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Sir Arthur Renwick (30 May 1837 – 23 November 1908) was an Australian physician, politician and philanthropist.Sir Arthur Renwick, M.D., B.A., F.R.C.S.S., M.L.C. was born 30 May 1837 in Glasgow, Scotland to George Renwick (1811-1897) and Christina Condie (1817-1888) and died 23 November 1908 at Woodstock, Church Street in Burwood, New South Wales, Australia of heart disease. He married Elizabeth Saunders (1842-1918) 26 March 1868 at Redfern Congregational Church in Redfern, New South Wales, Australia.
Renwick was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of George Renwick, a bricklayer, and his wife Christina, née Condie. His parents travelled as bounty immigrants aboard the Helen, arriving in Sydney, Australia on 21 July 1841. Renwick was educated at Redfern Grammar School and was one of the early students of the University of Sydney, where he matriculated in 1853 and graduated B.A. in 1857. Renwick then studied at the University of Edinburgh where he graduated M.B. (1860), M.D. (1861), and F.R.C.S., Edinburgh. Renwick did further courses in Glasgow, London and Paris.
Renwick then returned to Sydney in 1862, living in Redfern where he established a rapidly growing practice, becoming eventually one of the leading physicians and the first president of the local branch of the British Medical Association. In 1868, Renwick married Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. John Saunders, at the Redfern Congregational Church. Renwick also became an examiner in medicine at the University of Sydney, and in 1877 was elected to its senate.
Politician and philanthropist
Renwick attempted to enter the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the university seat in 1877 but was defeated by Edmond Barton, however Renwick was elected a member for East Sydney in a by-election in 1879. He became Secretary for Mines in the third Parkes ministry on 12 October 1881, but lost his seat at the election held in December 1882. He was elected for Redfern in October 1885 and was Minister for Public Instruction in the Jennings ministry from 26 February 1886 to 19 January 1887. In this year he was nominated to the Legislative Council and was a member for the remainder of his life, though never in office again. As a politician he was one of the earliest to realize the responsibility of the state towards the poor. Renwick authored the Benevolent Society's incorporation act, he founded the state children's relief department, and as president of the original committee he had much to do with the bringing in of old-age pensions in New South Wales. In spite of his heavy workload as a physician, he gave much time to Sydney hospital, was its president for 29 years, was also president for about the same period of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, and he took much interest in the Deaf Dumb and Blind Institution, and the Royal Hospital for Women at Paddington. He became a member of the senate of the University of Sydney in 1877, and was vice-chancellor on several occasions. He was an early advocate for the foundation of a medical school at the university, and in 1877 donated £1000 to found a scholarship in the faculty of medicine. After the medical school was established in 1883 he provided the west stained-glass window in the upper hall of the medical school building. Renwick took the greatest interest in all movements for the welfare of the community, and his ability as an organizer led to his acting as a commissioner for New South Wales for the Melbourne international exhibition in 1880, and in similar positions for exhibitions held at Adelaide, Amsterdam, and Chicago.
Renwick died at Sydney of heart disease on 23 November 1908, he was survived by his wife with five sons and a daughter. He was knighted in 1894. His skill for business led to his being placed on the boards of various important financial companies, but his really important work was his philanthropy.
DEATH OF SIR ARTHUR RENWICK.
A DISTINGUISHED CAREER.
Sir Arthur Renwick, M.D., B.A., F.R.C.S.S., M.L.C., died at his residence, Woodstock, Church-street, Burwood, last evening in his 72nd year. The deceased gentleman was one of the State's prominent and useful men and his death means a loss to the community in many ways, but particularly to its philanthropic ranks. He was seized with serious illness about three months ago, and although he occasionally showed some improvement he gradually sank, and passed away shortly before 7 o'clock last evening. The deceased gentleman was attended by Sir Philip Sydney Jones.
