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National Trust Willunga branch.

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National Trust of South Australia


Counter, Francis William (Doctor)

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1864
Place of birth Yankalilla
Date of arrival 1890
Principal occupation Doctor
Date of death 1900
Place of decease Willunga

Francis William Counter was born at Yankalilla on 2 July 1864. He was the son of John Counter and his wife, Elizabeth Cole. John was a Bible Christian minister and, later, a farmer, who had preached at Yankalilla and Willunga. He never married.

Francis attended Prince Alfred College and, upon graduating, he sailed to Britain per the Cuzco in February 1883 in the second-class saloon section. He studied medicine at the Marischal College, University of Aberdeen. In his first year, he gained first prize in Zoology. In July 1889, Francis graduated in medicine from the University of Aberdeen and returned to South Australia, arriving in December that year aboard Famenoth. It was reported in February 1890 that he had taken over the Willunga practice of Dr Robert McGowan. That same month, he was appointed public vaccinator for Willunga. In August 1890, he was appointed surgeon to the military forces. A property transaction notes the transfer to Dr Counter of St Anne’s Lodge at 7 St Peters Terrace, Willunga, from Dr McGowan on 7 January 1891. In June 1892, he was appointed as the Minister’s Warden by the new incumbent of St Stephen's Church, Willunga. The following month, he was appointed the medical officer for the destitute, poor and Aboriginal people in Aldinga and, later, for Willunga. In May 1893, he was appointed to Willunga’s school Board of Advice.

In January 1894 Francis was appointed a Justice of the Peace. That same year, in November, the press reported that he was recovering from a trap accident and that he would resume his practice at Christmas or the early new year. In September 1896, he was appointed President of the Southern Cricketing Association but, in November 1899, the press reported that he was recovering from surgery performed in Adelaide. A Dr Chapple was appointed as his replacement in Willunga while he recovered. In March 1900, he was appointed surgeon to the Noarlunga Race Club.

However, on 30 April 1900, Francis died from pneumonia at his home, St Anne’s Lodge, Willunga. Reports suggest his surgery in November left him in a ‘weakened condition’ and he had caught a cold which progressed to pneumonia. His obituaries stated he was ‘highly popular in the district’. He was buried at Payneham Cemetery.

One of Francis' hobbies was floriculture and, in October 1893, he had successfully exhibited flowers such as fuchsias, daisies, petunias and pansies at the Willunga Show. As well, he showed poultry (ducks) and a female Scotch Collie dog, for which he received prizes. In October 1895, he exhibited pot plants, again at the Willunga Show. In June 1896, he was listed as a member of Willunga’s Agricultural Bureau committee. It was also reported in April 1897 that he grew thirteen-foot-high maize! In October 1898, he exhibited pigs at the Port Elliot Show and the press stated he did ‘fairly well’.

Francis' will named his brother, Edward John Counter, dentist, and his brother-in-law, Arthur William Piper, solicitor, as executors. His unmarried sister, Hephzibah Ann Counter of Willunga was the beneficiary of his estate which included St Anne’s Lodge. It is presumed she had lived at St Anne’s Lodge with Francis as she too exhibited flowers at the 1893 Willunga Show.


  • Willunga National Trust records
  • SAGHS Databases
  • Findmypast Roll of the Graduates of University of Aberdeen 1860-1900 Aberdeenshire Scotland University of Aberdeen Alumni 1596-1900 p. 100
  • University of Aberdeen Aberdeen Press and Journal 4 August 1888 p. 6
  • University of Aberdeen. Graduation in Medicine Aberdeen Journal 30 July 1889 p. 7
  • Ancestry – Medical Directories
  • SAILIS CT 29/186
  • Trove newspapers

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