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Tribute to Dr. Robert Lamb

The Robert Lamb Memorial has weathered a hundred years with the inscriptions still clear, at the Wentworth Falls Cemetery in the NSW Blue Mountains. His favorite Bible verses are displayed on three sides. It is the subject of numerous photographs and appears on several internet sites. The GPS location is … 33 deg. 42’ 40.85S, 150 deg. 21’ 57.15E

Lamb’s Memorial was renovated in 2006, with respect, by the Nixon Family.

Sydney Morning Herald, June 18, 1907

The death is reported of Dr. Robert Lamb, late of the New Hebrides.

Dr. and Mrs. Lamb sailed from Auckland, NZ, for the the (tropical) island of Ambrym, in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), in 1892, though warned as to the risks they were taking. They landed in the midst of savages. (It’s GPS location is 16 deg, 25’ 37,83S, 167 deg. 55’ 16.91E).

Their first habitation was a tent, and in the course of time a small mission station was built.

As will no doubt be remembered, a hurricane two years later devastated the island; the mission station was swept away and twin children born to them a short time previously died from the effects of exposure. Dr. Lamb and his wife then took a ship to Scotland to recuperate after their terrible ordeals. Lest you think this man made wrong decisions, and suffered consequences, read of his intentions.

Robert Lamb was the fourth son of Mr. James Lamb and was born in Auckland in 1862. About 1875, the family removed to Christchurch, and Robert Lamb whilst employed in business pursuits went to hear a missionary address at the St., Paul’s Presbyterian Church, delivered by the Rev. Dr. Copland, calling for volunteers for the mission field. In the course of his address, Dr. Copland said “Surely there is one young man in this congregation who will give himself to the mission service?”

This seemed to Robert to be in the light of a call of God to the work and after considering the matter and talking over with his parents, he resolved, though still a mere lad to enter the work.

He studied at West Christchurch School under Mr. T S. Foster and matriculated at Canterbury College near Christchurch. He took his MA degree at Canterbury College with first-class honors. He first decided to take the preliminary medical course and go direct to the mission field, but on further consideration he decided to go to Edinburgh and take his full medical degree. This was done with the idea of establishing a mission hospital in the New Hebrides.

He spent six years in Edinburgh during which time he studied both theology and medicine, passing through both courses at the same time with brilliant results and complete his course of taking his MB and BD degrees.

Whilst in Edinburgh, he met Miss Mary Reiach, daughter of the Inspector of Fisheries in Scotland, and became engaged to her. She went through a course of hospital training as a nurse to be an assistant to Dr. Lamb in his work. Subsequently, they were married and left for New Zealand.

Dr. Lamb was ordained by the General Assembly of NZ in 1892, at Auckland. After the deadly cyclone, materials for a new mission building were sent from New Zealand and left in charge of the natives. After about eighteen months, Dr. and Mrs. Lamb returned to the New Hebrides, taking with them Mr. James Mansfield from here as an assistant missionary.

The new buildings were erected including a hospital and everything was working smoothly when a fire occurred in the middle of the night, which again swept the whole of the buildings away. Dr. Lamb and Mrs. Lamb lost everything they possessed and had only a few old clothes left. Undaunted, the devoted couple again set to work, and an earnest appeal was made by Dr. Lamb to the Presbyterian General Assembly of 1895 for aid to raise the One Thousand Pounds required for the hospital buildings. The church responded to the appeal by making a grant out of the mission funds and members of the church sent donations.

Mr. Mansfield toured New Zealand giving magic lantern lectures in aid of the fund; Dr. Lamb appealed to his friends in Scotland; settlers and traders in the island contributed liberally, and other churches interest in the New Hebrides Mission made small grants.

The present splendid station and hospital at Ambryn (Vanuatu) in 1907 was the result. The place is a great boon to the residents and to the outlying islands, all comers being treated at the hospital irrespective of creed or color.

The late doctor persevered in his work despite attacks of ague and fever, till the medical officer of a British man-o’-war ship who saw him ordered him away, the attacks of malarial fever, having brought on consumption.

Dr. and Mrs. Lamb went to Roma Queensland, remaining there for nine months, the doctor seeking to gain strength to visit New Zealand.

In the course of time he was enabled to do this and see his mother once more, his father having died in the meantime. Whilst he was on this visit, his mother died also, and his health being in a precarious condition, they returned to Sydney.

Thanks to the devoted care and attention of a Mrs. Macdonald, the Ship’s stewardess, Dr. Lamb was enabled to reach Sydney alive. From Sydney, he went to Molong NSW, and his health improved so much that he was enabled to practice the medical profession.

He had ultimately to go to the seaside for two years, subsequently proceeding to Wentworth Falls, NSW.

About four months ago (1907), he had a severe attack of hemorrhage but recovered, and was enabled to reach home. However, illness again prostrated him, and he died at 45 of tuberculosis, as recorded by the cable message given above.

Dr. Lamb was universally liked, and the news of his death will be heard with deep regret. The late Dr. Lamb was the author of two works, one entitled Saints and Savages, and another The Will of God, which has just been published. He was survived by his wife. (June, 1907)


Writer F. W. Boreham included the story of Dr. Robert Lamb in his book “A Casket of Cameos”, (Judson, 1950, ASIN: B000J53DLE) in which he noted that Lamb spent the last months of his 1906 days, in weakness, as a witness to passing swagmen along the Great Western Highway at Wentworth Falls, near the spot where he lies in death.

When widowed, Mrs. Lamb returned to Scotland. She visited Wentworth Falls in later years to hear the testimonies of those who were helped by her late husband in his prime years.

One was a lad made ill by consumption, who was deeply moved in Christian faith by the Memorial. He lies close by, and attained the Heaven he prayed for, just because Dr. Robert Lamb was there.


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