From the Newspaper: ” The Australian.”
IT was somehow fitting that as outback legend Edna Jessop was laid to rest in the northwest Queensland town of Mount Isa yesterday, (September 22, 2007)two horses present for the ceremony refused to behave.
During the funeral service, one kept biting the other, causing mourners to exchange knowing looks.
“This little black pony played up like buggery the whole time,” Betty Kiernan, the state MP for Mount Isa, told The Weekend Australian.
“We all determined that the spirit of Edna had come back in the shape of that horse.”
More than 300 people gathered at the Sunset Lawn cemetery in the shade of a weeping fig tree for the funeral of Jessop, who attained fame in the early 1950s as Australia’s first female boss drover.
A tough, feisty lady, who succumbed to cancer last Saturday at the age of 80, Jessop was born at Thargomindah, in southwest Queensland, in 1926.
She was one of eight children raised mainly on stock routes by their droving parents, Harry and Ruby Zigenbine.
Jessop began working full-time as a drover at the age of 14. In 1950, when she was 23, she made headlines across the country and overseas when she took charge of 1500 bullocks in the Kimberleys and led them to Dajarra, south of Mount Isa, in her first stint as boss drover.
Her father handed her the job when he fell ill.
“Don’t worry about Edna, mate,” he told journalist Douglas Lockwood at the time. “She’s the best man I’ve got and what’s more, she’s a drover.”
In his report, Lockwood wrote: “Edna, aged 23, small but wiry, brunette and blue-eyed, will be in charge of one mob and a gang of men both black and white. She will, we believe, be Australia’s first female boss drover.”
With her movie-star looks, the young Jessop cut a glamorous figure.
In his book Bagmen Millionaires, Townsville journalist and author John Andersen said Jessop was hailed as the belle of the Northern Territory stock routes.
“Many a young drover with romance in his head,” Andersen wrote, “was smitten by the beautiful young woman, dressed in jodhpurs and heavy cotton shirt, with a bold bandanna knotted around her neck and a felt hat low over her eyes.”
Letters containing marriage proposals came from as far away as Norway.
In 1952, she married a young Queensland drover, Johnny Jessop. They had a son, Jack, but it was a troubled marriage and the couple separated.
Johnny died in 1981. By then, Edna had given up droving and moved to Mount Isa to ensure her son had a full education.
Among the mourners yesterday were several retired drovers who knew Jessop during her many years on the track.
Songs played at the funeral included Give My Regards To Edna, a tribute written by Stan Coster and recorded by Slim Dusty.
Another Account of Edna
Edna Francis Jessop was born on the 10th of October, 1926 at Thargomindah in Queensland, 5th child of Harry and Ruby Zigenbine.
As Harry and Ruby were drovers, Edna, along with her 7 siblings, was raised on the stock routes of Northern Australia. They had a hard life, by modem standards, but Edna often spoke with fondness of her childhood days. She liked the freedom of the bush and “wouldn’t change it for quids”.
Edna did a stint in Tennant Creek where she worked as a wards maid at the hospital with her sister, Mavis. Both women often laughed about the great times they had there with their mother and brother Joe.
In 1950 Edna left her new life behind to help her father (Harry), along with brother Andy and 3 other men, bring a mob of bullocks from Bedford Downs, WA to DaJarra, Qld. On this trip Harry fell ill and the responsibility of Boss Drover fell on Edna’s capable shoulders. Edna eventually took over her father’s plant and continued droving with her husband John Jessop, who she met and married in Winton.
In 1954 Edna gave birth to her only son, John Jessop (Jack).
In 1960 Edna and John parted their ways. Edna headed to Mt Isa to give her boy a good education, living there for the rest of her life. She spent many years working for the Mount Isa City Council as pound keeper and enjoyed time working with Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo picking up in the arena. While working with the council and rodeo, Edna was strongly opposed to animal cruelty.
Edna, who is an Australian icon will be sadly missed by many family and friends. She is survived by her brother Joe, son John, grandchildren, John, Toni and Jenna, and great grandchildren, Jack, Theresa, Nikkita, and Hayley.
For the sake of the meet and the muster
The rides over sand ridge and plain
For the sake of the old days whose lustre
Will never shine round us again
In mind of the head rope and halter
The moments in the dawn and the dew
We have laid these few words at the altar
Of mateship in memory of you.
Written by Eugene Costin