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Biographical entry Bruce, Peter Thomas (1931 - 2015)

FRCS 1959.

26 February 1931
Vienna, Austria


Peter Bruce was born Vienna 26 February 1931. He arrived in Australia in 1939 with his parents Paul and Mizzi Bruce. Peter's grandfather, Richard Bruchsteiner, was born in Hungary but moved to Vienna where he established a specialist printing works. Paul became manager of the business. In the aftermath of the Anschluss, Paul realised that with Jewish ancestry he could not remain in Vienna, and arranged for his family to emigrate to Australia. They left Austria in 1939, and arrived in Melbourne when Peter was 7 years old. They were unable to take money with them, but were able to send a container of some of their possessions to Australia.

Peter's father was a specialist in printing containers and packaging, both metal and cardboard, and readily found work in Melbourne. He established his own business that eventually, through mergers, grew into Containers Ltd. He was a director of Containers Ltd and became a generous supporter of benevolent organizations, including Musica Viva, of which he became President.

His parents Paul and Mizzi had a love of music that Peter inherited. Peter had an enormous knowledge of the music of Europe in the classical period, Viennese composers in particular. Peter was a radio presenter for many years for Melbourne's classical radio station 3MBS, and later Sydney's 2MBS, where his knowledge of music of all periods was put to good use.

Peter was educated at Geelong Grammar School. He studied Medicine at Melbourne University and graduated MB BS in 1955. He was a resident at Royal Melbourne Hospital for one year, 1956-1957.He worked his passage to London in 1957 as a ship's doctor and did postgraduate study in London, Vienna and Liverpool between 1957 and 1961.

He passed the Primary Fellowship examination in London in November 1957. In 1958 he worked as House Surgeon at Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital, London, under Mr Alan Hunt and Mr David Wallace. In 1959 he worked at the Hammersmith Hospital under Professor Ian Aird. In November 1959 he passed the Final FRCS examination in London.

In 1959 he obtained a British Council Scholarship to work at University of Vienna under Professor R Ubelhör, and enjoyed a return to the city of his birth, for 6 months in 1959-60.

In 1960-61 he worked at Royal Liverpool Infirmary as Registrar to Professor Charles Wells. In 1961-62 he worked as a Fellow at UCLA, Los Angeles under Professor Willard Goodwin.

He then returned to Melbourne, and passed the FRACS examination in Melbourne in October 1962 and was appointed to the staff of Royal Melbourne Hospital as assistant Urologist in 1962, a position held until 1973. He was appointed urologist at Sandringham Hospital in 1964, and Queen Victoria Hospital in 1974.

Peter developed interest in bladder augmentation by colocystoplasty and published a number of papers and book chapters on this subject. He travelled widely and presented numerous papers at urological conferences.

Peter had an irrepressible enthusiasm for life. His hallmarks were a cigar, a safari suite, classical music blaring and a ready smile.

He had many interests - music, camping in the bush, duck shooting, fishing, good food, bridge, opera, tennis, farming, and travel, in Australia and overseas. In particular, he enjoyed friendships, both old and new, and was an enthusiastic host. For example, he was a member at Kooyong Tennis Club, and he hosted young visiting tennis players for the Australian Open, such as Bjorn Borg.

He had a lifelong love of the countryside. In the late 1970's he purchased a farm at Wandong near Kilmore. Eventually, in 1985, he gave up city practice and settled at Shepparton, where he continued to practice urology and was better able to indulge in his love of country life.

Peter hosted a most enjoyable urology conference with his 3rd wife, Constance, at their home in Shepparton in October 1991 and the theme of the meeting was "All the Rivers Run". He always carried a gun in the back of his car, in case an opportunity arose to drive off the road into the bush, to look for game! The Howard government gun buy back put an end to this, however.

Peter married Susan-Gaye Anderson, a well-known television presenter, at St John's Church Toorak in 1963. They had two children, Melissa and Justin. They divorced in 1973. Peter remarried Carlin Munro and together they cared for Peter's and Carlin's children.

To his friends and family he was known as "a true gentleman, admired surgeon, accomplished farmer, romantic lover, proud father, loving grandfather, skilled handyman, classical music aficionado, passionate art collector, loyal and exciting friend, and a kind compassionate, forgiving, enthusiastic and inspiring man."

Peter spent the final years of his life in Sydney, where he ticked off another wish from his bucket list by opening a B&B at Pearl Beach with his then partner Kathryn Davies. During his life Peter underwent many surgical operations including two major spinal operations, but he continued an active life, including playing tennis well into his retirement. Although various illnesses finally robbed him of his freedom and independence he retained full recognition of everyone he knew and loved, and a cheeky sense of humor, through to the end

After his funeral in Sydney in early March, which celebrated his love of music, enthusiastic character, achievements and popularity, his children took his ashes to a property that was equally between Sydney and Melbourne, one of Peter's favorite spots beside his beloved Murray River, where they were scattered on the waters.

Another memorable Celebration of Life ceremony was held in Melbourne on March 29 2015, where his friends and family spoke of his life, and children, grandchildren and stepchildren played and sang a musical tribute to his life.

John Wheelahan

Sources used to compile this entry: [Republished by kind permission of the President and Council of The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons from In Memoriam (].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England