Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Dr Clive Stead , soon  to  take off  for Tasmania ,  hams  it  up with a stethoscope testing  the  engine of a Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service  plane  in  Alice Springs , Northern Territory .

Magnetic Island's Calypso  King , Dr Clive  Stead , who regularly  performed  with a Trinidad  steel  pan  at   markets  is  selling up  and  moving to Tasmania with his extremely fit  wife, Shannon , who  each  two  days runs  a  22kms marathon.

Cancer has  played a  large  part  in their lives . At the  age of 32 , Mrs Stead developed cancer and as a result  took up  marathon  running   and  trekking .

The trekking will  later this year  include   the world's toughest , the Snowman  Trek in Bhutan , 36  days  with 11  spots over  5000 metres . More people have  climbed Mount  Everest  than  completed the  gruelling  Bhutan   climb.

She was  taking part in another tough trek, in rugged country which took  in the third highest peak in the Himalayas , Mount Kanchenjunga, when  earthquakes struck  Nepal last year  , killing  more  than  8000 and injuring 21,000.

The   massive jolts   were  felt  during the trek , and Mrs Stead said sherpas in her party lost relatives in the disaster. Her group  saw parts of the mountain  terrain collapse .While  they were traversing a narrow track , with a great  drop , she  looked up and noticed a  large boulder  bouncing down and  yelled , "Rock!" , enabling  a  person  next  to  her  to dodge out of  the way .

The  tension  of  the  dangerous situation  had made her feel  sick and feel  that she  could  die. A truly unforgettable experience .  Yet  she  is going  back  to  the dangerous  heights  in  September. 

In the case of her husband, to show that he is still alive in his  joust with  prostate  cancer  , he  went   diving  with  White Pointer sharks in South Australian waters ; engaged in  white water  rafting  at  Tully ;   three  variations of  leaping  from  a  tower  at  Cairns-one mounted on a  bicycle ; sky  diving from 13,000 feet over Townsville; hang  gliding from  the  Rex  Lookout , north of  Cairns, and barrel rolling in a  Mustang aircraft  at Caboolture .  All captured on  film .

His varied  life has  included  extensive travel as a  doctor with P. & O. shipping line  , medical officer  with  Gulf Air in Bahrain ,  spells in  Australia  as a  GP  in  Sydney and Noosa ,Queensland ,  as a   flying  doctor based  in Alice Springs  and  as  a  writer for  Australian  medical  publications .

Along  the way he  survived a bad car crash in  America , was  bitten by a   Cobra in  Phuket, Thailand ,  skied  across  a  mine field  in Sarajevo , caught  cholera in  Laos , had a  Lyssavirus  fright when he was shat on by a  bat on Magnetic Island  and  had  an  arm and leg  smashed  up  while they  were  skiing  in   Japan .

From  England , at  the age  of  five, he  was  taken to Trinidad  with his parents  where his father was a teacher  for the  expat community numbering  2000, with  500 children , involved in the  oil industry.

There he led an idyllic life  hunting, shooting , fishing , developing his musical talent ... a photo album shows him holding a  large trophy  he won  for playing the clarinet .While there  he experienced the steel drum  bands which are now  the subject of   large   competitions   with  up  to 100  players in a  single band .

From  this  developed his  skill  in the field , especially with  "the  pan" -the top of a steel  drum , tuned with a hammer , mounted on a   stand . For a  time on Magnetic Island  he  tried to organise a  full  range  steel  drum band .

Edinburgh University  is where  he  studied  medicine  and he has a  photograph of the first car he   owned , a Vauxhall , of  some  kind , which he  had agreed to buy  for  20 pounds  during an evening of  heavy drinking .

When he went to insure the car, he was told the premium was a little over  22 pound. This , he pointed out, was more  than the  value of the car , couldn't the insurance company do something  cheaper  for  a  medical student? The  reply was to the effect that the insurance was  high because he was a  student , the inference being  that such people were  reckless . There is a photograph of him playing  the saxophone in a university band . Early in his medical career he went to  the US and  Canada .
Then  followed years  as  assistant  surgeon-"Baby Doc"-  on P&O passenger  ships Oriana and Oronsay,  the so called Love Boats ,   where  the  high living and Monty Python hijinx in ports made life interesting . One vessel was described as being 40,000 tons of  rust , lust and thrust .  Another P. and O. vessel he served on was the   SS Uganda , which took passengers on educational  cruises  about  Scandinavia  and  the  Mediterranean , the education including  gaming  tables .

