A lot happened in the couple of years I spent at Harvey Trinders, for some reason it’s always felt like I spent a lifetime there. Perhaps it was my recabite mate made it feel like that. Then again, a fair bit of drama took place, in the few hours a week that I didn’t spend working.
As I’m winding this rigmarole down I’ll probably not go into that side of my life, in this dollop anyway; I’ll save it for a ‘stand alone’ post, if I ever get around to it.
Rarely did I enter Mr. Lathams office, and when I did I never took a seat. he probably never invited me to be seated either, but I preferred to stand. That way I could look down at him. He stood over 6 foot tall, and at that time I was at my maximum of 5′ 9″. I did what I had to do, say what I had to say, then got out of the room.
On the other hand, when I went to see Mr Bucknell, I’d just knock, open the door, that’s if it wasn’t already open, and go in. He liked to keep his door open; and I’d always take a seat, he liked to have a chat, besides a cuppa tea.
Kjell had fitted in nicely, surprising really as he was a pilot at heart. He did tell me, shortly after he’d started, that he had an application lodged with some Australian Antarctic mob to fly their old Dakota/DC3’s down in/on that continent, the cold didn’t worry him. can’t imagine why.
The Dakota’s were equipped with ski’s, and he had experience of flying and landing on snow. They were used to fly supplies to our Antarctic bases. He’d love it now, They fly in with Airbus A 319’s and Boeing C17 Globemasters; which probably don’t get as far off course as I now am.
The girls all loved him; well he was a good looking bloke with that great accent, he handled pretty much, all the work that they had been stuck with. They did do the easy stuff, like paying the blokes that came in to get paid their ‘Workers Compensation”; but anything new coming in Kjell handled it.
How ‘compo’ works these days, I haven ‘t got the foggiest, and what’s more I don’t want the fog to lift!
Back then, it was quite usual for those who were collecting “Workers Compensation’, to call into the relevant insurer, usually with another medical certificate, to say how sick, badly injured, they still were; they’d get paid cash.
Of course there were some, that were swinging the lead, and played on ‘compo’ for all they were worth, but I never came across one, a namesake, like we had on our books. Mr Edward Smith!
Mr. Smith was a builders labourer, I might say he was the snappiest dressed builders labourer I’ve ever seen , before or since; and he’d “done his back in at work!” He was also the most polite, well spoken, well mannered. It kind of made me scratch my head, so much so, that I told the girls the next time he came in, to hand the file to me, and I’d have a word and fix him up.
Next time he came in I attended him, very worried, very serious, as I asked him how things was progressing, and what were his doctors views, and I got what I expected. I told him that I thought it might be an idea for him to see a specialist, to see what could be done.
Of course he agreed. He had to, he’d lose his benefits if he didn’t. Eddie was a smart cookie even, and not only with his 50 guinea suits, and top of the line Akubra. Always politely removed his titfer, and placed it on the counter when he was in the office, damned sight more expensive hat than I wore. Smart Eddie.
I arranged for him to come in to see me at a different time, and day, from his usual, which, as I suggested, shouldn’t be too inconvenient, as he was off work, injured. He readily agreed.
Being the good chap that he was, he arrived a bit earlier than requested, which suited me fine. I wanted him there early, as I knew I’d be attending another bloke with a crook back, a really crook back. I can’t recall this other blokes name, or who he’d worked for; he certainly would never work for them, or anyone else again. I wanted Eddie to see him.
This poor bloke was crippled, he wore some sort of brace had to throw his legs to walk and had the type of forearm crutches, he also had someone with him to help. A compo case gone wrong.
I told Eddie to take a seat I’d be with him shortly, he sat, hat on lap, and waiting patiently, and listening carefully, and so he missed nothing I spoke a bit louder than normal. Making sure that I emphasized the surgeons name, Mr Dowd FRCS. FRACS.
In the 50’s, surgeons of renown in Australia, followed the English practice/custom, of being referred to as ‘Mister’ and not doctor; probably in the hope of getting a knighthood, Bob Menzies liked to dish out knighthoods, so there was always a chance; and Mr Dowd was an eminent orthopaedic surgeon.
After explaining to the ‘victim’, that his compo would run out in the not to distant future, and there was a matter of a lump sum settlement, though not a great amount, would be available.
I also told him, off the record, that there was an excellent chance of a civil action being successful, and that in the event he did take action, and receive a decent settlement then the chances are, we’d then endeavour to recover the costs of what we’d paid, in which case, he’d need to make sure, that whoever he instructed, was to be sure that any settlement, included all these, and any other hidden costs.
Somehow, I don’t think I was supposed to tell him this.
