Historical information

This is a photograph of (William) Roy Angus, at his desk as a medical student in Adelaide, South Australia. It was donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village by the family. He later qualified as Doctor William Roy Angus, Surgeon and Oculist. It is part of the “W.R. Angus Collection” which includes historical medical equipment, surgical instruments and materials once belonging to Dr Edward Ryan and Dr Thomas Francis Ryan, (both of Nhill, Victoria) as well as Dr Angus’ own belongings. The Collection’s history spans the medical practices of the two Doctors Ryan, from 1885-1926 plus that of Dr Angus, up until 1969.

ABOUT THE “W.R. ANGUS COLLECTION” updated 20-01-2023

Doctor William Roy Angus M.B., B.S., Adel., 1923, F.R.C.S. Edin.,1928 (also known as Dr Roy Angus) was born in Murrumbeena, Victoria on 28th June 1901 and lived until 1970. He qualified as a doctor, M.B.B.S. (Bachelor of Medicine-Bachelor of Surgery) in the 1923 at University of Adelaide, was Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1924 and for a period was house surgeon to Sir (then Mr.) Henry Simpson Newland, from whom he acquired his interest in plastic surgery. He was also House Surgeon to Dr J.J. O’Grady, under whom he did his early Ophthalmological training. Dr Angus was briefly an Assistant to Dr Riddell of Kapunda, then commenced private practice at Curramulka, Yorke Peninsula, SA, where he was a physician, surgeon and chemist.

In 1926, he was appointed as the new Medical Assistant to Dr Thomas Francis Ryan (T.F. Ryan, or Tom), in Nhill, Victoria, whose practice had been established by his brother, Dr Edward Ryan. Consequently, a considerable amount of eye work was done. Dr Angus’ experiences included radiology and pharmacy. In 1927 he was Acting House Surgeon in Dr Tom Ryan’s six-month trip abroad.

Dr Angus had become engaged to Gladys Forsyth and they decided he further his studies overseas in the UK in 1927, sailing in the ship SS Banffshire. He studied at London University College Hospital and at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and in 1928, was awarded FRCS (Fellow from the Royal College of Surgeons), Edinburgh, Scotland. He worked his passage back to Australia as a Ship’s Surgeon on the Australian Commonwealth Line T.S.S. Largs Bay, which was purchased by the White Star Line in 1928.

He returned to South Australia, where he practised general surgery 1928-1932. He was a surgeon at the Curramulka Hospital, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia.
Dr Angus was a ‘flying doctor’ for the A.I.M. (Australian Inland Ministry) Aerial Medical Service in 1928. Its first station was in the remote town of Oodnadatta, where Dr Angus was stationed. He was locum tenens there on North-South Railway at 21 Mile Camp. He took up this ‘flying doctor’ position in response to a call from Dr John Flynn; the organisation was later known as the Flying Doctor Service, then the Royal Flying Doctor Service. His work during this time involved general surgery, eye work, plastic surgery, radiology, pathology and even dental surgery.

Dr Angus married Gladys in 1929, in Ballarat. (They went on to have one son (Graham 1932, born in SA) and two daughters (Helen (died 12/07/1996) and Berenice (Berry), both born at Mira, Nhill ). According to Berry, her mother Gladys made a lot of their clothes. She was very talented and did some lovely embroidery including lingerie for her trousseau and beautifully handmade baby clothes.

In 1933 Dr Angus returned to Nhill and purchased a share of the Nelson Street practice and Mira hospital (a 2-bed ward at the Nelson Street Practice) from Dr Les Middleton one of the Middleton Brothers, the current owners of what previously once Dr Tom Ryan’s practice, where Dr Angus was previously Medical Assistant.

Dr Tom and his brother had worked as surgeons including in eye surgery. Dr Tom Ryan performed many of his operations in the Mira private hospital on his premises. He had been House Surgeon at the Nhill Hospital from 1902-1926.

Dr Tom Ryan had one of the only two pieces of radiology equipment in Victoria during his practicing years – The Royal Melbourne Hospital had the other one. Over the years Dr Tom Ryan had gradually set up what was effectively a training school for country general-practitioner-surgeons. Each patient was carefully examined, including using the X-ray machine, and any surgery was discussed and planned with Dr Ryan’s assistants several days in advance. Dr Angus gained experience in using the X-ray machine there during his time as assistant to Dr Ryan. The doctors Ryan were related to the Ryan Eye Doctors in Melbourne.

When Dr Angus bought into the Nelson Street premises in Nhill he was also appointed as the Nhill Hospital’s Honorary House Surgeon 1933-1938. His practitioner’s plate from his Nhill surgery is now mounted on the doorway to the Port Medical Office at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, Warrnambool.

When Dr Angus took up practice in Dr Edward and Dr Tom Ryan’s old premises, he obtained their extensive collection of historical medical equipment and materials spanning 1884-1926. A large part of this collection is now on display at the Port Medical Office at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village in Warrnambool.

