of the

Croll Memorial Precinct

The Sherwood-Indooroopilly RSL Sub-Branch, Corinda

Sunday 4th August, 2006. 

 

Major General John Pearn AM RFD MD FRACP

History and Heritage

Royal Children's Hospital and Royal Children's Hospital Foundation

c/- Department of Paediatrics & Child Health

Royal Children's Hospital

Brisbane Qld 4029

 

 


 

 

"A tower of strength in time of trouble and a man of sure counsel"

 

    Obit: Medical Journal of Australia 1948; 2:54-55.

 

 

The Croll Memorial Precinct perpetuates the memory of a singular Queenslander. Gifford Croll and his wife, Marion Winifred Croll, had no children; but their philanthropy and legacy has enriched and will continue to enrich the lives of many. 

Dr David Gifford Croll, always known as "Gifford", was a pioneer paediatrician in Queensland, and the founder of the discipline of pathology in Queensland, as the specialty is understood today. A distinguished doctor­ soldier, Gifford Croll contributed much to both the clinical and the collegiate worlds of medicine and health in the northern State. 

He served as a senior paediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children, today the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane, for twenty years. His service also in the Sherwood-Corinda-Graceville-Oxley region of Brisbane's outer western suburbs, is remembered also by the thousands of families for whom he cared, as their much-respected "G.P." for 36 years.

 

Early Life

Gifford Croll was born a Scot, in Glasgow in 1885. His father, Andrew Usher Croll, was a restless Scot who emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand where the family bought a cattle property on Mercury Island. Andrew Croll's attempts to raise cattle were unsuccessful, and the family moved to Waiheke Island, some 40 kilometres to the north east of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf. There, Gifford's father engaged in general farming. The young Gifford spent his preschool and primary school life on Waiheke Island, never far from the sea.

He enrolled as a boarder at St John's College, Auckland; but his father, again restless, emigrated to Sydney where the young Gifford completed his secondary school at that centre of excellence for gifted boys, the Fort Street High School. He matriculated to the University of Sydney and graduated with his degree of Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery in 1910. Whilst at the University of Sydney he enlisted as a soldier in the Sydney University Scouts, later to become the Sydney University Regiment.

 

A "G.P." in Sherwood and Corinda, Brisbane

 

In 1910, Gifford Croll was appointed as a Resident Medical Officer at the Brisbane General Hospital, and then subsequently was appointed as the Medical Officer for the (then) Hospital for Sick Children, later (after 1946) the Brisbane Children's Hospital and later (after 1976), the Royal Children's Hospital. Gifford Croll lived initially near the railway line at Sherwood, the sylvan (as now) suburb at the outer extent of the expanding city of Brisbane. He lived in a big low-set home on Sherwood Road. He ministered to the people of the outer western suburbs of Brisbane for 36 years, less his time away on war service, as their "G.P.". He was universally respected in this role, attending innumerable house-calls and was one of the best-recognised citizens of those outer western suburbs of the expanding City of Brisbane.

 

In 1912 he married Miss Marion Winifred Payne, a nurse and the daughter of the Secretary of the Brisbane General Hospital. She was to be his life-long companion.

 

It was recorded by Dr T.A. Price, a close friend of Gifford  Croll, on both the Queensland and Federal Councils of  the (then)  British Medical  Association in Australia that:

 

"Dr Gifford Croll was one of the best members of the BMA in Australia, a good example of independence combined with co­ operation, and, incidentally, a very pleasant man with whom to work. The main years of his professional life were spent as a general practitioner in the same district [Sherwood, Graceville, Corinda and Oxley] in Brisbane. [His style] when he was constantly overworked, was not to get an assistant or a partner [but] he looked round for a good reliable man who wanted to settle down in practice and invited him to become a 'friendly rival'. The first man was such a success that a second started in the same way in the district.  This made it easy for all of them to get away for alternative weekends and to provide an efficient service during holidays or when sickness prevailed".

