In January 1878, an emergency meeting was held at Bulli as residents worried that despite living in a growing mining community, they had only one general practitioner who visited once a week.
The meeting, held in the Bulli Royal Hotel, became so heated that "order was out of the question", said the Mercury.
Businessman John Wynn opened proceedings by reading a "long communication" from Dr Lyons, the town's only doctor, who commented on the unfavourable circumstances under which he took on the position of medical attendant at Bulli Colliery.
Dr Lyons said that at the time of being engaged, the number of miners was few and the coal trade was in a depressed state. But he "laboured on with them, without a murmur of complaint, until the times had improved".
When prospects had turned a corner, the miners repaid him by seeking out a resident medical man.
Dr Lyons said he was unable to live in the town, but offered to open a druggist shop with an assistant.
While the offer of a pharmacy pleased the meeting, the doctor's initial statements did not "go down at all well with the majority present".
Resident Michael Singleton advised the matter be "put into the market at once, and advertise for a district doctor to reside among themselves".
Mr Singleton said that under the Dr Lyons' arrangement, when any of their families took ill outside his visiting hours, they had to travel to Wollongong for a doctor, risking the chance they would not find the GP at home.
The meeting erupted into heated talks between those who believed Dr Lyon's offer should be accepted and those who said the doctor "had not done his duty".
A ballot was taken, with the majority voting in favour of Dr Lyons' offer.
Within two months, Dr Lyons had secured Dr Hammond Smith as an assistant. Dr Smith attended patients at "Coal-Cliff" two days a week and in town on Mondays and Fridays.
"So far, at least, the people at Bulli appear to be highly pleased with him . . . for his sake it is to be hoped the popularity with become permanent," the Mercury said.
Picture: Bulli township in 1894. The local citizens had trouble attracting the services of a permanent doctor during the 1870s. Credit: FROM THE COLLECTIONS OF THE WOLLONGONG CITY LIBRARY AND THE ILLAWARRA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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