Showing posts with label Hamilton Turkish baths. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hamilton Turkish baths. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The American's Wife

It was a house everyone admired – an elegant, two story residence at the west end of Hamilton – belonging to the Americans. A medical doctor, Silas Rand, and his brother Thomas Rand, a dentist, had their practices there, and their homes. They’d grown up in Minnesota. Their house had once been a Turkish bath house. Visitors reported pipe works still visible on interior walls.

Hamilton Turkish Baths c.1961, prior to demolition
Photograph from personal collection of Vita Fraser

The Baths had been built in 1879 by Francis W Reay, catering to ‘the well to do, and ladies.’ Reay, a medical herbalist who’d made money on the goldfields, quickly became a man of influence, and Mayor of Hamilton in 1887. The services available in the Baths have been described here.

The baths passed into the hands of the Rand brothers probably around the early 1900s, but were not operated as baths from then on.

After graduating from dentistry in 1904, Thomas Rand followed his brother Silas to Australia. Silas was already settled in Newcastle.

Thomas Rand graduated in dentistry from Northwestern University, Chicago, 1904, joining his brother Silas in Newcastle soon after
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

At some point, a young woman by the name of Ena Newsome Cheers became housekeeper for the brothers in their large residence. Ena had grown up on a grazing property near Frederickton on the Macleay River near Kempsey, New South Wales. The youngest of nine children, she was probably around twenty when she took up the housekeeping post.

Thomas and Ena married in 1912. It was not unusual for young women without further education to be sent away from home to work as housekeepers or governesses, and even to marry within their employer’s family.

In an early variation of ‘a farmer wants a wife,’ that happened to my own mother. She married one of the sons on the isolated country property where she’d been sent to work as a ‘companion’ to a girl just a few years younger than herself.

Thomas and Ena’s first child, Howard Ainsworth, was born within a year of their marriage. Seven years would pass before the arrival of their second, Beulah.

Ena Newsome Rand (n.d.)
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

Newcastle resident Susan Kemp, granddaughter of Thomas and Ena, has researched correspondence between her grandparents, medical records  and other family history to piece together Ena’s story.[1] She writes poignantly:

‘I only met my grandmother, a total stranger, once, possibly in 1960-61, shortly before her death. My mother had care of her on a day’s leave from Stockton Hospital. She was a simple, little old lady who was in need of basic care such as clothing, hairdresser and dentist. She played the piano beautifully by memory for us for hours. She cried when we took her back to the hospital as she wanted to stay.’

How did Ena’s life come to this?

In early 1919 the first cases of the deadly pneumonic flu were diagnosed in Melbourne. An epidemic followed, and in Newcastle alone, 1500 people were hospitalised, and 500 lost their lives. Hamilton council chambers became the site of an inoculation centre. [2].

Ena was called to Sydney to help care for a favourite nephew, who was ill and asking for her. Returning on the train, Ena wore a mask and was already feeling unwell.

As a complication of the pneumonic flu, Ena appears to have contracted encephalitis. This can result in a complete personality change, with the person exhibiting bizarre behaviour with neurological and psychiatric symptoms. Paranoia, aggression and violence are not uncommon.

It was at this point, probably in 1920, that Thomas moved his family to the farm he and Silas had bought at Mutdapilly, south of Ipswich in Queensland. Thomas had been advised that the fresh country air might help his wife.

An episode of Ena’s unpredictable and dangerous behaviour occurred in relation to 16 year old Madge Bernasconi, who had been employed to help with the children. Ena became jealous of the young girl, tried to set the house on fire, and had to be locked in her room for safety.

Things did not improve, and on 24 February, 1922 at the age of 34, Ena was admitted to a private mental asylum in Ipswich. Howard would have been 9, and Beulah just 2.

Howard and Beulah Rand feeding chickens at the Mutdapilly farm
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

Ena spent three years in the Ipswich asylum, with another 450 patients. Ena’s medical notes suggest that she was ‘bright at home, fond of music, sociable but suspicious...(diagnosis) Insanity attributed pregnancy and influenza in 1919.’

