dick

Allan Lindsay North (1896-1997)
Edith Kathleen Lindsey (1896-1974)

Allan Lindsay North was the fifth of the six children of John George North & Mary Bell Shepherd, born on 03 Feb 1896 in Summer Hill, Sydney. Known as Dick North (Uncle Dick within the family), he was educated at Sydney Grammar School and then at the University of Sydney. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Services on 16 Jul 1918, giving his profession as medical student and spelling his name both Allan and Alan on the one document.; his record can be read online here. Other official records are also inconsistent: his NSW birth record has Allan, his marriage record Alan. The latter appears how he preferred his name to be spelt. He became an specialist ophthalmologist and ophthalmic surgeon, occupying a second floor room in Beanbah Chambers, 235 Macquarie Street. He operated at St Vincents Hospital in Sydney.

Uncle Dick was a national tennis player, competing in major competitions even while he was at school. Newspaper reports of his matches are plentiful, especially in the middle of the 1920s culminating in his winning the NSW Men’s Open Doubles in 1927 (Beecroft Lawn Tennis Club Inc). We pick just three of these reports:

From The Arrow, Fri 21 Mar 1924:

TENNIS CHAMPIONS ON TAP
CITY OF SYDNEY TOURNAMENT ON MONDAY
IMPROVEMENT OF DR. A. L. NORTH : By Smash

The City of Sydney tournament will commence on Monday at Sydney Cricket Ground, and a large entry has been received – bigger even that that for the N.S.W. championship meeting. Many prominent players are taking part. …

DR. NORTH IMPROVES.

Now that all the leading players are again taking part in the district matches, one can look forward to many stirring contests tomorrow at the White City Courts. If one may judge from his play last Saturday, Dr. A. L. North is rapidly improving. Only he and J. Willard, among local players, have been able to take a set from J. O. Anderson, and North’s play last Saturday, against Anderson, was very fine indeed. Of course, Anderson is not at present in his very best form, for he has been playing exhibition matches mostly, and one naturally slumps in such matches, especially when they are played on hard courts, to which Anderson is not so suited as he is to grass. But taking all that into consideration, North’s performance is still his best to date.

From The Sydney Sportsman, Tue 08 Mar 1927:

DR. A. L. NORTH is a tennis player in the first flight. He loves the game, and is never happier than when opposed to a foe worthy of his racquet. With many victories behind him, he is now content to enjoy tennis as a social relaxation. His profession and his patients claim his first consideration, and in the field of future tennis tournaments he will be an absentee.

But he does not wish to break his record of successive State representation, which commenced in 1914. He was a member of the Sydney Grammar at the time, and was selected to represent N.S.W. against Adelaide. Since then he has each year represented his State against the champion teams of either Adelaide, Victoria, or New Zealand, and should future selection come his way, he will play – over the period of his annual holiday. He cannot think of any better way in which to spend his holidays.

A member of the Sydney Club, he captained the Sydney I. team to victory in the 1926 Badge competition, and is again playing with the team this year.

He has had his measure of success in the Club’s annual tournament, having captured, with Dr. N. M. Gregg, the doubles title in 1923, 24, and 25. In the latter year he was also successful in the singles championship, defeating N. Peach, the ex-Davis Cup player, for the captaincy of the club. With the scores two sets to one in Peach’s favor, he set to with a will and took the remaining two sets for the match with the loss of but three games.

North was selected to represent N.S.W. on the occasion of the visit of the Stanford University team to Australia, and in December last was a member of the home team which toured the Dominions. Playing at Auckland, he was defeated by the N.Z. champion, Andrews, in the final of the singles championship. At New Plymouth he was runner-up in the Taranaki singles championship, going down in the final to Haege, of Victoria. With J. McCausland, he won the doubles title, also the mixed, partnered with Miss N. Lloyd.

The doubles combination was again successful in the Canterbury championships, played at Christchurch, and, with Miss M. Wake, he was runner-up for the mixed title. He has played in past N.S.W. championships, and captured the Western Suburbs singles title in 1920, against E. Pockley.

