Pattaya Survivors: Dr Iain Corness


Dr Iain Corness, Pattaya’s most irrepressible and versatile expat.

Take your pick from medical consultant, racing driver or fun journalist

“What’s Up Doc?” Iain Corness is surely the ultimate Pattaya survivor. Now 80, he hasn’t been abroad for a quarter of a century and explains that by pointing out, “Well, I hate filling out immigration forms.” Based in Pattaya since 1997, he had a unique motivation for choosing the piping hot resort, “It was the only place I could find with a car racing track.”

To describe Iain’s life as hectic would be an understatement. A war baby born in Northern Ireland and son of a media technician, his family moved to Scotland before migrating to Australia in 1955 under the ten pounds assisted passage scheme. Iain says he owes a lot to his dad who taught him to be intensely competitive. “Winning isn’t everything,” his father said, “but it sure beats coming second.”

The youthful Corness attended Brisbane Boys College and then had jobs as a night watchman and petrol pump attendant before taking the advice of his mother, a nurse, to study to be a doctor. He sat for his finals in the UK, escaped to Gibraltar to avoid the British weather and paid for his passage back to Australia by working as a ship’s doctor. Opening his own medical clinic in Brisbane, he gave a clue to later intentions by opening Brisbane’s first fast Thai food restaurant in 1989.

The key to understanding the multi-skilled Dr Iain is to appreciate his life-long passion for motor racing which is in his blood. “It’s 90 percent concentration and 10 percent fun, but worth it every time.” He built his first MGB racing car under his Brisbane house, worked professionally for British Leyland for a while and formed his own team in 1990. His strong association with Bira Circuit, near Pattaya, goes back half a century.

First vacationing in Pattaya in 1975, Iain moved permanently here in 1997. Never a deckchair retiree waiting for the pubs to open, he soon bumped into the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya where he became a consultant (and remains so with the authorized work permit) as well as becoming a regular columnist for the Pattaya Mail. Additionally, he has found time to write two books on Pattaya life with its idiosyncrasies and attend thousands of receptions, elite parties and business meet-ups. He lives in East Pattaya with his two teenage children.

As well as writing the regular Pattaya Mail features Automania and Modern Medicine under his own name, Iain assumed the literary roles of swooning gourmand Miss Terry Diner (say it quickly and it sounds like Mystery Diner), all-seeing photographer Harry Flashman and several other lesser-known experts. As a young man, he thought up the title for an imaginary autobiography “Biscuits in Bed: The Crumbs I have Slept With.”

Iain’s health declined in 2018 following an operation for kidney cancer, but he retains his zest and sparkle in spite of the disease’s persistence. He has been forced to abandon car racing and is less active on the social scene. In 2014 he told the Pattaya City Expats Club that the key to advancing years is to age disgracefully and, more recently, he headed a Modern Medicine column “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Those remarks sum up convincingly the infectious philosophy of Pattaya’s most energetic and remarkable survivor. Asked what he would do if offered the keys of the city, he replied “Ask for a duplicate set of course.”