By Ivor Jones
I would say that she wasn’t a woman who “rocked the boat”, but she was a journalist (amongst many other things). Patsy Adam Smith was born out of wedlock almost 98 years ago in rural Victoria and adopted by a family employed by Victorian railways. Interesting life
Living as she did on the edge of a barren desert she had no experience of the sea until one day the mothers of the 12 students at the little country school decided to organise a trip to the sea on an old 1925 truck. The students and their mothers crowded into the truck after school one Friday night and travelled throughout the night on dusty dirt roads arriving at the coast early on a Saturday morning.
They were practically speechless until one student, Billy Wilson, remarked “What a bloody lot of water”.
It was whilst she was in Hobart during 1954 working on research at the Tasmanian State Archives for a national magazine that she was approached by a Public Relations Officer for the Tasmanian Transport Commission. He offered a voyage on the Coastal vessel “Naracoopa” as a guest of the Commission.
She thought that she would be able to gain an interesting story from such a trip for the magazine. An interesting story did come about eventually in the form of a book some years later.
It was after that voyage on the “Naracoopa” that she accompanied the Commissioner for Transport in Tasmania and the Manager of the Transport Commission Shipping Service in a car whilst travelling to Launceston when she was asked “how did she enjoy the trip on board the ship?”.
Patsy told them of what she thought went wrong, from a passenger viewpoint, and how she felt matters could be righted. Before they had reached the Tamar River where many of the Commission’s ships were based she was offered and accepted a job on board the “Naracoopa”.
During her time as a crew member onboard the ship, she became the first female articled radio operator in what was then a male dominated role.
Her Interesting life at sealed to her becoming familiar with various sounds and actions that mariners experience.
Long after she had left that life she travelled on a luxury cruise liner from Australia to Japan and after two boring days, she was invited to the Captain’s Cocktail Party. When introduced to the Captain she asked him why he had dropped engine revs. He gave her a sharp look and said nothing.
The following day he sent for her having been flabbergasted by her reference to the ship’s engines. After she informed him of her days as a crew member of the “Naracoopa” he gave her the run of the ship for the rest of the trip thus making the trip much more enjoyable for her.
As a prolific writer she has written 33 non-fiction books based on her life and her research of related stories based on her family history and experiences. During her lifetime she travelled to over 60 countries researching material for her books. Four of her books earned her literary awards.
She has been employed as an Adult Education Officer in Tasmania, Manuscripts Field Officer for the State Library of Victoria. She was a member of the Board of Directors for the Royal Humane Society Australasia, a Committee Member of the Museum of Victoria, appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1980 and appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1994.
In all Patsy Adam Smith was a remarkable woman who one must say had an interesting life. Patsy passed away in September 2001.