Rutledge, The Reverend David Dunlop

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The Reverend David Dunlop

BA 1871 Syd, MA 1875 Syd, MB ChM 1888 Syd

The Reverend David Dunlop Rutledge was thirty-one years old when he entered the Medical School, in today’s jargon, a ‘mature-age student’. He was born at Drayton, Qld, on 24 February 1852, the third son of a schoolmaster, James Rutledge, and grew up at Castlereagh on the Hawkesbury River. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School (first enrolled 1866) and later enrolled at Sydney University as an Undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts. He obtained his BA in 1871 and his MA in 1875. He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Newcastle in September 1875 and after working in several curacies in country New South Wales was ordained priest in December 1879 by the Bishop of Bathurst. Before entering the Medical School he was parish priest at Warren (1881–1883). On 28 February 1883 he resigned his parish appointment and entered the Medical School in the first intake, one of six students. His undergraduate career seems to have been satisfactory but he failed Medicine V in 1886 and repeated the year in 1887. He graduated MB in February 1888 but received his ChM with the other graduates at the annual conferring of degrees ceremony in March. This procedure was adopted as an expedient to allow him to register and commence earning a living at once without having to wait for the Commemoration ceremony. While a student Rutledge continued his clerical work, acting as Anglican Chaplain to Prince Alfred Hospital (1883–1885) and a part-time curate at St Stephen’s Church, Newtown (1883–1885); in 1885 he received a general licence to officiate as a priest throughout the diocese of Sydney, which he retained until 1896. He had married a daughter of Nathaniel Asser, of Scone, in 1878 and had a family to support during his student days, a fact which doubtless contributed to his relatively poor undergraduate record and to which attention was drawn in a letter to the Daily Telegraph on 24 April 1888.

Rutledge seems to have practised medicine in College St. until 1896 but even during this time he took several clerical locums in Sydney parishes. After 1896 he resumed work as a full-time priest serving as Rector of Mittagong until 1904 and thereafter as Rector of Sutton Forest. He died at the Sutton Forest Rectory on 19 September 1905, survived by his widow and eleven children.

Rutledge could certainly claim to have been the first graduate of the Medical School since his enrolment dated from 1883 and he was one of the four who arranged to have their MBs conferred in February 1888 rather than wait for the normal conferring of degrees ceremony in March. His failure, however, brought him into the second intake, evidently containing a number of brilliant students, including Peter Bancroft who graduated with First Class Honours and received a gold medal. Anderson Stuart singled out Bancroft for special commendation at the graduation ceremony and described him as the first student who had taken a medical degree having received his education solely in the Sydney University. Stuart, as quoted in the Herald and the Daily Telegraph, also stated that Bancroft ‘was not only relatively the best man, but was so absolutely, his answers having been excellently high and his conduct most exemplary’. This provoked an anonymous letter to the Daily Telegraph, which said: … How can Dr Stuart say that Mr Bancroft is ‘absolutely’ the ‘best man’ of his year? He may have passed the best examination, but the conditions were not the same in all the six cases.… another (of the students), a married man, had during the whole period of his studentship to earn a living at another profession for himself, his wife and several children, while, on the other hand, Mr Bancroft had had the advantage of the assistance of his uncle, an MD, in his studies, and was able to devote his whole time to preparation for the examination. Thus Mr Bancroft may not be ‘absolutely’ the best man. It was further a misleading statement on the part of the Professor to say that Mr Bancroft was the first medical man produced by the Sydney University. The whole six passed their examinations at the same time, and the difference of one minute between the calling of Mr Bancroft’s name on Saturday and that of the second man makes Professor Stuart’s distinction an absurdity … The editor of the Daily Telegraph commented: ‘We publish our correspondent’s letter, but must confess our inability to see that Mr Bancroft has been unduly or unfairly eulogized by Professor Anderson Stuart’.

The letter may not of course have been from Rutledge, although at first sight this would seem probable; it may be that it was written by his relative, Arthur Geddes Henry (q.v.), who also graduated in 1888 but who had no claim to be the first graduate, however defined. One can understand, and even forgive Rutledge his rancour, if in fact he felt some, and yet still agree with Anderson Stuart. For many reasons it would have been important to the Dean that the first graduates should be academically distinguished. Rutledge, although he passed, was a not outstanding survivor of a disastrous first intake. In contrast, Bancroft was a brilliant first in an excellent year in which two of the six received First Class Honours and another two received Second Class Honours. Bancroft earned his praise and gave Anderson Stuart just what the School needed — thereafter the Faculty went from strength to strength. It would be sad if Rutledge, so obviously worthy, should have felt wounded, but this was probably unavoidable.


Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Rutledge, The Reverend David Dunlop. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

Edited from the original version in: Young, J A, Sefton, A J, Webb, N. Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine, (1984) Sydney University Press for The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine.