JOHN Clark says he’ll miss Weipa’s laidback lifestyle when he bids farewell to the community he has called home for almost 17 years.
Next week, on Friday, July 7, the man best known as “Clarky” will retire from his role as port supervisor at Weipa and reluctantly move to Cairns.
“I’d love to move home (to Thursday Island) but it’s too expensive and there are no houses available,” he said.
“I’ve never lived in the city but whenever I go there I always want to come home straight away.”
Moving to the big smoke of Cairns will be a big adjustment for Clarky and his wife Cathrina, who made the shift from TI to Weipa in 2007.
“It was the wife who wanted the change,” he said of the move.
“I was working as the assistant port supervisor on TI for Ports Corporation Queensland and there was a port supervisor job that came up in Weipa.
“We were in Weipa for about a year when it changed from PCQ to North Queensland Bulk Ports.”
The Weipa lifestyle has certainly suited the 74-year-old, who enjoys spending time in the bush and near the water.
“I love the relaxed life here. It’s much the same as I had at home; you go fishing and hunting on your days off.”
A camp by the Wenlock River is where you’ll find Clarky on his days off, although his Weipa-based son will now be entrusted to look after it.
While the much-loved figure says he doesn’t know how he’ll spend his time in retirement, he’ll no doubt be kept busy by his ever-growing family.
A father of five, Clarky has 23 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. He says he’ll still a few years off from having any great, great-grandchildren.
Amongst his massive family is Jesse Williams, nicknamed “Tha Monstar” in America after his dominant performances in college football.
“That’s my grandson. He’s my eldest daughter’s son,” said Clarky.
Williams was drafted to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFL Draft, but didn’t play a game after struggling with injuries.
LIFE ON THURSDAY ISLAND
This year marks Clarky’s 60th year in full-time employment, having finished school as a teenager to work with his father.
“I worked with him until he died in 1970 and then I took over,” he recalled.
“We did plumbing, gas fitting, oxy-electric welding, steel fabrication, fencing, tree lopping and kitchen renovations.
“We were general contractors, basically. At one stage we were even the temporary undertakers.
“I ran the business until 1998 and then started doing freelance work for a few people I had previously contracted to. That was from 1998 until 2002 when I started with Ports Corp.”
Clarky’s grandfather previously had a blacksmith and plumbing business on TI but it was put on hold when most residents were evacuated for World War II.
“My grandfather and his family got evacuated in 1941 and were sent to Toowoomba,” he said.
“They came back in 1946 and everything had been taken. The Yanks that were on TI took everything – they cleaned the house out.
“There wasn’t even a mirror left in the house.”
Always community-minded, Clarky was on the executive committee of Torres Shire Council and held the chairman’s role for several years.
“They gave me a plaque when I finished up,” he said.
Does a plaque compare to a boat? Recently, NQBP honoured his legacy by naming a boat in his honour.
“I wasn’t surprised when it was announced because they did tell me,” he said.
“But I told them they had to put Clarky on it instead of my name.
“Most people won’t know this but my name is actually Edwin John Clark. But everyone knows me as Clarky so it had to be that.”
NQBP acting CEO Belinda Kenny congratulated Clarky on his upcoming retirement.
“In his 20-plus years with NQBP (and formerly Port Corporation Queensland), Clarky has had a stalwart presence in Weipa not only with our port stakeholders, but also throughout the wider community,” Ms Kenny said.
“His commitment and dedication to his role as NQBP’s port supervisor will leave a lasting legacy.
“Always willing to go the extra mile, Clarky has also cooked thousands of sausages during the annual Weipa Fishing Classic and has presented many of our sponsorships and donations to community groups.
“We wish Clarky and his wife Cath all the best with their move to Cairns and in their retirement journey.”