 

In his later life Gifford Croll moved to Joseph Street in Sherwood, on an extensive property with a frontage on the Brisbane River. In his backyard he built a boatshed, and brought gravel himself from the gravel banks at Seventeen Mile Rocks, to build a slipway in his back garden. There was moored the Marion, the auxiliary yacht named after his beloved wife. He loved sailing, yachting and all aspects of the river scene and took a keen interest in the Boy Scouts. It was said that: 

"He was particularly interested in the Sea Scouts, and at the age of 60 was still able to demonstrate to the scouts that he could climb the mast of his yacht. He had a cultured mind and a rare gift of courage.  Gifford Croll loved beautiful things ... the sea and all connected with it were his hobby and delight".

 

A Pioneer Paediatrician

 

      I wrote in Focus and Innovation -A History of Paediatric Education in Queensland, in 1986 that:

 

"Dr D. Gifford Croll was another educational pioneer in paediatric medicine....a man who worked indefatigably for the special place of children's medicine in all aspects of health in Queensland; and one who, in the pre-chemotherapeutic days prior to the discovery of sulphonamides in 1932, and in the context of his indefatigable role promoting immunisation, 'was a great innovator' when it came to the management of children's diseases".

 

He was appointed to the Honorary Medical Staff of the Hospital for Sick Children in Brisbane, initially as Out-Patient Physician in 1912. In 1913 he was promoted as Physician to In-Patients. After he returned from war service in 1919, he continued as a Senior In-Patient Physician until 1932.  He served a period as Superintendent of the Hospital for Sick Children in Brisbane, where his citation of the Memorial Roll of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Medical Association records that:

 

"His work, at the Brisbane Children's Hospital, on the treatment of diphtheria and plumbism [lead poisoning] was of outstanding merit".

 

At the Hospital for Sick Children in Brisbane, he served with two other of Australia's leading paediatricians who, also as doctor-soldiers, were leaders in military medicine of their era. Those two colleagues included Colonel A.G. Butler DSO, the Gallipoli veteran who went on to become the official medical war historian of the First World War, and a founder of the Australian War Memorial; and with Major (later Group Captain) Sydney Fancourt McDonald who served as senior physician also at the Hospital for Sick Children for 23 years (1923-1946). Each of these three pioneering paediatricians and doctor­ soldiers went on to ·be elected President of the Queensland Branch of the British Medical Association.

 

The Pioneer Queensland Pathologist

 

Prior to 1912, doctors in Queensland conducted their own urine and blood tests in the side rooms of their surgeries. Pathology Departments, as such, did not exist in hospitals.

 

Following his appointment to the Hospital for Sick Children in 1912, he immediately established the first Pathology Department in Queensland in the basement of the newly-built "Courier Block". His pathology associate, "Lulu" Crawford, as a young girl had been a friend of his family. She was to write in 1948:

 

"When Dr Croll came to the Hospital for Sick Children in Brisbane as a Resident Medical Officer, he was not long on the staff before he realised the need for some kind of diagnostic laboratory. He sent me a telegram whilst I was still at school in December 1911, offering me the post of 'Clinical Assistant' to the Hospital. This, in effect, turned out to be the first clinical pathological laboratory in any Queensland hospital. He laid the foundation of the Department of Pathology, based initially at the Hospital for Sick Children, which [from its site in the HSC grounds] was to serve all the hospitals under the Brisbane South Coast Hospitals Board. In the year of his death, 1948, the staff of that Pathology Department had risen to forty".

 

Today, two of the biggest Pathology Organisations in Queensland, Queensland Medical Laboratories and Sullivan and Nicolaides, together employ over 3000 staff members.

 

Dr Croll's pioneering work in pathology arose from the clinical diagnostic challenges that confront all paediatricians. In 1912, filariasis was common in Brisbane and every child who was admitted to the Hospital for Sick Children was tested for the blood nematode, the lifecycle of which had recently been established by Dr Thomas Lane Bancroft (1860 - 1933), working particularly at his laboratory at Burpengary, near the  sea at Deception Bay. Tuberculosis was common, and "tuberculin tests by the von Pirquet technique were commonly done, but the bulk of the work was haematology, diphtheria diagnosis, typhoid diagnosis by the living culture handing-drop method; and [stool microscopic inspections] and investigations for ankylostomiasis or hook worm".

