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William Lane Milligan

One of the first doctors in the colony, Milligan, was also one of the first two people to have a street named after him, along with Frederick Irwin, the first military commander.

Milligan was in Cape Town when James Stirling arrived there (16 April 1829) on his way to found the Swan River colony. The surgeon of the 63th regiment (Tully Daly) happened to be drowned 25 April 1829. Stirling had him replaced with Milligan, who made his way to the colony ASAP. Cyril Bryan thought that he came with the regiment on the Sulphur in 1829, but Erickson records that it was the Wanstead, which arrived 30 January 1830. According to Whiteley, Milligan was temporarily replaced as the 63rd's acting surgeon by one Horatio Holden, whose name does appear on the muster roll of the detachment which arrived in 1829.

There was by that time a Colonial Surgeon, Charles Simmons, but Stirling sent him to Augusta, putting Milligan in charge of the health of the colony. (Statham-Drew: 575)

The article published by Cyril Bryan in 1938 (see below) may contain inaccuracies - mainly regarding when and on which ship Milligan arrived on. See the notes below the following article.

News and Notes, West Australian, 15 June 1939: 16.
Cyril Bryan:
Perth Hospital Beginnings. "Cygnet" writes: "The Perth Hospital, under the name of the Colonial Hospital, first began to function on June 1, 1830. Its first Medical Superintendent was Dr. William Milligan, the surgeon to the 63rd Regiment, who on the first day the soldiers came to Perth (June 18, 1829) had already erected a military hospital, in the shape of a marquee, about the centre of the present Cathedral-avenue. A year later, on June 1, 1830, Dr. Milligan (in the absence of the Colonial Surgeon. Dr. Charles Simmons, at Augusta) was also called upon to erect a civilian hospital. and this also began its existence in a tent, pitched, it is believed, on the block of ground immediately west of the Celtic Club. The genesis of this Colonial Hospital is graphically sketched by Dr. Milligan himself in a report to Lieutenant Governor Stirling, dated August 1, 1830: 'In the month of June (1830) three unfortunate individuals were discovered to be at Perth in a state of utter destitution and greatly exhausted from bad food, a scanty allowance of it, exposure to the weather, and scurvy. They had been dismissed their master's service for misconduct, were for some time without employment, and latterly almost without food. His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, on being informed of their situation, ordered a tent to be provided and that they should be supplied with all the comforts their cases required, as well as medical attendance. This step, at once so prudent and so humane, has led to the establishment of a hospital in which many now find a retreat who, with out such an institution, must have perished from want and disease.'

Erickson has Milligan arriving on the Wanstead in 1830—not the Sulphur in 1829 (as Bryan suggests)—as do the, and Whiteley (see below).

MILLIGAN, (Dr) William Lane, arr. 30.1.1830 per Wanstead with family, wife Elizabeth Sybil b. 1800. Chd. Anne Jane b. 1825, William Lane b. & d. 1830, Harriet b. 1832, Maria b. 1834. Surgeon of 63rd Regt. Selected 2,060 acres Avon district & 500 acres in Swan district. Opened 1st Colonial hospital in WA 6.1830 at Perth. Moved to Frem. 1834. Transferred to India, dep. 18.4.1834 per Merope.

On February 27, 1830, William Lane, the son of Dr.William, and Elizabeth Sybil Milligan was buried, and the service was conducted by the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom. The child was born on February 21, 1830, and died four days later. Dr and Mrs Milligan lived in Perth.

References and Links

Brine, John et al. 1991, Looking for Milligan: The Fascinating Search for William Milligan: a Pioneering Doctor of the Swan River Colony c. 1795-1851, Milligan Society, Perth.

Cygnet [Cyril Bryan], 'Perth Names, 9: Milligan of Milligan-street', West Australian, 24 September 1938: 5.

de Mouncey, P. E. C. 1930, 'Births, marriages and deaths records of Western Australia, with reference to other states, (Part 2)', Early Days, vol. 1, part 8: 19-34.

Whiteley, E.S. 1967, 'H.M.S. Sulphur', Early Days, vol. 6, part 6: 45-55.


See also: Colonial Hospital.

Royal Perth Hospital Museum.

Wikipedia page for the doctor

Wikipedia page for the street

Garry Gillard | New: 10 June, 2018 | Now: 29 September, 2023