‘To finance my medical studies, I helped a restaurant. I had left home when I was about sixteen, and teamed up with a Russian friend Kyrill Wypow who was 15 years older than I was. I had put together a bit of money from building fishing rods, and screen printing, and all sorts of other things: I was a bit of an entrepreneur. We started a restaurant called ‘The Pelican Tavern’ down on St Paul’s Terrace. It was a tricky life because I had often went to the markets at 5 in the morning, help with the business, go to lectures, and study at night. I’ve never slept more than about 5 hours a night all my life. (It’s still a misery for my wife, Eileen, at times!)
‘Carl was my elder brother: he was eight years older than I was. He was a boating man always. Carl and I both went to an auction of land at Kooringal on Moreton Island. The prices were so good that we bought two blocks there. I urged Carl to set up his medical practice there, so he paid $1800 for one block and $1670 for the other. He started a practice there, and I started going back seeing people at Amity again, but only at the weekends, and that lasted for years and years. In our spare time we’d visit each other and go fishing. There were a lot of kerosene fridges at Amity after the electricity arrived, and standing on the foreshore was an old windmill which I had rigged up with an old International truck generator and that sent a bit of power into the place to recharge the batteries. Once the power came on at Amity the fridges and the windmill went over to Kooringal. I had a big punt and as long as people gave me enough money for fuel, I’d bring the fridges over for them. Carl’s son, Peter, put in a nice generator there. Carl did a couple of amazing saves of people’s lives by being able to call up the helicopter. By that time, I was only seeing the odd patients at Amity or those occasionally coming in from Dunwich. I was still claimed as a fellow soul by the Aboriginal families such as the Coolwells, and some of the Ruskas. Every time I was in town my good friend of many years Emma Coolwell would rush up to me and give me a kiss and a hug – much to some people’s amazement.
‘Although I had brought my family up to Brisbane from Amity, I never really left my medical practice on the island. I’d go back for a week sometimes, but I really felt worn out. The Tazi mine people, wanted me to be a full-time doctor there, and were going to give me a surgery at Dunwich. They wanted me to do all their staff medicals as well as being a GP. Dunwich was coming on because the barges had started, but Frank Carroll had bitten the bullet and said he would give it a go, and he was very successful. I had started the practice at the office at the Forbes’ place – Elkorn Lodge on the beach at the end of Birch Street, next to the old Post Office – I still have the sign: my brass plate and the hours. I’d go down either in my boat or on the barge on a Friday and come back on a Monday morning. Then I’d go to work (in Brisbane) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before returning to Stradbroke on Friday. The grape vine there was absolutely phenomenal. The islanders knew exactly how long it would take me to get from Dunwich (where the barge landed) to Amity; whether I was on the barge; and they knew when the boat was late; but as soon as I got to the surgery the phone would ring ‘Hello doc. I only need a script’.
‘Our house at Amity was called ‘Didjabringabiralong’ It looked like an Aboriginal word and people would say ‘How do you pronounce it?’ It was the Gregory’s old house which they had bought in 1931. The house was built in 1926, which I bought and added to. It grew like topsy. We also owned the place behind it. I sold up both and we moved down the beach a bit to a site more protected from erosion by rocks placed on the foreshore, and now known as “shoreline armouring”. In the shoreline management plan, all those rocks are illegal under the rules of the Maritime Services (then Harbours and Marine), and EHA (Evironment and Heritage Agency). It has now been proven to work with the aid of a remarkable man called Konrad Beinssen, a very wonderful marine and littoral scientist. He is now a world authority on beach front erosion in many parts of the world. He has discovered what we call a slide-flow breach is a change in the patterning of the slope of the sand, as in the Rainbow Channel. If you dig a hole at the bottom of the slope it puts the sand at a different pitch as the sand starts falling into it, and it keeps falling into it, until it makes this enormous fan shaped hole which is pouring out into the deep water, until it hits something that stops it. The boss of littoral science from the Netherlands, called Dick Masbergen, came out and verified Konrad’s discovery. We have now stopped the erosion at Amity. We invited the whole of the Redland Council over and about 9 or 10 came. They had lunch and I said I would stand the Mayor on a rock that we had put in 42 years before. They couldn’t believe me because they’d paid $50,000 to a littoral engineer to produce a report that said Amity is doomed. This meant that if your house was so many metres near the waterfront, you either had to knock if down or take it away. Which is rubbish. Anyway the Councillors came over and wanted to know how long this thriving frontal protection had been going on! They were absolutely astounded. This is a problem with many Government Departments, who make decisions without ever having physically observed the problems themselves.’