BRIAN MAXWELL MADILL #72
|Max was born "somewhere in Perth" -he's never known where exactly - on September 6th 1932, and was named|
by his adoptive parents, Tom and Linda Madill, pioneer farmers, of Corrigin. Max wasn't aware of his adoption
until very much later in life, when first daughter Debra was born, though it's now believed the good folk of Corrigin
had an inkling of the truth. Tom and Linda eventually retired from farming and moved to Hollywood village but
the outbreak of war saw the family return to Corrigin - there were three farms and several family businesses in
the town to be run, and virtually all the able bodied men over eighteen had signed up and left. That pretty much
spelt the end of formal schooling for Max; correspondence schooling was available and it was probably intended that Max should pursue this, but on a farm there's always plenty to do and farm kids are expected to make a contribution. A natural aptitude for things mechanical saw a very happy Max working on all manner of farm machinery, plus helping out at Hill Bros.
Avon Gas Products where gas producers for cars and trucks were manufactured, the latter encompassing all
facets of metal work. The young man had his first ride on a motor bike too and LIKED IT! even though the available
mounts were only "old bombs"; a 500 Ariel belonging to a mate probably the best of them. The
family holidayed in Albany when Max was sixteen. Max and Tom were sitting on their verandah
awaiting the cooling effects of the "Albany Doctor" when Max, as young men are wont to do pulled
out a packet of cigarettes and said "Think 1'11 join you in a smoke" "Fine," said Tom, "but don't
muck around with those things, have one of my cigars, a proper man's smoke." "Oh, thanks" said
Max lighting up but soon found to his dismay it wasn't as nice as he'd expected. Father insisted he
persevere and finish what he'd begun, Max did his best but wound up violently sick and never
again felt the desire to smoke. The war ended and surviving servicemen and women returned to
pick up their lives from where they'd left them. Tom and Linda were able to resume their retirement
in Perth, Max found work at Tough Engineering as a fitter and turner thanks to his learning during
the long, hard and generally unpaid time in Corrigin. In recognition of his efforts, Tom said he'd
finance a motor cycle if Max so wished, yes please! but mother, a somewhat old fashioned hospital
matron said she'd "put an axe through it if you do!" To which Tom, absolutely out of character
replied "you do, and I'll put an axe through you!" An LE Velocette was duly purchased -maybe the
choice of such a docile machine went some way toward placating Linda. Ken George offered more
interesting work than Tough's so Max became rouseabout for a couple of years, especially
enjoying riding the Indian 10/12 outfit delivery vehicle. Mortlocks bad a similar vehicle, a Harley
Davidson - naturally races up Wellington Street became almost daily occurrences. The Indian
developed a vicious speed wobble at 30 mph but once above that behaved itself. About this time
the trusty LE was traded for a Matchless 500. Winterbottoms, Austin and Chrysler agents in the
Terrace offered work, and Max, with his varied mechanical knowledge and his easy manner with
people quickly became service advisor. His eye, always (and still!) appreciative of a pretty girl fell
upon a most delightful young typist working there, Shirley McDonald and the pair became friends,
eventually Shirley asking Max if he'd like to accompany her to a friend's wedding, but Max's mother
ruled this out demanding Max's company that day. Shirley was cared for by her much older sister
and as the friendship overcame mother's efforts and became romance, Max had to very quickly
build a sidecar for the Matchless - Big Sister forbade riding pillion but the sidecar was acceptable.
Of course, once out of Big Sister's sight, it was straight on to the pillion, so much more cuddly! The
Winterbottoms job was good, more so with the Shirley factor, but Max was restless and sought a
truck driving job for the experience, though he'd driven numerous old trucks in Corrigin. "Suppose
you think you can drive" said his prospective employer. "Show me the truck and I'll drive it" was the
confident reply so Max was led to an elderly Diamond T, and his competence in this rugged device
with it's evil gearbox saw him hired on the spot with the promise of a good truck the following day.
Driving was OK for a while but Winterbottoms was far more interesting, so Max returned there as
test driver at the end of the assembly line. Austin and Morris were assembled on the same line
causing little slip-ups like the Austin A30 which came through with a Moms engine - only the rocker
cover needed changing! An Austin truck off the line had problems so Max, lying beneath on a
creeper, removed the sump and asked his off sider, a red head whose name Max can't recall, to
remove the ignition lead, select neutral, and hit the starter. Known for his slackness the red head,
perched on the front guard, hit the starter, the engine fired first hit and the truck took off. Red head
panicked and jumped off, Max desperately tried to get out but the front wheel ran over his foot.
