The life of a man who gave almost half a century to Goulburn dentistry will be celebrated at a funeral service on Wednesday.
Dr Reginald Douglas Dryden MacCulloch, popularly known as Doug, passed away at Warrigal Aged Care Facility on October 22. He was ninety-six.
He was well known for his no nonsense style and a level of professionalism borne of his era.
As his son, Robert, put it this week, he believed in doing everything possible to save people's teeth.
He was drawn to the profession from an early age but his road was far from easy. Born Reginald Barnett at Manly Hospital on November 5, 1924, his parents divorced when he was 10 months old. The young Doug spent the early part of his childhood with his mother, Emily, in a Randwick unit, opposite the racecourse.
For reasons unknown to the family, but possibly due to the "stigma" of being a single mother, he went to live with a friend of Emily's at Mount Druitt. Tatt Sharelle ran a general store and doted on Doug, who had fond memories of his time there.
He attended Colyton Primary School at Mount Druitt, Penrith High and then won a scholarship to the selective Fort Street High School.
When he was about 12, his mother married pastoralist Ian MacCulloch and Doug adopted the surname of the man he came to love and respect.
Rejecting his stepfather's encouragement to pursue a life on the land, at age 16 he was the second youngest student to ever enroll in dentistry at Sydney University.
"He just loved assisting people as much as possible," Robert said of his father's choice.
Too young to practice, he went to work at a dental hospital where he met Patricia Greig, who in turn introduced him to her younger sister, Isabella (Bet), the bursar's secretary at Newington College.
Doug and Bet married in 1950 but not before securing his surgical qualifications at Chicago's North West University. During his time there he operated on victims of the Japanese bombings and the holocaust.
On his return and despite the prospect of practicing with one of Sydney's most respected dentists, he and Bet moved to Goulburn to raise their family in a place "they could call home." They firstly lived in Kinghorne Street, then Faithfull Street, while raising four children - John, Robert, Ian and Tony, all of whom succeeded in their respective fields.
Dr MacCulloch initially bought a practice in the now demolished Esanda Bank chambers in Montague Street and started to build relationships in the community.
"He and mum were newly married when they arrived in Goulburn and didn't know how they would be greeted or accepted," Robert said.
"They never looked back. After nearly 50 years practicing in Goulburn, Dad said he was able to predict what possible dentistry problems people would have because he (treated) their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents."
He made firm friends with two other highly regarded dentists, John Denney and Dr Brian Keating.
In 1970, Dr MacCulloch moved his practice to Bourke Street, opposite the current Civic Centre, due to the Esanda Bank's demolition and construction of the ANZ Bank.
Cognizant that most were scared of dental visits, he created a relaxing atmosphere with music and comfortable Japanese made dental chairs looking onto an enclosed garden.
Trish Cummins* joined the practice as a dental assistant at age 16 in 1979.
"...Matching this setting was a sense of pride and a high expectation of skill and professionalism from all staff.
"Dr MacCulloch was a gifted clinician who strove and achieved perfection in his field. He was very much respected and appreciated, not only by his many loyal patients and families in Goulburn and surrounding district, but also by his fellow professional colleagues and community."
She said employees were made to feel part of an integral team and were expected to uphold these qualities.
"If ever there was a lapse of focus to distinguish between right and wrong, we were promptly reminded, nobody is indispensable, nurse!' His appointment book was always full. Mrs MacCulloch was also part of this team and would call in every Friday to pay wages," Mrs Cummins said.
Good friend of the couple, Chris Grant, said early in his career Dr MacCulloch saw the need to help those less fortunate. He was Smith Family president and provided free treatment for children in local orphanages and homes, at the same time raising his own family.
"Doug MacCulloch will be long remembered as a legendary figure in Goulburn's history," Mr Grant said.
"He was actively involved in Freemasons, rugby union, civic affairs, the (famous) Poet's society, gardening and organisations too numerous to mention. Doug was dedicated to his followings.
"Together with his late cherished wife Bet, they raised a family of four boys, conveying in them a strong commitment for personal, achievement and civic pride....Doug was a gentleman, well deserving of the highest accolades Goulburn city can bestow."
Dr MacCulloch assisted with the Rugby Club's purchase in Market Street, became president and was made an honorary life member. He enjoyed horse racing just as keenly and was a member of the Australia Jockey Club for 76 years.
"My father absolutely loved everything about Goulburn," Robert said.
"...He enjoyed the humour and camaraderie he witnessed through his extensive friendships."
Dr MacCulloch retired from practice in the early 1990s.
He moved into Warrigal Aged Care Facility four years ago following a fall. 'Bet' followed soon after and in 2018 the couple sold their Faithfull Street home.
Robert said his mother's death in 2019 triggered his father's health decline. He died peacefully at Warrigal on October 22.
The family said they would most remember their father for his independence, courage, generosity, integrity, dignity, trust, commitment and indeed, "life itself."
Dr MacCulloch's funeral service will be held at Craigs' Hill Crematorium, 63 Middle Arm Road at 11am Wednesday. Only fully vaccinated people can attend.
- Trish Cummins is the sister of the author.
- With thanks to Robert MacCulloch for his assistance with this obituary.
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