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Edward Garland Figg, Scottish Migrant & Doctor (1815-1902)

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Source: Museum Victoria

Edward Garland Figg (hereafter Dr. Figg) was born in 1815 in Devon, England, to Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Figg of the Royal Engineers, and Eliza Armstrong. His father may have fought in the battle of Waterloo. In 1826 the family migrated to Quebec, Canada, aboard the Vibila. Edward Figg Snr. was probably stationed at Fort Chambly, where he died in December 1829. Eliza also died in Canada. After their parents' death, all four Figg children appear to have returned to Great Britain.

A medical doctor, Dr. Figg practised from at least 1851 to 1861 in Boness, West Lothian, Scotland. He married his first cousin Annie Jane Hudson (his and Annie's mothers were sisters) at Canongate, Edinburgh, on October 28, 1850. Annie and Dr. Figg had at least 7 children, of whom all but one migrated to Australia. The Figgs appear to have migrated in groups, beginning with Dr. Figg and daughter Harriet, arriving February 1865 aboard the Great Britain.

Dr. Figg was involved in the Williamstown community professionally and socially. The acting public vaccinator for Williamstown, Dr. Figg had begun to perform post mortems for and testify as part of coronial enquiries by 1865, and was practicing as a medical physician in the Williamstown area.

Dr. Figg's personal and professional life in Williamstown was characterised by personal tragedies and professional and legal controversy. He appears to have been a religious bigot and a bully who threatened anyone who didn't agree with him with violence or legal action. At best his peers considered his behaviour that of a harmless eccentric and at worst that of a maniac. At the same time, he was a feminist, a poet and the proud owner of a prize winning mastiff, Gordon. Clearly, Dr. Figg was a complex individual.

Although never charged with malpractice or criminal offenses (he was fined on occasion), Dr. Figg was brought before the court many times on charges of assault, using offensive language, and in relation to inquests where patients under his care had died, either through the effects of chloroform, or from other causes, including complications from alleged illegal abortions.

In 1889 Dr. Figg, then in his 70s, was asked by the Board of Health to resign on grounds of inefficiency, though as early as 1870 his qualifications were being questioned. He did not resign, requesting instead a year's leave on full pay, which may have been granted him, as he briefly returned to Scotland in 1891. Dr. Figg died in at home in Williamstown in 1902.

How Dr. Figg and Robert Willian knew each other is uncertain. Perhaps Dr. Figg treated the Willian family professionally, or perhaps they knew each other through Williamstown's Scottish community. Dr. Figg was known to Edward Quigley (owner of the Princes Street property prior to Mark Nelson) by 1866 and was known to JKO Smith (see HT32087 and HT32088) and Mr Roberts (see HT32089 and HT32090) by 1885. Relations between the Figg and Willian families may have been purely business or property related.

References
Births, Deaths & Marriages Victoria.
Blackwood, W 1830, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 27, Ballantyne & Co, Edinburgh, p. 959.
Edwards, DH 1882, Modern Scottish Poets, with Biographical and Critical Notices, Brechin Advertiser, Brechin, Scotland, P. 59.
General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1851 Scotland Census.
General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1861 Scotland Census.
General Register Office for Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1891 Scotland Census.
Henderson, M, Biography of Edward Garland Figg 1815 - 1902.
Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers.
Public Record Office of Victoria, Index to Unassisted Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852-1923.
Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910 index.
The Argus.
The Horsham Times.
The Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette.
The Morwell Advertiser
The Ships List. 1826 Ship Arrivals.
The Williamstown Chronicle.
Upper Canada Newspaper Notices, Ontario Genealogy.

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