 

It was written by Miss Crawford that:

 

"Dr Croll, in his youthful enthusiasm, realised the place science would take in medicine in the future; and his inspiration, technical efficiency and sound knowledge were to see their legacy over the ensuing three decades".

 

At that pioneering laboratory at the Hospital for Sick Children, fronting Herston Road, the first equipment consisted of an incubator, paraffin oven, dry heat steriliser, a Cambridge "rocker" microtome and a hand-driven centrifuge. His laboratory made glass connexions and Miss Crawford and he developed the skill of glass-blowing. It was said that "glass connexions made in the laboratory for ward use [for drainage connexions, suckers and the like] should always have smoothed ends to facilitate quick use".

 

Gifford Croll was known as an inspirational person, and as one who whilst "always cheerful of the prestige of his little [pathology] department, wished always to maintain good relations with his colleagues of the clinical, medical and nursing· staff".

 

A Doctor-Soldier
 

Having trained as an Infantry Officer with the Sydney University Scouts, Croll enlisted as a Captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps immediately upon his graduation as a doctor, in the Citizen Forces. In 1912, he was appointed as the Officer Commanding 3 Medical Company, based in Petrie Terrace in Brisbane; and in 1914 was promoted to the rank of Major. Following the outbreak of the First World War, he served as Principal Medical Officer of the 1st Military District, based in Victoria Barracks in central Brisbane. Photographic records exist showing his leadership in training of river crossings, including the ferrying of stretcher cases across the Brisbane River at Moggill, in 1912.

 

In 1915, he enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force as a Major, and was appointed as Second in Command of the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance, a unit which he commanded in 1916 and 1917. In 1917 he was promoted as Assistant Director of Medical Services of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division. After the armistice in November of 1918, he served into 1919 as Deputy Director of Medical Services for Egypt. For his exemplary service he was decorated as a Commander (Military Division) of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

 

Colonel Croll's influence between the two world wars was also significant as he served as a natural role model for young doctors; and after the establishment of the Medical School in Brisbane in 1936, he was influential in his counsel and encouragement of the enlistment of medical students and young doctors at the outbreak of the Second World War.

 

In World War II, Colonel Croll commanded a Camp Hospital in Brisbane (in 1940), and after Pearl Harbour, was appointed as Commanding Officer of the 112th Australian General Hospital. For 18 months (1942-1944), he Commanded the 101st Australian Convalescent Depot. For his service in the Second World War he was Mentioned in Despatches. He was transferred to the Retired List on his 60th birthday in July 1944. In the inter-war years, Colonel Croll was known for his special sympathy for and pride in being the "G.P." to many returned servicemen and women.  He had been an active member in the formation of the Sherwood Sub-Branch of the RSSAILA on 10th September, 1919, and had given wise counsel about the formation of another inner western Brisbane branch, the Graceville-Chelmer group which was formed in 1927. This latter was subsumed into the Sherwood Sub-Branch of the RSSAILA in 1932.

 

Collegiate Medicine

 

Dr Gifford Croll was well known and universally respected for his leadership within the collegiate and political worlds of medicine.  He served for 26 years as a Councillor of the Queensland Branch of the British Medical Association. He was elected its President in 1924; and in the year before his death, was elected to the prestigious office of Honorary Vice-President (1947- 1948).

 

He represented the Queensland Branch on the Federal Committee of the British Medical Association and of its Council for 16 years (1926-1942). He is particularly remembered for his role as a Director of the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, in which he served for 20 years (1928-1948). His role was influential in the maintenance of standards in the publication of the Medical Journal of Australia.

