Dr Marjorie Lyon

1922 Collegian | Deceased 1975

Dr Marjorie Lyon: front row, left

As the first MLC girl to graduate into medicine, Marjorie Lyon was a trail blazer in women's achievements, and also a brilliant student. She completed her medical degree in Sydney in 1928 and then qualified as a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Marjorie also gained additional qualifications in tropical medicine. However, when she sat her medical exams in Edinburgh, she marked her papers 'M.J. Lyon' as she was aware that if the examiners knew a woman was sitting the test, they would have immediately failed her.

She is credited with saving many lives during the World War II, particularly in prison camps in Sumatra. Marjorie was taken prisoner after the ship she was travelling on a ship was sunk in waters near Indonesia. Although she was injured, Marjorie saved the life of her friend, Dr Elsie Crowe. She chose to stay with the injured who survived the sinking ship and was interned as a prisoner of war. She assumed medical responsibility for approximately 50 British and 2,500 Dutch women and children for more than three years.

Marjorie was working in Malaya in 1942 as the resident physician to the Ladies of the Household of the Sultan of Johor when the Japanese invaded Malaya. She ensured that all patients were transported to Singapore before fleeing by boat.

In a letter home, soon after the war, she wrote: "We were always short of water and sanitation and sometimes of food and light, and we were always grossly over-crowded, but things were not consistently bad until the last year."

Marjorie also wrote of her rescue: "Once we were in British hands we were overwhelmed with kindness. Everyone we met treated us with a special gentleness, as if we were friends recently bereaved, and we were put up at the Raffles Hotel, fed like fighting cocks, and issued with everything the Army had that they thought we might want. I have never met such universal benevolence."

She was awarded an OBE for her contribution to detainees and internees at the prisoner of war camps.

Dr Marjorie Lyon returned to Perth working in a private practice and then as a medical officer with the WA Education Department. She died in 1975.