Thursday, 30 October 2014

Public Lecture: Martin O'Meara VC

In case any of you were wondering why I was being interviewed by the ABC and getting into trouble about Martin O'Meara VC - it's because I'm giving the Frederick Bell VC Memorial Lecture this year. And you are warmly invited, if you happen to be in the area!

'More than Ordinary Care: Martin O'Meara VC'
Friday 14 November
Cottesloe Civic Centre, Broome St, Cottesloe
6pm for 6.30pm start

Please RSVP to Dr Neville Green, RSL Cottesloe Sub-branch,, by Friday 7 November for catering purposes (light supper beforehand).

Gold coin donation at admission; all funds go to the RSL.

About the Presentation:

Born in Ireland, Martin O’Meara came to Western Australia as a young man and worked as a labourer and sleeper-cutter before enlisting in 1915. He showed conspicuous bravery during the Pozières offensive, repeatedly going out into no man’s land to rescue wounded men and to carry up ammunition. He was awarded the VC by King George V in London in July 1917. 

O’Meara returned to Western Australia in November 1918, and was quarantined at Woodman’s Point because of the Spanish flu pandemic. But within a week of his arrival, he became violent and incoherent, and was diagnosed with ‘delusional insanity’ and taken to Stromness in Cottesloe, a home which was used for returned servicemen with shell shock. From there, he was transferred to Claremont Hospital for the Insane, and remained confined there and at Lemnos Hospital until his death in 1935. 

From this stigmatised obscurity, O’Meara has since become a cult figure for military, Irish, mental health and local historians. This presentation will provide an introduction to: 

• O’Meara’s known biography and war record;
• existing sources of information about his life in hospital; 
• his diagnosis and management in the context of Western Australian psychiatry at the time; 
• the way in which his illness was presented in local newspapers during his life; and 
• the subsequent historiography of his life and death.  

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