Lake Macquarie History

Nurse Dick's Private Hospital

There is a house in George Street Belmont that many Lake Macquarie residents, both past and present, may claim as being their original place of birth. It is an unassuming house, still standing strong as a testament to the many years gone by. Now a private residence, in it’s hey day it was Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital, also known as Roslyn Private Hospital, and it is here that over 5000 babies took their first breath of life, some as early as 1923.

photo: nurse dick's privat hospital

Nurse Margaret Chalmers Dick was born in Joadja Creek, New South Wales in 1895 to Scottish born parents Thomas and Jane Gibson Dick. She was one of seven children who moved from Joadja Creek to Dudley, before settling at Belmont around the year 1922. Nurse Dick originally spent six years undertaking pre-study Psychiatry at the Callan Park Centre in Sydney before partaking in an Intensive Study Course at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney, at the cost of £100. After graduating with honours, Nurse Dick was rewarded by her parents in the form of a residential block of flats in George Street, Belmont.

It was during this time that a population growth was occurring and the demand for maternity accommodation in the local area was high. To meet the needs of this growing population, Nurse Dick set about converting her newly acquired George Street flats into a private maternity hospital. Thus, the establishment of ‘Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital’ also known as ‘Roslyn Private Hospital’ came about. This was to be the first private hospital for the Belmont area. It is unknown why Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital was later called Roslyn Private Hospital but it would appear that the name change began in the late 1930s.

As was the norm back in those days, for someone to be known in the community and to publicise their skills and experiences, a person may decide to advertise their services in the local newspaper. A public notice promoting the services of Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital was found to be printed in the ‘Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate’ dated Saturday 15th September 1923.

photo: nurse margaret chalmers dick

In the early years, Nurse Dick, a local district nurse at the time, travelled from patient’s homes as far away as Catherine Hill Bay and Nords Wharf, usually by horse and sulky through rain, hail, or shine. However, as the community developed and the popularity of Nurse Dick's Private Hospital grew, Nurse Dick found she was unable to maintain house calls and started treating patients, at the hospital, from as far away as Merriwa, Gloucester, and Sydney. Past information tells us the story of a lady who travelled from Merriwa on four different occasions to give birth at Nurse Dick’s hospital and on all 4 occasions, the woman left her child in the care of Nurse Dick, the fourth child being left for as long as twelve months. This was not a rare occurrence though, as it was discovered that another woman left her child in the care of Nurse Dick for several years as the father of the child moved around the state for work.

In 1932, the front entrance of Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital was given a ‘facelift’ due to a number of complaints about ‘people riding their horses on the footpaths, causing destruction’. It was thought that by grading and gravelling the front entrance, patients would be discouraged to continue this practice. In 1943 Nurse Dick was given approval to have additions done to the hospital at a cost of £187 and in 1946, it was discovered that Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital, was to be registered as an approved hospital under the new Social Services Acts.

Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital, or Roslyn Private Hospital as it was also known, continued to provide maternity care to many families until its closure around the time of 1957. It is estimated that over five thousand children were born over that time, amongst that 14 sets of twins, including Siamese twins and 1 set of triplets. Unfortunately, the official record book of births cannot be found, however it was discovered that one of the earliest births at Nurse Dick’s Private Hospital was a boy named ‘Donald Dick Shelly’ born on the 7th of November 1924. His birth was announced in the local newspaper at the time; ‘Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate’ on Saturday the 15 November 1924 and can be found at this link: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/137775145

After its closure in 1957, the building was then reverted to its original form of residential flats, and it is here that Nurse Margaret Chalmers Dick lived out her days until 1964, when she passed away at the age of 68. It would appear that in the years following the closure of her hospital Nurse Dick may have worked as a ‘Nanny’ of sorts. Her obituary, in the Sydney Morning Herald, dated 18 July 1964, reads ‘Dearly beloved friend and ‘Nursie’ of Noni (Mother M. J John Bosco) and Olive RIP’. This was discovered in the New South Wales State Library amongst the Sydney Morning Herald Archives.

Information sourced from:

  • ‘Belmont 150th Anniversary’ Supplement to the Newcastle Herald. Dated Friday September 26, 1975.
  • Newcastle Sun. Dated November 5, 1957.
  • Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate (NSW: 1876-1954). Retrieved from archives found online at: www.trove.nla.gov.au