IN his day Dr Walter William Spencer made a huge difference to the Bathurst community, but for more than 120 years he lay in an unmarked grave.
On Saturday, the Bathurst Family History Group held a dedication ceremony at Bathurst Cemetery to see a headstone finally placed on the the long-serving doctor’s grave.
History group member Jacqui Rudge said funds for the headstone were raised from the group’s community tours, and it was important that the doctor’s life was recognised.
Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral, James Hodson, led the dedication ceremony to Dr Spencer on Saturday.
Born in Liverpool, England in 1846 and graduating in medicine in 1867 with honours at 21 years old, Dr Spencer then moved to Australia with his wife Elizabeth Hepple in 1870.
He worked in Sydney for several years but found that the climate did not agree with his asthma, so they arrived in Bathurst in 1877.
Dr Spencer lived in the grand house ‘Braemar’ on Keppel Street - which has since been demolished and shops built on the site.
He was involved in a wide variety of groups in Bathurst including the Progress Association, School of Arts, Hospital Board, Scientific Association, Free Trade Association, Bathurst Musical Society, Coursing Club, Philharmonic Society, as well as the cricket, tennis, swimming, football, gymnastic, rifle and athletic clubs.
He was a council alderman from 1883-1889, and mayor in 1884.
In 1879, he requested the removal of the old Bathurst Gaol for sanitary reasons.
During his time in Bathurst, he also outlined a sewerage system for the city, but it was rejected because of the cost.
He was one of the first people to put money forward towards the establishment of Machattie Park. He also instigated tree planting in the streets of the city.
Dr Spencer died suddenly on May 1, 1893
His obituary gives a glowing report of his time in Bathurst: “Where ever he went he carried, as it were, a beam of sunshine, and always looked on the brightest side of everything”.
Dr Spencer was buried beside his two children who had died in infancy, and while the children’s graves were marked, no headstone was ever placed over the doctor’s grave.
Following the doctor’s death, the citizens of Bathurst called a meeting to discuss a memorial to him.
After much discussion it was moved – “That the memorial take the form of a residence, to be vested in trustees, for the wife and family of the late Dr Spencer.”
Mr Gilmour gave 40 feet of land in William Street and vested it in trustees.
Mrs Spencer later returned to England with her daughter Valerie Spencer. Mrs Spencer died there on January 22, 1903.