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australian rowers profiles and history

Ian Stewart

Sydney High School (NSW)

The following is an extract from an April 2009 publication on the 50th anniversary of the Sydney High School Head of the River win in 1959 of which Ian was a member.

After finishing his primary education at Miranda Public School, Ian was one of three boys from that rather remote and somewhat rural area to make it to Sydney High. 

Recovering from a bone condition which put his leg in plaster for six months of his first year at SHS he rehabilitated by cross-country running and, trying out for rowing in mid-1956, made it into Neil Smith and Ernie Tucker’s Junior VIII for 1957. There followed places in the 1958 Second Four and the 1959 Head of the River VIII.

The 1959 rowing season took a big bite out of Ian’s schooling in Fifth Year and there was some doubt that he would recover enough ground to gain the Commonwealth Scholarship so necessary for his entry into the medical course, his goal since early high school. However, the combination of maths coaching on Saturdays with patient maths teaching by Ted Jeffery during school time, and expert instruction from “Taffy” Hughes and the incomparable Len Basser in physics and chemistry, landed him that Commonwealth Scholarship and a place in Medicine at Sydney University.

The perceived enormity of the medical course and the need to pass to maintain the Comm. Schol. led Ian to the decision not to continue rowing after leaving school. This decision appeared to pay off and, after pausing to repeat second year, Ian graduated in 1967.

On graduation Ian was accepted into RPAH for his residency. In fifth year he had developed a love for obstetrics. In 1969 after two years at RPAH Ian was offered a  specialist training position at the women’s subsidiary, King George V Hospital. He spent three very happy and educational years there, gaining his specialist qualification early in the third year. In 1972 Ian travelled with his first wife and two small children to Bradford in the north of England to do two years consolidating his surgical skills. This was a fortuitous choice because it offered three days’ operating per week under the guidance of some fine teachers. Thus he was able to return to Australia at the beginning of 1974 with a extensive logbook of procedures to demonstrate his experience.

Returning to Australia meant finding a location to settle and a hospital to practice in. There was no vacancy at King George V. Westmead Hospital was still just a building site. A total new direction was called for. How about the country? Ian wrote to several places, got offers from Dubbo and Wagga Wagga and chose the latter.

The seventies and eighties were decades of expansion in medical specialist practice in larger rural towns and cities in Australia. Ian had the opportunity to develop skills in microsurgery of the Fallopian tubes and achieved pregnancy rates comparable with metropolitan centres. Then, while his two younger colleagues delved into laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, he began to concentrate on pelvic floor reconstruction and the treatment of female incontinence.

Ian ceased active practice at the end of 2006. He lives on two hectares to the north of Wagga with his second wife, Merilyn, and spends his time helping her with the chooks and the vege patch, tending a drought-fighting native plant garden, running a small second-hand book business, singing in the local Rugby Choir and researching for some historical projects that involve use of the UNE degree in history he attained in 1993.

Extracted by Andrew Guerin

Website by Hope Stewart—Website Design & Management