Fortunately his military boots saved him from permanent damage, he had two weeks off and the
red head instantly became unemployed. These were far from boom times and Winterbottom
suffered with a general down turn in trade and had to prune staff. Sydney Anderson needed a
mechanic and found one in Max, who had great respect for his new boss and great liking for the
boss' MGTC race car which he drove on occasion. Anderson's suicide broke Max's heart, the
manager was a most unpleasant fellow so Max resigned. The Matchless was now replaced by a
Triumph Thunderbird outfit, a near new combination which started a liking for Triumph Max has to
this day. Max and Shirley became engaged in 1952 and married in 1954. When Shirley, by now the
ledger machinist, asked management at Winterbottom for leave to marry she was told, "no, you
can't have time off for that!" so she found a job with Dunlop, and then gave notice at Winterbottom
only to be told "You can't leave! We were only joking, have whatever time off you need".
Unfortunately Shirley had signed a binding agreement at Dunlop, worked there and "hated every
minute of the jail-like atmosphere." Their first child Debra was born in 1958 followed by Linda in
1961. They bought the home in which they still live, in 1952, and promptly leased it out to help
finance the purchase. They lived for a time in a caravan courtesy of Uncle Keirle who ran a
caravan sales yard; the newly-weds helped out round the yard and Shirley remembers the huge
weight lifting those old van towbars.
Max now became Driver # 3 16 with the MTT driving trams, trolley and diesel buses, some of
which featured reverse action crash gearboxes which Max mastered easily, impressing Ted Doyle
the instructor who soon had Max as fellow instructor. Very late one night, Shirley, alone at home
with the kids due to Max's night shift, heard a noise in the garage so grabbed a hefty lump of wood
destined for the fireplace and, heart pounding, investigated. The "intruder" she nearly clobbered
was her dearly beloved, coming home late, having been forced onto the soft shoulder of the road
by an out-of-shape truck and jinker and his bus becoming thoroughly bogged. Adding insult to
injury, Max was stopped by police demanding to know his business at 1.30 a.m. In Anglo-Saxon
terms, an already irate Max told them! Eighteen years with Tramways provided very welcome long
service leave which the family of four made the best of, by circumnavigating Australia in a VW
Kombi camper, a wonderful experience lasting three months. Back to work and Max became final
checker of vehicles at Fremantle Ford dealer Mortlock's. One memorable day a blue Buckley's
Liquid Salvage truck pulled up in the street and a very scruffy individual alighted and approached
Max, asking quite searching questions about the dealership's quality control and vehicle
preparation; the scruffy gent was Mr Buckley himself, millionaire, he liked Max's answers and
bought six cars that day, including two G.T. Falcons. Bob Pilmer, a name well known in W.A.
motoring circles worked at Tramways and he and Max had talked of having their own business.
The pair formed a partnership and bought Car Protectors, in Myaree, a company which specialised
in undersealing vehicles and preparing many for the rigours of North-West service. Quality work
and good service ensured plenty of repeat business and a good income. The hard work came at a
cost though. Max had a medical, aged fifty and his blood pressure was sufficiently high the doctor
urged him to retire. Also, a Dutch gent had purchased a large are of Myaree industrial land which
included Car Protectors and planned to rebuild the area so was not renewing leases, causing
businesses to close or re-locate. Car Protectors chose the first and Max retired. Very fond
memories of Corrigin as a lad enticed the Madill family to attend the opening of that town's Pioneer
Museum. Max disliked back seat travel in cars due to a tendency toward car sickness, so when he
felt ill on the way down he assumed this to be the problem, nothing an early night wouldn't fix.
However he continued to feel "off", sought medical advice to be told he'd suffered a heart attack
and urgently needed a triple by-pass. The latter, and recuperation, complete, he was instructed by
a rather nice nurse to "run up these stairs, I'll be at the top holding a pillow, grab the pillow & give it
a big hug and we'll see how fit you are". Our hero raced up the stairs, said "bugger the pillow!",
gave the nurse a giant hug and was promptly assessed as ready for home. Club members noted
Max's energy levels seemed to have doubled subsequent to the operation. Retirement was great,
Max was able to devote his time to the numerous projects he had in mind, beginning with a replica
sidecar for his 1917 Harley Davidson. The chair started life as a sheet of panel steel, tin snipped to
the side profile, top and bottom welded in without distortion thanks to expertise gained at Hill
Brothers so long ago. So good was the end product Willie G. Davidson, offered considerable
dollars for it during his Australian visit; the offer was very happily received but politely declined. The
outfit was Max and Shirley's mount for the 1990 Overlander's trip, a most memorable adventure.
