Dr George Cleghorn was a medical doctor and a philanthropist who offered health treatment to the poor for free. He concerned himself with welfare of the people, from the way mental health patients were received and accommodated, to the establishment of a gymnasium and swimming pool in Blenheim, to the Marlborough Cricket Association and football club.
Born in 1850, Dr Cleghorn trained at London's St Thomas' Hospital before emigrating to New Zealand in 1876. He was appointed medical officer to the new Wairau Hospital in July 1878, where he stayed for more than 20 years. During that time, Dr Cleghorn carried out procedures very forward-looking for their time, including what was believed to be New Zealand's first successful appendectomy. In 1893, he performed this surgery on New Zealand premier John Ballance, initially considered a success, but he died of peritonitis a few days later. Dr Cleghorn was also one of the first surgeons in the colony to use antiseptics and do other complex abdominal operations.
Dr Cleghorn was appointed as the first president of the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association in 1897.
He moved to Whanganui in 1901, where he died the following year from angina.
The public of Blenheim felt strongly that Dr Cleghorn's memory be honoured and they did so by building the band rotunda that remains today in Market Place, central Blenheim.