Pick-up truck fit for a queen

Sylvia Ger­aghty cel­e­brates her 100th birth­day in style

Big Rigs - - PROFILE - TRUCKIN’ AROUND OZ ALF WIL­SON con­trib­u­tors@bi­grigs.com.au

A 1954 IN­TER­NA­TIONAL pick-up truck trans­ported “a queen” in 100-year-old Sylvia Ger­aghty when it led the street pa­rade dur­ing the pop­u­lar Dis­cov­ery Fes­ti­val Week­end cel­e­bra­tions at Cook­town in far north Queens­land.

It was on June 16, the day Sylvia turned 100, and she was aptly named the “Queen of the Pa­rade” and was cheered on by hun­dreds who lined the route.

For the men, women and chil­dren who watched be­side Cook­town’s main street dur­ing the pa­rade, it felt like they were catch­ing a glimpse of roy­alty.

For her part, Sylvia, who was dressed in a tiara, gloves and ball gown, wav­ing as the In­ter­na­tional slowly cruised along.

Queen El­iz­a­beth, Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull and Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral Sir Peter Cos­grove sent let­ters of con­grat­u­la­tions to Sylvia who has been a mem­ber of the Cook­town RSL for 67 years.

“It was fun and they lifted me up onto the back of the truck in my chair and I re­ally did feel like the Queen. The crown on my head kept slipping off though but I en­joyed it so much,” she told Big Rigs on June 29.

The mes­sage from Queen El­iz­a­beth read, “Mrs Ger­aghty, I am pleased to hear that you are cel­e­brat­ing your 100th birth­day. My sin­cere con­grat­u­la­tions and best wishes on this very spe­cial day”, and it was signed by El­iz­a­beth R.

The 1954 In­ter­na­tional pick-up AR110 is still fit­ted with the orig­i­nal 220-cu­bic-inch mo­tor and for the last two years has been used as the Cook­town RSL Sub Branch float.

Cook­town RSL wel­fare and pen­sions of­fi­cer Jody An­drews said: “Last year we had ‘women in uni­form’ and then 99-year-old Sylvia was dressed in a World War II air force women’s uni­form with a cou­ple of other girls in var­i­ous era out­fits. This year, as you have ob­vi­ously seen, we used it for Sylvia’s 100th birth­day float – it was her ac­tual birth­day on the day of the pa­rade and she has been an RSL Sub Branch mem­ber of Cook­town for over 67 years”.

Owner Peter “Ozzie” Os­borne told Big Rigs he bought the In­ter­na­tional two-and-a-half years ago when it was a burnt-out wreck.

“It was used as a yard truck here at the wreck­ers and I was de­lighted to have Sylvia on the back as she is a leg­end around here,” he said.

Ozzie said it had been a “great honour” for him to drive the In­ter­na­tional, es­pe­cially as more than 30 of Sylvia’s rel­a­tives had trav­elled from as far away as Perth, WA, for the event.

“I was de­lighted to let peo­ple, in­clud­ing the rel­a­tives, write happy birth­day wishes on the truck with chalk,” he said.

Ozzie said the In­ter­na­tional had a 1954 body on a 1956 chas­sis.

When she spoke to Big Rigs by phone from the Sun­bird Cot­tage Nurs­ing Home, Sylvia said she was al­most blind and a bit deaf.

“I lived on my own un­til a year ago, when I had a fall and broke my hip,” she said.

This grand old lady was born in Rossville, about 50km from Cook­town.

Her fa­ther Ed­ward Par­sons was born at May­town and had been a tin miner and also ran cat­tle.

“I re­mem­ber way back then when I was young, all the horse-drawn drays and peo­ple be­ing pulled along in a buggy. The roads were very rough back then,” she said.

Be­fore Sylvia joined the RAAF in World War II, she was a sheet metal worker and that was hard yakka.

“It was a lady do­ing a man’s job,” she said.

“They wouldn’t re­lease me at first be­cause it was war work, how­ever I even­tu­ally was able to join the air force and I was a stew­ardess in the of­fi­cers’ mess at Am­ber­ley.”

Sylvia has been mar­ried twice. She wed first hus­band Tom to­wards the end of the war, and her sec­ond mar­riage to Jim Ger­aghty lasted for 32 years be­fore he passed away.

“I met Jim at Mt Mol­loy and later again at the Sov­er­eign Ho­tel in Cook­town where I worked as a house­maid and wait­ress,” she said.

There were plenty of events dur­ing Dis­cov­ery Fes­ti­val week­end, in­clud­ing a truck pull, mud crab races, billy kart rac­ing, pie-eat­ing con­test, singing, with an un­doubted high­light be­ing the re-en­act­ment of Cap­tain James Cook’s fa­mous land­ing on the banks of Cook­town’s En­deav­our River in 1770.

Cook’s ship En­deav­our had hit a reef and needed re­pair be­fore it could con­tinue on its way back to Eng­land. Cook­town is named af­ter the ex­plorer.

The re-en­act­ment fea­tured two small boats land­ing at the spot near where Cook and his men, in­clud­ing renowned botanist Sir Joseph Banks, got out onto shore.

A com­men­ta­tor told the crowd that a re-en­act­ment com­mit­tee was formed in 1959; the first event was in 1960.

“The cos­tumes and weapons used are from the era and cost more than $50,000,” he said.

Af­ter the re-en­act­ment, those play­ing Capt Cook and his men and the Abo­rig­ines who had greeted them with cau­tion shook hands and posed for pho­tos with tourists af­ter the fir­ing of an old can­non.

The In­ter­na­tional with Sylvia as its VIP pas­sen­ger won the prize for the best com­mu­nity-minded float.

Jody is con­fi­dent that Sylvia will again be on the float at next year’s event when she turns 101.

“I’ve been do­ing the street pa­rade for the last three years as the sub-branch has been host­ing and spon­sor­ing it,” she said.

“Last year was the first year that I got Ozzie in­volved and he vol­un­teered again for Sylvia’s spe­cial day this year. Need­less to say, I am sure I can get him next year if Sylvia is up to it.”


HAPPY BIRTH­DAY: Cen­te­nar­ian Sylvia in the old In­ter­na­tional dur­ing the 2018 Cook­town street pa­rade on her 100th birth­day on June 16.

Sylvia in her air force uni­form.

Flash­back to last year's street pa­rade when Sylvia was in air force uni­form in the back of the truck.

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