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End of the line for fifth generation fisho

Maclean professional fisherman, Alan ‘Fatty’ Ford, who retired last week after 62 years in the industry. Image: Lynne Mowbray.

Maclean professional fisherman and local identity Alan ‘Fatty’ Ford has tied up his trawler and hung up his nets for the last time.
His retirement ends five generations of family fishing; four generations of Fords, and one on the McDonald side before that, who were fishermen in Scotland.
Mr Ford finished his fishing career last week, retiring after 62 years due to health issues.
As a child, he would help out his father who was a fisherman, juggling fishing and school.
Mr Ford said that he was almost 15 when he left school, around 1956.
“I had more money when I left school than I do now,” Mr Ford said laughing.
“I started work with my uncle Lachie McDonald (mums brother) ‘meshing’ and doing a bit of trawling.
“When I was 17, I bought my first trawler, which was 19 foot/six – it was a big trawler and I paid cash for it. I bought it from Charlie Hammond of Iluka. It even had a winch on it which was unheard of back then.
“Then I bought my first car when I was almost 18, from Don Day who had the Ford dealership in Maclean. I had to get a ‘Ford’!
“It was a red and white Ford Falcon station wagon and I paid cash for that too. I think I still have the receipt for it at home.
“I remember dad telling me to spend some of my money and stop bludging off him, so I did. And I’ve never had any money since then.”
Mr Ford eventually got rid of his first trawler and worked for a while on Bill Zeitch’s 32-foot wooden trawler, ‘Westward 1’, before buying it from him.
“Bill owned the Pacific Hotel at Yamba at the time as well as the Great Northern Hotel, at South Grafton,” Mr Ford recalled.

“I worked that boat until 1974 after this one, ‘Westward’, was built in Newcastle.”
Fatty said he has lived all his life in Maclean, and was born at number four Morgan Street.
“I now live at number six Morgan Street, so I have travelled!
“The only time I left Maclean was when Val and I got married and I spent two years living in Yamba and that was about 49 years ago.
“I’ve travelled around more islands than most people, they’re all in the Clarence River, but that doesn’t matter.
“When you get all these smart people who like to skite about where they’ve been, I just say ‘well have you travelled around 100 islands? And they’re buggered.”
At 75 years of age, Mr Ford has seen a lot of changes in the fishing industry over the years.
“When I first started meshing there would have been 129 trawlers and around 30 meshing boats. We always made a quid and we weren’t limited to the hours or days we worked,” he said.
“You could work 24 hours a day seven days a week, if you wanted to.
“The rules and regulations which have been brought in by fisheries now stink. The DPI [Department of Primary Industry] has stuffed estuary fishing.”
Fatty Ford retired on Thursday 1 June after selling his trawler ‘Westward’ to Tim Clark from Iluka.
“When Tim was going to school he used to look at my boat and say, ‘I’d love that boat – the old black pearl’ [as it was known].”
Mr Ford has been suffering from a facet cyst on the spine, which causes constant nerve pain.
“I’d have kept going, if this didn’t happen,” he said.
Mr Ford’s sense of humour, however, has not been affected by his ailment.
“My pain relief is doctor Toohey’s,” he said laughing.
“I’m looking forward to playing bowls and drinking p… in my retirement.”
None of Mr Ford’s family has continued with the generational fishing tradition.
“The Ford is finished – it’s the end of the line.”