“Fred was many things to many people – a husband, a father, a friend, a skilled ophthalmologist and for a few politicians and bureaucrats, an irritating thorn in their side. But above all else he was a humanitarian, which made him a terrific doctor. He truly believed it was the role of a doctor to serve, to help those in need,” says Gabi Hollows.
Fred was 63 when he died at his home in Randwick on February 10, 1993. Following an official state funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, he was buried, according to his wishes, in the red dirt of Bourke.
Fred had a special relationship with Bourke, a country town in northern NSW, Australia. He spent a lot of time there and made many good and lifelong friends. Gabi and the family treasure these friendships and the deep ties they have with the local community.
Fred first visited Bourke and district in the early 1970s with an eye team from the Prince of Wales and Prince Henry teaching hospitals. A successful trial the team conducted at nearby Enngonia was used as a model for the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program of the late 1970s across outback Australia. These vital screening and surgical services are continued today by eye teams from the Department of Ophthalmology at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
Pretty much everyone in the district knew Fred and had a story to tell about him – about how he treated their eyes, or swore at them, or cajoled them, or joked and shared a yarn with them. Fred always left a lasting impression.
Fred's grave in the Bourke Cemetery is surrounded by native trees, and boulders from nearby Mt Oxley are laid out in the shape of an eye – part of a sculpture created by local Indigenous artists, international sculptors and Bourke residents that includes a carved standing stone transported from Wilcannia.
Fred was buried with his glasses, a bottle of whisky, letters from some of his children, sawdust from his workshop, his pipe and a tin of tobacco. His coffin was draped with a pall that was hand painted by the people of Enngonia.
In February 2006, the original gravestone was replaced with a new granite sculpture commissioned by the Hollows family, created by Austrian Andreas Buisman and erected with the generous support of friends, the Bourke Shire Council and the local community.
Gabi Hollows and more than 150 family, friends and locals gathered at Fred's graveside for the unveiling of the new stone. There was a smoking ceremony by members of the Indigenous community, a re-dedication by Father Frank Brennan, and speeches from Gabi and family and friends.
The sculpture captures Fred’s love of the outdoors and climbing, and its polished surface brings to mind the tiny intraocular lenses that Fred was so determined to bring to the developing world. The Hollows family is happy for visitors to touch and feel the rock, to climb on it or sit peacefully and contemplate life.
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