 

Always an enthusiast for the Hippocratic traditions of medical education, he was a member of the Medical Ethics Committee and a member of the Postgraduate Medical Education Committee, this latter established by the Senate of the University of Queensland. Another eminent Queensland doctor and colleague, Dr T.H.R. Mathewson, wrote of his collegiate service to the profession of medicine:

 

"Dr Gifford Croll rendered distinguished service to the British Medical Association as well as to the community as a whole".

 

In his later years, Gifford Croll developed an interest in medical history, and wrote a biography of Dr Alfred Jefferis Turner, his former "Chief" under whom he had served when the former was a young doctor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Brisbane. It was recorded that in his later years "Dr Croll gave a large amount of time and trouble to his research in going through old records and journals, and such industry was known only to those with whom he was closely associated. The more he searched, the more impressed he became by the evidence of the amazing industry and scientific acumen of his old 'Chief', Dr Alfred Jefferis Turner".

 

A Philanthropist

 

Dr David Gifford Croll died in the winter of 1948. His wife, Marion Winifred Croll, remained in their home at Joseph Street, on the Brisbane River at Sherwood.   On a visit to her sister in Singapore in 1954, the aircraft carrying her overshot the runway and she was killed.  Marion had herself come from a "medical" family, her father Mr A.P. Payne having been the Secretary to the Brisbane General Hospital. In the terms of Gifford Croll's will, his home was to be sold and the endowment given to the Returned and Services League of Australia, then the RSSAILA.

 

His home in Joseph Street was on two blocks, which were sold in 2004 for a combined sale price of 5.3 million dollars. His philanthropic bequest established the fir-iancial security of the Sherwood-lndooroopilly Branch of the RSL, whose members pay ongoing tribute to Croll's philanthropy and generosity; and to his loyalty to his comrades and his foresight.

 

On the 4th March 1976, the Croll Memorial Hall was named at the Sherwood Services Club, on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of that service club in Brisbane's west. The Croll Memorial Hall was officially opened by Sir Wilfred Kent-Hughes, himself a Military Cross winner and active militia officer who had known Gifford Croll for many years.  With changes in structure, and the need for commercial impetus at the Sherwood Services Club, it was decided to purchase extra land fronting Clewley Street, where the "military" and "veteran" activities of the club would be more suitably conducted, than in the more commercial atmosphere of the Sherwood Services Club. Adjacent land was purchased for 54,000 dollars in 1973.

In 2006, the front of the Sherwood-Indooroopilly Sub-Branch Headquarters was re-landscaped, and a Memorial Wall erected, bearing the facade name of "The Croll Memorial Precinct". It was formally opened on Sunday 4th August, 2006 by Major General John Pearn, himself a senior doctor-soldier who, like Gifford Croll, was also a paediatrician with former major interests in pathology, and who himself served as a senior paediatrician for four decades at the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane. Today, the Croll Memorial Precinct also features the Kokoda Stone, brought from Papua New Guinea, in tribute to those gallant Australians who fought on the Kokoda Track from July to November 1942.

 

A bronze plaque on the Memorial Wall of the Croll Memorial Precinct reads in tribute:

 

"Colonel David Croll, CBE,VD, mid, MB (Syd), (1885-1948), served in both World Wars, was an eminent Queensland doctor-soldier, and a staunch supporter of the RSL. His Wife was a Nursing Sister in the AIF in World War One.

 

Dr and Mrs Croll bequeathed their family home and surgery to the Sherwood sub-branch in 1954. The building became the sub-branch headquarters and was dedicated as The Croll Memorial Centre. In 1967 the title transferred to the new sub-branch premises at Corinda. Following various changes over the years, the title now attaches to this site in front of The Harry Dalziel VC Centre as The Croll Memorial Precinct- opened 6 August 2006 by Major General John Pearn, AM RFD, former Surgeon General to the ADF."

 

 

Major General John Pearn AM RFD MD FRACP
Sometime Surgeon-General, Australian Defence Force

Royal Children's Hospital

Brisbane, Queensland, 4029

8th August 2006

 

 

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