Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Coburg Municipal Health Officer joins up


Carl Dyring goes to war


Dr Carl Dyring. 
Image courtesy Coburg HIstorical Society.


As a researcher I’ve become accustomed to seeing the faces of the young when I search the Australian War Memorial website looking for photos of the Coburg men who served in World War One. Often I want to cry for them and their families. They look (and were) so young.

But as I’m learning, there were quite a few men in their forties who were accepted into the AIF and some, like Captain Carl Peter Wilhelm Dyring, who was a doctor, were even older. Dr Carl Dyring joined the Army Medical Corps on 14 August 1915 aged 55. Like some of the other men I’ve featured recently, he was of non-Anglo heritage. His father Peter Frederick was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1832 and arrived in the colony with his parents and siblings in the 1850s. The family settled in the Beechworth district and although Carl had long since left the area, he is listed on the Ovens and Murray Advertiser’s Roll of Honour as one of the ‘lads’ from the district who had enlisted. (Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 19 February 1916, p.1)



Dr Carl Dyring's Residence, 2 Walsh Street, Coburg, circa 1890. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.  


Dr Dyring was a man of substance, as can be seen by his grand home in Walsh Street, Coburg. In some ways, Dyring represented what was already becoming a bygone age. It’s said, for example, that he called on patients in a high English dog cart and always wore a bell topper and frock coat. 

He was also a man with influential connections. His second wife Dagmar was the daughter of one of the Cohn Brothers, old family friends and pioneer beer makers who were men of considerable influence in Bendigo where they had settled. His farewell was held at the prestigious Menzies Hotel in the city and organised by property developer and friend Montague Dare. An evening at Her Majesty’s Theatre followed. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 23 July 1915, p.2)

In 1911, he had performed the medicals for the boys who’d registered as cadets under the recently passed Defence Act and witnessed their first parade at the Moreland school. (Broome, Coburg, between two creeks, p.190) Now he was heading off to Egypt where he might well meet these boys again, this time in the hospitals of Cairo where he was based.

Unusually, his wife Dagmar joined her husband in Cairo, serving as hospital matron and leaving their children (13 year old Carl, 10 year old Rosa and 5 year old Moya) with her family in Bendigo. By joining her husband, Dagmar drew the interest of the Intelligence Forces and there is a file on her dated 1915 at the National Archives of Australia. Unfortunately, it has not been digitised, so I’ve been unable to check it out.

Carl Dyring’s war was not a long one. By December 1916 he’d been invalided home with heart disease and emphysema. On his return he moved to Brighton where a fourth child, Patricia, was born in 1920. He died at Brighton in 1931 aged 71.

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When I began this research, I wondered whether Dagmar Dyring was related to Ola Cohn, the sculptor whose Fairies Tree in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens I used to visit as a child. They were sisters. While doing the research for this entry, I was very excited to learn that an autobiography, A way with the Fairies: the lost story of sculptor Ola Cohn, ed. Barbara Lemon, will be released in February 2014. It’s already made its way to my ‘must read’ list!

The artistic talent in the family did not end there. Carl and Dagmar’s daughter, Moya Dyring (1909-1967), was one of the first women cubist painters to exhibit in Melbourne. She married fellow artist Sam Atyeo, was involved in the Heide School, moved overseas and eventually settled in France. Divorced from Atyeo in 1950, she visited Australia regularly until the early 1960s. (AustralianDictionary of Biography)


Grave of Laurence Cohen, Coburg Cemetery.
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

And in the way of all such research, I’ve now come across another example of synchronicity. Several years ago when doing the research for a Friends of Coburg Cemetery heritage walk, I discovered that Laurence Cohen, monumental mason and trade unionist, had been apprenticed to George F. Atyeo. Three of Cohen's sisters married three of Atyeo's sons and his sister Olivia and her husband Alfred Atyeo (who are buried in the same grave) were the parents of Sam Atyeo, who married Moya Dyring.

And so the world goes round!


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