But now he will rest on his laurels – a player who has bloomed, and is content with the flowering.

From The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 03 May 1927:

LAWN TENNIS
State Championship Finals
NORTH AND PEACH WIN.

The unfinished events in the State championship tournament were decided at Rushcutter Bay yesterday in fine, bright weather. J. Crawford, who won the State singles title on Saturday, meeting H. Hopman in the final of the Junior singles championship at 2 p.m. Crawford, who seemed to be feeling the effects of his strenuous match on Saturday, following on the continuous match and exhibition…

The final of the doubles championship, which was unfinished on Saturday, at two sets to love in favour of Dr. A. L. North and N. Peach, provided a great contest when the match was resumed yesterday afternoon, J. Willard and R. E. Schlesinger taking the next two sets to even the score, after two match points had been held against them. In the third set of the match, North and Peach led almost throughout, and at 7-6 on the latter’s service, had two match points, but the first was lost by a netted volley by Peach of a fine drive by Schlesinger at the end of a long rally, and when the second chance came, a toss by North that would have scored outright just missed the line, and no further opportunity was given, Willard and Schlesinger taking the next two games and the set at 9-7. The following set was closely contested, to four all, Schlesinger being sound and accurate, while Willard, who was playing his best game of the tournament, attacked strongly throughout, and brilliant play gave him and his partner the next two games, and the set, at 6-4.

North and Peach forced the game throughout the final set. Peach driving and smashing well, and scoring occasionally with toss volleys when close in, while Dr. North was sound and severe at all points, showing no weakness in any part of his game. The latter’s position was never at fault, his volleys were well controlled, and his severe smashes admirably placed, while his drives, taken on the top of the bounce, were difficult to volley, his play throughout the match being the best of the four.

Games followed the service to two all in the final set, but Willard lost his in the sixth game, on a netted volley of a drive by North and a love game followed on Peach’s delivery. Schlesinger’s service saved the next game, but the last was not long in doubt. Fine serving by North, and two smashes of the returns by Peach ending the match, with a love game, and giving Peach and North the title of doubles champions of New South Wales.

Doubles Championship Final: Dr. A. L. North and N. Peach beat J. Willard and R. E. Schlesinger, 6-2, 8-6. 7-9, 4-6, 6-3.

Allan Lindsay North married Edith Kathleen Lindsey (known as Kay) in 1939, Alan aged 43. They had no children. Kay was born on 08 Mar 1896 in Clapham Park, St Stephen England, to John Lindsey & Edith Mary Gayford.

In the 1940s Alan and Edith moved to 18-24 Sublime Point Rd Leura, establishing the 7,000 m2 property Elouera. Uncle Dick was a founding member of the Leura Gardens Festival, which goes to this very day. He was also a keen supporter of the 18.5 ha Campbell Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath. From their website:

In 1984 an area for growing many different types of conifers was established due to the generosity of Dr. A.L. North and was named the “Dr. A.L. North Conifer Garden”.

Kay passed away in 1974. A fountain was erected in her honour at the Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath. The two photos on the right were taken on 23 Aug 1980 at the opening of the fountain. All the photos following are courtesy of Julia Hanley and the Rhodo Gardens:

Opening of the Dr. A.L. North Conifer Garden:

Uncle Dick moved to Coffs Harbour in his 90s. He died there aged 101. The Sydney Morning Herald published this obituary following his death:

Dr Dick North
1896-1997

He had two careers. In the first, Dr Dick North was a highly respected ophthalmologist and surgeon. Then he turned himself into a passionate and creative gardener.

Along the way, North, who has died in Coffs Harbour aged 101, also played championship tennis, amassed a large collection of classical music and charmed the socks off most he met.

Born in 1896, Alan Lindsay North (everyone called him Dick) was the fifth son of John and Mary North. He attended Sydney Grammar School, and graduated from Sydney University in 1918 with a degree in medicine.

He later studied in London, where he gained his qualifications in ophthalmology, before returning to Sydney to set up practice in Macquarie Street, where he worked for many years with his brother and fellow eye specialist, Robert (Roy) north.

