Oral Archives of New Zealand Ophthalmologists

Recorded 1990's to early 2000's

The Ophthalmological Society of New Zealand commissioned oral recordings from seven senior ophthalmologists between approximately 1991 and 2001. Each was professionally interviewed by Anna Cottrell (wife of Dr Paul Herrick, ophthalmologist of Wellington), on behalf of the Alexander Turnbull Library, a division of the National Library of New Zealand.

The ophthalmologists interviewed were: Sir Randal Elliott of Wellington, Dr Roy Holmes of Christchurch, Professor John Parr of Dunedin, Dr Dorothy Potter CBE of Masterton, Dr Calvin Ring of Auckland, Dr Arthur Talbot of New Plymouth, and Dr Graeme Talbot OBE of Auckland.

All are now deceased.

These recordings are irreplaceable, detailed records of their lives and careers. Each is of around two hours’ duration. They are first-hand accounts of aspects of New Zealand ophthalmology through most of the twentieth century. There are many insights into the education, training, the Otago Medical School, and the post-graduate ophthalmic training in their times, as well as practising the specialty in that era. In some cases, their war service is of special interest. The interview which holds the most general interest is probably that given by Sir Randal Elliott, while the interview with Professor John Parr gives the most information about education and the Otago Medical School.

Sir Randal Elliott of Wellington


Sir Randal Elliott Was born into a wealthy prestigious Wellington family. His life was packed with contributions to the medical profession at large, community service in New Zealand, and voluntary medical service overseas. His oral archive includes insights into his family’s opulent lifestyle, New Zealand medical politics in the late 1900s, and his own wide-ranging career. He was short-listed for Governor-General.


Dr Roy Holmes of Christchurch


Dr Holmes was an early sub-specialist in glaucoma. He was widely read, and a witty and forceful communicator, intimidating to those less self-assured. He was on the Senate of the University of Canterbury. Both of New Zealand’s main political parties at different times asked if he would stand for parliament, but ophthalmology was his primary interest.


Professor John Parr of Dunedin


Professor Parr of Dunedin graduated top medical student of his year. He was granted a personal chair in ophthalmology at the University of Otago School of Medicine in 1977. His interview shares insights into early academic ophthalmology in New Zealand, early training and qualification of ophthalmic registrars, and the politics of medical education in the 1960s-1970s.


Dr Dorothy Potter CBE of Masterton


Dr Potter was New Zealand’s third woman ophthalmologist. She describes the life of a woman in medicine and ophthalmology, and the challenges of at the same time being a farmer’s wife and a mother. Dr Potter was an ardent admirer of Professor Ida Mann. She was the first (and only) woman president of the Ophthalmological Society of New Zealand in 1984, and she founded the New Zealand Glaucoma Society.


Dr Calvin Ring of Auckland


Dr Ring was “the ophthalmologist’s ophthalmologist” in Auckland through most of his career. He describes his uncertain beginnings in medical education, which belied his later spectacular career. He served with distinction in Egypt and Italy in the Second World War. As a highly talented and intrepid surgeon, he pioneered posterior chamber intra-ocular lenses in New Zealand. He was a dedicated honorary teacher at the bedside and in the operating theatre. He initiated interest and fund-raising for academic ophthalmology in Auckland, which culminated with the appointment of Professor Charles McGhee as the Foundation Maurice Paykel Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland in 1999.


Dr Arthur Talbot of New Plymouth


Dr Talbot was a provincial ophthalmologist from New Plymouth. From an early teetotal ophthalmology family in Timaru, he was a quiet, self-effacing man who served the Taranaki province throughout his career. His oral archive includes his significant war service in Senigallia, Italy, and amusing anecdotes of some contemporary colleagues.


Dr Graeme Talbot OBE of Auckland


Dr Talbot of Auckland, was not a relative of Dr Arthur Talbot. He had a distinguished undergraduate medical record, winning the final year prizes in medicine and surgery. In World War Two he rose to the rank of colonel. Although a clinical ophthalmologist, he confessed that his real interest lay in administration. For many years he was a member and later deputy-chairman of the Auckland Hospital Board, and played a part in establishing the new medical school at the University of Auckland in the 1960s, ninety years after the country’s first medical school at the University of Otago, founded in 1874.


Other Archives

Dr Hugh Ryan

A unique radio interview of Dr Hugh Ryan in 1948 with recollections of early contact lens use at Moorfields and the quaint but brutal examination system in UK at that time.


Histories and services

Barbara McKay's memories of ophthalmic nursing
Barbara McKay recounts her experience of being an ophthalmic nurse in the 1950s. I commenced my Nursing Training in 1953 at Repatriation General Hospital Concord, at that time caring for serving membe ...
Al Mckay's cataract surgery recollections
Al Mckay recalls his experiences with early cataract surgery. My first surgical encounter with ophthalmology was in 1959; I was a medical officer at a tiny hospital in southern Tasmania...
Mark Gardner
Mark Gardner graduated MB, BS, at Melbourne University in 1909, and after two years as Resident at the Childrens and Melbourne Hospitals went to London for further experience. He had a brilliant spor ...
JEK Galbraith -History of retinal surgery
The Retina Unit was set up by the late Professor Gerard Crock in 1963. When I joined him a year later as his First Assistant, my first job was to review the results of retina surgery at the Royal Vic ...

Video Interviews

Alex Harper traces the remarkable evolution of intravitreal agents for macular degeneration.


Bruce Crawford recounts difficulties with early cataract surgery.


Ernie Finklestein recalls life as a trainee in the 1950’s and notable characters he worked for


Wilson Heriot worked with the key players in the evolution of vitreo-retinal surgery and traces the development of the procedures during his professional career

Barbara McKay recalls her experiences as an ophthalmic nurse in the 1950’s.


Dick Galbraith set up a multi-country aid project in the Pacific and recalls some experiences and characters in the Solomon Islands.


Hugh Taylor was involved in the National Trachoma Program from its inception and had a close relationship with Fred Hollows. He describes the beginnings of the program and its subsequent evolution