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The Launceston Examiner - Friday, April 8 2005

Madill's life, Frankly speaking By Alison Andrews


Extrovert former Tasmanian politician and general practitioner Frank Madill was 15 when he received his first medical training.
"The local GP where I grew up was also a surgeon - he was a widower and I was without a father and so he looked out for me," Dr Madill said.
"When I was just a boy, about 15 he asked me if I would like to come to the hospital and see him operate and I was very keen.
Young Frank Madill didn't realise at the time he'd just heard the quote that was to become the title of his first book.
If You Faint, Fall Backwards! Medicine: Warts and All!, by Frank Madill, will be launched officially, in Launceston, tonight - and there lies another Madill story.
"Old Harry Cooper is going to do the launch for me, my brother is coming over from Melbourne, too; I only have one brother," Dr Madill said.
"He and Harry are old Mates - in fact some of Harry's early shots (for his TV vet's show) are filmed in my brother's surgery."
During a long Tasmania political career and an even longer career as a GP, Dr Madill was renowned for his stories.
So he was surprised when he finally sat down to write the reminiscinces of an interesting life about two years ago at how hard it was to transfer the stories to paper.
His daughter Christine Couche, a doctor of Literature rather than medicine, said that her father's first attempts were scientific, stilted and sterile.
As her father's literary editor, she gradually coaxed the famous Madill stories on to the paper so that the 300 pages have become a delightful social history - the humorous and often heart wrenching experiences of a Tasmanian GP.
He was prompted to start when his mother - his only link to his father died when he was young - had a stroke from which she didn't recover enough to tell him stories of his own childhood and before.
"I thought that I'd write something about 200 pages long but once I started it just got bigger and bigger and I was up to about 450 pages before I knew it," Dr Madill said.
With help from Christine, it finished a manageable 320 with sketches by local artist Josie Riches and a cover and lay-out designed by the writer.
The hardest stories to tell were the most personal about meeting and marrying his wife Linda, Dr Madill said.
"Other people's stories were much easier to tell," he said.
Like the one about Bob Brown, the future Greens leader who came to work at Dr Madill's nothern suburbs practice as a young locum from Victoria, completing his rounds on a push bike which he also later rode to and from his home at Liffey.
Dr Madill says, in If You Faint, Fall Backwards! that it was a warm Sunday afternoon when his partner in the practice, Brian Driver, pulled up outside his Egan St home, jumped out and rushed across the lawn to his startled fellow GP.
"We're ruined," he (Dr Driver) gasped, red in the face. "the practice is ruined."
"Were going to be ruined," Brian went on, waving his hands in the air. "Brownie has gone to the Examiner and told them he is a homosexual."
"Good grief," thought Dr Madill, "our Dr Bob Brown?"
Both, the practice and Dr Brown successfully survived the startling 1970s disclosure, as both history and Dr Madill have revealed.
 
 
 
The Examiner - Madill's life, frankly speaking
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