1897: The Singleton Dispensary, Collingwood, Victoria,

In 1891 the well known and much respected philanthropist Dr. John Singleton died at his residence in East Melbourne at the age of 84.

A native of Dublin, Ireland, Dr John Singleton (1808-1891) was remembered by the poor of the Collingwood district as their Saviour in times of need. 

In February 1897 the public subscribed for a stained glass window to be erected in his memory[1]. The window was created by the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company of Franklin Street Melbourne and was unveiled on the 2nd of April 1897 by the Hon C. J. Ham[2].

The date 1897 also makes this stained glass window amongst the latest surviving windows known by the firm.

The window was originally erected in Singleton’s Medical Dispensary in Wellington-street, Collingwood in 1897 and was donated to the City of Collingwood in 1979, and subsequently installed on the staircase of the Collingwood Town Hall.[3]

As at August 2013, one end of the old dispensary building in Collingwood now hosts “Wet on Wellington“, a business advertised as “Melbourne’s Finest Gay Pool & Sauna”.

Photos of the window were taken 11th July 2012 at Geoffrey Wallace ‘s Studio at Caulfield.

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In 2011 the window underwent heritage restoration and conservation work by Geoffrey Wallace’s stained glass studio and it has remained at the studio since 2011 whilst the Collingwood Town Hall undergoes refurbishment. The window is scheduled to be re-installed in Aug/Sept 2013.

Note: The overall picture of the entire window in the slideshow is a composite image made up of the three individual sections of the window in Geoffrey Wallace’s studio in Caulfield. Geoff also advises that the image of the Singleton Armoral Bearings at the bottom right is not an original piece from Ferguson & Urie era .

The central figurative scene of the window depicts the biblical scene where the Apostles Peter and John refuse the disabled man money and command him to walk in the name of Jesus

The biblical text beneath the image reads:

“THEN PETER SAID SILVER AND GOLD HAVE I NONE BUT SUCH AS I HAVE  GIVE I THEE IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH RISE UP AND WALK”.
(King James Bible – ‘Acts 3-6’ – where Peter heals the lame beggar and commands him to walk in the name of Jesus).

The memorial text to Dr John Singleton appears at the base of the window and reads:

“IN MEMORY OF JOHN SINGLETON ESQ, M.D THE FOUNDER OF THIS INSTITUTION  AND OF SEVERAL OTHER CHARITIES IN COLLINGWOOD WHO DURING A LIFE OF EIGHTY FOUR YEARS DEVOTED HIMSELF TO THE RELIEF OF HUMAN SUFFERING ESPECIALLY AMONG THE POOR MAKING ALL HIS CHARITIES THE MEANS OF DIRECTING MEN TO CHRIST FOR THE SALVATION OF GOD THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. HE DIED 30th SEPT 1891, TRUSTING IN CHRIST”.

The bottom left of the window depicts an extraordinarily detailed portrait of the elderly doctor Singleton. So fine is the artistic detail, that practically every hair in his long white beard is visible in intricate detail as well as his facial signs of age. The portrait has been done in one single roundel of glass of about 15cm in diameter which makes it all the more remarkable in fine artistic stained glass talent.

At the bottom right is the heraldic symbol and motto of the Singleton family. It depicts a knight’s iron gloved arm with his hand holding an arrow with the Latin text below:

“CONSEQUITUR QUODGUMQUE PETIT” (“He attains whatever he attempts”)

Photos were taken at Geoffrey Wallace’s Stained glass studio 11th July 2013.

So who was Dr. John Singleton?

Dr John Singleton (1808-1891)

Having received a favourable report of the colonies from his brother, the Rev William Singleton (1804 – 1875) who had arrived earlier in 1849, Dr. John Singleton obtained a position as ships surgeon aboard the ‘Harpley’ and arrived in Australia with his family on the 30th January 1851[4]. He was the founder of the Free Medical Mission Dispensary, the Collingwood Temperance Home for Friendless Women, the Bread Fund, and Night Shelters at Collingwood and West Melbourne and the Widow’s Cottages at Collingwood”[5].

Having personally experienced the effects of alcohol, he deduced that liquor was nothing more than a poison which had no nutritional or medicinal properties and from this he set about to debunk the practice that for centuries saw its wide-spread prescription by the medical profession as a cure for many ailments[6]. This also lead to his successful establishment of Temperance Societies, the Society for the Promotion of Morality, a close association with the Salvation Army, and many other societies and charities associated with the well-being of the poor, destitute, and downcast members of society.

