‘Five to ten drops of “Fishers Phospherine” in water after meals
is the greatest aid to digestion known.’
Mr. George Bewley of “Trelawney” Erskineville was in a shocking state before consuming four bottles of Fisher’s Phospherine (and a bottle of Fisher’s Beauty Pills for good measure) to overcome a litany of complaints: diseased kidneys and bladder; frightful back injuries; a shattered nervous system – life, he tells us, was a prolonged misery.
Refusing absolutely any monetary consideration for the endorsement of his discovery,
Mr. George Bewley submitted his testimony UNDER OATH in the presence of a Justice of the Peace:
IT CURES INFLUENZA! Never mind ‘everything working in perfect order’ and ‘my appetite is splendid’. IT CURES INFLUENZA!
What? It just claims to cure the after effects of influenza? Well, let’s not get too excited then…
The advertisements ran from about June 1909 until July 1911 on an almost continuous basis. There was little variation other than the removal early on of the reference to the additional bottle of Fisher’s Beauty Pills that Mr. Bewley praised as being ‘gentle in action and a perfect natural aperient.’
So whereabouts in Erskineville was “Trelawney?”
Scanning through the Sands Directories the residence “Trelawney” and George Bewley appear for the first time in the 1908 edition, with George Bewley residing at “Trelawney” for three years until 1910:
Sands Directory Pleasant Avenue 1908 – 1909 – 1910
East Side? West Side? For the remainder of the publication of the Sands Directories (until 1932-33) consistency is established in attributing the odd numbered houses to the West side of the street. However, consistency is also established in listing the numbering of the street in the opposite direction to that of today. So to settle the confusion we will look to the meticulously compiled rate books generated by the Erskineville Council. Here below is an extract from 1907 recording the payment of rates by Mr. Bewley on 30 December 1907:
Erskineville Rate Book 1907 (City of Sydney Archives)
The Rate Book entry confirms the location of Mr George Bewley’s residence on the West side of Pleasant Avenue. The Sands Directory numbering was correct, but had incorrectly listed the residences in the order of Victoria to McDonald Street under the heading McDonald to Victoria Street. With reference to the Rate Book, counting six houses along the West side of Pleasant Avenue ‘going North’ brings us to:
11 Pleasant Avenue Erskineville – “Trelawney”
The Sands Directories and Rate Books allow for the identification of the names of other houses on the West side of Pleasant Avenue:
As for Phospherine remedies, the British Medical Journal Vol. 1, No. 2610 (Jan. 7, 1911), pp. 26-28 in an article ‘The Composition of Certain Secret Remedies’ states:
‘Unlike other tonic medicines, Phosferine does not injure the teeth, or upset the stomach or cause constipation; on the contrary, it will be found beneficial in these conditions.
Phosferine may be taken at all times with benefit; there is no possible objection to its continued use either as an appetizer or a general strengthening and nerve remedy.‘
Well! That might just be as close as we come to seeing an endorsement from the British Medical Journal of a remedy!
The Journal provides the following break-down of ingredients:
British Medical Journal Vol. 1, No. 2610 (Jan. 7, 1911), p. 26
Today, Newton’s Pharmacy in York Street Sydney stocks Fisher’s Phospherine with the instruction to take five drops twice a day in a little water. The Newton’s Pharmacy Fisher’s Phospherine formulation contains the following active ingredients:
Vitamin B group;
Extracts of Quassia; and
Finally, it would appear that Mr. Bewley’s great joy and good health remained with him for many more years. A Family History Search of the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages allows for the identification of a year of birth for George R. (Robinson) Bewley of 1872, giving his age at the time of the portrait in 1909 as 36 or 37 -so I think we have our man. A notice published a little over thirty years later on 20 January 1940 advises that Mr. Bewley passed away at his residence in Kingsford on 19 January 1940, aged 67.