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Sunday Tasmanian - October 22 2006

Heart-warming stories By Christopher Bantick

It is not going too far to say that Frank Madill is a man of many careers. He has been a general practitioner in Launceston's northern suburbs and, while doing this, ran a romney sheep stud.
He was also a politician. After his election to State parliament in 1986, he rose to be a minister in 1992 and speaker in 1996 before retiring from Parliament in 2000.
Until he became a minister, Madill practised medicine part-time, which he continues to do today while lecturing at the University of Tasmania and the Maritime College.
Madill's first book, If You Faint, Fall Backwards, was a cornucopia of stories from his medical days together with reflections on the personal relationships he formed with other people as he cared for them.
It All Comes Back to Sheep! Farming: Warts and All is the second volume of his memoirs.
Madill has a fine sense of simply telling a memorable story.
He is a little like British vet turned author James Herriot in how he melds the observations and practice of farming with the people he meets.
There is the same Herriot kindness and understated empathy with those about him.
While the book is, on the surface, about farming at Barrow View outside of Launceston, the book is much more.
An example is the tenderness he shows and the sympathy for those he encounters on his medical rounds.
His chapter simply titled "Lil" tells the story of a diminutive woman with a "huge heart".
Lil has an alcoholic son. Madill captures the mother and son emotional interdependance with fitting gentleness while illuminating Lil's selfless generousity. It is a story to make you weep.
Then there is the story he tells against himself as a new farmer and contracting shepp pox, or "Orf". It is an amusing moment which underscores Madill's sense of sardonic.
But it is when Madill blends his own stuttering early attempts at farming with his honest self assessment that the book has a kind of innocence and openness.
This is a book that welcomes us to share a rich life marked out of tears and laughter.
The many characters well evoked in Madill's reminiscences add to the sheer enjoyment of what is an excellent, fluent read.
Whether they may be wallaby shooters or Herbie who manages sheep without a dog, they all leave us with a lasting impression.
Madill is a natural storyteller and this book while edifying the spirit, rewards, readers with a warm confidence in what it means to embrace life to the full.
Coat Rack
Blood Pressure Monitor
Bradys Kennel