Dr John Singleton died at his residence “Ormiston House”, in Grey-street East Melbourne on the 30th September 1891 in his 84th year[7]. His funeral procession travelled the 4.5km journey via his Collingwood Dispensary in Wellington street where it stopped for a photograph[8], before continuing to the Melbourne General Cemetery where he was interred with his wife Isabella (nee Daunt) who pre-deceased him 7th December 1886[9].

Portraits of Dr John Singleton can be found in the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and the Singleton Medical Welfare Centre (the original Heritage listed dispensary) in Wellington-street Collingwood[10]. The stained glass window created by the Ferguson & Urie company over a century ago is now located in the Collingwood Town Hall.

The Singleton family grave-site was restored in 2013-14.

Significant or notable transcriptions:

Mercury and Weekly Courier, Vic, Thursday 4th February 1897, page 3.

“NOTICE Subscriptions will be received in aid of a Memorial Window for the late Dr. Singleton to be erected in the Dispensary.”

Extract from the 28th Annual Singleton Dispensary Report, Collingwood Sept 1898[11].

“…The Committee had the pleasure, on the 2nd of April, of unveiling in the Dispensary, a memorial window, erected in honor of the late Dr. Singleton, the founder of the institution and of several other public charities in the district. In its erection they had the assistance of many gentlemen, the friends of the late doctor, and former patients at the Dispensary. It was designed by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie; was unveiled by the Hon. C. J. Ham; and represents on a scale, third of life size, the apostles Peter and John healing the sick at the Gate Beautiful, of the Temple at Jerusalem. Below the picture is a tablet in stained glass recording that Dr. John Singleton, during eighty-four years had devoted himself to the relief of human suffering, especially among the poor, making all his charities the means of directing men to Christ. A medallion portrait of Dr. Singleton is placed on one side of the inscription, and on the other is his crest and motto.”

Illustrated Australian News, Melb, Vic, Saturday 7th Nov 1891, page 17.

(the original article includes an engraving of Dr. John Singleton. The image is also displayed in the slideshow of images above)

“THE LATE DR. SINGLETON”.

“The announcement of the death of Dr. John Singleton will be received with regret, not only by the class brought immediately into contact with the deceased gentleman, the poor and the suffering, but by the public generally, to whom the figure of the veteran philanthropist was as familiar as it was respected. Dr. John Singleton was born on 2nd January, 1808. He was one of a family of nine children, six sons and three daughters, and, as he evinced at an early date a decided partiality for the medical profession, attended at the Apothecaries’ Hall, where he passed the classical examination at 14 years of age. He went through the course for matriculation at Trinity College before he was 15, and was articled for three years to a licentiate apothecary, a tenant of his father’s, in Kells, County Meath. It was while he was thus occupied that he felt a spiritual awakening, which influenced all his after life. He was married in 1834, when he was 26 years of age and in the enjoyment of a fair practice as a doctor. After his marriage he and Mrs. Singleton commenced the charitable and missionary work together, which they persistently carried on to the last. In September, 1850, Dr. Singleton accompanied by his wife and seven children left Plymouth for Australia in the ship Harpley, which arrived in Port Phillip on the 30th January, 1851, from which time this colony has been their home. Since he first set foot in this country Dr. Singletons life has been devoted to one unbroken effort to assuage the lot of the homeless, the friendless, the miserable or the vicious, and in every department of the benevolent endeavour he laboured untiringly. In the early days of the colony, when organised philanthropy had scarcely been thought of, Dr. Singleton devoted himself earnestly to his labour of love, with the result that many of the most flourishing institutions that now exist to alleviate the distress of the unfortunate classes received their first impetus. Although in his 83rd year, and with a record for sheer hard work that can be boasted by few public men, Dr. Singleton was still active in his benevolent and professional duties till the commencement of this year. Then advanced age and the calls that he had made on his constitution began to tell, and he was seized with a sharp attack of sickness. Directly he was able to, however, he resumed his efforts in the cause of philanthropy, till some four months ago he was again compelled to take to his bed. Several times he rallied, with remarkable vigour and vitality for a man of his advanced age; but a month ago he commenced to sink steadily, and it became apparent to his medical advisers that life could only be prolonged for a few hours. On the 29th Sept, he became unconscious, in which state he remained till he expired, on the morning of 1st October. The immediate cause of death was inflammation of the lungs, contributed to by a severe attack of influenza”.

