In 1878, the well known flamboyant and controversial surgeon of the Melbourne Hospital, James George Beaney, donated £150 towards a Ferguson & Urie stained glass window to be erected in the west wing of the Melbourne Hospital.
The Argus, Melbourne, Thursday 30th January 1879, page 10.
“… Contributions amounting to £868 4s. 8d. have been paid to the building fund, which have been further augmented by the kind and liberal donation of £105 from Mr. Jas. Geo. Beaney, one of the honorary surgeons, who, previous to his departure for Europe on leave of absence, expressed his wish to present a stained-glass window, to be placed in the west wing of the hospital. The committee had much pleasure in assisting to give effect to his generous offer, and entrusted the work to Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, who executed the commission to the satisfaction of the donor. This acceptable present has greatly improved that portion of the building….”
James George Beaney (1828-1891), was a senior surgeon at the Melbourne Hospital who, by most accounts, it would seem, was regarded as a ‘quack’. His flamboyant clothing included adornments such as diamond studs, rings, pendants and other expensive paraphernalia that earned him the much lampooned title of ‘Diamond Jim’. His other title, ‘Champagne Jimmy’, was undoubtedly due to his generous hospitality at the conclusion of his lectures and operations where he would distribute copious quantities of champagne and claret. His first claim to notoriety was the charge of murder of a St Kilda barmaid in 1866 in which the post mortem indicated he had performed an illegal abortion but the charge was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. In the following years he had to defend himself at further three times against various charges of perceived medical negligence.
Regarded by his conservative peers as crass and egotistical, he was also dubiously noted as a competent surgeon and would regularly perform risky major operations, with varying degrees of success that his peers would not dare to attempt. In his will of 1892 will left a considerable sum of money for the establishment of two Scholarships in Pathology and Surgery which still exist to this day.
Further alternate research is required to ascertain a better perception of the subjects character and correct place in history.
The Melbourne Hospital has moved a number of times since the laying of the first foundation stone on the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale street in 1848. This has also made it difficult to ascertain whether the window may still have existed. Fortunately it does and was relocated to the Chapel at the Monash Medical Centre at Clayton in Victoria in 1988.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital records the following information about the movements of the window between 1878 and 1888;
“In 1878, Beaney donated a large stained glass window to the Melbourne Hospital. Fabricated by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie at a cost of 150 pounds, the window was originally housed in the west wing of the hospital when it was located on Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. When the hospital was rebuilt on the same site in 1913, the window was relocated to the Chapel facing Russell Street. It remained on this site following the move of The Royal Melbourne Hospital to Parkville in 1944, and the occupation of the buildings by the former Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital from 1946 to 1988. In the late 1980s following the closure of the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, the window was transferred to the Chapel of Monash Medical Centre’s Clayton Campus.”
A very special thanks to Laurel Clark for her assistance and contributing these images of the Beaney window, taken on the 18th May 2012. An article, with updated information and photos from the Monash Medical Centre at Clayton can be seen here (Monash Medical Centre Clayton)
Note: The upper portions of this window has been reinstalled in the frame in reverse (most likely done in 1988) so the text and images are actually seen in reverse. To show correct perspective, the closeup cropped images have been ‘mirrored’ so that the text can be read from the correct perspective.
An explanation of what I see in the Beaney window:
The top roundel has the text “Hope” with a biblical scene.
The heads of two Greek Gods are shown on the left and right edges of the window with the text:
“HYGIEIA” – Greek – The daughter of god of medicine “Asclepius”. The name “HYGIEIA” forms the modern word “Hygiene” (the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation)
“ESCULAP” – Greek – Also written as “Asclepius” – Greek God of Medicine and Healing.
The central image in the window has the text: “SHE TOOK UP HER SON – AND WENT OUT – 2Kings 4-37“ with scene depicting the sick.
The bottom roundel on the window has the text “Hope” with biblical scene.
At the very bottom of the window, left and right corners, is the depiction of a shield or coat of arms and the other corner looks to be a woman holding a wand over a man tending a sick person.
The donor’s text is at the bottom of the window and reads:
“THE GIFT OF JAMES GEORGE BEANEY F.R.C.S HONORARY SURGEON OF THIS HOSPITAL 1878”.
The brass plaque on the wall in the vicinity of the window reads:
THE BEANEY WINDOW (CENTRAL PANEL) (1879) A GIFT TO THE (ROYAL) MELBOURNE HOSPITAL BY MR. JAMES GEORGE (JIM) BEANEY F.R.C.S. (EDIN) AND HONORARY SURGEON OF THE HOSPITAL. FABRICATED BY MESSRS. FERGUSON & URIE AT THE COST OF 105 POUNDS AND HOUSED IN THE WEST WING. THE SIDE PANELS (1867) WHICH FLANKED THE LONSDALE STREET ENTRANCE AND THE BEANEY WINDOW WERE REHOUSED IN THEIR PRESENT FORM IN THE HOSPITAL CHAPEL DURING THE 1910/13 REBUILDING.
ACQUIRED BY THE QUEEN VICTORIA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL (MONASH MEDICAL CENTRE) THROUGH OCCUPATION OF THE LONSDALE STREET BUILDINGS (1946) FOLLOWING THE RELOCATION OF THE ROYAL MELBOURNE HOSPITAL TO PARKVILLE (1944). TRANSFERRED TO CLAYTON SITE, 1988.
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