15 January 2024

Cape York legend Bill Jackson farewelled with a true bushman's funeral

| Matt Nicholls
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Bill Jackson was an icon of Cape York Peninsula.

One of Cape York’s most iconic figures has been laid to rest.

William Arthur Jackson, or Bill, as he was best known, was farewelled by friends and family in a true bushman’s funeral at Gordonvale last Tuesday.

He died a week after his 93rd birthday on December 20, 2023.

Best known across Cape York as the owner and founder of Wolverton Station, Bill was also a Cook Shire councillor and established the hardware store in Cooktown.

Long-time federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch even credits Bill for getting him into politics, saying it was first discussed over a cold drink at the Coen pub.

Bill’s family have put together this little biography on their much-loved patriarch …

On December 13, 1930, in a small Far North Queensland town, a true Aussie legend was born.

William Arthur Jackson, who was known as ‘Bill’, was welcomed in Mareeba by Gladys and William Jackson.

At the young age of 16, he discovered his love for cattle, kicking off at Springvale in the lower Cape York Peninsula region.

After a few more years of droving cattle and working on other stations, Bill met Dawn Yeats, who had spent much of her life growing up in the region.

Dawn’s father worked on the Wenlock Goldfields which meant Dawn was home-schooled and understood the Cape life.

Ironically, they met on the rail motor heading to Einasleigh and their hearts pulled them both back to the Far North.

Bill Jackson with his mother Gladys.

After they married in 1953 in Cairns, they lived in Cooktown and worked on properties including Olive Vale and Starcke Station before establishing a hardware store in Cooktown with Jack and Betty Stewart.

This store became Stewart & Jackson Hardware and was more of a regular meeting place for locals to have a yarn.

In 1966, Bill and Dawn shifted north to the Archer River region, starting Wolverton Station from scratch in 1967.

Bill partnered with a good friend, Abbey Seagreen and together invested many years embarking on their own successful cattle enterprise.

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was tough and it took a lot of grit to make it work. Back then, the roads were unsealed with no bridges or causeways with a 180km trip to Weipa taking a full day.

Droving cattle would take weeks, sometimes months as cattle trucks to Wolverton Station were non-existent.

Electricity, supplies and communication were also much different to what we have now.

Bill was away droving cattle through those dry months, so when Neville Jackson was a toddler, Dawn would walk from the homestead to the front gate every morning to make a call and check in with the telegraph station so they knew she was safe.

She would hold little Neville’s hand for the whole 3km.

Bill and Dawn had four children between 1954 and 1964.

Their girls, Sherrill and Tricia, established the Archer River Roadhouse back in the early 80s.

The sons, Kevin and Neville partnered with Bill around the same time, formalising so much more than the father and son relationship on Wolverton Station.

Bill struggled to accept challenges and always stepped up, spoke out and tried to advocate for the Far North. He was successfully elected to Cook Shire Council where he committed 13 years to the region and worked hard to improve roads, transport, the cattle industry, communication, mail service, health, access and so much more.

Honesty and dedication were what Bill stuck to and he never believed in doing a job “half-arsed”.

In his senior years, Bill Jackson would entertain ‘old folks’ in nursing homes, despite being older than most of the residents!

Bill and Dawn employed a number of locals over their years on Wolverton Station.

Many of today’s Elders from Coen worked closely with Bill.

He was a hard man, but a kind man. He would raise his voice to speak the softest of words.

In 2002, John Williamson visited Bill and Dawn at the homestead and was so inspired by their home, made with corrugated iron and stringy bark beams, that he wrote and released a song Granny’s Little Gunyah, which is played today by many visitors to the station who adore visualising earlier life on the station.

Bill leaves four incredible adult children, a tribe of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great, great-grandchildren.

He forever fought, advocated, tried and taught, never wronging what was right.

He would argue, fight, persist and swear but underneath was a gentle, smart and incredible man full of hope, love and passion for a better tomorrow.

Editor’s note: There is now a push to have the new Archer River bridge named after the late Bill Jackson, a move that is supported by his family and many across the Far North.

Cape York Weekly will write to the Department of Transport and Main Roads, advocating for this to be formalised in time for the bridge’s opening, hopefully this year.

The campaign is also supported by Warren Entsch.

Bill Jackson with his children Kevin, Tricia, Sherrill and Neville.

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