Dunedin Family History Group

Otago and Southland related research

The Fulton Book

Medical Practice in Otago and Southland in the Early Days. 

A Description of the manner of life, trials, and difficulties of some of the Pioneer Doctors, of the places in which, and of the people among whom, they laboured.

Made suitable for Web publication by Rex Weavers, Dunedin


In 1922 the Otago Daily Times and Witness Newspapers Co., Ltd bundled together a set of
newspapers articles by Robert Fulton, M.D that had been printed in the Otago Witness and
published it as “Medical Practice in the Early Days”. I found a copy some years ago among some
old books at my in-laws’ house but only got round to reading it last year, largely because of the
miniscule print size. I found that the book abounds with names of old settlers, not just the doctors,
along with anecdotes and descriptions of happenings in the early years, descriptions of the wildlife
and details of the geography of the early settlements such as where the hills, streams and gullies
were and where various settlers lived. It is written in a very loose style and is interspersed with all
manner of interesting side-lines –accounts of Jenner’s battles with smallpox, medical training in
Scotland, sea voyages to New Zealand, gold mining practices etc. There are many details of
working conditions and work-place accidents which the doctors had to attend to.
What impressed me was that the book held such a gold-mine of information but to access it would
be well-nigh impossible as the book was over 300 pages long and written in a font that was one
size larger than microfiche. The material was arranged in a rather haphazard fashion and there
was no index or Table of Contents. I thought I would see if I could scan the book and turn it into
text using OCR software. My first couple of pages went so well I resolved to keep on going and
this kept me busy over the cold afternoons of the Winter. I now have a PDF document holding the
entire book (reasonably error free although I have preserved Fulton’s spelling and idiosyncrasies)
and have added a Contents page which has hyperlinks to the chapters. It is now possible to
search the text and find things such as people’s names using the PDF reader search facilities.
As I was unsure about the copyright implications, I made an approach to the ODT since they were
the original publishers. They seemed quite happy for me to distribute the PDF file for public
access and ran a short article about the book and my efforts in The Mix on Boxing Day.  I have
given a copy of the file to the Hocken Library, but I am unsure what they plan to do with it. I have
also given one to the Heritage Collection Librarian in the public library. There at the present you
can go in and look at the file if you take in your computer but they are hoping to make it available
online in February. I would very much like this material to be readily available to anyone who
wants to search it and was wondering if you might want a copy of the file. It may be suitable for
download from your web site.

Click here to open the book:
Fulton Book with Pics