In 1923 he was appointed to St Vincents Hospital, where he remained an honorary ophthalmologist until his retirement. In 1929 he was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. At the time of his death he was the oldest and most senior fellow, having held the position for a record 68 years.

An outstanding tennis player in his younger days, North won the NSW doubles championship in 1927 with Norman Peach (a tennis racquet was placed on his coffin at the funeral). It was while playing tennis in England that he met a nursing sister, Kay Lindsay, whom he married in 1939 in Sydney.

In 1946, North’s second career took root when he and Kay bought a 1½-acre bush block at Leura in the Blue Mountains. Over the next 40 years, the couple transformed the Sublime Point Road property, Elouera, into one of the region’s best-known gardens, blending native bushland with exotic rhododendrons and conifers.

Marrying relatively later, the couple had no children and put much of their time, energy and love into gardening. They were founding members of the Leura Gardens Festival in 1965, opening their garden for public display and donating the proceeds to the Blue Mountains District Hospital.

North was also a life member of the Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society. The famed Rhododendron Garden includes a conifer garden dedicated to Dr A. L. North. His nephew, Dr Robert North, remembers as a child staying with his uncle for holidays. “He was a very gentle fellow. A tallish, slight man, he was very unassuming and quiet. Very temperate”, he recalled.

North’s connection to the Blue Mountains preceded “Elouera” by two generations. In 1878, his grandfather, John Britty North, bought 1,200 hectares of land on which Katoomba now stands. As part of a coal-mining venture he built a terrifyingly steep tramway to haul coal from the valley. The mining venture failed; the tramway remains as a tourist attraction, the Scenic Railway.

In 1985, five years after his wife’s death, Dick North moved to a Coffs Harbour retirement village with companion Nell Massie who had been a close friend of Kay’s. He developed a close relationship with Nell’s daughter and son-in-law, Faye and John Smith.

North was also generous, donating regularly to charities including the Salvation Army, the Blind Society and the Bible Society. Even in his second retirement he maintained his connection with the earth, overseeing the garden at his retirement village. When he turned 100, a family member asked him the secret of his longevity. “Gardening,” he said.

Dr Wayne Hanley of the Rhododendron Gardens in Blackheath and past President of the Blue Mountains Historical Society, wrote the following paper on Dick North which he presented at the Club’s meeting on 21 Sep 2019:

Dr Dick North – “The Man with Two Careers”

Throughout its fifty years the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens has been supported by many people in so many different ways. Many have given up their time to assist in a practical sense, firstly with the initial establishment of the Gardens, both in concept and structure, then afterwards with the ongoing and ever-present tasks of maintenance and development. Others, by virtue of their circumstances or perhaps their distance from Blackheath, whilst unable to give personal presence and time to the Gardens, have provided generous financial support, often at times when this was most needed.

One person from this latter group was Dr Alan Lindsay North, known to all and sundry as ‘Dick’, a man who for many years provided unstinting support for the organisation both locally and in the wider world and, equally importantly, contributed funds to it in various amounts at critical times when specific projects were under way.

Dick North was quite a remarkable man. He was born in the Sydney suburb of Ashfield on February 3rd 1896, and grew up in what is today regarded as inner-city Sydney. He was a pupil at Sydney Grammar School and quite early in his school years it became obvious that he possessed more than just a passing talent when it came to the game of tennis. In fact, he represented New South Wales in a national competition at just 18 years of age in 1914. These were war years of course and, intent upon doing his bit, Dick enlisted in the Australian Imperial Service in July 1918. By this time he was a student at Sydney University and in that same year he graduated from the institution with a degree in medicine. With the war over, he travelled to London for a period of intensive higher level medical training and gained a specialist qualification in ophthalmology, following in the footsteps of his older brother Robert (Roy) North who was also an accredited eye specialist. Returning to Sydney from London in 1921, Dick joined his brother in a practice in Macquarie Street and just two years later was appointed to a position as Honorary Opthalmologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst. He would continue to hold this position until his retirement in 1956.

