Beryl Collier 1928-2009

Beryl Collier

There were times when Beryl Collier, an obstetrician on the Central Coast, could be vague and frustrating, such as the time when patient records were disappearing from her practice. Eventually, the records were found in her capacious and always untidy carry bag.

However unorthodox her filing methods, though, her warm smile and calm, confident manner endeared her to patients. One of the privileges for anaesthetists who worked with her was to see her joy every time she delivered a baby, after which she and anaesthetist would continue discussions about The Goons, My Word, My Music, Dr Who or sport.

Beryl Collier, who has died aged 81, was born in Sydney, one of two daughters of Keith Collier and his wife, Nora Archer. Keith died at 49, leaving Nora to raise the children.

Beryl grew up in Lane Cove and went to North Sydney Girls High. She was academically gifted and enjoyed competitive sport, especially tennis and cricket. She then studied medicine at the University of Sydney and, after graduating, moved on to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology, studying in Australia and Britain. Medicine was still more of a man's world in those days, but she found that her love of sport helped her to fit in.

While Collier was working in Yorkshire she had her moment of fame by delivering the twin children of Enid Truman, the wife of the English fast bowler Freddie Truman. Then, for some years, she was in specialist practice around Australia and Britain, and a medical missionary in New Guinea and Fiji. She eventually settled in Gosford in the early 1970s.

She could be ''stroppy'', even ''really stroppy''. Once she arrived in the operating theatre with her female anaesthetist and female assistant only to discover her male surgeon and anaesthetist colleagues were plotting to ''slip a quick case in ahead of her''. Roundly abusing her colleagues as ''weasels'', she rapidly dispatched them and got on with her surgery.

Outside her medical work, Collier spent many years involved with the Australian Federation of University Women, working towards its aim of the advancement of women and girls to university studies and their careers beyond. She helped to establish the Central Coast Reconciliation Group (under the auspices of the NSW Reconciliation Council) and was named a Significant Woman of the Central Coast for 2004-05.

Collier had a wonderful ability to see beauty in nature, whether it was her budgie Joey, the birds that came to her balcony, the tiny flower on a plant struggling to survive in her garden, a great tree, the surf or a sunset.

Even in her last, terrible illness, a progressive dementia that tormented her, the sense of wonder remained. Only days before she died she smiled and said to a friend, "You know - I really cherish beautiful things."

Beryl Collier never married and her sister, Rae, died many years ago. Her survivors are the many causes, human rights, social justice and reconciliation she fought for over the years.

Harriet Veitch
By permission of the Sydney Morning Herald