A family's search for 'Big Bird'

PIONEER: Jacqueline Emily Southern, with several of her grandchildren, was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2005.
PIONEER: Jacqueline Emily Southern, with several of her grandchildren, was inducted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in 2005.

COMMONLY known as "Lady John” or "Johnny” in the industry, Jacqueline Emily Southern spent decades on the roads.

She drove them all, from an ex-army Studebaker to a white long-nose Kenworth and a C-Line International, name a few.

But nothing quite stood out on the road like "Big Bird”, her B Model Mack.

She began her career in the 60s driving a 600 series Ford, working carting wood for her partner Colin Palmer, and a Ford Thames doing the mail run.

Her passion for the road took her everywhere but WA, carting firewood, mail, frozen rabbits, wool, produce and everything in between, carving out her own trail for women in the industry.

The stubbie-wearing icon even raised 10 kids along the way and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

She held on to her passion for trucking right up until the day she died, Valentine's Day of this year.

LEFT: "Lady John”

To commemorate her life and impact on the industry, Lady John's family hopes to remember her as part of the 2017 Gatton Lights on the Hill Memorial.

Her family is searching high and low for someone with a yellow B Model Mack, similar to Big Bird, to donate their time and truck to attend the memorial on October 1 on behalf of Lady John, and, if they are willing, include a tribute to her on the run the day before.

Daughter Valda Palmer, who lives in Ipswich, said her pioneering mum deserved a final hurrah in true truckie fashion.

"She always believed that she never did anything out of the ordinary,” Ms Palmer said.

"She'd give anyone the shirt off her back, if a truck driver was stuck somewhere and had no money or food, she'd be giving everything that she had if she had to.”

Granddaughter Heidi-Maree Blake, of Lockrose, has asked anyone with a B Model Mack to get in contact in order to give Lady John a send-off reserved for so many other legends of the road.

"I don't have money to offer but I will buy them a drink at the pub and my family can tell them her story,” Ms Blake said.

"They would get the honour of making a difference to the healing of a family still impacted greatly by her passing.

"Because most of the family lived in Queensland some of us weren't able to make it to the funeral. This would be a send-off we can do together.

"We will always remember her dressed in her cowboy hat, shirt that had to have a pocket, stubbies and work boots, the way she dressed even when she wasn't driving,” the granddaughter reminisced.

"She deserves a final tribute with her favourite truck on show.”

To get in touch with the family, send an email to

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