Vale Patricia Elizabeth Clift (nee Studdy)

The passing of Patricia Elizabeth (Pat) Clift occurred on July 2 this year, just a few weeks short of her 91st birthday. Pat's interesting life included the roles of farmer, wife, mother, author, illustrator and teacher. She is perhaps best remembered locally as an author of a number of Australian history books on exciting people and events in our nation's colourful past under the name of Pat Studdy-Clift.

Born in Gunnedah in 1926 to parents Gordon and Jean Studdy, Pat came second in the family with an older sister, Joan, and a younger brother, Tom. Her initial education came via Blackfriars Correspondence School at the family rural property, "Kareela", outside of Gunnedah, followed by secondary schooling in Sydney at Ascham Girls School to Intermediate standard.

Her final schooling was at the time of the Japanese midget submarine shelling on Sydney suburbs and their torpedo attacks on harbour shipping in 1942. The following year, at the age of 15, she joined the Women's Emergency Signalling Corps in Sydney where she taught Morse code to the personnel from the Australian Air Force, Merchant Navy and also American Airmen, who had trouble grasping the concept.

With her father doing his war duty as an Army officer in Victoria Barracks in Sydney, Pat's world was turned upside down when the farm manager of "Kareela" suddenly resigned in 1943 and the women folk returned to look after the property. Thrust into a normally man's world as a teenager, she together with her mother and 5 year old brother, there faced the complexities of running a rural property compounded by wartime rationing and a raging drought. Battling these elements, she learned many farm skills including killing and cutting up their own meat with Pat even mastering driving a Caterpillar type tractor to build a dam for part of their failing water supplies.

A year after they returned to "Kareela" her father was invalided out of the Army and they were assigned three Italian prisons of war (POWs) to help relieved the man power shortage. Pat often worked on her own with these men in remote parts of the property and never felt threatened by them even though these people were technically the enemy. She wrote and illustrated a book on these experiences titled "Only Our Gloves On" published in 1981.

After the war Pat and her sister, Joan, became share farmers, working their father's land, with their own tractor, truck and equipment. They are believed to be the first known women broad-acre share farmers in NSW and possible Australia and traded as the Studdy Sisters with even their truck sign written with that title.

Marrying Jim Clift from Breeza in 1948, in late 1954 they then moved to a river front property, "Condabri", between Miles and Condamine in the western Darling Downs which they developed in almost 30 years of hard but rewarding work. Again she faced many challenges not the least of which was in 1956, in a heavily pregnant state, being left alone all day for 6 months by the menfolk while being surrounded by floodwaters and having no forms of communication but with responsibility for a small but active toddler and his two older brothers, who had to travel to school by row boat and then bus.

Heavily engaged in transforming the under developed lands into a thriving rural enterprise she also involved herself and the family with many local activities. One unusual interest that the family followed from the start of the 1960s was water skiing on the local lagoons with Pat becoming very proficient at water ballet. She wrote up these and many other experiences in a book called "On the Banks of the Condamine" with a later revised edition named "On the Banks of the Condamine Revisited". It personalises the challenges of being on the land and threads a tapestry of the strong social fabric of the surrounding rural community of those times.

'Retiring' to northern NSW in the 1980s and captivated by the cosmopolitan nature of the Tweed Shire she then wrote and illustrated two books called "The Many Faces of the Tweed", a snapshot of the characters from her newly adopted neighbourhood. Interviewing and recording a diverse range of people varying from followers of Hare Krishna and 'Orange People' through to singers like Jade Hurley and the civic movers and shakers, she immersed herself in many aspects of local culture very foreign from her rural roots. The second Tweed book was a project in association with local unemployed youths.

Having time to seriously pursue her love of writing she then undertook research and completion of a number of books on some of our lesser known events and characters. A chance meeting with an ex-Northern Territory policeman, Ron Brown, lead to a collaboration between them that produced two books. The first, "Bush Justice", tells of Ron's experiences as a lone representative of the white man's law and mediator on camel patrols in the red centre of Australia between 1945 and 1952.

The second, titled "Darwin Dilemmas", details life and the events at that top end administrative centre through the eyes of a local policeman stationed there between the years of 1939 to 1945. His first hand account recalls the times of the much hushed up 68 air raids on northern Australia by Japanese bombers and the human face of Darwin in the period.

In 1996 Pat completed perhaps her most intriguing book. "The Lady Bushranger" relives the life of Elizabeth Jessie Hickman, a colourful woman with many aliases, whose story remained hidden along with the Wollemi Pine and her hideout in the extended valleys of the Blue Mountains until the early 1990s. Jessie's early circus life, cattle duffing, repeat escapes from the police and her final taming are now portrayed for all but like most accounts of bushranging adventures is mixed with truth, legend and mystery.

In between all these activities Pat, with a strong love of music, found time to teach the piano, organ and keyboard.

Following Pat's diagnosis with macular degeneration in the early 1990s, her sight deteriorated to a world of blurred images and shapes with some very minor peripheral vision. She treated her handicap as just another one of life's challenges and continued to undertake as many of her previous activities as possible.

Writing continued to be a passion for Pat with two other interesting books being written. One, titled "The Incredible Klemm", involved the story of remarkable surviving New Guinea mission plane and the other an enthralling adventure of nuns escaping the Japanese occupation of northern New Guinea called "When Nuns wore Soldier's Trousers".

In her later life Pat continued to be active in her community, even being presented regularly as one of the Lismore City Library's Living Books that "readers" borrow for half an hour before putting her back "on the shelf". Sadly, he husband, Jim, predeceased her in late 2015 however Pat continued to live independently even with her lack of vision.

For her swansong, her final book, "Touch Me Not", about a young woman, who contracted leprosy in pre-war Darwin, was finally finished only a month before she died and will be launched at Lismore Library in early August.

Pat is survived by her four sons, Bill, David, Tony and Tom, and their families.

Written by her third son, Anthony G (Tony) Clift of 10 Clift Road, Maryborough Queensland 4650