It was a time when medications for mental illness were not available, and emphasis was placed on a pleasant environment for patients, including areas for employment, recreation and exercise. Susan writes:

‘At this time she was striving to be reunited with her family:”I am trying to get out for the sake of the children’’ and to maintain her identity:”Will you bring the photo of me in evening dress and let them see what I was.”’

In the early 20th century, a shift occurred in the treatment of the mentally ill, with more women and those with neurotic behaviours being institutionalised, often for long periods. Ena became one of them, with a diagnosis of ‘Hypochondriacal Melancholia’. Melancholia was a common diagnosis for women at the time – what we know of today as clinical depression.

Her sister Una Cheers sought Thomas’s permission to remove Ena from hospital and care for her in Una’s Sydney home.

Letter from Ena’s sister, Una Cheers, to Thomas Rand seeking permission to take responsibility for Ena’s care, 26 May 1925
‘I would rather see her dead than where she is’, writes Una
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

Ena was released into Una’s care, but the task proved too great. Ena was then admitted to Parramatta Mental Hospital. She was 37 years of age.

Hospitals for the mentally ill were at this time chronically overcrowded with inadequate accommodation; patients were under constant surveillance and lived very regimented lives. Female patients suffered violation of their privacy during bathing and dressing, as well as emotional and physical abuse. They wore standardised, shapeless clothes with no opportunity to take pride in their appearance. Sedative medications provided chemical restraint; forced seclusion was particularly feared by patients. Such practices were aimed at controlling behaviour in an often volatile environment.

Research Susan Kemp has undertaken suggests that Ena would have had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or ‘shock treatment’ regularly – up to three times a week – her permission was not required. Often half a dozen people would be needed to hold the patient down. Patients were lined up to watch, knowing their turn would be soon.

Ena’s medical records documented delusions, restlessness, and conflict between her and staff members, sometimes to the point of violence.

In 1953 Ena was transferred from Parramatta to ‘new’ wards at Stockton Hospital.

Stockton Hospital in Newcastle had opened in 1910 in buildings that had served as a quarantine station. Originally a cheerless, inhospitable and overcrowded place, it was substantially redeveloped in the 1930s.
Portrait of three nurses from Stockton Hospital, NSW 1928
Photograph by F. Lucknam, Newcastle and Hunter District Society Archives, courtesy of Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle, Australia

Susan learned something of what her grandmother might have experienced at Stockton from research, and interviews with people such as Marie Lilly. Marie was a nurse who began her training at Stockton Hospital in 1950 and worked there for nearly 40 years.

Marie Lilly outside the nurses’ home, Stockton Hospital, 1950
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

Staff knew patients as individuals, understanding their likes and dislikes. Patients were taken on regular walks and on outings such as to the Newcastle Show. They worked in the sewing room and laundry, had film nights in the recreation hall, and were involved in growing their own vegetables. In this village community type situation, they were protected from the outside world. [3]

Stockton Hospital (NSW), three years before Ena Rand’s admission
Photograph Newcastle Morning Herald, 26/9/1950, courtesy Newcastle Region Library

Ena remained at Stockton until 1961, and it would have been around this time that Susan Kemp first met her grandmother on day leave from Stockton. At the age of 73, Ena was transferred yet again, this time to the North Ryde Psychiatric Centre. It must have been a huge dislocation for her and she missed Stockton terribly, asking to be returned. Her stay would not be long. Ena had a fall, developed double pneumonia and heart failure, and died on 24 February, 1962.

While the laws had begun to change, providing for improved treatment for the mentally ill and reflecting changes in community attitudes and concerns, it was too late for Ena Rand. She’d been caught in the mental health system for almost 40 years, certified insane and thought to be incurable, unable to return to normal life.

And what of the family left behind?