Another project involved shoe-homing a 1200cc Volkswagen engine into a 600cc Earles fork
equipped B.M.W. The engine, improved with twin carburettors proved too powerful for the B.M.W.
clutch so a Volkswagen clutch was fitted which required vacuum servo assistance to make it
useable. Then the differential developed a dental problem so a near-new Honda Gold Wing item
was grafted in. A trip for two across Australia and on to Tasmania, laden with camping gear
demonstrated the quality of the outfit, which currently sits in an Albany V.W. collection. Madill's
next door neighbour, his bedroom alongside Max's workshop didn't appreciate the often late night
work noise, so in the interests of neighbourly harmony Shirley would remove the garage fuse at 9
o'clock each night. Joining the V.M.C.C. was a good move too - so many friends there who'd
finished with competition riding hut still loved bikes. Max quickly became machine examiner and
when these had to be licenced by Police Max began his twenty plus years term as # 001. About
this time Madill's phone number was listed as that of the V.M.C.C. and for over twenty years Max
and Shirley answered thousands of calls. This very happy couple, in all the 52 years together have
had but one real argument and that one lasted a whole week! Shirley had understood Max to have
promised not to race again after they wed, but Max believed he'd made no such promise and for
that week the atmosphere was frigid. Ultimately they kissed and made up, which is why we argue
in the first place, and Max acquired a Triumph Tiger 500 and joined the Harley Club, riding in
scrambles without notable success bar one wet day everything felt right and he became a winner
at Heme Hill. Forrestfield speedway appealed to him also - it was kidney shaped and safer than a
dirt oval so Max ran an Ariel powered sidecar there for a couple of seasons, with Stan Dyson
assisting with mechanical matters. Billy McDermott rode a very compact, very twitchy Eso powered
device built in the Eastern states; Max used Ariel power, 14:l on alcohol, in a slightly longer than
fashionable, very stable chassis and the pair regularly did battle. One race had Max first into the
dog leg where he clipped a marker and upended the outfit blocking the track, but the engine being
fuel injected kept running so they were able to right the machine and blast off, beating a very
frustrated McDermott. Both these machines have regularly run in the Albany Hillclimb. Shirley
made life long friends with many of the bike people, and upon joining the V.M.C.C. was delighted
to find as members the Boyd, Clark, Richardson, and Clinton families.
Events at the Mt Brown circuit, built for the Harley Club were pretty social affairs, with a big
bonfire on Saturday night, and with spuds in the ashes then on Sunday, "Shirley's Kitchen" was
popular, with porridge and other breakfasts for all.
The only Harley scramble Max entered saw him first into the first comer only to be dumped off by
a charging Don Collins, breaking Max's collar bone and dislocating his arm. At hospital the matron
pulled the arm vigorously to re-locate it but hadn't checked for other injury; the collar bone suffered
more damage, and ever since, that arm can only lift to shoulder height.
Max by now was working for Kierle's contracting and building company and was told to take the
company's ancient and decrepit Navvy up Red Hill and look for gravel, necessary in building the
Starline Drive In. Max was sceptical, he's never looked for gravel before but sure enough found
some and began excavating. A few days later Mick, a contractor carting the gravel had a Commer
truck he kept pristine and was standing on the roof rack to direct Max's next shovel load. "I
wouldn't stand up there," said Max "This bloody old wreck is likely to run out of brakes any time,
everything else is worn out!" "Nah, I'll be OR' said Mick and shortly thereafter found himself on the
bucket for the two and a half turns it took to stop from when Max shut it down. By good fortune
Mick was unharmed, and Max refused to drive that machine again. The company then supplied a
Caterpillar DC4 which Max said wouldn't pull itself through the creek, the company said it would
and after the first attempted crossing the DC4 sat in the creek for months awaiting arrival of a big
enough machine to pull it out.
A load of rock was needed so Max loaded the company ex W.D. Blitz wagon with about 10 tons
(on a 3 ton truck!) and set off down Red Hill with an Italian mechanic as passenger. They hadn't
long started the descent when the 10 ton load caused the 3 ton brakes to fade to nothing, the extra
speed and load now too much for the rear tail shaft which parted company with the vehicle. "We're
in angel gear now!" announced Max; out jumped the mechanic, breaking his ankle. The Blitz was
of course four wheel drive, but the front drive shaft had been long removed and was sitting handily
on the cab floor. It was a terrifying fast and faster ride down that hill; for what seemed like forever
Max fought the swaying unstable truck, traffic luckily was light and truck and driver finally stopped
when Max steered into a gutter on the North-West highway, nearly overturning the truck as he did
Red Hill seemed to have a bit of a grudge on Max. Heading upward on the Triumph outfit for an
early start came to a very painful and frightening stop one morning. A stone lodged between the
dual wheels of a descending truck chose the moment Max was passing to dislodge, hitting Max
right between the eyes, causing him to black out. He came to, still on the bike, stopped, six inches
from a very long drop.
