Dr Speece – medical man of mystery – part 2

As noted in our last post, Dr William Comely Speece was the first doctor to settle in the local area. The first resident General Practitioner was Dr Robert Kane, appointed in the same year as Will Speece died – 1907.

Will Speece had been in the district for only nine years. He came to Australia in December 1885 as an unassisted saloon passenger on the Zealandia.

Australia, Inward, Outward & Coastal Passenger Lists 1826-1972 Image [courtesy Find My Past]
He immediately sought to be legally registered in New South Wales:

GOVERNMENT GAZETTE. (1886, January 20). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13609470

Not long after, Dr Speece attracted an imposter: Sidney Herbert a.k.a. Herbert Saunders, a.k.a. Lardner, a.k.a. Dr Spence. The names Lardner and Spence may possibly be a journalist’s misprint.¬† Which was his real name? The only one we know with any certainty was that he was not William Speece.

He was arrested as Herbert Saunders, and was known to police:

CENTRAL POLICE COURT. (1878, May 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13418905
Miscellaneous Information. (1878, May 8). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 – 1930), p. 170. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article251894705
Penrith. (1878, May 11). The Cumberland Mercury (Parramatta, NSW : 1875 – 1895), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248614014

Before he had even crossed paths with Dr Speece, this person did four years of hard labour on a road gang.

RETURN OF PRISONERS DISCHARGED FREE since last publication. (1883, April 25). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 – 1930), p. 167. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article252053743

Interestingly, his release information mentions that he had travelled on the Zealandia – the same ship on which Dr Speece migrated, although in a different year. This postal service ship first arrived in Australia in 1876 from England. Its passage was acknowledged as notable for the shortened time travel:

THE PACIFIC MAIL FLEET IN HARBOUR. (1876, March 3). Illustrated Sydney News & New South Wales Agriculturalist & Grazier (NSW : 1872 Р1881), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63333607THE PACIFIC MAIL FLEET IN HARBOUR. (1876, March 3). Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (NSW : 1872 Р1881), p. 13. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63333607

Was Sidney Herbert a passenger? He is not an obvious inclusion here, although he may have travelled in third class (steerage).

ARRIVAL OF THE STEAMSHIP ZEALANDIA. (1876, February 5). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article219430459

Note that the other possible names, such as Herbert Saunders and George Gardener, also did not appear.

Was he a doctor? As his most prevalent crime was “False Pretences”, it is highly unlikely that he was a registered medical practitioner. But by 1891, he had become Dr William Speece:

Offences not otherwise described. (1891, April 15). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 – 1930), p. 134. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article251638334

to be continued…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *