Dr Doris Una Skyring (1898 - 1957)

(Author Errol Payne for ACHHA 2022)

This story is about the career of Dr Doris Una Skyring, a woman doctor who dedicated her life to the service of the local Central Queensland community. The story is based on information publicly available through sources such as Trove. The research has not delved into Dr Skyring's private or family life. When a family doctor is providing excellent treatment to their patients, you don't read about it in the newspapers, so there is not much detailed information on the public record. However, as a long-term resident of Rockhampton, I have heard elderly relatives speak in glowing terms about Dr Skyring's treatment of them, and she is occasionally mentioned with great respect on a Facebook site dedicated to the story of Rockhampton. Recent examples are: "My mother found her to be a wonderful, caring doctor", "My mother did too" and "I remember going to Dr Skyring - always so kind".

To read Dr Skyring's story, you may just continue reading this web page. However, you have the option of reading a pdf version by clicking here. This pdf version includes reference sources used in the preparation for those who wish to delve further into the history of Doris Una Skyring. The pdf version is also easier to print and save.

Dr Skyring was born in Gladstone on 20th March 1898. Her father, Mr T. D. Skyring, was the manager of a family-owned sawmill at Toolooa. Eventually, the Gladstone sawmill was dismantled and re-erected near Rockhampton where the family then lived at 9 Corberry Street. Many Rockhampton residents will know 9 Corberry Street from its later incarnation as a major centre for various community health functions. While the family appeared to be fairly well-off financially, their lives were touched by sad events. Doris had a slightly older sister, Mildred, who died on 5th May 1915. Her only brother, Lowes, enlisted in World War One but was taken prisoner in Turkey and died from illness on 9th August 1918. She was effectively an only child for most of her life.

Doris Skyring completed her early education in Gladstone before attending the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School. She then studied for a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Queensland which she completed in 1928. She lived in the University's Women's College. We are fortunate to have this photograph of her with her Principal and fellow students ca. 1928. She is 4th from the left in the centre row. The Principal, Miss Freda Bage, is 5th from the left in the front row. The photograph is from the Fryer Collection at the University of Queensland.

Miss Doris Una Skyring, the Women‘s College, University of Queensland, ca. 1928

Following her science degree, she went to Sydney University in 1930 where she undertook four years of study to complete her medicine degree. Medicine courses were not yet available at The University of Queensland. While studying medicine between 1930 and 1934, Doris Skyring lived in The Women's College at the University of Sydney. There are regular newspaper reports of her returning to Rockhampton to visit her parents during the University vacations.

A Morning Bulletin article on Trove reports that she gained a credit pass in the final year of her medicine degree, and graduated in January 1935, one of five women doctors graduating together. All five were appointed as junior medical officers at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

After completing the requirements for registration, Dr Skyring returned to Rockhampton where she commenced a long and distinguished career. However, it was several years before she settled down into private practice.

Probably her first Rockhampton appointment was as Resident Medical Officer at the Rockhampton Hospital following the resignation of another woman doctor, Dr Ruth Corin. This was reported in the Hospital Committee minutes on 27th February 1936. Her resignation from this position was reported 23rd April 1936. The next news we have is that she was appointed Acting Medical Officer at Yeppoon Hospital while the Medical Officer, Dr Beaman, took annual leave. This was reported on 7th October 1936. On 7th January 1937, Doris and her parents left by train for Sydney where they planned to spend about two months.

In early 1938, Doris was standing in for Dr T. W. Miles of the Mount Morgan Hospital while he took leave to attend to the death of his mother in Sydney. On 1st April 1938, the Morning Bulletin reported that Doris had left for Sydney where she was planning to take a postgraduate course at Sydney University, after which she would take up an appointment at the Randwick Hospital for Infants on 1st May. On 4th October, it was reported that she returned to Rockhampton after six months at the Randwick Hospital.

She may have returned to Rockhampton Hospital because court records show that she signed a death certificate for a young girl who had died from burns in the Hospital on 22nd October 1938. As well as this, during September and the first half of October 1938, Dr Ruby Beveridge, another woman doctor at the Rockhampton Hospital suffered from an extended illness. While she was recuperating for a period of several weeks, Dr Skyring stood in for her until she returned to work on 18th October 1938.

Doris obviously enjoyed playing golf. Dr Ruby Beveridge also played, as did other Rockhampton Hospital doctors such as the Medical Superintendent, Dr Leeds. In keeping with a pattern that developed throughout her time in Rockhampton, Dr Skying had donated a trophy for a golf competition. Another pattern that developed early in her career was that of being a judge at all sorts of events. In 1936, she joined with Dr Beveridge and Sr G. Green and Nurse G. Martin of the Yeppoon Hospital to judge the Yeppoon Baby Show. Emu Park seemed to be the preferred location for weekends away in the 1930s.

The start of World War Two in 1939 marked a major transition for Dr Skyring, as it no doubt did for many others. Dr Trevor Parry was born in Rockhampton in about 1903. After completing his medical training, he had practiced in Rockhampton for eleven years. Dr Parry was heavily involved in the local 11th Field Ambulance. On 28th August 1936, then Major Parry took over command of the 11th Field Ambulance from Colonel N. C. Talbot, a World War One veteran. On 30th October 1939, it was reported that Dr T. A. Parry had decided to enlist as a Major in the Second Third Field Ambulance in the 2nd A.I.F. and hence leave Rockhampton for war service. Dr Skyring was to take over his practice.

On Wednesday, 1st November 1939, Dr Skyring gave a party for Dr and Mrs Parry who left by car for Brisbane on 2nd November. Dr Skyrings's obituary stated that she had later purchased Dr Parry's practice.

It seems that this is the point at which Dr Skyring was able to put a series of short-term appointments behind her and settle down with her own private practice for the next 16 or so years. Of course, her short-term appointments in the hospitals had greatly enhanced her experience since her graduation in 1935. It appears that Dr Skyring, initially as a locum tenens, worked out of Dr Parry's rooms in an impressive two-storey building which he owned (and may have lived in) on the corner of Denison and Fitzroy Streets opposite the baby clinic. At some stage, certainly in the 1950s, Dr Kearns, had his dental practice on the top floor of this building. Dr Parry did not return to Rockhampton after the war and sold this building in September 1945. It appears that Dr Skyring then shared East Street rooms with Dr Talbot for a time.

Her father, Mr T. D. Skyring, died in 1940.

By 1939, we see reports of Dr Skyring's involvement with the Red Cross. For example, the Morning Bulletin of 8th November 1939 reported that she would commence lectures in home nursing and practical work in the Red Cross Rooms in William Street at 7:30. The Morning Bulletin also reported on 30th September 1939 that she was secretary of the Red Cross and was involved in organising fund-raising events such as bridge parties. The Skyring's Corberry Street residence and large garden was an ideal venue for fund-raising events such as garden parties. One such event in July 1940 attracted 220 attendees.

Dr Skyring also assumed Dr Parry's role as Medical Officer of Health for the Fitzroy Shire. In this role, there are reports of her holding immunisation clinics in rural areas. Medical Officers of Health also had the responsibility of monitoring and reporting cases of diseases such as diphtheria in their shires.

Dr Skyring was a supporter of the Salvation Army's Bethesda Home, regularly opening their fundraising fetes. By 1943 she was the Honorary Medical Officer at Bethesda.

With her busy schedule, Dr Skyring didn't seem to have many holidays, but when she did, she typically took two weeks off to travel to Lindeman and other island resorts.

As time went on, she seemed to pick up additional community tasks to fit in with her private practice. Examples mentioned in the Morning Bulletin include Patroness of the North Rockhampton Bowls Club (1948), judge at St Lukes Fancy Dress Ball and judge at the Hall State School Fancy Dress Ball, both in 1948. In 1949, she joined the Rockhampton and District Historical Society.

