40 years at the mar­kets

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Ron­nie Jor­gensen is a part of the land­scape in Moss­man. Here she ex­plains to Pam Wil­lis Bur­den her at­ti­tude to life and her his­tory as one of Moss­man’s char­ac­ters

Ev­ery Satur­day for al­most 40 years, Ron­nie Jor­gensen has been en­ter­tain­ing passers-by at Satur­day’s Moss­man mar­kets.

She plays old tunes on the banjo man­dolin, busk­ing to sup­port lo­cal char­i­ties.

Veron­ica May Jor­gensen, nee Ed­wards, was born in Moss­man Hospi­tal in 1934.

Her grand­fa­ther James Ed­wards had come to Dain­tree in 1912 to cut cedar, but re­turned to Mt Car­bine where her fa­ther John (Jack), brother Darby and sis­ters Martha, Ellen and Ger­tie at­tended school.

When he was old enough Jack joined his fa­ther John driv­ing a pack-horse team, car­ry­ing goods from Mt Car­bine down the Bump Track.

But when the coast road was built they went broke, so Jack be­came a steam en­gine driver at Moss­man Mill, help­ing with the boil­ers.

Jack had to keep up his time to earn his Steam Driv­ers Ticket, so dur­ing the slack at the Mill, the fam­ily left Moss­man when Ron­nie was about a year old, spend­ing time at Mt Molloy, the Bur­dekin, and Collinsville.

Af­ter two years at Black­heath Col­lege, Char­ters Tow­ers, Ron­nie at 17 be­gan her nurs­ing train­ing at Mary­bor­ough, where she met her hus­band Colin Jor­gensen.

They re­turned to live in Moss­man in 1956 and built the house where they still live in Alchera Drive. In those days, there were only about ten houses in South Moss­man.

Ron­nie says “I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in art and at­tended the first classes run by Cairns School of Arts in Moss­man in the early 1960s. Miles Clack­erty was our first teacher.

“To help with liv­ing costs, I started paint­ing Christ­mas mu­rals on Moss­man shop win­dows around 1979. This had many pit­falls to over­come. On my first win­dow, I had to re­turn as Sally Sco­maz­zon was up­set be­cause the chim­ney was too small for Santa to get down.

“I was joined by San­dra Ford, and as we painted to the wishes of the store­hold­ers, she painted Ba­nanas in Py­ja­mas one year, and Thomas the Tank En­gine the next. Th­ese were at child level in the baker’s win­dow, and it took them a long time each morn­ing to clean the lit­tle kisses off the out­side.

“Later Tony Ford joined us and by 1998 we had to start paint­ing at the end of Oc­to­ber as we had 34 win­dows to do.

“Due to ill health we de­cided to see 2000 in and then handed it over to some ta­lented High School artists.”

While her chil­dren were small, Ron­nie and a group of women stripped sugar cane to feed into the planters for next year’s crop, and later she hand­painted the weekly sale tick­ets for Jack & Newells.

Ron­nie re­mem­bers: “In 1969 Mr Jenk­ins the Man­ager asked if I would draw a comic char­ac­ter for their News­let­ter, and so an am­a­teur­ish Su­gar­foot was cre­ated.

“He wore a floppy hat and a sin­glet, shorts and big boots, and of­ten re­flected some of the na­tion­al­i­ties of the cane cut­ters in the dis­trict.”

When the fa­mous artist and car­toon­ist Strom Gould came to Port Dou­glas in the early 70s, Ron­nie was happy to re­tire Su­gar­foot. Ron­nie re­calls: “In 1976 in or­der to get funds to start an Or­der of the East­ern Star Chap­ter, I was put in charge of or­gan­is­ing a Tea, Cof­fee and Scones sale on the Church of England grounds, near the black stump. My scones were lousy, so I was put in charge of the tea and cof­fee, and to keep busy I started busk­ing.

“Af­ter four months of agony due to my bad play­ing, Val King, who had a dressed doll stall nearby, asked to join me on her pi­ano ac­cor­dion, and she sorted my tim­ing out.

“By the end of the year there were five stalls, Val King’s, Val Bell’s cook­ing, Marge Ford’s cook­ing, Mar­garet sell­ing used clothes for the an­i­mal cen­tre at Craiglie, and us.”

And so be­gan the Moss­man Mar­ket un­der the Rain­trees. Marge Ford or­gan­ised it and do­nated the pro­ceeds to char­ity. Later it was taken over by St David’s Church of England who con­tin­ues to man­age it.

And Marge and Ron­nie are still there ev­ery Satur­day.

Fish­ing has been a great love of Ron­nie’s and she and Elaine Pat­ter­son or­gan­ised an all-women fish­ing trip in 1963. “It took two months of per­sua­sion to get Manny Simms to take us out, and he was so wary of us, he got the po­lice­man from Mt Molloy to be deck­hand.”

Many years later when the prawns ran at Bells Beach, now Wonga Beach, Ron­nie gath­ered a group of women to drag her lit­tle bait net. “There was friendly ri­valry with one fish­er­man, so we bribed his drag­ging mate with sponge cakes to let us know when the prawns were run­ning.”

Ron­nie’s wish is “em­ploy­ment for ev­ery­one who wants it, and that we stay the friendly town we are fa­mous for.”

I started paint­ing Christ­mas mu­rals on Moss­man shop win­dows around 1979. On my first win­dow, I had to re­turn as Sally Sco­maz­zon was up­set be­cause the chim­ney was too small for Santa to get down.

Ron­nie Jor­gensen, a founder of the Moss­man Mar­kets. In­set: her cartoon sketch­book

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