In 1939 Dr Angus and his family moved to Warrnambool where he purchased “Birchwood,” the 1852 home and medical practice of Dr John Hunter Henderson, at 214 Koroit Street. (This property was sold in1965 to the State Government and is now the site of the Warrnambool Police Station. and an ALDI store is on the land that was once their tennis court).

The Angus family could afford gardeners, cooks and maids; their home was a popular place for visiting dignitaries to stay whilst visiting Warrnambool. Dr Angus had his own silkworm farm at home in a Mulberry tree. His young daughter used his centrifuge for spinning the silk.

Dr Angus was appointed on a part-time basis as Port Medical Officer (Health Officer) in Warrnambool and held this position until the 1940s when the government no longer required the service of a Port Medical Officer in Warrnambool; he was thus Warrnambool’s last serving Port Medical Officer. (Masters of immigrant ships arriving in port reported incidents of diseases, illness and death and the Port Medical Officer made a decision on whether the ship required Quarantine and for how long, in this way preventing contagious illness from spreading from new immigrants to the residents already in the colony.)

Dr Angus was a member of the Australian Medical Association, for 35 years and a surgeon at the Warrnambool Base Hospital from 1939-1942,

Soon after his move to Warrnambool, war was declared. Dr Angus joined the Australian Department of Defence as a Surgeon Captain during WWII 1942-45, in Ballarat, Victoria, and in Bonegilla, N.S.W., at 106 A.G.H., completing his service just before the end of the war due to suffering from a heart attack. During his twelve moth convalescence and rehabilitation, he carved an intricate and ‘most artistic’ chess set from the material that dentures were made from.

He returned to Warrnambool to commence practice as an ophthalmologist, pioneering artificial eye improvements. He was an Honorary Consultant Ophthalmologist at Warrnambool Base Hospital for 31 years. He made monthly visits to Portland as a visiting surgeon, to perform eye surgery.

He represented the Victorian South-West subdivision of the Australian Medical Association as its secretary between 1949 and 1956 and as chairman from 1956 to 1958. Altogether he had interests in nine various medical organisations.

In his personal life, Dr Angus was a Presbyterian and treated Sunday as a Sabbath, a day of rest. He would visit 3 or 4 country patients on a Sunday, taking his children along ‘for the ride’ and visiting with him. Sunday evenings he would play the pianola or piano and sing Scottish songs to his family. He loved Scottish music.

He owned a farm in the Heytesbury district, where he found his hobbies of metalwork and carpentry useful in the workshop. He also enjoyed painting, mainly watercolour, and took part in many exhibitions.

One of Dr Angus’ patients was Margaret MacKenzie, author of a book on local shipwrecks that she’d seen as an eyewitness from the late 1880’s in Peterborough, Victoria. In the early 1950’s Dr Angus, painted a picture of a shipwreck for the cover jacket of Margaret’s book, Shipwrecks and More Shipwrecks. She was blind in later life and her daughter wrote the actual book for her.

Dr Angus and his wife Gladys were very involved in Warrnambool’s society with a strong interest in civic affairs. He had an interest in people and the community They were both involved in the creation of Flagstaff Hill, including the layout of the gardens.

After serving in the Army, Dr Angus studied ophthalmology and became a Clinical Assistant at the Royal Melbourne Eye and Ear Hospital. He had been interested in an article on cartilage grafting by Dr Lyndon Peer of St. Barnabas Medical Centre, New Jersey, U.S., which he happened to see in a dental journal. After thought and research, Dr Angus decided to try his idea of living intrascleral implants and was able to present a paper on his results at the Combined Scientific Meeting of the O.S.A. at Surfers’ Paradise in 1962. This was followed by a further report on the results of the different methods used, given in Adelaide at the O.S.A. meeting in 1965.

In 1967, during an extended holiday abroad, he was invited to spend time at the Barraquer Institute in Barcelona. While there, showed a film of his operation with slides and, translated by Professor Barraquer, gave an abridged lecture. He was elected as a member of the Instituto Barraquer, one of only a few Australians to receive the honour. He received many requests for copies of his paper. He was also invited to lecture and show the films in England and at the St Barnabas Medical Centre in New Jersey. He completed his work on Living Intrascleral Implants and gave his final paper and film Inaugural Meeting of the Australian College of Ophthalmologists in Melbourne in October 1969. Angus received accolades from the Ophthalmological Society of Australasia for this work.

Two weeks after presenting his paper in Melbourne in 1969 Dr Angus became critically ill. He died on 28th March 1970. His family requested his practitioner’s plate, medical instruments and some personal belongings to be displayed in the Port Medical Office surgery at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, and be called the “W. R. Angus Collection”.


The W.R. Angus Collection is significant for still being located at the site it is connected with, Doctor Angus being the last Port Medical Officer in Warrnambool.

The collection of medical instruments and other equipment is culturally significant, being a historical example of medicine from the late 19th to mid-20th century. Dr Angus assisted Dr Tom Ryan, a pioneer in the use of X-rays and in ocular surgery.

Physical description

Photograph, black and white, of (William) Roy Angus as a student at his desk in his study, pre 1923. Part of the W.R. Angus Collection.