His  connection with Sydney saw  him running a  GP  practice in  a small room at North Sydney, near  the Harbour Bridge  , and  taking  further medical studies  at   Sydney University  which resulted in him  going to  Alice Springs as a  flying  doctor  travelling to isolated settlements , Brunette Downs  and  Ayers Rock (Uluru ).

 It also involved   occasional " shadow bombing ", the   pilot flying in a way which  cast  a  fairly  constant  shadow  across  a  vehicle as  it  drove along . Clive  points out photographs in an album  in which  the shadow is seen on a car,  the  concerned driver of which  thought  the  plane wanted  to land  and  pulled over  and  stopped .  Another Territory shot shows him with a large signpost in the mining town of Tennant Creek pointing  far and wide .
While  at  Noosa   for  a decade he set up a  Calypso band , the Pantastics , below ,  in which Clive is in the middle in the top trio, that  played at various  functions and venues  up  and  down  the  coast , including at  the One  Big Day Out  events .`  

His enthusiasm   for  this  form of  music went with him to Vanuatu , where he set up steel band in Port Vila , the Calypso Kings, below, which played  in various tourist  hotels .  On Magnetic  Island he attempted to get a   band  going   but ended  up playing by  himself at Sunday markets down  at  Horseshoe Bay , just across  from  the  Marlin  Bar.

Chemothereapy has greatly  reduced Clive's  thick mop of hair. He wrote an anonymous  article about   his prostate cancer   for a medical magazine in November 2011 , the opening  paragraph carrying the astounding statistic  that " one in nine Australian doctors  will  get prostate cancer " and that  every year 75 of  them  are  diagnosed  with  the  disease.

His  journey  with  prostate cancer had begun six years previous on an overseas holiday . Two years later, aged  62, just before setting off  on a round-the world -trip,  routine  blood tests returned a  warning sign .  A radical prostatectomy  was performed in 2007. He wrote  that  he took  pomegranate juice daily  to  reduce the  PSA  reading , which it  did, but rose again ...

On a lighthearted  note, Dr Stead wrote an article for  Australian Doctor  headed Carry on up the Khyber Pass  , about a   medical centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates , called the Khyber Medical Centre  , recalling the rhyming slang for Khyber Pass , wondering  if  it  was  a  colonoscopy clinic or  a rectal  surgery .

The Medical Observer  of June 2003  ran a large illustrated article by him on Cuba , showing  him  in a  Cadillac  with  a  Cuban cigar  , which included a visit to Ernest Hemingway's home  and  places the writer  frequented . Discussing  Cuba , here on the  island ,  Clive said the Cubans were    proud, well educated people . He wrote that healthcare and education were free  and that Fidel Castro claimed the country had more  doctors and teachers per  capita  than any other  country .

Other places  written   about by him included his  thoughts on Syria and its antiquities  after a month exploring the country while  sitting in a famous Damascus , Iraq,  coffee house  where Saddam Hussein  and cronies  used to meet ;  impressions of Vietnam  in 2007 ; a colourful piece about Cambodia  which mentions   the impact of  plastic  mines  on  the populace , three men   regularly standing  outside the  Red  Piano restaurant in Siem  Reap, each with a leg missing , one  an arm as well , hopeful of tourist sympathy ;  health  tourism  in  Asia .

Little Darwin made  contact with  the Steads  due  to a  garage sale notice for  their residence in  Endeavour Street , Arcadia,  named after Captain Cook's   vessel , the famous  explorer who  described   the  island   as  Magnetical  Island because of  the  way  his  compass  reacted.

Mrs  Stead  said a plus about moving to Tasmania, where her mother and a brother live  , will  be  that she will not sweat  so much  in  her  regular marathons as she does on  the island . They  bought  from   an artist   an    1827  house  built for the security officers  of the  governor of what was then known as   Van Diemen's Land  at New Norfolk , facing the Derwent River , near Hobart . The ballroom had been converted  to  an art gallery, which  Mrs  Stead may turn into an  antique shop , friends  with  a  container  load in storage  in  Victoria  keen  on the  idea .