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 2nd October 1891, page 6.

“DEATH OF DR. SINGLETON”

“Dr. John Singleton, whose name has been known in Melbourne for over 40 years as that of a generous-minded philanthropist, died at half-past 11 o’clock on Wednesday night at his residence, Ormiston, Grey-street, East Melbourne. The deceased gentleman, who was 84 years of age, suffered for sometime past from cystitis, and was attended during his last illness by Dr. Macmillan, Dr. McColl, and his son, Mr. T. Singleton. He was conscious up to the last, and spoke intelligibly to his family gathered round his bedside just before he died.

Dr. Singleton was born on the 2nd January 1808, at Dublin, and received his early education at the ‘Apothecaries’-hall. He was afterwards apprenticed for three years to a licentiate apothecary in the town of Kells, County Meath, and completing his medical studies under the tuition of a retired navy surgeon, he took his degree of M.D. at the University of Glasgow. He afterwards purchased a dispensary in Dublin, and was in practice there during the ravages of the Asiatic cholera. He was very successful in his treatment of this disease, and having communicated his method to the London Board of Health it was approved by that body, and circulated far and wide in printed form. Dr. John Singleton had during the years of his apprenticeship become a total abstainer, and he remained one to the end of his life, being at all times a sturdy advocate of the principle. It was his experiences of the terrible sufferings of the poor during the cholera season which stirred his sympathetic nature, and gave to his mind that philanthropic bent, which was his distinguishing characteristic in after life. He devoted himself with ardour to the relief of the poor in their sufferings, and was a constant and welcome visitor in the crowded wards of the hospitals. He also extended his sympathy to the criminal classes, and was a regular visitor of the gaols, ardently assisting in the benevolent movements then at work for the amelioration of the condition of the criminals who were confined in them. Amongst others whom he visited in gaol was Mr. (now Sir Charles) Gavan Duffy, who was a political prisoner. Having been from his early years deeply impressed on the subject of religion, Dr. Singleton did much evangelistic work, particularly amongst young people, over whom his entire disinterestedness and manifest sincerity procured him a great influence.

In September, 1850, influenced by the favourable accounts received from a brother who had preceded him, Dr. Singleton set sail with his family for Australia. He procured a position as medical officer on board the sailing ship Harpley, and arrived in Melbourne at the end of January, 1850. [sic] The rush to the gold-fields followed, and for five or six years succeeding his arrival Dr. Singleton had a very extensive practice. He then changed his residence to Warrnambool, where he remained five of six years, but afterwards removed to Maryborough, on account of the failing health of one of his children, who required a change of climate. In the year 1868 he returned to the neighbourhood of Melbourne, taking up his residence in Hawthorn, and he has resided in Melbourne and suburbs ever since. During his residence in the country Dr. Singleton continued the active philanthropic work which he had embraced immediately upon his arrival in the colony. In those early days of the colony money was easily made and quickly spent, and, in consequence, there was a great deal of excessive drinking. Dr. Singleton succeded [sic] in forming several temperance societies, and took an active part in religious movements. The condition of the aboriginals attracted his notice, and finding that many of them were being corrupted by the drinking habits of the white population, and that their numbers were becoming rapidly decreased, he induced the Government to establish the Framlingham Station, where the blacks were cared for and protected. Whilst he resided in Maryborough a camp of Maoris settled there, who had adopted so much of civilised customs as to join in the rush to the new gold-field. One day, on visiting this camp, Dr. Singleton found it attacked by an overpowering force of Chinamen. He rushed between the combatants, and at great personal risk succeeded in separating them and protecting the Maoris. This courageous championship gained him great influence over them, and he made use of it in an endeavour to Christianise them, and succeeded in inducing them to attend classes for secular and spiritual instruction as long as they remained in the district.

