Dr Bryson served Levin well

Dr Bryson was a long-serving doctor in Levin.

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Dr Robert Bryson obtained his degree at Glasgow University prior to 1910, as in that year, he emigrated to New Zealand and entered into a medical practice.

Along with a Dr Kennedy it seems he set up practice at what later was no. 9 Durham Street Levin.

This was the first house on the south side, there being empty sections down from Oxford Street until a motor garage was built on the corner in 1924.  The site of the house is now a yard and buildings, formerly a transport depot, down from Brian Moore Ltd Garage.

In 1913 Dr Bryson married Elizabeth Wells of Christchurch.  She died in 1917 in Palmerston North Hospital of TB. Shown in photo at left with husband and children.

Dr Elizabeth MacDonald obtained her degree, with MA Honours and three MD Degrees from St Andrews University, Scotland being one of the first women graduates from that university.

In 1908, she came to New Zealand and worked as assistant to Dr Patrick MacKeen, in his large practice at Rostrevor House in Wellington.

She remained there until 1914, when she took a position with the School Medical Services, at first in Dunedin and then in Auckland.

She had known Dr Bryson in early post graduate days in Dundee and when she heard of his bereavement, she wrote a letter of condolence, leading to a reunion meeting and subsequent marriage in 1918.

They were both involved in fighting the influenza epidemic in Levin in 1918.  The Levin District High School was used as a temporary hospital.

A story that I have heard is that Hector McDonald and another man were told to watch a very sick patient through the night and give him a dose of brandy periodically.  In the morning, the watchers were flat out on the floor, the brandy bottle empty and the patient very well.

I do not know how many people died of this epidemic, but it was a considerable number.  Five thousand, five hundred died in NZ, while many times more contracted the disease and recovered.  It was said the bodies of the victims turned black after death.

The Bryson children were born in Levin, May in 1920 and William in 1922, both becoming medical doctors in adult life.

Because Dr Bryson had a bad heart condition (as a result of childhood rheumatic fever), the family decided to move to Wellington in 1926 when Dr Lance Hunter bought the practices.

The family lived at 276 Willis Street with Mr Robert doing a small amount of general practice work, but mainly he specialised in anaesthetics.

Dr Elizabeth built up a very successful practice in women’s diseases, continuing after her husband’s death in 1934.  He died while driving to Levin from Wellington to go to the horse races and was buried in Levin Cemetery.

The family retained the ownership of the house in Durham Street.

Dr Jean Bryson of Plimmerton who has supplied most of the information in this story, married William Bryson.

When William returned to New Zealand in 1946 his intention was to practice in Levin.  He visited Dr Lance Hunter, to discuss this and was told there was no opening in Levin.  He started a practice in Plimmerton and the Levin house was sold.

Dr Jean Bryson possesses a grandfather clock, presented to the Brysons in 1926 by the mothers and children of Levin.  This was presented  by Bet MacKenzie who later married Dr Elizabeth’s brother Dr William MacDonald.

It seems that what I wrote in an earlier story of Dr Elizabeth Bryson being in the school health service after leaving Levin is wrong.  So much for memories.

Neither William nor Mary Bryson knew why his second Christian name was Kennedy, until they read my story and now have concluded it was because of their father’s association with Dr Kennedy.

I have to amend the date of 1924 previously printed in an earlier story, that was when the Brysons sold their practices and left Levin.  The presentation date on the grandfather clock presented to them is 25/2/1926.

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Dr Bryson served Levin well


Creator:Corrie Swanwick
Creation date:28/03/1990
Publisher:The News