Richard Ryther Steer Bowker was born in 1815 in
He made several voyages to
Australia. On 23 February 1841 he arrived in Port Phillip as
ship's surgeon on immigrant ship Georgiana. While on board the
'Georgiana' he kept a journal of his voyage.
Bowker lived in Bolton Street, Newcastle in the 1840's and was
called on at all hours of the night for emergencies. In November
1843 he was disturbed at ten o'clock at night to attend a man
named Morgan - a 'deformed and exceedingly harmless man' who
resided in King Street and lay dangerously ill after being
beaten and stabbed with a bayonet by two soldiers from the
99th regiment. When Dr. Bowker arrived he found Morgan
seriously wounded with the stab being about three inches depth
between the third and fourth ribs.
He was often required
to attend inquests in Newcastle. In April 1844, Coroner J.S.
Parker held an inquest at Newcastle on the body of 18month old
Rebecca Dunn who had supposedly died through the injudicious
medical treatment of a man named
Peter Rosario At the inquest it was discovered that the
child had been ill for four months and attended by Dr. Bowker
who had told the mother that he entertained no hope of recovery
due to her liver complaint. He recommended oatmeal, arrowroot
and beef tea which the child refused. Her mother then called the
assistance of Peter Rozario who ordered the flannels in which
the child was wrapped to be removed. He mixed some aloes in a
table spoon of water with some lump sugar, a teaspoonful of
which he gave the child. After giving this medicine he cut up a
white onion which he bruised with half a teaspoonful of salt and
rubbed the child all over, when he prescribed a teaspoonful of
castor oil to be given. He then ordered her to be laid to sleep.
The next day to recommended more castor oil and rubbed the child
all over again with onion and salt and ordered her to be fed
with chicken broth boiled with whole pepper. The mother and
child returned to their residence a short distance from
Newcastle five days later. On their next visit to Newcastle the
child became ill again and Peter Rozario was again consulted
when he advised that she had a cold on the stomach and would not
live. He again gave the child aloes to cut the phlegm and
chicken broth however she died an hour later.
Bowker and George Brooks
performed a post mortem on the body and it was found that
Bowker's diagnosis of liver disease was correct. The liver was
enlarged to double its size and contained several abscesses. At
the inquest Dr. Bowker stated that although Rozario's treatment
was not directly injurious it was indirectly so by hindering
efficient remedies from being employed. Two men John Barker and
David Robertson spoke in Court in Rozario's favour stating they
had received relief from his treatments, however the jury found
that Rebecca Dunn had died by the visitation of God, and they
recommended that Peter Rozario be cautioned by the coroner from
practicing as a quack doctor.
attendance at some inquests must have been merely a formality.
He attended the inquest of Thomas Pender in July 1844. Pender
who arrived on the
in 1838 was a convict at the stockade employed as a government
stock keeper. He drowned off Throsby's Creek after his boat
capsized. Unable to swim and dressed in a heavy watch cloak he
soon disappeared. His body was later found on the opposite side
of the channel.
On a winter's night in 1844 Dr. Bowker
was called out at midnight when the lockup keeper
Thomas Harrison was viciously assaulted and stabbed by two
men. On arrival at the Court House where Harrison resided he
found the stab wound had passed completely through Harrison's
cheek and that he was in a very dangerous state.
August 1848, he treated Miss Humphrey, the eldest daughter of
Thomas Bott Humphrey of Newcastle. Her dress had caught fire
and she was seriously burned before a ticket of leave holder
John Brown managed to extinguish the flames. She remained in a
dangerous state under the constant medical treatment of Dr.
Bowker for some time.
Richard Bowker worked for some
time in the East Indies however returned to Newcastle and
settled in a house overlooking the harbour and sea. This was
possibly situated in Watt Street next to the California Hotel
Morris Magney. From his house he could no doubt observe any
of his vessels entering and leaving the harbour. He owned five
vessels in partnership with
George Tully by 1853. One of his small trading vessels was
He contributed to the educational
entertainment in the township and in September 1844 gave an
introductory lecture on Chemistry at the Mechanics Institute.
He was highly regarded by the
inhabitants of Newcastle as in 1848 on his return to the
township after a long absence residents contributed to purchase
a piece of plate and fifty sovereigns to thank him for his
previous and continuing service as a doctor
In 1858 he
married Lydia Phillips in Paterson. Lydia was the daughter of
Peninsula war veteran Captain James
Phillips. She had probably grown up on the family estate
'Bona Vista' at Paterson. (Lydia's older sister Isabella married
David Sloan in 1840.) Richard
Bowker later purchased the Bona Vista property from the Estate.
Richard and Lydia soon started a family - Isabel was
born in 1859, Robert in 1861, Elizabeth in 1862, Charles in
1864, Richard in 1867, Arthur 1869, Harold 1870, Edward 1872
were all born in Newcastle. Cedric was born in 1876 in
Paddington, Sydney and a year later Richard was elected member
for Newcastle in the Legislative Assembly.
Lydia died in
Paddington in 1878. Richard lived until 1903. He was buried at
Notes & Links:
Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
Parliament of New South Wales