Somehow, during those busy years, Dick North found time to pursue and excel at the sport that was so dear to his heart. In 1926 he captained the Sydney Tennis Team to victory in a national inter-city competition and the following year won the NSW Mens’ Open Doubles championship, partnered by Norman Peach. Meanwhile his professional career continued unabated and in 1929 he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons.

Just prior to the outbreak of World War 2, Dick again journeyed to England to take part in a tennis tournament and at this time he met a young nursing sister, Edith Kay Lindsey (who was always called Kay). The couple quickly developed what would become a life-long attachment. Kay accompanied Dick back to Sydney and it was there that they were married in 1939, setting up a home for themselves in Wyvern Avenue, Chatswood. Here they were able to indulge their shared love of plants and gardening, setting up a small but attractive garden in the grounds around their house. Never likely to be constrained in their thinking, Dick and Kay purchased a 1.5 acre (0.61 ha) block of bushland at 18-24 Sublime Point Road, Leura, in 1946. Here they built a second home which for some years thereafter they used as a weekend retreat. They named the property ‘Elouera’, an aboriginal word meaning ‘pleasant place’.

The choice of location was not entirely surprising for there was already a strong past family connection with the Blue Mountains. Dick was a grandson of John Britty North who, in 1878, purchased 1200 hectares of the land where Katoomba now stands and began mining coal from the cliffs and valley below, constructing a steep tramway to do so, a feature which, in a very much more sophisticated form and today known as Scenic World, attracts visitors from around the world.

Now, at last, Dick and Kay had the opportunity and the space to create a feature garden on a grand scale. Kay designed the layout of the new garden and Dick selected, sourced and put in place the wide variety of flora for which the Elouera garden soon became well-known. This was a project which never ended and they continued to develop their garden in the Blue Mountains for a further four decades. Dick and Kay had married as a middle-aged couple and did not have children. In consequence they were able to put time and energy into their property, deploying all the skills which came naturally as a part of their deep love of gardening. Progressively, Elouera established a status as one of the finest gardens of the Blue Mountains, blending native bushland with exotic rhododendrons and conifers.

In 1956, now aged 60, Dick North began to progressively wind back his professional commitments. He retired from his medical practice in 1961. By this time he and Kay had relocated themselves permanently to their retirement home in the Blue Mountains. He busied himself more and more in the local community, joining what was then a fledgling Leura Home Garden Club, a group that in due course he became a lifetime Patron of.

Discussions among this group of local gardening enthusiasts eventually turned to the possibility of displaying some of their properties to the public, possibly as a means of raising funds for charitable purposes. Dick North readily suggested that he and Elouera might take the lead in such a worthy endeavour, while at the same time commenting that other garden owners might well consider doing the same. This notion, initially as a very small-scale activity, led to the establishment in 1964 of the Leura Gardens Festival, an event held in spring each year where a number of gardens are opened to view for people from far and wide to raise money for charitable causes. In the 20 years which followed, more than $300,000 was raised to support the work of the Blue Mountains & District Anzac Memorial Hospital in Katoomba. This year, in 2019, the 55th Leura Festival will be held for six days over two long weekends. Dick North could never have predicted just how successful his idea would ultimately prove to be.

Throughout his years of association with the Blue Mountains, Dick was a regular and generous donor to several organisations and these included the Royal Blind Society, the Bible Society and the Salvation Army. However, there was one other organisation which, perhaps above all, truly captured his attention and became a focus for his interest and generosity. That, of course, was the NSW Rhododendron Society and its feature gardens established in 1970 at Bacchante Street in Blackheath.

Time and age did not allow Dick the opportunity to engage physically with the construction of the new Rhododendron Gardens, but from the outset he was always willing to share his thoughts and offer suggestions in relation to concept and design. Perhaps most importantly at this stage in the evolution of the Gardens, he would regularly contribute funds to assist with the completion of new or ongoing projects.

In 1973 Dick North made the first of his many donations to his new and willingly adopted cause. The amount he gave is unspecified but there is a note in the archives which confirms that it was intended for use to assist with the general construction of pathways and for the continuous planting which was taking place at the time. A year later (1974), following the construction of a shelter shed down in the valley that had been made possible by a donation from the Blackheath & District Horticultural Society, Dick North donated a further $100 to be used for planting heaths and ericas around the new building.

