A fam­ily’s search for ‘Big Bird’

Grand­chil­dren seek Mack for last run home

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Lach­lan McIvor and Kirstin Payne

COM­MONLY known as “Lady John” or “Johnny” in the in­dus­try, Jac­que­line Emily South­ern spent decades on the roads.

She drove them all, from an ex-army Stude­baker to a white long-nose Ken­worth and a C-Line In­ter­na­tional, name a few.

But noth­ing quite stood out on the road like “Big Bird”, her B Model Mack.

She be­gan her ca­reer in the 60s driv­ing a 600 series Ford, work­ing cart­ing wood for her part­ner Colin Palmer, and a Ford Thames do­ing the mail run.

Her pas­sion for the road took her ev­ery­where but WA, cart­ing fire­wood, mail, frozen rab­bits, wool, pro­duce and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, carv­ing out her own trail for women in the in­dus­try.

The stub­bie-wear­ing icon even raised 10 kids along the way and was even­tu­ally in­ducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

She held on to her pas­sion for truck­ing right up un­til the day she died, Valen­tine’s Day of this year.

To com­mem­o­rate her life and im­pact on the in­dus­try, Lady John’s fam­ily hopes to re­mem­ber her as part of the 2017 Gat­ton Lights on the Hill Memo­rial.

Her fam­ily is search­ing high and low for some­one with a yel­low B Model Mack, sim­i­lar to Big Bird, to do­nate their time and truck to at­tend the memo­rial on Oc­to­ber 1 on be­half of Lady John, and, if they are will­ing, in­clude a trib­ute to her on the run the day be­fore.

Daugh­ter Valda Palmer, who lives in Ip­swich, said her pi­o­neer­ing mum de­served a fi­nal hur­rah in true truckie fash­ion.

“She al­ways be­lieved that she never did any­thing out of the or­di­nary,” Ms Palmer said.

“She’d give any­one the shirt off her back, if a truck driver was stuck some­where and had no money or food, she’d be giv­ing ev­ery­thing that she had if she had to.”

Grand­daugh­ter Heidi-Ma­ree Blake, of Lock­rose, has asked any­one with a B Model Mack to get in con­tact in or­der to give Lady John a send-off re­served for so many other le­gends of the road.

“I don’t have money to of­fer but I will buy them a drink at the pub and my fam­ily can tell them her story,” Ms Blake said.

“They would get the hon­our of mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to the heal­ing of a fam­ily still im­pacted greatly by her pass­ing.

“Be­cause most of the fam­ily lived in Queens­land some of us weren’t able to make it to the funeral. This would be a send-off we can do to­gether.

“We will al­ways re­mem­ber her dressed in her cow­boy hat, shirt that had to have a pocket, stub­bies and work boots, the way she dressed even when she wasn’t driv­ing,” the grand­daugh­ter rem­i­nisced.

“She de­serves a fi­nal trib­ute with her favourite truck on show.”

To get in touch with the fam­ily, send an email to hblake83@out­look.com.

❝ She’d give any­one the shirt off her back, if a truck driver was stuck some­where and had no money or food, she’d be giv­ing ev­ery­thing...


PI­O­NEER: Jac­que­line Emily South­ern, with sev­eral of her grand­chil­dren, was in­ducted into the Na­tional Road Trans­port Hall of Fame in 2005.


LEFT: “Lady John”

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