Mental health institutions have been described as ‘the sanitizers of society’ [4] - able to relieve a troubled family of an intractable and embarrassing member. Coping with mental illness – for the affected individual, and for those who love them – is both intensely challenging, and heart breaking. Inevitably, there is a great cost to the family unit. Susan Kemp describes this:

‘In Ena’s situation, Howard and Beulah were separated and grew apart. My grandfather Thomas felt he could not raise a daughter on his own, and she was taken by one of Ena’s sisters to be raised in Sydney. Thomas lost a wife and a partner in life, and a daughter. Throughout his later life he remained a dignified, lonely gentleman dependent on his son Howard, my father, to whom he was very much attached. ....all his family (were) in the USA, except his bother Silas, who died in 1931.’
After more than a decade on the farm, Thomas returned to Newcastle  - possibly 1933/34 - to resume his dental practice in the former Turkish baths building. Probably by then, Susan speculates, he would have become resigned to the fact that Ena was never coming home. Meantime, his son Howard, who was about 18, would work with his father as a dental technician.

Father and son, deeply attached through the tragedy that befell their wife and mother, died within six months of each other, in 1957 and 1958 respectively.

For her part, Ena never forgot her children. In postcards and letters held by Susan, Ena constantly begged to hear from them.

Postcard from Ena Rand to her family
‘Love from Mother and tell Dad to come and get Mother’
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp

Susan Kemp writes:

‘I don’t know if my grandfather (Thomas Rand) ever saw her again. Maybe he thought of Ena as being “dead” and that helped him live with the situation. I don’t know what contact my father had with her. It seemed after a time she ceased to exist.’

In her meticulous research, undertaken out of compassion for that ‘simple, little old lady who was in need of basic care,’ Susan Kemp has gifted her grandmother Ena Newsome Rand not just with her identity – so erased by the overburdened and often harsh system into which she’d stumbled – but also with her place in the family history.

Father and son: Thomas and Howard Rand at the Mutdapilly farm
Photograph from personal collection of Susan Kemp


My thanks to Susan Kemp for sharing her research and documentation of the story of her grandmother, Ena Newsome Rand, setting it in the context of the treatment of people with mental illness in Queensland and New South Wales from the 1920s to the 1960s.


[1] Susan Kemp 2008: An insight into the life of Ena Newsome Rand, 15 June 1888 – 24 February, 1962. Susan Kemp, Newcastle. Information and quotations have been drawn from Susan Kemp’s research, with her permission.
[2] ‘The Hunter Plague’, Newcastle Herald, Saturday 9/11/1991.
[3] Susan Kemp 2008, An insight into the life of Ena Newsome Rand, 15 June 1888 – 24 February, 1962. Susan Kemp, Newcastle, 9.
[4]  Dr Jim Gardner 1976, inside the cuckoo’s nest, Madness in Australia, Planet Publishing, Queensland. Quoting Braginsky & Braginsky, 1971.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Hamilton Turkish Baths

I was captivated by this exquisite photograph of the Hamilton Turkish Baths. This brick and stucco building was designed in the Victorian Filigree style, with decorative cast iron friezes on the upper verandah and colonnade. What’s more, their address was somewhere in Denison Street, with which my street intersected.

Hamilton Turkish Baths n.d.
Courtesy Newcastle Region Library

To find out the exact location of the Baths and the story behind them, I had to go to a short manuscript [1] by Susan Kemp held in the Newcastle Region Library. Susan had investigated a family connection with the Baths. Her grandfather, Thomas Henry Rand and his brother Silas Charles Rand, had been their second owners, for some sixty years.

So where were the Hamilton Turkish Baths? The land is identified as 15-21 Denison Street, at the Hunter Street end. While the location may now be more Newcastle West than Hamilton, I’m working on the basis that they were called Hamilton Turkish Baths. So this wonderful story is included in Hidden Hamilton.

Wesley Mission Newcastle now owns the land on which the Turkish Baths once stood.

The Turkish baths were built in 1879 by Francis W. Reay, who had settled in Newcastle in 1870. With a background as a medical herbalist and seller of patent and horse medicines, he had made money in the goldfields. Francis Reay became Mayor of Hamilton in 1887.

