Monday, 21 September 2020


A doctor with a difference

Dr Dorothy Cochrane Logan was a “doctor with a difference” who shifted to Whitianga in the early 1950s. Born in Dublin in 1888 to a military family, Dr Logan was an educated woman. She studied medicine in London in the early 1900s. She later set up a practice in Kent and then in Harley Street in London by 1920.

Along the way, Dr Logan also served in the French Red Cross in World War I, as a doctor at the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Royaumont, France. Perhaps due to her general loathing of bureaucracy, she was dismissed after just three months of service in June 1918.

An avid swimmer, Dr Logan began training to conquer the English Channel. She made three attempts in 1926 and 1927 under the pseudonym of Mona MacLellan. She made word headlines in October 1927 when she entered the water in Griz Nez, France with the goal of making the crossing. She appeared appropriately greased up and exhausted in Folkestone, England, apparently setting a new world record.  

A few days later, however, Dr Logan confessed that it was a hoax and that she had only spent four hours in the water and the rest of the time was seasick in a boat. She said that she had sought to demonstrate to the world how flimsy the rules and regulations were around the Channel crossings, which were popular in the day, but totally unmonitored. She was duly censured by the British Medical Association (BMA), which sought to strike her off the roll of medical paractitioners.

In 1929, Dr Logan married her trainer, fellow channel swimmer and bus driver, Horace Carey. The couple had a daughter, Joan Mona MacLellan Cochrane Carey, but separated in 1930.

Dr Logan and her daughter emigrated to New Zealand after World War II. She arrived in Whitianga when the population was just more than 400 people. She was widely known as a lovely, kind and helpful doctor, and a very talented swimmer and musician. 

Whitianga local, Bridget Mackereth, remembers Dr Logan as a strong, dedicated woman who disapproved of all things bureaucratic and particularly hated waste. She would never refuse a call-out, sometimes travelling six hours or more to attend to someone in need. She visited summer camping sites, offering help for cuts and other injuries and providing medications. She would sit up all night with sick patients. Nothing was too much trouble for her. 

Dr Logan often would not accept money from her patients and attended to people who could not afford medical care. She was also an advocate for natural remedies, which caused consternation in the medical fraternity.

Bridget was unsure of where Dr Logan lived. According to the book “Ducks, Dipsomaniacs and Diseases” (a book detailing the history of the Mercury Bay Hospital), Dr Logan for a time lived in a dilapidated old van, which she generally parked under a tree. She was known to bathe in various places, including a horse trough by the Whitianga Wharf and swam often in the river on the 309 Road. She apparently stored her meat pies in her post office mailbox, which was cool enough storage, until she was asked to stop by the postmaster.

Fashion was not a priority for Dr Logan, who dressed in old smocks tied at the waste by twine and old canvas shoes, augmented in the winters by an army greatcoat. Her undergarments consisted of a “brassiere” made of muslin cloth tied at the neck, which she disposed of each time she changed. Knickers were surplus to requirements.

As dedicated and talented as she was, Dr Logan was disliked by the medical establishment at the Thames Hospital Board, often stepping over the lines set in those days in the interests of patient well-being and seldom following the prescribed administrative requirements.

Dr Logan suffered a bad accident on the Tapu-Coroglen Road in later years, landing in a creek, upside down, where she stayed for over four hours.  She spent a long time in Thames Hospital as a result. Although infirmed, she continued to run her practice from the hospital. She never quite recovered and died in Whitianga in July 1961.

Pictured: A newspaper clipping of one of Dr Dorothy Cochrane Logan’s attempts to swim, as Mona MacLellan, across the English Channel.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.