After assisting him, and his helper to the lift/elevator, I apologized to Eddie, Mr. Smith, for the delay. See! I too can be polite; and told him that we, Lloyds, (he wasn’t to know that Lloyds didn’t know anything about him) were a bit worried about him, and the lack of progress in his recovery.
It was our, and Lloyds, feeling that he should see a specialist and we would therefore be making an appointment for him to see Mr Dowd, FRCS FRACS, imminent orthopaedic surgeon of Lloyds choice. Poor Eddie, me telling porkies.
Must admit that I was having fun at the time; Eddie wasn’t!
Eddie asked if there was another orthopaedic surgeon instead of Mr Dowd, as he’s heard things about him that suggested he wasn’t any good. I don’t know how or where he could have heard such stuff. I told him no, he was Lloyds of London’s choice, and as they were paying the bills, we had to go along with them.
Which made him bring up the previous bloke, the crippled fellow who’d just left, and he asked what had happened to him. I couldn’t see any harm in telling him, as I’d staged the whole thing, for his benefit, and this minute.
I explained that the bloke had been on compo, with a crook back, injured at work as a brickies labourer, and he was sent to the specialist, who decided that he’d have to operate, and go inside to see what was wrong. The deeper he went with nothing to be found, the the further he dug, and he went a too bit far, and accidentally caused irreparable, spinal damage, which has left the poor bloke crippled. But not to worry, it was a one off!
My Mr. Smith was not looking to good at this stage, time to throw him a life line, and to get him off my books. I said to Eddie, “I’ll tell you what, if you don’t want to go see Mr Dowd, and asked me if you could go see a chiropractor instead, I’ll see what I can arrange”
Chiropractors were/are not recognized in Australia by the medical profession, even today those practising say as Dr. Chiro are using a title that they have in a sense given themselves, It’s all very convoluted.
I could not arrange for, or direct a workers comp person, to a chiropractor, however, I told Mr Smith, that if he should ask me, I would agree to pay for a chiropractor to have a look, and fix his poor back for him, save the possible trouble of an operation, and that I did know of a very good bloke, who’d have a look at him.
Relieved Eddie said fine, and then, back to his old confident self, asked me very politely if it would be possible for him to get a chiropractor to have a look at his back and would we cover the cost. We didn’t have the expression “Gotcha” back then; pity I’d have used it!
“Of course” says I, I’ll ring and fix an appointment for you now, any time do you?”, I can be a mean nasty ‘b’ when I want !
Appointment made, off he did trot, a somewhat relieved Eddie Smith.
I called the chiropractor back, told him that I suspected our Mr Smith of pulling a swiftie, and that he might like to give him a complete going over, which we’re only too happy to pay for. He got my meaning.
A week or so later, Eddie arrived with a certificate from his doctor, to say that Mr Smith has recovered and his back is fine and he’s fit to resume work. Eddie came for his final compo, cash in hand, that he was saying bye bye to; I asked how he went with the chiro, and he said fine, “but the manipulation hurt like hell”; I sympathized, naturally, and said well better to put up with a little bit of pain, than be crippled for life.
I never saw Mr. Edward Smith again; but a few weeks later, some fellow from some other insurance popped into see me and asked if I’d ever heard of or come across a Mr Edward Smith, Builders Labourer, with a bad back. I told him yes, he used to be on our books collecting compo, but was cured, got a docs certificate and had gone back to work; why?
This Insurance bloke, then told me, that he was checking with all workers comp insurers, to see who had Smith on their books, so far he had eight. Smart Eddie used to have nine. Seems he was claiming and getting paid, so far by eight different insurers, probably well over £100 a week, and he’d have been receiving it fortnightly.
He was claiming a wife, and 2 children, which was the maximum pay, if he had 10 children it would still have been the same, was around £11/16/- , something like that, so he was on a good wicket. No wonder he was the best dressed builders labourer in Australia. I did wonder; was he really married? Did he really have children? I’ll never know now!
The minimum/ basic wage for men, in Australia in 1958 was £13/1/- per week. A builders labourer would have probably pulled in twice that much. Eddie was getting 4 times without lifting a finger: tax free? Probably; who’d know what Eddie declared.
Relating this lot, reminds me of a couple of other claims, that kind of got stuck inside the head, out of the ordinary, but for some reason there stuck in there, so I might punish y’all with them later. I might need a prompt of two.
I still can’t make up my mind about Eddie, he was a cheat, a thief, and I outsmarted him, I think I actually disliked him intensely, yet, kind of liked him at the same time. 170 years earlier, he’d have been a passenger on “The First Fleet” complements George III.