Col – The Journey to Here


I’m a 1946 model, born in the Mount Gambier district of South Australia and raised on my parents 730 acre farm near Blackfellow’s Caves on the Limestone coast. It was paradise for me and my two younger siblings. Miles of totally deserted beaches, dunes, swamps and patches of bush.

I took an interest in birds and native plants at a very early age, an interest which persists to this day. During my last couple of years at primary school I had a small native plant nursery on the farm. I was very passionate about planting windbreaks and dune revegetation encouraged by my father who was a self taught botanist. I owe much to his enlightened attitude at that time.

Unlike most kids I did know what I wanted to be when I grew up, an ornithologist. Even though I was OK at school I never wanted to be there and by the end of grade 10 there was no way I wanted to do another 6 years of academia to get a degree.

I left school to work in shearing sheds and on farms doing the many and varied jobs required. Apart from my wildlife interests there were also motorbikes, girls and guns, not necessarily in that order. I did a lot of hunting feral animals; rabbits, foxes and feral cats. I dabbled in racing motorcycles when funds permitted and didn’t become as broadly experienced with girls as I’d hoped.

At the tender age of 22-23 I went to Bougainville, Papua New Guinea to manage a small cocoa and copra plantation. While there I introduced vanilla beans as an extra crop. After 12 months I went to the main Island of New Guinea to drive trucks in the highlands. Negotiating steep switchback roads and doing our own bridge repairs as needed was challenging but one hell of an adventure.

Back in Australia I did one season cray fishing out of Carpenter’s Rocks, SA, as a deckhand on a mates boat, a great experience which taught me a healthy respect for the sea.

The seafaring life was put on hold after I met Dianne who was a uni student in Adelaide at that time. Hormones kicked in big time so I moved to Adelaide where I worked as a boilermaker for 2 ½ years.

After Dianne graduated as a social worker we moved all our worldly possessions (which weren’t many) to Townsville in North Queensland where we bought the first of a series of 5 fishing boats which ranged in size from 8 metres of rickety sticks in the early seventies to 15 metres of 8mm steel plate in the early nineties.

I worked single handed for the first few years learning the hard way how to make a living from the sea, often 50-60 miles offshore for a week at a time. Eventually Dianne quit her profession and we spent several years as sea gypsies living aboard boats while cruising around the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Being restless sods we were involved in 10 different fisheries over the years. We also had a brief profitless crack at oyster farming. The site was delightful Magnetic Island, one of our favourite places in the whole world.

We had many adventures, took a lot of risks – at times making a good living, at other times nearly going broke. We explored the Great Barrier Reef, visited many remote and beautiful places, built a steel trawler and had many near misses along the way with a shipwreck thrown in for good measure.

My book Trawl Tales and True is a humorous account of the fishing years which we self-published in 2016.

After fishing I morphed in to a seafood buyer and exporter which meant I still got the fish without the wet arse. As an adjunct to fishmongering I designed, built or modified various metal and mechanical bits and pieces for fishing boats. Engine installations and alignments were part of that.

In 1997 my first wife died and in 2005 after our 3 daughters became independent I moved to Tasmania for a change of scene; a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fridge”. For 5 years I worked part time for Wildspot consulting doing research on eagles in relation to wind farms. Being paid to work in remote and interesting parts of Tasmania as a bird watcher was a bloody good gig.

In 2008 I met the dynamic Rees Campbell through an internet dating site and discovered we shared many common and even uncommon interests, particularly in all things wild. We were married at our conservation property “Tiabunna” in Somerset in 2012…

And fast forward to the present….

To read and listen to a recent conversation with ABC reporter Rick Eaves click on this link: (click on the embedded sound cloud for the entire conversation)

Trawl Tales and True

One man’s adventures as part of making a living as a professional fisherman in far north Queensland. Col takes us through the (sometimes mis)adventures of building boats, wrangling crocodiles, fighting off marlin and bull sharks…  and bringing home the spoils of prawns, barramundi and spanish mackerel. All the characters, including Col, are larger than life and their exploits are humorously recounted in the virtually lost art of Australian yarn telling.

A riveting and exciting journey through 30 years , 10 fisheries, 5 boats, many marine men and women and sea creatures. 200+pp soft cover with a few photos to verify it really happened.

Self published in 2016. Available directly through Col $30

Reviews for TT@T

You are lucky to still be here. The book is a real page turner.             L L

Well told and well written. I felt every sandfly bite, wave and dreaded breakdown and the stressful life of being at sea in a small boat for long periods and having to come home with the money – always the money. And at all times stay alive. ….I couldn’t put it down for long.         DH

I laughed myself to sleep over it.               JG

Finished reading your book last night and started it again this morning….had trouble putting it down to get work done. DM