The Original and Staying FREE!



 By Bob Norson

While working on "WhiteBird" at the boat yard at Mackay Marina a couple of months ago, I received a call from Mick Cotter, the current lessee of Middle Percy Island. He requested an interview which I was inclined to give because the status of the island is of importance to the boating community. I did say that there was no way it could be done for the issue currently under construction and deferred to a later date. Nonetheless, Mick made statements at the time that were quite provocative. He accused Jon Hickling of theft. He reported that his caretaker had caught Jon Hickling attempting to 'steal' a 'honey spinner', (a honey extraction device) and that the police were involved. I asked if there were charges being made by the police and he admitted that there wasn't. Regarding my article in issue #9 on Cathryn Radcliff and the documents she had presented for my perusal, Mick stated the he could refute all those documents. I asked that he fax me copies but he declined saying he was concerned about the possibilities of litigation but maybe he could arrange to have them sent to a mate and then I could be shown them. I explained that that wasn't acceptable to me. I would require the same qualification for referring to documents in publication from him as I did for Cathryn Radcliff or anyone for that matter. He also said that, "My son and I are on the pension and now living here full time."

When it came time to contact Mick to conduct the interview he said he wished to make a statement or press release for me to use for possible publication. I didn't have a problem with that so put off the interview till I could peruse Micks statement and investigate whatever claims were contained in it. What I received was over 2200 words of dramatic material. The release was characterised by attacks at the Hicklings and Andy Martins family, juxtaposed by self aggrandisement.

 Mick Cotter and son Patrick (Paddy).

 An excerpt follows;

I asked Lys (Hickling, ed note) for Andy's' address. She gave me what turned out to be a false address. I decided at this point to jump on my white steed and gallop off to my old friends rescue. Within 10 days I had tracked him down and together with my 4 1/2 year old son we were on his doorstep in Chipping Campden, England. …Within 2 days I confessed my desire to purchase the lease from him and take him home. He said he couldn't sell me the lease but would gladly give it to me knowing I would only do what was right for the island. Hoping to have some time to prepare for this move, this was not to be the case. The woman at whos' place he was staying was to kick him out after he had decided to give me the lease. When we turned up the next day Andy had his bags packed and was hoping to be home in 7 days. Andrew Martin at this point was penniless. After repeated efforts to get his "dear family" to reduce the amount of money being taken from his trust fund fell on deaf ears he had almost given up ever getting home. At this point I begged, borrowed and stole (metaphorically speaking of course) enough money to get Andy home and give him enough money to sustain his needs. Within 21 days of leaving England I had uprooted my family, closed down my substantial furniture business, deposited a large amount of my life savings into Andy's accounts and returned to the island with Andy……"

The remarks concerning Lys Hickling differ from the account given by Jon Hickling and the inference that Andrew Martins family was bleeding his finances is denied by a representative of the family. "The only money Andy was paying was support (divorce settlement) of 2000 pounds a year." The mention of Mick depositing moneys into "Andy's accounts" was of particular interest as it dealt with claims at the heart of the dispute. Thus I asked Mick at interview to provide substantiation of this claim, assuming that receipts of this important a transaction would have been retained. He refused saying he would rather not talk about it because of tax issues. I reminded him that it was he who had brought it up.

I asked of Mick's opinion of the authenticity of the will that I had published excerpts from in issue # 9. He declined comment as he hadn't seen the document but expressed the opinion that Andy could have been manipulated into such a thing by family members. I asked for Mick's comment regarding the claim that an agreement between him and Andy existed that stated that Andy could demand Mick sell him back his island if Mick failed to perform adequately as care taker. Mick denied such an agreement existed. In the way of refuting all Cathryn Radcliff's documents as Mick claimed he could in our phone conversation while I was at the boatyard, he did have sent a photo copied document that, while an interesting addition, I do not believe disputes or replaces any document in the article at question. The 3 page "Deed of Pre-emption" document appears to state that Mick may not sell the island while Andy was alive without giving Andy first go. The document is witnessed by JP. There were other papers sent as well that were purported to be copies of hand written letters by Andy. As was the case with similar material presented by Andy's family, with no way to authenticate I can't comment on them.

