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  • Writer's pictureMark Tamhane

Let me tell you a story about Mark Colvin - my offering

ABC Journalist, broadcaster, author, presenter, filmmaker and foreign correspondent, Mark Colvin, died in May 2017 after battling a long illness. His friends and colleagues were asked to put pen to paper. These are my fondest memories of this giant of journalism:

When I became the ABC’s London radio correspondent in early 1996, Mark Colvin and I hit it off straight away.

I think he recognised something familiar — a naive, loud, 20-something named Mark who’d somehow fluked an overseas posting.

Mark C was already pretty unwell after catching a rare disease while covering the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and had spent a good deal of the previous 18 months in London hospitals. But when I went to visit him at the Lister in Chelsea, where he’d just received a hip replacement (the drugs they’d used to treat his blood disorder were so powerful they basically dissolved his hips), it was clear he’d already had enough of sympathy and hand-wringing. So I told him jokes, sent him up mercilessly, and that big laugh of his boomed down the corridor. A friendship was born.

We even had special names for each other — a gag that continued for more than 20 years. When you have a name as unusual as mine, Mark Tamhane, you expect a few wrong spellings. Mark Colvin used to delight in looking at the envelopes that came to the ABC’s London office addressed variously to “Mark Tamfare”, “Mark Tehane”, “Mark Tambane” and even the inexplicable “Mr Maric Tanhamb”.  But it was a fax addressed to “Tam Hane”, which began “Dear Tam …” that had him roaring with laughter.

In mock sympathy, Mark immediately dubbed himself “Col Vin” and from then on, we always addressed each other respectively as “Mr Vin” and “Mr Hane”.

While you’ll no doubt see many snippets of Mark’s fine television journalism on your screens over the next few days, he was first and foremost a radio broadcaster, painting a vivid and often eloquent word picture for the listener, or managing to draw that detail out of a colleague at the other end of the line in a far-flung place as he sat behind the microphone in the PM studio.

I’ll miss you, Mr Vin.

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