LOOK­ING BACK: JENNY LOTT

Jenny Lott is a very ac­com­plished, pri­vate per­son and shared a few of her sto­ries with Moya Stevens

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Crocs used to rip the nets and once one got caught in my net, rolled him­self up in it and dragged me along in my dinghy

Jenny Lott is one of a rare breed, spend­ing most of her life as a fe­male com­mer­cial fisher off the coast of Queens­land.

Orig­i­nat­ing from Cam­bridge, UK, Jenny was the daugh­ter of an RAF pi­lot (ul­ti­mately her father be­came an Air Vice Mar­shal) and lived in a va­ri­ety of homes dur­ing the war, end­ing up be­com­ing an air host­ess at 21 with Cu­nard Ea­gle Air­ways.

“I shared a flat with two Aussie girls and af­ter hear­ing their sto­ries of home, I knew I had bet­ter go there and have a look,” Jenny said.

In the early ’60s, two friends and Jenny jumped into a VW pick-up truck and took seven months to drive to Cey­lon (now Sri Lanka), with a few mishaps on the way.

“The truck’s num­ber plate was SOW6 and she re­ally was a pig,” Jenny laughed, “and at one point we had en­gine trou­ble in Pak­istan and we were aban­doned by the Bri­tish Em­bassy but the Ger­man Em­bassy were won­der­ful – be­cause we were driv­ing a Ger­man car.”

Jenny and her friends sailed on the SS Can­berra to Fre­man­tle where Jenny got a job as a house mis­tress look­ing af­ter 30 girls at a board­ing school.

“They were quite naughty and the only way I could con­trol them was by ban­ning them from rid­ing their horses for a few days,” she said, ex­plain­ing that the school pro­vided for the girls to ag­ist their horses ad­ja­cent the school.

Meet­ing with a Queens­land ar­chi­tect in Fre­man­tle who needed his car to be driven from Perth to Bris­bane, Jenny took the op­por­tu­nity to drive a vast sec­tion of Aus­tralia, driv­ing up the east coast to Bris­bane. Af­ter de­liv­er­ing the car, she con­tin­ued her trav­els, end­ing up in Townsville.

“It was what I had dreamt of, grow­ing up in Eng­land with mis­er­able sleet and rain and here I was in a place with lots of sun­shine,” Jenny said.

Jenny met a lifesaver on Mag­netic Is­land who took her to the wharf when the Po­laris mo­tor sailer came in and she talked her way into a fish­ing trip. “It was so magic – we fished for mack­erel and I thought wow, I wouldn’t mind do­ing more of this,” she said, “and I stayed on the boat un­til the end of the year and by then I had learned a bit about fish­ing and boats.

“That boat got sold so I bor­rowed £600 from my father and went into part­ner­ship with a lo­cal fish­er­man, Cocky Watkins, and bought a Tor­res Strait lug­ger which we named Pal­adin.”

Af­ter re­fit­ting it in Cairns, Jenny and Cocky started mack­erel fish­ing on the reef as well as tak­ing out char­ters for fish­ing which they con­tin­ued for four years. “I then bought my own boat which was a 30 foot tim­ber boat, Moon­mouse.

“I fished for mack­erel out of Townsville with her, but all the fish­er­men were hor­ri­fied and said women didn’t take boats out, and al­though I thought they might be right, I’m go­ing to have a go.”

Jenny was very suc­cess­ful mack­erel fish­ing and al­though it was very phys­i­cal work, she man­aged in one in­stance to land up to 60 fish be­tween dawn and 9.30am.

It was in the ’70s when Jenny was told of the ‘gold rush’ in the Gulf be­ing the dis­cov­ery of ba­nana prawns and she went over there as ‘deckie’ for her friend Cocky Watkins and she found it so ex­cit­ing.

“There was an enor­mous amount of prawns.”

Jenny bought a 56 foot boat, Toni Chris­tine, and would fish for ba­nana prawns dur­ing the sea­son and then trawl for tiger prawns.

“Trawl­ing for tiger prawns was so bor­ing,” she ex­plained, “it was at night so dur­ing the day you would have to fix the boat, eat and try and sleep dur­ing the hottest part of the day.”

By the late 1970s, Jenny bought a house in Gar­rick Street, Port Dou­glas and used it as her home base when not out on the boat.

She had al­ready iden­ti­fied Port Dou­glas as her kind of town when, in 1972 she vis­ited and saw a sign out­side one of the pubs which read ‘found – set of false teeth, who­ever is with­out, ap­ply within’.

Jenny de­cided to buy a 43 foot tim­ber trawler, Ti­mana, and went barra fish­ing in the Mitchell River.

“It was so lovely along the river with no houses, no peo­ple and very calm an­chor­ages.

“Crocs used to rip the nets and once one got caught in my net, rolled him­self up in it and dragged me along in my dinghy,” she laughed.

“I wasn’t re­ally ner­vous – I think there is more to fear in the city from peo­ple,” she said.

Find­ing that good deck­hands were hard to find, Jenny sold Ti­mana and bought a smaller boat, Baf­fler, which she op­er­ated on her own, fish­ing for barra for a fur­ther 20 years un­til she re­tired at 65 in 2002.

Jenny built a home on 10 hectares in Ju­lat­ten and re­mains a very ac­tive, busy per­son.

She is vice pres­i­dent of Paws and Claws, the im­me­di­ate past vice pres­i­dent of the All Breeds Horse Show in Ma­reeba, is a mem­ber of the Mt Car­bine Bull Rid­ers and plays ten­nis ev­ery Wed­nes­day at Mt Mol­loy.

She en­joys pack­horse rid­ing, tak­ing to the trail for weeks at a time.

Her love of an­i­mals is most ev­i­dent, hav­ing al­ways had a small dog as com­pany on her boats and now keep­ing three horses on her Ju­lat­ten prop­erty.

Jenny cel­e­brated her 80th birth­day this month and ad­mits she is “slowly be­com­ing an old lady” and that the only re­gret she has is that she never got her pi­lot’s li­cence.

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

Jenny Lott at her Ju­lat­ten prop­erty. In­set left: on a cruise ship to the UK in the 1960s. right: On the Pal­adin

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