In August 1949, Doris and her mother left their Corberry Street home and moved into their new brick home at 98 Victoria Parade which also became her surgery. Their Corberry Street home was purchased by the Department of Health and Home Affairs for the purpose of setting up a hospital for premature and sickly babies as well as providing accommodation for their mothers. The Maternal and Child Welfare Home in Corberry Street opened on 21st September 1952. A sum of £20,000 had been spent to convert the home for its new purpose.

In 1950, Doris was Vice-President of the Rockhampton Girls Grammar School Old Girls Association, although she held this position for only a short time. However, she was acknowledged for donating a collection of important books to the school library.

In keeping with her long-term support for the Red Cross, this Morning Bulletin photograph shows her watching the dancing at a Red Cross Ball held at the Palais Royale on 17th June 1950.

Dr Doris Una Skyring, Mr and Mrs F. A. Horner at a Red Cross fundraising Ball 17 Jun 1950

Dr Doris Skyring (Right) watching the dancing at the Red Cross Ball in 1950, accompanied by Mr and Mrs F. A. Horner.

Doris Skyring's mother died on 22nd September 1951. The first half of the 1950s saw her continue her many activities. In 1951, she was President of the Golf Associates, a position which she held until 1953. It must also be said that she was often a donor to these organisations as well as working for them.

In both 1953 and 1954, she wrote articles containing advice directed at parents during Health Week. In 1953, she contributed two articles to The Morning Bulletin, the first entitled "For children: Seven stages in health and hygiene" and "Childhood to adolescence". In 1954, she wrote about "Home accidents care needed". In 1954 she also contributed an article on "Health in rural areas".

Health week appears to have been used as a major educational opportunity. The 1954 theme was "Advancing Australia's Health". In one activity, the three Council Medical Officers of Health (Rockhampton City, Dr Talbot, Livingstone, Dr Leaske, and Fitzroy, Dr Skyring) along with the Mayor, Mr Pilbeam, all made broadcasts over radio 4RK.

Doris was always heavily involved in Anglican Church fundraising activities. Debutante Balls were fashionable in the 1950s and she provided the garden of her home at 98 Victoria Pde on the river for a Diocesan Debutante Tea Party in May 1954. This photograph kindly, provided by Mrs Evelyn Payne (née Green), shows the front entrance to No. 98 with the roses in bloom in about 1954. It's a shame there was no colour in the early 1950s. Evelyn was a patient of Dr Skying for many years. Her mother, also a patient first took her to Dr Skyring when she about 5 years old, and the final visit was when she was about 17.


Miss Evelyn Green in the front garden of of Dr Doris Una Skyring‘s home and surgery at 98 Victoria

Miss Evelyn Green (married name Payne) admiring the roses and other flowers in front of Dr Doris Skyring's residence and surgery at 98 Victoria Parade, Rockhampton in about 1954.

The year 1955 provided the first indication of a change of lifestyle when Doris decided to undertake a significant overseas holiday, travelling to the UK and parts of the United States and continental Europe. In August, she wrote a letter to a Rockhampton friend, describing what she had seen and experienced during the holiday. The letter, which is a beautifully written account of her travels, was published in The Morning Bulletin.

Because Trove only covers The Morning Bulletin up to the end of 1954, we do not have so much detail of Dr Skyring's activities from 1955 to 1957. However, the Central Queensland Herald has been indexed to the end of 1956 and we read that she was taking an active role in raising funds for the Bush Children's Health Scheme and the home which was being built at Yeppoon. She also attended the Anglican Debutante Ball in May 1956.

Dr Skyring died in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Rockhampton 16th June 1957 at just 59 years of age. Her death was caused by a combination of high blood pressure, congestive cardiac failure and coronary occlusion. Even after her death, she continued her good work. She left a bequest to The University of Queensland Women's College where she resided during her science degree. This was used to establish the Doris Una Skyring Memorial Scholarship to enable and encourage young medical students.

She also made a scholarship bequest to the Women's College at the University of Sydney where she resided while studying medicine from 1930 - 1934. Rockhampton residents are reminded of Dr Skyring by Skyring's Restaurant and Bar which is located on the site of her home and surgery at 98 Victoria Parade.