In the Rhododendron Society at this time there was considerable discussion about the possibility of constructing a larger building on the site in which meetings could be held, administration undertaken, records kept and the general work of the Society properly conducted into the future. Ideas are one thing, funding was another matter altogether and despite several small donations and skilful management of monies, the ‘building fund’ remained woefully inadequate for the task. Hearing the need and supporting the purpose, in 1975 Dick North made what was, in those days, a substantial donation of $10,000, sufficient to give some serious traction to the project that was to become ‘The Lodge’. Building began in 1976 with the foundations being laid on June 14th and the entire task was completed by early 1978.

At the behest of the committee Dick North was persuaded to officiate at the formal opening ceremony and launch the building to which he had contributed so much. In the Society’s Newsletter (No.3, Vol.5 May 1978) at the time, the Secretary Olive Campbell wrote…….

“Our next General Meeting will take the form of the opening of the building we have named ‘The Lodge’. Dr A.L. North has been invited to perform the opening ceremony … what a wonderful achievement our Society has attained by having our very own ‘home’ all ready for the opening … this is one year to the day after having the plans passed by Council and eight years after the land was gazetted to our Society by the Lands Department.”

Quite properly the Society recognised and honoured Dick North in the ways they had available to them. In 1988 he was granted ‘life member’ status and also accepted appointment as the Society’s Patron for the remainder of his life.

In the years which followed, Dick continued to make small donations to the Society, one of these being for the construction of a small fountain adjacent to the Lodge. This was specifically done in memory of his wife Kay who had died in [1974]. The fountain was dedicated at a ceremony held on August 23, 1981. Kay’s death brought a huge change to Dick’s life and circumstances but, as the quiet, unassuming and temperate man that he was, he simply continued on with his community and charitable work in his usually gentlemanly and purposeful way.

In 1984, the Committee determined to prescribe an entire area of approximately 2.5 acres (1 ha) of yet undeveloped land on the hillside beyond the valley up near Ridgewell Road in honour of Dr North. The land was tidied, cleared where necessary and planted with more than 80 conifers, one of Dick’s favourite plant species. The area was named, and remains to this day, the ‘Dr A.L. North Conifer Garden’.

1984 was also a pivotal year in Dick’s life. Now aged 88, he sold Elouera and moved the following year away from the mountains to take up residence in Ozanam Villa, a retirement village in the mid-north coast town of Coffs Harbour. Here he continued his love of gardening and for some years oversaw the maintenance of the grounds and garden of the establishment. Even after he had moved away, Dick continued his support for the Rhododendron Gardens and the Society in Blackheath In 1994 he donated a further $2,000 for the up-keep and maintenance of the conifer garden, and for the erection of a shelter shed and seat within its confines. For reasons which are not entirely clear, this structure was never built. As recently as 2017 a major effort has been made by garden volunteers to clear and tidy the conifer garden area which had become a little overgrown and neglected. New plantings of a variety of species have taken place and now, in 2019, the long-absent shelter shed and seat has at last become a reality, finally completing the task in accordance with Dick North’s original wishes.

During the course of his association with the Society and Gardens, although we do not have an exact figure, it is believed that over the years Dick North’s total donation to the cause well and truly exceeded $45,000, quite possibly a conservative estimate. Dick celebrated his century surrounded by friends in Ozanam Villa in 1996 and his life ended there too when he died on September 26, 1997 at the age of 101, a fine innings from a truly notable man. His final gesture was the inclusion of the Rhododendron Society as a beneficiary of his will for an amount of $25,000. Most of the many people from around Australia and from overseas who come to Blackheath to visit and enjoy the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens will not be aware of the enormous assistance given to the organisation from its outset by this truly generous man – we, of the Society and the Gardens, do not forget!

The additions to the Dr A.L. North Conifer Garden mentioned above were officially opened following the Club’s meeting by Uncle Dick’s great niece and Blackheath resident Christine Wheeler.

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