The only time I've been in an ambulance was when I was carted up to the Tamworth Hospital in 1961, after suffering a nasty knee injury while playing Rugby League for Newcastle Boys High School against eventual University Shield winners Tamworth High on No.1 Oval - my first time in Tamworth, coming here to live 4 years later. If I'd been here when Tamworth first started I'd have needed to "make my own arrangements". Back in 1845 an AA Company overseer James Robson was found at Goonoo Goonoo suffering from several spear wounds. Loaded onto a "dog cart" by his wife Isabella, he was taken over rough tracks to the Company's hospital in Ebsworth Street but died on the way. He is buried in the original cemetery behind the Ibis Styles Motel in Ebsworth Street, and his relocated gravestone is the oldest in the West Tamworth cemetery.
Years later our first rather primitive communal ambulance service came by notifying the police station, where a stretcher was housed, of any medical emergency, whereby the policeman would then co-opt the first able-bodied passer-by to assist him as a stretcher-bearer in conveying the patient to a doctor or the hospital. By 1900 this had been improved upon, by having a 2-wheeled "litter", basically a bed with overhead canopy, requiring 2 men to provide the transport through shafts at either end. This early ambulance was kept on the verandah of the Lands Office in Fitzroy Street, opposite the present Town Hall. Prior to this, in 1897, a branch of the St John Ambulance Service had been formed in Tamworth, which organised 5 lectures on First Aid through local doctors Sexton and Stanley.
One Sunday morning in 1915, blacksmith William Smith and timber-merchant Charles Wane were seated on Smith's home verandah on the corner of Bridge (then Peel) and Carter Streets, when a litter ambulance with patient was being wheeled to the distant hospital. Smith commented that as Bendemeer had a horse-drawn ambulance from 1912, Tamworth was overdue to have an improved service. The two men called a public meeting at the Mechanics Institute, with only 6 attending. A second meeting drew 12 attendees and a proposal ensued to pursue a motorised ambulance service. Eventually this came to fruition with a Model T Ford being purchased in 1916, and converted. Solicitor Albert Creagh offered as guarantor for the 480 pounds purchase of the new vehicle, which went on display at a Carnival at the Oval on Saturday, July 16, 1916. Fortunate timing, for on the following day 14-yo Sylvia Solomons was injured in a car accident coming home from Dungowan, and the Model T ambulance came to the rescue!
- Stepping back in times: Early Tamworth elections
- Stepping back in Times: Tamworth's early newspapers
- Not so likely now, but Tamworth has had its fair share of big floods
- Tamworth's early, mainly wooden, buildings were prone to going up in smoke
- Take a trip down memory lane - Our beloved peel Street
- Stepping back in Times: When posties were on bikes of the pedal-power kind
For several years there was no permanent housing for our single motorised ambulance, with successive drivers usually parking the Ford outside their house or place of employment. Ambulance requirement calls normally went first to Council, then were transferred on to the appointed ambulance driver.
On July 1, 1925 the Tamworth Ambulance Service came under the control of the NSW Ambulance Service and Fred Bowdler became the first local Ambulance Superintendent. The original Ford was supplemented by an Austin vehicle, with the Ambulance Station located at Bowdler's home at 65 Church Street in West Tamworth. The present Marius Street Ambulance Station was opened with much celebration on June 22. The Tamworth District Police Association presented the Service with a fully-equipped Studebaker Wagon. Later, in the 1930's, Humber Pullman and Hillman Wagons were gifted to the Service.
Today, when we hear the siren of an ambulance going to someone in need, think back to the Isabella Robson or the early stretcher-bearers doing their best to get someone to hospital.