History of West Australia/James William Hope

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James William Hope HOFWA.jpg
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Greenham & Evans.

HAMLET'S advice, "to throw physic to the dogs," though often repeated is never followed by those whose misfortune it is to need the noxious compounds. In health we pay little attention to the medical profession, but let the smallest sign of disease enter our system and we manifest a wonderful amount of interest in the careers of those to whom we look for relief. Health is too often cast aside as foolishly as the spendthrift throws away his patrimony. And the physician's science to the invalid, as the usurer's gold to the spendthrift, may bring temporary relief, but the inexorable laws of nature demand payment in full for the overdraft of youth, and frequently result in the moral and bodily ruin of the poor debtor.

The duty of the physician in the community, according to Ruskin, is to keep it in health, and it is with this object that public health officers are appointed in centres of civilisation. Their qualifications for the position must be of the highest, or their opinions would not receive that respect and attention necessary to ensure the adoption of precautionary measures to avoid sickness. Before the colony was granted Responsible Government the inducements for professional men to settle in Western Australia were so small that the Imperial Government had to make the appointments from Downing Street, and they naturally made their selections from the ranks Of young medical men who had distinguished themselves in their collegiate careers. It was by this means that the colony obtained many accomplished physicians, who now practise in her towns and cities, and among them is Dr. J. W. Hope, F.R.C.P., J.P., medical officer to the Fremantle Prison and Convict Establishment at Rottnest Island, and also health officer to the port and town of Fremantle.

Dr. Hope was born in 1851 in Hay, Wales. He was educated in his native town, and after passing his preliminary examinations went to Westminster Hospital, where be remained for twelve months, proceeding thence to Bartholomew's Medical School to complete his curriculum. In 1874 he was made a licentiate, in 1878 a member, and in 1885 he took his degree as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. In 1874, after having gained some experience in one of the large hospitals, he received an appointment under the Imperial Government as district medical officer at York, Western Australia. The young medico gladly accepted the offer, and immediately took passage for his new home on board the ship Eulie. On arriving at York, Dr. Hope found time to discharge, in addition to his official duties, many functions of a semi-public character. He interested himself in the pursuits of the residents, and soon became recognised as one of the most progressive men in the district. He embarked capital in agricultural and pastoral ventures, and was fairly successful. The discovery of gold in the Kimberley district attracted his attention to a fresh field of enterprise, and as he could not on account of his duties personally visit the place, he organised and despatched, at his own expense, a prospecting party to examine the new field. The leader of the party, Mr. G. A. McPherson, one of the best known prospectors in the colony, was not very successful in his quest. The disappointment or this venture was, however, compensated for in a degree by the doctor's promotion in the service to his present position, which he has held since 1882. Three years later he determined to once more endeavour to win the favour or the fickle goodness of fortune in the interior, and at considerable expense, equipped a second prospecting party. The same leader was placed in charge, and right well did he do his work. In the summer of 1890 he pressed across the plains in the direction of the now prosperous district of Southern Cross, and discovered the well-known Hope's Hill mine, named after the doctor. This property, which was worked for some time by the discoverers, proved so rich that it attracted the attention of English investors, and a syndicate was formed and purchased the mine for a large sum. The doctor still retains a large interest in the property.

Dr. Hope, who was married in 1878 to Miss Monger, of York, has six children.

As will be seen from the above brief sketch of his career, Dr. Hope is an enterprising man. In his professional life he has had many strange experiences, particularly in the discharge of his Government duties. In the prisons, where so many men of the worst type are congregated, the most ingenious tricks are resorted to by the convicts to enlist the medical officer's sympathy, and obtain, on the plea of sickness, a respite from their uncongenial labours. But the great experience Dr. Hope has had enables him to tell almost in a moment whether a complaint is genuine or not. With a fine military presence and a commanding air, Dr. Hope seems fitted by nature for the position he holds. A strict disciplinarian, he is yet of kindly nature, and in cases of illness among prisoners is as conscientious and painstaking in the treatment as he would be with his more fortunate patients outside the gaol. In social circles he is a universal favourite. Dr. Hope was gazetted a Justice of the Peace in 1881, and holds a commission as Major in the Fremantle Artillery.