In January, 1869, Dr. Singleton established in Perry-street, Collingwood, in the centre of dense population, mostly of the poorer class, a Free Medical Mission Dispensary, on the principles of the British Medical Mission Dispensary. The principal object of the Dispensary was to relieve the necessities of the sick poor of Collingwood, Fitzroy, and the adjacent districts, but Dr. Singleton also used it to bear a public testimony in support of his belief that every form of disease could be more successfully without the aid of intoxicating liquors than with them, and that the use of these stimulants was productive of evil results in fostering a love for them. Whatever may be said as to this special feature in connection with the method of treatment pursued at the Free Dispensary, there can be no two opinions regarding the immense benefits which it has conferred upon the poor of the neighbourhood. Up to the year 1888 145,000 attendants had received free medical relief. Dr. Singleton placed his medical skill and his purse freely at the disposal of the poor who sought relief there, and he always endeavoured to make the mission a means of promoting the social, moral, and religious interests of the poor. The report of the institution for the year 1888 stated that latterly the applications for aid had become much more numerous; almost every form of disease had been treated during the year, but by far the greater number were of a feverish nature, from feverish colds to cases of typhoid in an aggravated form. The results of the treatment, which was simple and non-alcoholic, were decidedly successful. On the 22nd of June, 1887, the lease of the ground on which the Medical Mission stood having expired, Dr. Singleton purchased the ground at auction, and, having collected £2,250 from the public, the erection of a new and more suitable building has been commenced. So great was the interest felt by Dr. Singleton in the project that, when prostrated by a dangerous illness, he expended what little strength remained to him in writing a letter to the Argus advocating its claims to the support of the charitable, and appealing for co-operation in a plan for raising the necessary money to complete the structure.

Dr. Singleton’s philanthropic efforts were not confined within the limits of the institution referred to. Every effort for improving the condition of the poor, no matter from whence it originated, had his hearty support. In this spirit he accepted the co-operation of the Salvation Army, and worked heartily with that organisation. So far-reaching was his charity that his name is truly a household word almost all over Victoria. Amongst other institutions which owe their origin and support in a great measure to his efforts may be mentioned the Home for Fallen Women, founded about the year 1871, in Islington-street, Collingwood. He it was who first mooted the project to the Morality Society of that day, and very soon after it was opened the management fell entirely into his hands. There is an average attendance there of between 30 and 70 persons. Nearly 3,000 unfortunate women have from time to time found a friendly welcome and shelter within its walls. To very many, indeed, it has been the starting point from which they have set out on a new career, whilst thousands more of friendless and almost hopeless women have found there an asylum from the temptation and a home until some honest employment was found. Attached to the institution a few small cottages have been erected, where from 25 to 30 aged widows are provided with a home. There is another building in connection with the home, but detached from it, where poor women and children can obtain a comfortable bed and a meal the following morning, as a measure of temporary relief. About 13 or 14 years ago Dr. Singleton established with his own funds and organised a sick children’s hospital and dispensary in Exhibition-street, and devoted a great deal of time and attention to it for about 18 months, when, finding that there were others willing to undertake the work, and having many calls upon his time, he resigned his connection with it. A mission to the blind was another agency established by the subject of this sketch. A gentleman is employed who goes all over the colony teaching the blind to read the Bible. The Government now endows this mission with £150 a year, and the teacher is allowed a free pass on the railways. Formerly he was supported by Dr. Singleton and a few benevolent friends whose aid he enlisted. For many years Dr. Singleton was a regular visitor at Pentridge, and he was an active member of a vigilance committee which was appointed to make enquiry into the condition of the prisoners, and through its exertions many forms were instituted in a system which up to that time retained far too much of the barbarity of the old convict days”. Dr. Singleton was married in the year 1834. He had a family of 10 children, of whom six survive – three sons and three daughters. His wife died in the year 1887 [sic].”

The Mercury, Hobart, Tas, Friday 2nd October 1891, page 3.

“Dr. Singleton, the well-known philanthropist, died at his residence, East Melbourne, last night, after a long illness, aged 83. He arrived in the colony in 1851, and for many years had been a prominent figure in charitable institutions. He leaves several sons and daughters, and thousands of poor people to whom he had been as a father and friends to deplore his death. Deceased was the founder of the Free Medical Mission Dispensary, the Collingwood Temperance Home for Friendless Women, Bread Fund, and Night Shelters at Collingwood, and West Melbourne and Widow’s Cottages at Collingwood. He was also identified with other movements for the relief of suffering, and for years devoted his time exclusively to works of charity.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 2nd October 1891, page 1.

“SINGLETON.- On the 30th ult., at his residence, Ormiston, Grey-street, East Melbourne, John Singleton, M.D., in his 84th year. “In Thy presence there is fullness of joy.”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 2nd October 1891, page 1.

“THE Friends of the late JOHN SINGLETON, M.D., are respectfully informed that his remains will be interred in the Melbourne General Cemetery. The funeral to move from his late residence, Ormiston, Grey-street, East Melbourne, on Saturday, the 3rd inst., at 3 o’clock p.m. HERBERT KING, Undertaker, Lennox-street, Richmond; 157 Swan-street, East Richmond; Burwood-road, Hawthorn; and Hopkins-street, Footscray. Telephone 912.”