Mr F W Reay, herbalist, his wife and children (n.d.)
Courtesy State Library of NSW

It is not totally clear who the intended patrons of the Baths would be. People who lived in the mining settlements that would become Hamilton – the Borehole, Pit Town and Happy Flat – endured unhealthy, unsanitary living conditions. There was no running water, sewerage pipes or bathrooms. On the one hand, the idea might have been that the Baths could substantially improve the lives of miners and their families.

On the other hand, Francis Reay was an entrepreneur, and he had invested over 1000 pounds of his own money in the Baths. Susan Kemp believes he saw a niche in the market, as consciousness of bathing increased, with patronage directed to "the well to do and ladies".

The Hamilton Baths offered a range of services – it had provision to segregate the sexes, separate facilities for the well to do, private consultations with practitioners, and as well “electric baths”, an early form of tanning bed. The brick and stone building included a chemist's shop. promoting botanic and homeopathic preparations.

Susan Aykut [2] of the Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine Historical Society, has written a fascinating account of the development of Turkish Baths in Australia in the 19th century. So far she has identified nearly 30 so called Turkish baths scattered around Australia.  

Australia rapidly embraced the concept of Turkish Baths, probably due to the hot, humid climate and a growing understanding of health and hygiene. There was no transference of any of the Islamic practices or symbols of religious purification. The baths themselves were closer to their Roman forerunners than Turkish, using dry heat instead of wet or vapour heat.

Susan Aykut explains how the impetus for building Turkish Baths in Australia came from the “Turkish Bath Movement” established in Britain by a maverick Scottish politician, David Urquart, who had often visited the baths in Constantinople (Istanbul). 

So, after reading her paper, I had to reluctantly give up my imaginings of an exotic Turkish hamam on the edge of Hamilton!

Hot chamber of the men's baths in the Bey Hamam, Thessaloniki
Photograph by Marsyas, 26 February 2006, Wikipedia Commons

From an 1880 article in the Maitland Mercury [3], we learn that a patron of the Baths first undressed in the Frigidarium, and was attired in a suitable bathing costume, to be then conducted into the first hot room, the Tropidarum (heated to 100 degrees). After a time, the attendant escorted the patron to the Sudatorium, where the temperature could reach 160 degrees. Next was a sulphur room, then a shampooing room, where an expert shampooer “in the person of a coloured man” was on hand (although – the article hastens to add - ladies would be waited on by a person of their own sex). Then to the washing room, for a through cleansing, and finally the drying room. The article proclaims that after this experience, the patron is so invigorated they “could easily jump over a four rail fence”!

All for five shillings (single bath), 6 baths for a pound, or a quarterly ticket for five pounds.

 I found it interesting that the second owners of the Hamilton Baths  were Seventh Day Adventists and came from a strong medical background. Silas Chares Rand was a medical graduate of the University of Chicago, registering with the NSW Medical Board in 1898. He migrated to Australia first, and was followed in 1904 by his brother Thomas Henry Rand.

Silas Charles Rand
From the collection of Susan Kemp

Thomas had graduated as a dentist from Northwestern University, Chicago. He was the grandfather of Susan Kemp.

Thomas Henry Rand
From the collection of Susan Kemp

Silas and Thomas were part of a family of six; five became doctors (including one sister), and Thomas a dentist.

From Susan Kemp’s research, it appears the brothers must have purchased the Baths in the early 1900s. While they never operated the Baths as such, this beautiful building was used for a further period of some sixty years as their medical and dental practices, and as their homes.

Thomas married and had two children; Silas never married. The story of Thomas and his wife contains its own tragedy, reflecting systemic problems of the health care of the times. It will be the subject of another post.

As Susan wistfully concludes:

“The Turkish Baths, a grand building originally built to give comfort and cleanliness to the citizens of Newcastle, had much potential but was demolished in 1961. Its heritage value was not recognised and Newcastle lost a unique reminder of its social history”.

Turkish Baths Rear View, drawn by Howard Peter Rand
From the collection of Susan Kemp

Unattributed photographs by Ruth Cotton.

[1] Kemp, Susan: The Turkish Baths, Hamilton, Newcastle (2008).
[2] Aykut, Susan: Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine Historical Society, Historical Papers Number 6, October 2007).
[3)The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 17 January, 1880