Nurse Isabella Veal

In celebration of Women’s History Month, March 2022

Isabella Veal (nee Clark) was born in 1862 in Gladstone, Queensland. Sadly her mother died when she was only seven years old. She was taken in by the family of Mr and Mrs Douglas of Bowen. Mr Douglas was an Inspector of the Mounted Police. Around 1881, Isabella went to Maryborough, Queensland to engage in nursing. Two years later, she arrived in Gympie. It was in Gympie that she met Thomas Frederick Veal and in 1886 they married at St Peter’s Church of England. They had six children together.

Isabella with five of her children. Front: Hester, Alfred (on lap), Thomas ‘Doot’, Back: William and George

Nurse Veal worked several private hospitals as a nurse and midwife. The first hospital was named “Milton” on Horseshoe Bend. Later she moved to a building on the corner of Monkland and Channon Streets and then moved to the opposite corner to a home named “The Laurels”. Her final hospital was on the corner of Stone and Monkland Streets (92 Monkland Street) (Towner, 2010).

In her midwifery work, it was said that Nurse Veal would travel over flooded creeks and rivers to reach a patient, with ambulance supervisor Lew Dean in tow (Towner, 2010).

Nurse Veal raised a little boy, Normie after his mother had died a few days after his birth. Isabella had a large number of her own children but by this time, they were adults.

Sadly, husband Thomas (fitter at the Gympie Gas Company) had a long serving alcohol addiction. He was charged several times with breaching the Licensing Act in being served alcohol. In 1913, in Police Court, he was granted a prohibition order for twelve calendar months on the application of Charles Veal. This occurred again in 1917 when another order and advertisement appeared in The Gympie Times stating “THOMAS FREDERICK VEAL, by excessive drinking of liquor, wastes his estate and interrupts the peace and happiness of his family, I do by this may order forbid any licensed persons to sell to the said…..any liquor for the period of one year from the date hereof”.

This, no doubt would have been a very difficult for Isabella and her family. Particularly when Thomas continued to breach the prohibition orders and was fined for obtaining alcohol from others. This spiraling pattern continued for years until Thomas’ said demise.

On 30 August 1924, aged 60 years of age, Thomas died from a fall. He had stepped from the footpath in Mary Street, on a Saturday afternoon, slipping and striking the back of his head on the street kerb. He was taken to the Gympie Hospital and operated on by Dr Cuppaidge. Afterwards he was conveyed to his wife’s nursing hospital. He sustained a fractured skull and died later that evening.

Nurse Veal encompasses a stoic mother and woman who despite personal adversity and family sufferance continued to nurse and serve the community as a midwife and carer of the ailed.

Isabella Veal passed on 6 July 1937 aged 75 years.


Towner, P. (2010). Gympie’s mothers put lives in caring hands, The Gympie Times, 30 January 2010, pp 18-19

The Gympie Times, and newspaper articles retrieved from

Ancestry Library Edition, available free at Gympie Regional Libraries on wifi