Thank you, for much more than passing by

Celebrating the career of Dr Ramaswamy Thangavelu, of Crookwell

LONGEST-SERVING: Dr Ramaswamy Thangavelu and wife Chandra (centre, seated) with many friends at a recent Australia Day award ceremony. Photo: Bronwyn Haynes

LONGEST-SERVING: Dr Ramaswamy Thangavelu and wife Chandra (centre, seated) with many friends at a recent Australia Day award ceremony. Photo: Bronwyn Haynes


Crookwell lined the streets to thank a doctor for his dedication.


There are short interludes that one remembers throughout life.

The Royal car passing with the new Queen in Sydney in 1954 was one. A long wait, a few seconds and it was over, but never forgotten.

We just had a replay in Crookwell.

Dr Ramaswamy Thangavelu came to Australia from Chennai, India, with his cheery wife, Chandra.

He started practice at Lockhart. It wasn't easy for them.

Forty-five years ago, he bought a practice in Crookwell.

He is 85 in October but performed major skin surgery on my face only months ago.

His steady hand ensured no trace remaining of 25 stitches.

A flyer appeared in our mailbox headed 'Shhh. It's a secret'.

It detailed a "guard of honour to celebrate Dr Thangavelu. Assembly 12.20pm, Commencement 12.30pm."

Covid 19 restrictions prevented a traditional event in the shire hall.

I said to my global strategist: "This won't be kept secret and it will be too cold for many to drive in to attend."

I was proven wrong on both counts.

My glimpse of the 1954 drive past fell hours behind schedule.

This drive was to the second with meticulous planning by the devoted hospital staff.

They told Thang he was to attend a small retirement luncheon at the hospital and that he and Chandra would be collected in the lane behind his main street home (to keep the waiting crowd secret).

He asked why he couldn't drive his own car and was instructed to do as he was told.

A cold, misty day had the couple collected, driven in an open Ford Mustang to the retirement home to see staff, and then to the main street precisely on 12.30pm.

Ambulances, SES and police vehicles with lights flashing took over front and behind as the street was lined by cars and people waving banners and clapping.

Thang and Chandra were amazed.

My home town has a wonderful culture built upon Irish-descended potato growers who knew how to work hard.

This spirit was transferred to our hockey at weekends, with the district having a disproportionate number of Australian representatives.

It is a close-knit community and generally forgives people for coming after 14 to 15 years.

We waited opposite the public-school fence, lined by children waving bunting behind banners spelling "Thankyou Dr Velu".

I estimated more than 1000 of the district's 3100 people lined the streets.

As the flashing lights rounded the corner into Colyer St and began the run up to the hospital, the excitement increased.

Many watchers were in tears.

I thought of the doctor's perhaps 40,000 odd drives up to the hospital at any of the 24 hours.

He delivered babies for two generations of families, saved innumerable lives thanks to his attention to detail, calm decisiveness and experience.

He trained and welded together a superb team of nurses who spoke of the doctor with pride and affection.

The most modest of men, we are unlikely to see his like again.


From the front page

Sponsored by