Local Identities

Doctor Extraordinaire

By Geoff Fortune

Doctor Knight was one of the best known, best loved, and highly respected Yarloop identities, over the 46 years of medical service and service to the local society that he gave to the people of Yarloop.

It can be truly said that Doctor Knight worked his entire lifetime for the Yarloop and district community. In that time he married and raised a family. His first wife passed away and much later he remarried and lived a short retirement, still in community service.

This man wielded a great influence for good over the entire community not only in the capacity of the town’s doctor, but also in the civic affairs he was involved with in the Yarloop and district society. His deepest involvement was with the Yarloop Hospital, and it was his enthusiasm that turned it from a small county hospital to a hospital of healing and learning for the many young nurses trained under his great medical knowledge and teaching, for his dedication reached into the heart and mind of each and every hospital worker.

Doctor Knight was not only a clever physician, he was a brilliant surgeon, qualified dentist, and a chemist, mixing, making and dispensing his own pills, tablets and medicines. His own mixture of cough medicine was a great and wonderful cure for even the worst cough, cold or influenza, but was the vilest concoction ever ‘forced’ on mankind. In fact, he once told of the time he gave a bottle to one of the mill workers, who returned with it some days later, still with the flu, and advising Doctor Knight he was still sick because when he took the cork out he knew it had gone ‘rotten’ on him before he had a chance to use it.

Doctor Knight was also an engineer, an electrician (he actually fed his own excess of the generated electricity from his own workshop generator into to the electricity grid in the early days of the State Electricity Commission); a mechanic, a mathematician, a talented musician and an inventor, and his humble workshop was the site of construction for many a highly important piece of machinery or equipment, especially for use in the Yarloop Hospital. In his workshop, and representing only a few of the items, he made a Diathermy (deep heat) machine, an autoclave, a sterilizer, and other items of hospital and operating theatre equipment.

A soon as petrol was rationed in the 1939-45 war, he manufactured completely, two charcoal gas producers; one for his own vehicle a 1936 Rover Sedan, and one for Ted Landwehr’s Chevrolet truck. The gas producers ran these vehicles for all the years of the war. He re-manufactured a couple of stationary engines for those who needed them in an emergency, for those were completely unobtainable during the war years. And this even to moulding and lathe turning new parts when the originals were unavailable. He maintained and serviced the large Southern Cross diesel that ran the lights for the Town Hall during the war years.

Doctor Knight was a man, who, when you left his company you felt all the better for having known him. For those who knew him and remember him, and who are living today, their memories of him would be as the typical family doctor, always immaculately dressed while on duty, in a suit, white shirt and necktie and often in the company of a giant Irish Setter dog called Rufus.

In the year 1977, he was awarded an MBE for community service, not only in the capacity of the town doctor, but as a Children’s Court magistrate. He was a Foundation and Life Member of the Yarloop Bowling club, and a Life Member of Western Australian Axemen’s League.

Born in 1904 and arriving in Yarloop in December of 1935, he turned the Yarloop Hospital from a small local medical facility into a fully operational hospital. Because of his influence and effort the hospital became something the town and district was proud of, and it was fitting that a room at the present-day hospital is named after him!

He was awarded the Harvey Shire Council’s Meritorious Award in 1990. He ended his unbroken medical service to the people of the isolated mill towns of Nanga Brook and Hoffman’s Mill in the year 1961, after the disastrous Dwelling bushfires wiped those towns out. He retired from the town in 1981, and died in 1993 of a heart attack after a previous seizure. In the 46 years of service to the people of Yarloop he had one extended holiday of 6 weeks.

Truly he was what he was often referred to as ‘a human dynamo’, a man the like of which the town will find it hard to copy.

(Volume 1, Issue 8, no date, Yarloop Yarning)