Stan Dyson was a top class speedway sidecar pilot who appreciated Max's fastidiousness and
knowledge, so the pair became a team, the Vincent outfit a consistent good looking front runner.
One evening Dyson's passenger was late and the Vincent clutch needed testing so Max was
persuaded to act as ballast. A wheel stand off the line followed by one and a half fast laps
"frightened the hell out of me" recalls the reluctant passenger. Max also did some spanner work for
solo rider Ken Chapman; sadly the latter fell off, was hit by a following rider and died. That was the
end of speedway for Shirley and Max for several years until Stan Dyson persuaded Max to fettle
his machine once more. The partnership took up where it left off but Dyson went to a meet at
Kalgoorlie, crashed, was hit by a following outfit and suffered a badly broken leg. A very slow
healer, he retired.
Shirley, aged forty-two decided time was available for her to put together a family tree. On
enquiring at the appropriate Government agency she was surprised and not a little nervous to be
taken to the Registrar General's enormous, sumptuous office, given a chair and offered whiskey!
Refusing the drink, Shirley was then told "It's quite unusual for two adopted people to marry".
"What's that to do with me?" asked Mrs Madill "Well, you were adopted at birth! Would you like that
drink now?" came the bombshell response and though it took some time for Shirley to come to
terms with this news, she'd had a wonderful upbringing in a loving family. She was fortunate. Life
Sunday 18th September 2002. The day that would forever change the lives of Max and Shirley.
The Northam Hill Climb had become a popular annual event. Take off slightly up hill to a flat out left
hand bend, on to a right hand hairpin, once through that in to a long sweeping left hander, the trickiest
part, then to a gentle left hander, flat out over a skyline, over the finish and into the car park. Total time
for a fifties machine - a bit under a minute. Great fun and generally seen as quite safe, a few had done
a bit of motocrossing over the years on the way up without much harm.
Insurance companies at the time were reeling from an unprecedented flood of Public Liability
claims, cover was hard to get and selective, so the decision was made to allow only road licenced
bikes to compete. This of course thinned the entry out a bit but still over thirty bikes were to face
the starter. Max on a road going Norton pushrod single was the only sidecar, and quickly found a
keen passenger in Doug Firth. Practice runs proceeded. Max was paired with a rider on a big four
cylinder Japanese machine who took off in most loud and dramatic fashion causing Shirley to
remark "There goes an accident trying to happen," so when word came down there'd been a crash
she never imagined it to be Max.
Sadly, Max it was, going into that tricky tightening up left hander, with some mud on the road and
the dual road bike handicaps of a bike with insufficient power to force it to turn, and a passenger in
a sidecar which allowed no room to hang out. Over the edge they went, Max tipping the outfit to try
and eject Doug who found himself on the grass, virtually uninjured, with Max himself spearing head
first into a boulder, splitting his helmet wide open and jarring his spine top to bottom. He knew he
was in serious trouble; he couldn't move and couldn't feel his lower half. At Northam Hospital he
was told the shattering verdict - paraplegia.
Shenton Park became home until December 18th; Max was deemed fit to go home though home
had yet to be modified for wheelchair use so a camp shower was set up with a blue tarpaulin on
the back verandah. Ross Lowe concreted a hoist beside the pool to allow Max aqua therapy
though this has since been disallowed.
Initially, Shirley had the huge task (for someone untrained) to care for her husband but the
Brightwater Care Group now attend daily, also a carer allows Shirley one free afternoon per week.
It's a sad reflection on life today that when the house was modified the planners wouldn't allow any
changes to the front of the house which might suggest "wheelchair" because of the propensity of
criminals to seek out soft targets for home invasion.
Max is seemingly philosophical about his life, as in, "this is the hand we've been dealt so let's
make the best of it." There have been times of great depression but he's strong minded and
Shirley's strength and humour provide vital support. Both draw some consolation from knowing
they've had a full and wonderful life, much of it in company of Club members.
He'd originally hoped to be able to get back into his workshop, tasks such as wheel building
sounded feasible for a wheelchair bound mechanic but to his intense disappointment, this won't
Max absolutely denies any suggestion the wrong decision was made as to which bikes were able
to compete at Northam. Pony clubs, boot scooters, scouts and the like, confronted with the
insurance hurdle, were cancelling events so the Club was probably lucky to be able to run the hill
climb at all.
Typically, once Max's condition became known, offers of help poured in from Club members. It
was wonderful and heartening at a most difficult time, Shirley and Max are forever grateful.
It's a two way street. Who was it that said "It's a bloody good club, if you put a little bit in you'll get
a lot more out!"?
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