Note: “Ormiston” (129 Grey-street East Melbourne) was between 1877 and c.1900, partially used by two of Singleton’s unmarried daughters (Elizabeth 1844-1932, and Anna 1846-1934), as “Ormiston Ladies College”.  The building had many other later name changes and incarnations, including being a boarding house. It was demolished in the 1930’s.[12]

Riverine Herald, Echuca, NSW, Wednesday 7th October 1891, page 3.

“A woman 100 years of age attended Dr. Singleton’s funeral on Saturday…”

Kilmore Free Press, Vic, Thursday 8th October 1891, page 2.

“Dr. Singleton, the well-known philanthropist, died on the 30th ult in his 84th year. The gentleman named was brother to the late Rev. Wm. Singleton, at one time and for many years the incumbent of Christ Church, Kilmore. Dr. Singleton enjoyed a long life and most assuredly it was a useful one – may he have the reward of the just.”

Mercury and Weekly Courier, Vic, Thursday 8th October 1891, page 3.

“…The remains were interred on Saturday afternoon in the Church of England sections of the Melbourne General Cemetery, the coffin being placed in the same grave with that of the deceased gentleman’s late wife. Every demonstration of respect was made along the line of route taken by the funeral procession, and Wellington-street, in particular, was thronged by members of the poorer classes by whom Dr. Singleton’s many good deeds are held in grateful remembrance. The cortege left the late residence of the deceased, Ormiston, Grey-street, East Melbourne, shortly after 3 o’clock, and proceeded to the cemetery through Clarendon street, Victoria Parade, Wellington street, Collingwood, and Johnston street. A halt was made at the deceased’s dispensary in Collingwood, where a photograph was taken. The coffin, which was of plain oak, with a simple inscription, was borne to the grave by the son, nephews and brother of the deceased, while the following were the pall bearer’s, viz, the Rev. Mr. McCutcheon, Messrs. F. H. Baker, J. Bosisto, J. Gamble, W. Threlfall and Derbin Willder. The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. H. N. Wollaston, assisted by the Revs. A. Forbes and Goodwin. Amongst those present were clergyman of all denominations, leading citizens, members of the Salvation Army and numbers of poor persons. Mr. A. King, of Lennox-street, Richmond, carried out the funeral arrangements. One fact which was very noticeable in connection with the funeral was the absence of medical men, the only medical men, who were present being Dr. Singleton’s own assistants. This appears to indicate a lack of that respect which is due to an old veteran – more especially to one who had the self-denial to devote the whole of his life to the alleviation of the sufferings of the poor…”

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Wednesday 8th December 1886, page 1.

“SINGLETON.- On the 7th inst., Isabella, wife of Dr. Singleton, Ormiston House, Grey-street, East Melbourne, in her 79th year. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”

Family tree notes:

John Singleton, born 1808 in Dublin, Ireland, died 1891 in East Melbourne.

He married Isabella Daunt of Cork, Ireland,  in c.1834 (1808-1886).

Children: William Daunt (18351901); John Wesley (18381924); Mary Quinn (18401929); Robert Henry Thomas (1851-1927); Frances Matilda Victoria (18491867); Isabella (18411869); Eliza (18441932); Anna Lewis  (18461934).

External Links:

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Dr John Singleton (1808-1891)

Footnotes:

[3] Anne Holmes, Collingwood Historical Society, email – 27th June 2013.

[6] “Alcohol as a Medicine” – the “Australian Medical Journal”, Dr John Singleton, November 1874.

[11] From Anne Holmes, Collingwood Historical Society, email – 1st June 2013.

[12] http://emhs.org.au/history/buildings/east_melbourne_grey_street_129

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Geoffrey Wallace for the invitation back to his studio to photograph the Singleton window (11th July 2013). And, many thanks for his extraordinary unexpected gift of a piece of his artwork for which I am most grateful for.

Thanks to Anne Holmes from the Collingwood Historical Society for her research that unveiled the 1898 Dispensary report mentioning Ferguson & Urie by name as the makers of the window.


Cite:
Brown, Ray 2013, ‘1897: The Singleton Dispensary, Collingwood, Victoria’, Ferguson & Urie, Colonial Victoria’s Historic Stained Glass Craftsmen 1853-1899, accessed dd/mm/yyyy, <http://wp.me/p28nLD-21i>.

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