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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Uhr, Sir Clive Wentworth (1903–1974)

by Michael Uhr

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Sir Clive Wentworth Uhr (1903-1974), radiologist and racing administrator, was born on New Year's Day 1903 in Brisbane, only child of Wentworth Charles Henry Uhr, a Queensland-born bank manager, and his wife Margaret, née Cleary, who came from Ireland. Clive's grandfather was Wentworth D'Arcy Uhr. He was educated at Gatton State High School and St John's College, University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1926). Tall, rangy and active, he represented his college at cricket, shooting and tennis.

Back in Queensland, Uhr was appointed resident medical officer (1927), surgical registrar (1928) and radium registrar (1929) at (Royal) Brisbane Hospital. Entering private practice in 1932 as a diagnostic radiologist, he continued at the hospital as assistant-radiologist (1932), assistant radium therapist (1933), and senior radiologist (1938). On 24 August 1933 at St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane, he had married with Catholic rites Marie Josephine Barry.

On 31 December 1940 Uhr was appointed captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force. Next day he was promoted major and posted as radiologist to the 2nd/10th Australian General Hospital. The unit was sent to Singapore in February and stationed at Malacca, Malaya, in support of the 22nd Brigade. Following the Japanese invasion, the 2nd/10th withdrew to Singapore in mid-January 1942. Uhr worked as anaesthetist as well as radiologist during the campaign. Taken prisoner in February, he was in charge of all X-ray work for the A.I.F. at Changi from August, relying on fluoroscopy when supplies of film ran out. He conducted a survey of men, including survivors from 'F' Force, diagnosed with cardiac beriberi, and established that most had no radiological evidence of damage to the heart. In addition, he was given clinical duties. Private Douglas McLaggan saw him as a good medical officer and 'a man you could talk to'. He returned to Brisbane in September 1945 and transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 6 November.

After the war Uhr was always available to the men with whom he had served in Malaya. Admiring their stubborn courage, he often used the phrase 'as hard to shift as the 22nd Brigade'. Every Anzac Day he marched at the head of the Catholic War Veterans' Association, bringing together his passions for the 8th Division and the Catholic Church. He was a member of the Medical Board of Queensland (1955-74) and the council of the Queensland Radium Institute (1955-74), and had been a founder (1939) of the local branch of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiology (Royal Australasian College of Radiologists). Uhr was visiting radiologist at the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, and honorary radiologist at Mt Olivet Hospital for the Incurably Sick and Dying, Kangaroo Point. After he retired from his medical practice in 1963, he was on the relieving list of Chermside and Redcliffe hospitals.

Elected to the committee of the Brisbane Amateur Turf Club in 1947, Uhr helped to persuade John Wren to sell Doomben racecourse to the B.A.T.C. in 1953. As chairman (1954-74) he built up the Queensland winter racing carnival, particularly the Doomben Ten Thousand and the Doomben Cup. He believed that the ordinary race-goer deserved the best: each race day 'the Doc' would walk from the Flat through the St Leger enclosure to the Paddock, open always to comments and suggestions from punters. Although he preferred flat racing, he was the driving force behind the launch of the Albion Park Trotting Club which staged its first meeting in September 1968. He was chairman of the club in 1968-74.

Uhr had a wide range of community interests. President of Past Brothers Leagues Club and the Brisbane Rugby League, he was a member of the Rothmans National Sports Foundation. He was president (1953-74) of the Xavier Society, a group of Catholic laymen who raised funds for Mt Olivet hospital and the Xavier Home for Crippled Children, and was involved with Duchesne and St Leo's colleges, University of Queensland. He was concerned about justice and good government and was in great demand as a public speaker. Interested in the work of B. A. Santamaria, in 1957 he unsuccessfully stood for the Legislative Assembly seat of Kedron, representing the newly formed Queensland Labor Party.

In 1960 Uhr helped to set up the Boys Town foundation which raised funds for a home at Beaudesert. That year he was named Queensland's 'Father of the Year'. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1961 and knighted in 1972. Sir Clive was an intensely private man, passionately Australian, a steadfast friend and a devoted husband. He died on 19 September 1974 at his Ascot home and was buried in Nudgee cemetery. His wife, their four sons and two of their three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Walker, Clinical Problems of War (Canb, 1952)
  • O. B. Steele, Altars and Artillery (Brisb, 1980)
  • K. Noud, Courses for Horses (Brisb, 1989)
  • D. McLaggan, The Will to Survive (Syd, 1995)
  • J. Ryan et al, Australasian Radiology (Syd, 1996)
  • Xavier Society, Annual Report, 1953
  • Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 27, 1989, p 567
  • Queensland Trotter and Pacer, Oct 1974
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 25 Jan 1975
  • Australian, 21 Sept 1974
  • Catholic Leader, 13 Oct 1974.

Citation details

Michael Uhr, 'Uhr, Sir Clive Wentworth (1903–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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