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An Australian in search of her Indian great grandfather

Tracy Harris Source: Tracy Harris

Tracy Harris says Mohammed Fuadledeen Leeker who was born in Punjab and practiced as a fake 'Indian doctor' in Adelaide was her great grandfather.

After reading the article, titled “Fake ‘Indian doctors’ in Australia: a brief history,” Tracy Harris from South Australia contacted SBS Hindi.

Tracy told us that one of the fake ‘Indian doctor’ Mohammed Fuadledeen Leeker aka M. F. Leeker was her great grandfather.

Amit Sarwal’s research on fake ‘Indian doctors’ in Australia conducted at Deakin University shows that Mohammed had some years of training in India under his father and practiced for almost twelve years in Adelaide as an ‘Indian doctor.’

Mohammed Fuadledeen Leeker, or just Mohammed as Tracy likes to call him, was born in Punjab (then British India) most probably in 1873. 

Tracy says “no records of the ship he arrived on are known or where he arrived.”

According to information in the district Goal records of Broken Hill (1901) where he spent four months by remission of paying a 50 pound fine under the new Medical Act NSW, Mohammed arrived Australia in the year 1896.

Mohammed was also one of the first four cases tried under the new medical Act.

Tracy says he married Mary Ann Sellick in 1903 and they lived in Laura, Moonta, Kadina, and Pt. Pirie areas of South Australia.

Here at least six children were born to them but three died in infancy.

Later, Mohammed and Mary divorced and three children were sent to Industrial School.

Tracy says that her grandmother (Irene Jean) “stayed at the Industrial School until she was about 13 or 14 and then went to Lucindale to keep house and be a companion to a Lady of 73 years. “

Here, in 1928, Irene met John Benjamin Davy Dening (Tracy’s grandpa) and they got married in 1930.

Tracy’s grandmother had eight children – Roy (Tracy’s father), Marion, John, Arthur, Bruce, Ross, Lorraine, and Lyal.

Tracy’s says Fran (her granny) did not speak about Mohammed to her family at all. 

“When her father died in 1941 Fran was traced by the Public Trustees. This was the first time Dad had heard anything about his mother’s family.  Again when her brother died she was traced as next of kin,” she adds.

Today, the family have no photos of Mohammed, Mary Ann or Fran’s siblings. 

Tracy says “Dad told the story that Fran burnt a lot of photos when he was young.”

But all secrets have a way of coming out.

Tracy says - “Dad found out about Fran being in an orphanage when he met someone who was in the same place. Fran was angry when the family started tracing her history and would not tell us anything.  She always thought that her father abandoned her and had a fairy-tale image of her mother.”

“My dad always questioned her because he was dark skinned at grew up sitting with the aboriginal children in school and refused service in a pub,” she adds. 

Tracy’s dad – Roy – passed away with a lot of questions unanswered about his ancestry.

Tracy with the help of family, friends and the Australian Indian Historical Society Inc. has tried to fill in some of the gaps and information on Mohammed.

“I have been in contact with Crystal Jordan (of AIHS) who has been very helpful in filling in some of the gaps in my ancestry. Especially relating to my Grandmothers brother who served in WWII and great grandfathers 'court appearance’ and fines for 'fake doctoring' in Broken Hill,” she adds.

Research shows that after 1929, there are no more advertisements from Mohammed in relation to his work.

Tracy says that the official death certificate shows that Mohammed died in Adelaide on 12th January 1941 at the age of 82.

She says - “My family would love to fill in as many gaps as we can.  Any information on when Mohammed arrived would be great and any other family out there would be fantastic to get in contact with.  Even the other children Mary Ann had – they are family and it would be interesting to hear what happened to Mary Ann in her marriage to Richard Southwell.”

“If I can piece together a strong timeline for g grandfather this will honour Dad's memory and give some answers to his siblings still with us,” she adds.

Today, the family is looking for all the necessary help they can get in knowing who was Mohammed Fuadledeen Leeker – the person, the father and the great grandfather?

To know more about Tracy Harris' search of Mohammed, listen to her conversation with Amit Sarwal.