LOOK­ING BACK: JILL BOOTH

Art and teach­ing are the main themes of Jill Booth’s life, as she ex­plained to Moya Stevens

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Hav­ing a great grand­fa­ther, a grand­fa­ther and a mother in the teach­ing pro­fes­sion, it may have been in­evitable that Jill also be­come a teacher how­ever it pro­vided a means to pur­sue her nat­u­ral artis­tic tal­ent and pas­sion.

Jill spent her early years in Ma­hogany Creek, in the Perth Hills, where her par­ents ran a mixed orchard.

“I think be­ing brought up in an orchard taught me a great deal of prac­ti­cal skills,” Jill said, “and I quite en­joyed milk­ing cows, pick­ing fruit and build­ing the fruit boxes we needed to pack the fruit for mar­ket.”

Ed­u­cated at Perth Mod­ern School and later at Clare­mont Teach­ers Col­lege and the Uni­ver­sity of WA, Jill started her teach­ing in Fre­man­tle where she had up to 60 Year 6 stu­dents in her class.

“It was a chal­lenge con­trol­ling such large classes but I learned to give the stu­dents a task then stand at the back of the room and, if any of the kids were plan­ning on do­ing some­thing naughty, they fool­ishly would look back at me, so I knew what they were up to.”

Pri­mary school teach­ing in­volved all facets of ed­u­ca­tion but Jill was trained as an Art Teacher so, af­ter suf­fer­ing chilblains be­cause of the cold, she sought warmer weather and ended up teach­ing in Carnar­von, Alice Springs and later Dar­win where she met Ian Booth, whom she mar­ried.

“In 1961, they were look­ing for a set­tle­ment man­ager at Wave Hill Sta­tion, about 800km south of Dar­win,” Jill said, “and the set­tle­ment con­sisted of a house, school, store and var­i­ous other build­ings.

“So Ian man­aged the set­tle­ment and I opened the school – and the chil­dren were so smart, bright and cheer­ful.”

Whilst at Wave Hill, Jill was of­fered a flight in a small plane by a vis­it­ing cler­gy­man.

“When we took off, the pi­lot started to grum­ble about some­thing, pulled a few switches then told us to ‘hold on’.

“I thought I was go­ing to die when we came crash­ing down, but the plane flipped over and I man­aged to get out through a win­dow, very shaken up,” she said, “and ap­par­ently the pas­tor was a cheap­skate and hadn’t fu­elled up with av gas but with mo­tor spirit.”

Jill’s ro­mance with out­back Aus­tralia con­tin­ued with her and Ian, and now two daugh­ters, Virginia and Mi­randa, liv­ing and work­ing in re­mote places such as Port Hed­land, the Kim­ber­leys, Point Sam­son and even­tu­ally buy­ing a car­a­van park at Kal­barri.

“I taught school in many places and I also held art ses­sions for adults, many of them the lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nals,” she said.

“I didn’t and still don’t care what ma­te­ri­als I use in my art and work­ing with the in­dige­nous in var­i­ous ar­eas al­lowed me to learn their ways with art whilst I help­ing them with the prin­ci­ples of de­sign.”

It was some­time in the 80s when Jill came across a pro­mo­tional flyer about Port Dou­glas that was put to­gether by Diane Ci­lento and var­i­ous busi­nesses around the town.

“It looked so lovely with none of the usual sales hype so we came to visit sev­eral times in the 80s and ended up buy­ing a prop­erty in the early 90s at Mow­bray where we built an art gallery,” Jill said.

Laugh­ing, Jill men­tioned that they “left the girls be­hind in Perth but they soon fol­lowed us here”.

Jill, Ian and daugh­ters opened another gallery just off Macrossan Street, Port Dou­glas Gallery of Fine Arts and she ad­mits that gal­leries were not nec­es­sar­ily great earn­ers but they lived a very com­fort­able and en­joy­able lifestyle.

In 2003 Ian passed away and so the gal­leries were even­tu­ally closed.

“In 2008 a friend, Louise Col­lier, and I de­cided to es­tab­lish an arts fes­ti­val in Port Dou­glas – Go Troppo Arts Fes­ti­val,” Jill said, “and we were the first event to be held at the Sugar Wharf. “The first year we had more than 300 peo­ple come through, so it was a great suc­cess.

“It was also a great deal of hard work so af­ter Louise left the area and the fund­ing dried up, mainly to do with the coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion, I just couldn’t do it any­more, although it was hugely pop­u­lar for the 3 years it was held.”

Jill has been very much part of the art scene in the Dou­glas Shire, be­ing a mem­ber of Art­house Port Dou­glas, Port Dou­glas Artists Inc, DAB in Moss­man, a teacher and men­tor to many.

Her in­spi­ra­tions come from her sur­round­ings and she says the colour and vi­brancy of the trop­i­cal north are con­stant stim­uli for her paint­ing, sculp­ture and fab­ric art.

Jill re­flected on how things have changed around Port Dou­glas but mostly she said, it has stayed very much the same as when she and her fam­ily set­tled her in the ’90s.

“The hills stay the same, the ocean’s the same, the peo­ple are still friendly and it is still an ex­cit­ing place to live.”

The pi­lot started to grum­ble about some­thing then told us to hold on. I thought I was go­ing to die when we came crash­ing down, but the plane flipped over and I man­aged to get out through a win­dow

Jill Booth to­day. In­set: with Ian Booth

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