willsmere's blog

Tom Wills – Famous Resident

There is something sublime is Australia's favourite sports; whether it is the extraordinary pace and skill of Australian Rules football, or the sublime ritual that makes up cricket, these pastimes have a strange beauty.

A Model of Future Living, The Age, Wednesday 11 March 1998

Locked in a former lunatic asylum doesn't sound like fun, but for busy parents and children it is a world apart at Willsmere.

Life is relaxed, happy and secure. It is almost a paradise for families.

There are sprawling lawns - but you do not have to mow them; there are groves of trees but you do not have to prune them; there are flower beds but you do not have to plant them. You do not have to renovate, cars are diverted from play areas and the swimming pool has no deep end.

Paris Nesbit : Potrait of an Inmate

It is unsurprising that Willsmere has been home to many colourful individuals in its time. One of these was Paris Nesbit (1852-1927), a former schoolmaster, author, land agent and social activist. A child genius, Nesbit was fluent in German, French and Latin, and well versed in the major poets by the age of 10, translating Goethe and Schiller into English (which was eventually published, albeit not until 1911).

"Kew Asylum Picnic", The Argus, Friday 2 February 1894, p3

The annual picnic provided for the inmates of the Kew Asylum was held in the reserve on Wednesday last. About 5OO patients were present, and took part in the various sports and games got up for the occasion. The " merry go round " and dancing ring were well patronised, and the running and jumping events, &c., for which prizes were given, were keenly contested, whilst "Aunt Sally " and other such forms of amusement had their supporters. During the day all were plentifully regaled with refreshments, and, the day being pleasant, everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the outing.

Kew Asylum Inquiry, Singleton Argus (NSW), Tuesday 18 November 1924, p2

Before the Royal Commission inquiring into the administration of Kew Asylum (Vic.), Dr. Ellery said that the alleged intoxicating liquor which, Nurse Bourke said he had brought to the asylum, was a cordial. He could not recollect telling any indecent story to a nurse. He agreed that the conditions of airing the, court and drill hall were abominable, but his efforts at improvement had failed, for financial reasons. Patients had to be bathed in the open, while the bathroom was being repaired, because there: was no place inside.

"Kew Asylum Inquiry", The Argus, Friday 24 October 1924, p12

The Chief Secretary (Mr. Tunnecliffe) said yesterday that Mr. F. Menzies., of the Crown Law department, had been ap- pointed to assist Mr. A., A. Kelley, P.M., who as a (loyal commission will inves- tigate charges of ill-treatment, to patients which have been made against Dr. R.S. Ellery, junior medical officer of the Kew Asylum, by members of the staff.

"Kew Asylum Dismissals", The Argus, Monday 9 March 1925, p8

At the Protestant Hall, corner of Exhition and Little Collin street, at 8 o'clock on Tuesday evening a public meeting will be held to protest against the dismissal of three Kew Asylum attendants who gave evidence before the Royal commission. There will be several speakers. The meeting has been arranged by the Hospital Employees' Association, and a general invitation to the public is given.

"Kew Asylum", Traralgon Record Tuesday 3 March 1903, p3

Dr. Fishbourne, who is an expert, says of Kew Asylum :-" I wouldn't send a dog there." The Chief Secretary, who is no expert, trots over the institution, and says it is a very nice place, He found the floors washed and the patients in clean bibs and tuckers, and what more could any reasonable lunatic demand ? The expert asks that the asylum be something more than a mere storehouse for maniacs, and thinks it should be first and foremost a hospital devoting the best energies of its staff to the work of ministering to the mind diseased.

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