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Pharmacy with stories to tell

An iconic retail outlet in the centre of Omeo recently shut down without fuss or fanfare after nearly 100 years standing prominently on the main strip.

It was a quiet departure, which did not reflect the part that the Advantage Pharmacy Omeo Depot played in the rich history of the town. The depot has survived multiple bushfires, scandals and a murder mystery, which has since been turned into a famous historical novel, Lottie.

When Ethel Griggs died suddenly in January 1928, rumours about her husband’s blatant affair with Lottie, the lovely 20-year-old daughter of local grazier and Methodist elder, were rife.

So rife that despite a doctor’s certificate suggesting natural causes, police ordered Ethel Grigg’s body to be exhumed and the young mother of 11-month-old baby Alwyn was found to have died from arsenic poisoning. Her husband, the Reverend Ron Griggs, the district’s Methodist minister, was charged with her cruel and heartless murder.

However, he eventually got away with the crime. The poison was inadvertently supplied by the then pharmacist of the depot, FJ Perry. Move forward to the 1930s and a young pharmacist moved to the area to locum. The pharmacist, Gordon Bradbury, fell in love with a local girl, whom he married and both ran the pharmacy into the 1990s.

Bradbury was a muchloved, characterful and generousman who would bendover backwards to help anyoneout, man, woman or beast! He was a pharmacist who would make up potion sand concoctions that not only cured and remediated the local community but also the local farm animals.

It wasn’t uncommon to see farmers with their livestock and pets being taken around the back of the pharmacy to be cured by Gordon Bradbury.

He also ran the pharmacy through the bushfire of 1939 where it was damaged and saw significant changes in how the pharmacy sector operated with legislation reigning in some of his more alternative practices.

After Bradbury retired it was hard to find another pharmacist to replace him in the remote town, so it was turned into a depot, offering a same day prescription service.

Jennifer Carol, Lorna Peterson, Sandra Crisp and Sonia Lawlor all worked in the depot as pharmacy assistants at different times; faxing scripts down to Advantage Pharmacy Bairnsdale, with medicines being delivered by bus on a daily basis.

For over-the-counter medicines, the team would call Iain Cartney at Bairnsdale and put their customers on the phone with him to discuss ailments and solutions to health issues.

In 2017 the pharmacy looked a lot squeakier clean than its slightly foreboding past. However, the old style shop fittings were a quirky reminder of the rich history of the pharmacy centred firmly at the heart of the community, with fond memories had by many as it closed its doors for the last time.

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The Omeo pharmacy of FJ Perry inadvertently supplied poison for a murder in the early 1900s.

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Gordon Bradbury ran the pharmacy through the bushfire of 1939 where it was damaged and saw significant changes in how the pharmacy sector operated.

Published on 4 December 2017 on the Bairnsdale Advertiser