The late Sir Arthur Renwick was the son of the late Mr. George Renwick. He came to Sydney when a boy, and early in his scholastic career showed the possession of sound mental talents. He was one of the first three to graduate as a B.A. of the Sydney University. As there was no medical school in Australia at the time, he went to Edinburgh, where he took his M.B. and M.D. and F.R.C.S. His career when he returned to Sydney was a prosperous one, and he soon became one of the best-esteemed medical practitioners of the State. He was elected the first president of the local branch of the British Medical Association, which is now the strongest branch south of the equator. Dr. Renwick at this time evidenced the possession of public spirit and recognition of the social and other claims of the community in which he lived, and almost up to the time of his death he was identified with much of the great philanthropic work of the city. While quite a young man he became attached as an honorary medical officer to the Sydney Hospital, the Benevolent Asylum, and the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. For half his lifetime he was president of the Medical Board. The honours that fell to him were worthily won and his intrinsic ability and personal character. would have gained him recognition, no matter what profession he had adopted. Choosing the practice of medicine, he was necessarily brought greatly into contact with suffering and poverty, and was amongst the first to recognise the State's responsibilities in these respects. He was elected to the senate of the Sydney University, and later became dean of the medical faculty, and was Vice-Chancellor of the University. Having from personal experience learned the disadvantages under which young men laboured in having to travel to Great Britain for medical training and the hall- mark of high qualification, Sir Arthur took up the question with others of the esablishment of a school of medicine, and the foundation of the school became a reality.
But Sir Arthur was not one-sided in his work for the benefit of his fellow. Every branch of education was the better for his association with it. He had the promptness of the man of high educational attainments, the ideals of a man of integrity and far sightedness, and the practicality and capacity of the man of action.
Entering Parliament, he exercised his influence upon the legislation of the day, and did credit to the constituency of East Sydney, which returned him. During his Parliamentary career he was Minister for Mines, and afterwards Minister for Education. His services to the State made his elevation to the Upper House a well-deserved honour, and it may be said that Sir Arthur was one who fully appreciated his work in the Council, and did not spare himself when questions of great importance were under consideration. In 1892 he was appointed Executive Commissioner to the Chicago Exposition, and two years later was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Victoria for his meritorious services to the State and Empire. He was associated with various comercial enterprises, and occupied seats on a directorates of several important company and financial institutions. In these, as in his more-cherished labours, Sir Arthur Renwick's pronounced ability was of the utmost value. But it was in his social and philanthropic work that Sir Arthur has left the most enduring mark in the State. One who knew him intimately in this work says:-
"In connection with the Benevolent Society of New South Wales, the first private charity in Australia, he became honorary medical officer in 1862, vice-president and secretary in 1878, and was elected president in 1879, which position he has held over since. He regularly attended the board and weekly meetings of the house committee, and there was no one so closely identified with its work as he. When the old Benevolent Asylum buildings were demolished for the new Central Railway Station, the cherished hope of Sir Arthur to found a Women's Hospital on modern lines, for which he had been agitating for 30 years, became possible, and the Royal Hospital for Women, Paddington, the finest institution of its kind in the southern hemisphere, is the work of his energy and genius. He was the author of the Benevolent Society's Incorporation Act, and his memory will be indelibly associated with its work through all time.
"Sir Arthur Renwick was connected with the Sydney Hospital for about 46 years, and for 29 years controlled its work as president. His association with the Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institution, Newtown-road, was of long standing, and he was president for many years. It was the constant wonder of those who knew Sir Arthur Renwick that he was able to control - for his work was by no means perfunctory - so many great interests with so large a success. One of the chief acts of his life was the foundation of the State Children Relief Department, of which he was the author, and of which he was first president, and his resignation of the control of that work, which he so successfully inaugurated, was induced by his desire to give more devoted attention to the other large and increasing private institutions with which he was connected. Amongst other matters, his association with the old-age pension scheme, the original committee of which he was president of, is most important. The surviving members of the Benevolent Society's old board believe it was due to his determination in association with other earnest philanthropists that such a scheme was forced under public notice. Amid all the toll and energy of his busy and useful life however, Sir Arthur had a splendid help-meet in Lady Renwick, and their personal friends remember the grace and beauty of their home at 'Abbotsford.' In association with Lady Renwick, Sir Arthur through a long life took the keenest interest in all movements for the moral welfare of the community and the advancement of true religion, and one feature of the home life at 'Abbotsford' on the Parramatta River, was the little Nonconformist Mission Church erected on the estate and visited by teachers from all sections of the Protestant Church. There are few men to whom Sydney, now grown to such noble proportions, owes so much, and who have exhibited during life such a devotion to public service in accord with the words impressed upon his seal, 'Fidelis ad Mortem.'
- The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 24 November 1908, page 6.
- Serle, Percival (1949). "Renwick, Arthur". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. http://gutenberg.net.au/dictbiog/0-dict-biogR.html#renwick1.
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