Friday 30 January 2015

Peter Benson: Memories of a Long and Wonderful Life- Part 2

Not long after Peter Benson graduated from dentistry he set up a business in Liverpool. While he was there Peter set up a small branch practice in Ingleburn, renting a premises in Ingleburn Council Chambers. That was next to the Ingleburn Hotel where Woolworths in now. There was a baby health centre on one side of the hall and Peter's dental surgery on the other.

       Ingleburn Council Chambers in Ingleburn Road 1917-1936

Peter became interested in hypnosis after trying it on a patient and finding it worked. One day he demonstrated this to a group of sceptical dentists at a meeting at the Western Suburbs Dental Society in Strathfield. Peter explains: "I said to some of my dental colleagues I don’t need to use any anaesthetic these days I just wave my hand. They said I was having them on. I said that I would give a demonstration. I took a patient down from Liverpool who was a very good hypnotic patient who needed an abscessed tooth out. I took my nurse, a lass named Shirley who was also a very good hypnotic subject. This was an all-male thing in those days and if they would go to tell a ribald joke, they would say we can’t tell that Shirley is present. I would say “go to sleep Shirley” and Shirley would go to sleep and they could tell their joke. Anyway, I said here is a man who needs a tooth out, it is an abscessed lower molar. I will hypnotise him, so can I have a volunteer who will extract this tooth. They hummed and hawed and in the end, a fellow said that he would do it. We had facilities there to wash up. He came and swung on this tooth which was quite difficult to take out. The patient Keith Coppin was his name looked up and said 200 dentists here and no bugger can take my tooth out. By that time the tooth was out and over with. That was my introduction to hypnosis." 

For Peter the principle of hypnosis is that you don't have to be in a deep trance to not feel pain so much. If you hypnotised everyone though, it would be very time consuming. He said that it would make the whole business a lot more comfortable.

One of Peter 's patients was former long serving Campbelltown Mayor Clive Tregear. Once he suggested to Clive that he was Captain Scott down in the Antarctic. He immediately went blue with the cold and shiver and his dog would come past and he would say get that husky out of here.

Another famous patient of Peter's was former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. "On one occasion he had bent down to tie his shoelace and broke one of his front teeth,’’ Peter said. "I asked him how urgent it was and he said ‘well I’ve got to speak in Parliament tomorrow and it wouldn’t look very good if I did it like this’, so I made him a quick crown." He said Mr Whitlam was a "clever fellow" who always remembered the names of his children and inquired after them. "He would make an appointment for 10am and at exactly 10am he would walk through the door". "I’d have local hairdressers who would show up 20 minutes late, but here’s the Prime Minister of Australia, never late once."

He also was required to treat victims of the Milperra Massacre in 1984. "One particular fellow had some of his front tooth shot off and the roots were still there, so I had to extract them. I had to go to court later on to give evidence about the extent of the damage."

Peter retired from dentistry at the age of 75. He had worked in Liverpool for 53 years. Besides dentistry he is also interested in horticulture, swimming and has been an active member of the scouts and the Lodge. He was made Pioneer Citizen of the Year in Liverpool and a Companion of the Order of Liverpool.

Peter's interview in full is available on Campbelltown Library's Local Information website.

Written by Andrew Allen

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