Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.
Don and Margaret Raggatt recently retired from their trucking business, Far Northern Contractors, after being involved in the industry for 40 years. Their first truck was an Austin which was purchased in 1950 for £4000 and used to transport road base on remote area road construction sites in Outback Australia. While Don drove Margaret usually lived with him on remote work camps working as bookkeeper, camp cook and co-driver as required.
Over the years the Raggatts operated six trucks, carting grain and metal, and two Bedford school buses. For three seasons Don carted grain for Roger Day (also a Shell Rimula Wall of Fame Inductee) with a group of six other trucks from Gawler in an Atkinson. At this time Margaret kept herself busy manning the radio and cooking for the drivers.
Don and Margaret remember their greatest challenge was the time they spent on construction of the Stuart Highway when Don worked with the Oodnadatta gang on the section from Coober Pedy to the Northern Territory border. The dirt dusty corrugated road between Adelaide and Alice Springs was known as simply as “the south road”. Funding for the upgrade of the road, part of Australia’s national highway, was part of the Federal Governments 1988 Bicentennial program to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of settlement in Australia following Captain Arthur Phillips arrival with the first fleet in 1788. Road construction gangs worked the length of the Stuart Highway from Adelaide to Darwin for ten years to bring it to the standard it is today.
During their stint Don and Margaret lived in their tri-axle caravan in mobile camps wherever they were working. Some of the camps were among the trees and others were out in the open. The conditions were either very cold or very hot but the road was always full of potholes and bulldust. Sometimes, it was an adventure just to get through to the camps. Creeks often flooded and could not be crossed for hours and there would be quite a convoy of trucks held up. The drivers made the most of their time to share a barbecue and chat around a fire.
Margaret occasionally drove the truck and remembers that the Bulls bus gave her a wide berth. She recalls one time when a Bulls bus was washed off the road by a flash flood and slammed into a huge gum tree. Margaret and Don and some others waded in to help and found the driver perched on top of his bus. Not at all perturbed he informed them that he had some beer on board if it could be retrieved. Don dived down and rescued the beer which they then enjoyed atop the bus. During the course of the day, as the beer ran out, several others swam out to retrieve a carton and a great time was had by all.
In 2012 the Raggatts are enjoying their retirement travelling around the country in a caravan. The couple volunteers whenever they can on their travels and like to chat about the old days when road conditions meant high maintenance and hard work but especially remember the good times shared with mates.