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Langmore: the man behind the name

27 December 2021 Blog
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Wondering about the name? The St John of God Langmore Centre is named after a very special man who started it all back in 1910.

Respect is one of the five core Values we hold in high esteem at St John of God Health Care. While treating everyone with respect is an intrinsic part of our everyday care, we venture beyond what should naturally be expected and spend a great deal of time researching, archiving and memorializing the history of St John of God Health Care and indeed the medical institutions and professionals who played a key role in how far our organisation has come since its inception over 110 years ago.

We do this to honour the dedication and commitment of the selfless individuals who have provided the foundation of which our Values are based. We do it to preserve history and keep us focused on providing continuity in excellence of care. We do this out of respect. 

One great example of this is the naming of our soon-to-be completed St John of God Langmore Centre and the wings that will reside within it. Located in Gibb Street, Berwick, the hospital has had many identities over the years—Shepton Private Hospital, Berwick Bush Nursing Hospital, Berwick Inc and St John of God Berwick Hospital. Its latest moniker, however, pays tribute to a family who drove the foundations of healthcare in Berwick and Melbourne’s South East and the man who started it all, Percy Langmore. 

Arriving in Berwick in 1907, Dr Langmore set about to open Berwick’s first hospital, Shepton Private Hospital, with nurse Grace Dunphy three years later. After marrying nurse Florence Ellson, they’d have a baby boy in 1912, but sadly, Florence would die when he was only 11 months old. 

In 1920, Dr Langmore remarried. Catherine McCallum was a friend of his first wife and after they married she took over caring for young Leonard ─ Dr Langmore’s son, who would also later become a well-regarded doctor in the area. However, tragedy would strike again for Dr Langmore with the passing of his second wife, Catherine who succumbed to cancer eight years later. 

Dr Langmore was instrumental in laying the foundations for healthcare in Berwick. He serviced a wide area, including Emerald, Gembrook and out into the Koo Wee Rup swamp, in his horse and buggy over the rough ungravelled tracks that serviced as district roads. He later bought a motorbike, then a motorised buggy and later a motor car to do his rounds. Nevertheless, he still maintained the horse and buggy for places that were difficult to traverse. 

When the new Berwick Hospital wing was opened in 1953 it was named in honor of Dr Percy Langmore. Due to retire at the onset of WW2, Dr Langmore decided he would be needed and kept on providing his services until the war ended, despite suffering greatly from arthritis at the time. 

Not only was Dr Langmore a devoted physician, he was also an avid gardener who embarked on a mission to plant trees across Berwick in his later years. His tree planting program took place over a period of 50 years which is still evident in the streets of the Berwick township today. Dr Langmore’s name is often recalled among locals because he became somewhat of a legend in the local community. It was said that nothing would stop him from going to care for a sick person and being paid financially was the least motivating factor for him to do so. 

Much later, when he retired at age 72, he married Maybelle Haines, who shared his love of gardening. While Dr Langmore was said to have a full and valuable life, it was also filled with sadness and loneliness. Despite this, Dr Langmore, was an inspiration to many. His deep Christian faith motivated his life and work, and peers always commented on how he was a very fine doctor. 

The respect shown for him and the respect he showed others continues to underlie the care provided by our caregivers today.

While the St John of God Langmore Centre has been named after a pioneering figure of health care in this region and one that has made such a significant contribution to the St John of God Health Care brand, the naming of the wards within the new mental health facility aim to capture and honour other key people who played a role in the establishment of both St John of God Pinelodge Clinic and Berwick’s Gibb Street hospital over the years. Stay tuned for an announcement of those names soon.

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