Marge never one to quit

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Spend­ing time with Margery “call me Marge” Ford leaves one with the im­pres­sion that hard work is the se­cret to a long life be­cause at 87 years old she is still very bright of eye al­though a lit­tle slow of foot.

Marge was born and reared in Ma­reeba, but her fa­ther owned prop­erty at Wonga Beach and she spent three years on his cane farm, go­ing on horse­back to the Rocky Point School.

She re­calls two of her teach­ers, Mr Hoo­ley and a Rus­sian, Mr Sch­mickl.

Leas­ing a Ma­reeba dairy in her early mar­ried life meant Marge and her hus­band Ho­race ‘Ira’ Ford hand milked two dozen cows morn­ing and night. When Marge’s fa­ther asked them to help him on his cane farm at Wonga, they jumped at the chance.

“Dad had cleared 20 acres and the rest of the 160 acre prop­erty was stand­ing for­est, so it was very hard work,” Marge said, “and of course we had to get ’ doz­ers in which were quite ex­pen­sive.”

Swap­ping milk­ing for cane strip­ping was not much of a bet­ter propo­si­tion and Marge ad­mits hav­ing to work on neigh­bour­ing farms for a few pen­nies.

“When you are broke, you have to get money from some- where,” she said, “but my hands have paid the price.”

Marge and Ira had five chil­dren, Linda, Trevor, Elaine, Ch­eryl and Ce­cil - the youngest two born while in Wonga Beach.

When asked about mem­o­ries of her time in the district, Marge men­tions “a lot of hard work”.

“Once we started the (Moss­man) mar­kets, I earned a bit of money and it be­came a lot eas­ier for us.”

Marge was one of the orig­i­nal or­gan­is­ers of the Moss- man Mar­kets more than 40 years ago.

“They didn’t know who could run it so they said ‘ oh, you can run in Marge’,” she said, “and in the be­gin­ning there were only about a dozen stalls – it was very small.

“The money I col­lected from the other stall own­ers went to dif­fer­ent lo­cal char­i­ties.

“We were charg­ing $5 a stall each Satur­day and when it grew to about 30 stalls I thought I am han­dling too much money! It’s grown over the years par­tic­u­larly since the Church took it over about 10 years ago.”

Marge is one of the mar­ket’s stal­warts, still get­ting up at 3 o’clock on Satur­days morn­ings to cook cakes, scones, chut­neys and jams to stock her stall at the mar­ket.

Over re­cent years, Marge has sold off much of the farm and now lives in her family home, tucked away in the rain­for­est on only a few acres. She is look­ing for a place in Moss­man with just a small gar­den.

“At least I won’t have far to go to the mar­kets,” she laughed. And when one of her friends sug­gested she look at go­ing into a nurs­ing home, Marge re­torted “I am too damned ac­tive for a nurs­ing home!”

The Moss­man Mar­kets con­tinue to be an enor­mous suc­cess, at­tract­ing thou­sands of lo­cals and vis­i­tors each Satur­day morn­ing. The range of stalls has ex­panded sig­nif­i­cantly since its early years to now pro­vid­ing fresh lo­cal pro­duce, arts and crafts, plants and even mas­sages and freshly brewed cof­fee.

Marge has seen great changes in Wonga Beach since she and her hus­band set­tled there in the early 60s.

“Fred­die Bell de­vel­oped old Wonga and then the Bat­tles sold their cane farm for the new Wonga de­vel­op­ment.”

“Bi­tu­min­is­ing the roads around here was a god-send,” Marge said, “even though dur­ing big storms the road out the front of our place would still get a me­tre of wa­ter over it.”

There is no doubt­ing Marge is made of tough stuff. She tells sto­ries of her ly­ing in her house for hours with a bro­ken leg wait­ing for some­one to find her, sto­ries of hav­ing snakes in her bed­room catch­ing newly born kit­tens and of climb­ing mango trees right to the top.

In her later years she has en­joyed over­seas trips with her family, spend­ing time in Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and the UK.

It hasn’t been an easy road but Marge’s tenac­ity has al­ways shone through. “I will do the mar­kets un­til I am 90 and I will live un­til I’m 100,” she prom­ises.

Margery Ford has long ties to Wonga Beach and Moss­man, not least her role as a founder of the much loved Moss­man mar­kets. She spoke to Moya Stevens about the jour­ney.

PIC­TURE: MOYA STEPHENS

Marge Ford and some of her mar­ket pro­duce

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