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Trucking queen immortalised

PIONEERING PAIR: Transport industry icons Mac and Lorene Whittam.
PIONEERING PAIR: Transport industry icons Mac and Lorene Whittam. Contributed
Tom Dawkins, author of Lady Lorene the Truckie Queen.
Tom Dawkins, author of Lady Lorene the Truckie Queen.

Dawkins, who has been an agricultural journalist for about 10 years, met Mrs Whittam in 2006 at the Dublin saleyards, north of Adelaide.

After much persuasion, he wrote a feature article about her for a magazine and, from there, publishers Allen and Unwin thought the story of Lady Lorene, the Truckie Queen would make a good book.

The next step was getting Lorene to agree to the idea.

The clincher for Lorene to agree, Tom wrote, was being able to have the family history preserved for generations to come.

Dawkins tells Big Rigs not everyone has enough material for a book, but writing this one wasn't hard.

The first-time author said he knew the subject matter pretty well and enjoyed telling the story of Mac and Lorene, who started Whittam Transport.

They were both inducted into the Road Transport Hall of Fame for their contribution to the transport industry this year - which also marked 50 years of operations for Whittam Transport.

Sadly, Mac died only three months after the Hall of Fame reunion.

The story details how Mac and Lorene started their transport business in 1964 carting mainly stock and then fertiliser in a Dodge 10 series.

Before long, more trucks and drivers were needed and the business expanded into a transport depot at their Strathalbyn home.

The book cover for Lorene Whittam’s story.
The book cover for Lorene Whittam’s story.

 

From the Dodge, Mac bought his drivers more sophisticated trucks over the years, including Kenworths, Volvos and Macks.

Lorene initially took over the bookwork and dispatch roles in the business.

When her four sons grew up and started attending school, Lorene started attending weekly sheep sales and organising transport for them in Whittam trucks - which was a big contributor to the success of the business.

To complete the story, Dawkins not only interviewed both the Whittams but their four sons and staff.

"She's really modest," he said of Lorene.

The most interesting bits of the story would come from others - like the time she slipped out of hospital to a attend sheep sale and organise a load.

"She's got a real passion for it," Dawkins said.

"Your first impressions are about right with Lorene. She just tough, she loves a challenge."

But it wasn't always easy in a male-dominated industry and Lorene told of the few drovers that found it hard to accept her.

Dawkins learnt a lot while writing the book - from which anyone involved in the transport or rural industries would get a lot: "I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to tell the story."

Lady Lorene - The Truckie Queen

Lorene Whittam is a wife and mother who has earned a reputation as an icon of the bush and a legend of the livestock transport industry.

While working at the local milk factory in Mount Compass, south of Adelaide, Lorene met a young truck driving entrepreneur, Mac Whittam, from nearby Ashbourne.

Over almost five decades of marriage, Lorene and Mac built a successful transport company, raised four sons and travelled throughout Australia carting livestock and other goods.

Soon Lorene became a well-known face around the stockyards and earned herself the title, Lady Lorene, The Truckie Queen.

Sadly Mac died earlier this year, however, Lorene maintains a very active role in the family business, continuing to attend country sheep and cattle markets, as she has done since the late 1970s.

This is the extraordinary story of an ordinary woman.

Her relentless hard work has earned her respect in one of Australia's toughest male-dominated industries.

It is also a fascinating exploration of the Australian livestock transport industry during times of remarkable change.

Big Rigs

Topics:  book review, transport, trucks


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