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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Weary (05/03/12)

TITLE: A Saint Thrown into Hell
By Noel Mitaxa


Parklands extend south from Central Melbourne’s office towers, shopping arcades and eateries; containing much of the city’s cultural spectrum. Concert halls, art galleries, botanical gardens, the Myer Music Bowl, Rod Laver Arena – home of Australia’s Tennis Open, the Governor’s Mansion, elite private schools and the 100,000 seat Melbourne Cricket Ground – home of Aussie Rules football - are all there.

Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance sits on its western edge, a beehive-shaped building surrounded by obelisks, memorial gardens, shrubs, plaques and statues, to project an aura of quiet reflection over the hum of eight lanes of traffic coursing along the nearby tree-lined boulevard.

A tall, stoop-shouldered bronze figure stands among statues and relief carvings that depict military action or hardware. But for this unassuming figure wearing a civilian suit, the sculptor has captured his subject’s calm strength, showing a gentle smile half-concealed by a drooping moustache. The nameplate on the pedestal reads: “Sir Ernest Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop. 12 July 1907 – 2 July 1993.”

Weary’s nickname came from corny Aussie word-association in his boyhood days – from “Dunlop” to “tires” to “tired;” thus “Weary.” Simple, but it stuck.

His legacy to Australia’s war effort was not military strategy, but as a surgeon for POWs working on the murderous four-hundred-kilometre route of the Burma-Thailand Railway. This track, including the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai, was part of Japanese plans for access to India, and of thirteen thousand Australian POWs, almost three thousand died in its construction.

Surviving workers were reduced to skeletal shambles of degraded humanity, as a precursor to decades of post-war disabilities. Their inhumane conditions meant starting at dawn, with a small bag of rice for nourishment, and struggling back to camp at midnight. Their captors, non-signatories to the Geneva Convention for treatment of prisoners, saw surrender as total disgrace, so sadistic brutality was meted out daily.

Weary Dunlop and his medical officers gave themselves to total compassion and courage on behalf of defenceless patients, with little or no medicine or equipment. And despite his own malaria, amoebic dysentery and tropical ulcers, he continually battled with his captors for medicines, resources and more humane conditions for his patients.

As one ex-POW recalls: “Thousands of us were starved, scourged, racked with malaria, dysentery, beriberi, pellagra, and the stench of tropical ulcers that ate a leg to the bone in a matter of days. But Weary Dunlop and his crew stood up for us, despite being beaten, derided, and beaten again."

These medics and their helpers showed incredible ingenuity: producing 92% proof surgical alcohol from waste rice and yeast found in the jungle, using a still made from old condensed-milk cans; others made drips for badly-dehydrated cholera patients, using Japanese beer bottles, doctors' stethoscope tubes and blunted syringe needles; with surgery performed by kerosene lamps.

Weary often stood between his men and menacing Japanese bayonets - once while tied to a tree - yet he was able to forgive his captors.

After the War, he went on to teach medicine in India, Sri Lanka and South-East Asia. He co-founded the Australian-Asian Association, and used the profits from the sale of his personal war diaries to help young Thai surgeons to study in Australia.

He also established a very profitable Melbourne practice, with special consideration for fellow ex-POWs. Many of them attest to being unable to afford any treatment, only to find that he had sent his Rolls-Royce to their door for a free trip to a free medical appointment.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Melbourne for the 1993 state funeral of the man they called 'The Surgeon of the Railway'.

Weary had grown up in the Australian bush, with a love for sport but not for books. Yet he embraced university medical studies and Rugby Union, well enough to represent Australia in pre-war international competition.

His philosophy was simple. "I have a conviction that it's only when you are put at full stretch that you can realise your full potential."

If` ever anyone lived life at full stretch, it was Weary Dunlop. And for me his story embodies how Jesus wrapped up his parable of the sheep and the goats: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”(Matthew 25: 40 - NIV)

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This article has been read 605 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dannie Hawley 05/11/12
Thank you for this interesting and informative article. What an incredible man, your Dr. Weary. You have done an excellent job giving us a part of his story.
C D Swanson 05/11/12
Clearly a story worthy of "further elaboration." This could easily be made into a epic novel.

Loved it, and the powerful ending. Dr. Weary...was a wonderful man touched by God.

God Bless~
Marina Rojas05/13/12
I love historical pieces about true saints of God, and this is definitely an outstanding work!

I had never heard of this individual and his sacrifices for others...I loved how 'Weary' took on a whole new meaning with his relentless efforts!

Thank you for such a good, unique story!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/14/12
This is beautiful. You were so creative with the topic and even though the main focus was on the man, you skillfully wove the emotion throughout your story. It is an educational piece and I enjoyed reading it. It's so important to keep these stories alive for the next generation lest they forget. My father-in0law spent many boyhood years in a POW camp and this piece touched my heart.
Edmond Ng 05/16/12
A tribute with a nice ending to the story. Thanks for sharing this.
Hiram Claudio05/16/12
I really enjoyed this very imformative walk through your history. I like how you highlighted Dr. Weary's choices to stand between the POWs and their captors - that flowed well easily. The tie to the scripture at the end was spot on. Nice work!
Hiram Claudio05/17/12
Congratulations on your 2nd place finish!
Amanda Brogan05/17/12
Congrats, Noel!!! :D

Thanks for this bit of Australian history - I loved it! And the quote by "Weary" at the end (along with his testimony) is amazingly inspiring. Very unique, out-of-the-box story for the topic as well.

Great job! This article looks good with a ribbon on it. :)
Danielle King 05/17/12
A very creative and unique entry for the topic. You've educated this little old lady! Yer dunt arf know some stuff Noel.

A big congratulations on your ribbon. A well deserved win!

C D Swanson 05/17/12
Congratulations. God bless~
Linda Goergen05/17/12
Such a well deserved win Noel! This was so well written, educational and inspirational!
I was engrossed in this beginning to end! This is someone I never heard of before...and I feel blessed, thanks to your story, to be acquainted with “Weary’s” selfless acts of compassionate help toward those so mistreated. He truly was a living example of Christian love as in scripture Matthew 25: 34-40. This was a true blessing to read. Congratulations on the win for this wonderful entry!
Ellen Carr 05/18/12
Congratulations on your 2nd place. As an Aussie I have definitely heard of Weary Dunlop, a hero. But I learnt much more from your article. Well done.
Yvonne Blake 05/18/12
Interesting and inspiring story, Noel. Congratulations on you 2nd place win!