I asked if he now intended to permanently reside on the island and he indicated that he did.

I asked if he knew of any interest by the EPA or "Parks" in assuming possession the island? Mick stated that he communicated regularly with the EPA/Parks office in Mackay and they were happy with the islands care. This is at contrast to a statement by George Mayer. (See previous page.) Also I have been given a copy of a letter from Jon Wormersly of the EPA (incorporating Parks and Wildlife) that states, "…Middle Percy Island…may be most effectively protected by conversion of the tenure to National Park on expiry of the term lease."

Mick had gotten word that I had talked to the crews of "Kalimna," Terry of "San-E-T" and George Mayer. He claimed to have patched things up with "Kalimna" and admitted that there was a debt to Terry for provisioning George Mayer when he was caretaker on the island and promised now to pay. I contacted Terry and passed on the message. Terry's response was, "I've heard that before." Terry said that the latest offer to pay the money did not alter his opinion of Micks stewardship of the island.. Mick had some harsh words for George Mayer, contesting the amount of money that was agreed to be paid to George and saying he wouldn't pay him in any case because he caused harm to the island, particularly the batteries of the solar system. I asked Terry's opinion of George's job on the island and he disputed Mick's claim that George had caused harm there.

More words from Mick: "Since 2001 we have served over 6000 cups of tea, coffee or milo.4000 glasses of water. We helped to install the automated weather station and regularly perform simple operations to keep it operating. We delivered and mostly installed the government repeater station that helps keep our waters safe from smuggling, poaching, etc. We have available at the homestead a fully updated RFDS medical kit. We have delivered over 2000 liters of jet a1 helicopter fuel to helipad at homestead from Mackay. We supplied over 200 litres of fuel to over 11 mariners who ran short. We have a telephone installed at homestead in case yachtsmen are in need of assistance. Homestead is finally cleaned and set up as museum as tribute to the pioneers of this incredible island. We have hosted guests from Endeavour replica, Young Endeavour, Windeward Bound and many more .we have assisted in air sea rescue operations, often relaying radio messages. For all of this we have asked absolutely nothing from absolutely no body......what everybody seems to forget is that Andy never gave this island to anyone over 38 years. He gave it to me. It is my home now nobody else's. Percy Island nor myself owes anybody anything at all. At the end of the day I still welcome all and sundry to this house and island. The ability to visit Percy Island is after all a privilege and not a right. Would anybody welcome anybody onto their yacht or property regardless of colour creed or intention. I think not. We do not have to supply bread ,fruit ,veges or any thing to anyone. In fact it is absolutely forbidden and is in contravention of the conditions of the lease I signed with dept of natural resources.....every body thinks they own some part of this island. In fact they do not. I do. I own all of it, from high tide mark to high tide mark. Everybody should be more concerned about the good times they have had in the past and the times they could have in the future…."


And What of the charges against the Hicklings??

I contacted Jon Hickling to get his side of these issues. I was surprised to hear that the family had visited the island at all as there was much hard feeling and disappointment left over from their leaving the island after 12 years, finding that the island they thought they would have a stake in was instead handed over to Mick Cotter for $10 (see TCP # 6). When I talked to Jon he confirmed that they had stopped on their way north and had a visit with the caretakers there. He said that they had gotten on well with the group and took the opportunity to look around. Also, Jon noted that when they left a few years ago, there was a limit to what they could carry on their boat, the "Ruby Charlotte" and he did attempt to retrieve some of what he claimed was their personally owned gear, including a 'Honey Spinner,' a honey extracting machine. Jon said, "Mick had bought another, bigger machine and mine was just sitting there getting dusty and I saw no reason why I shouldn't take it with me." One of the caretakers discovered Jon in the loading process and requested that Jon not take the machine. Jon reports that he relented because he understood the caretakers view in that he couldn't verify that it was Jons and it was on the island in his care. "And I really didn't need it Bob, but it wasn't being used." Jon told how he had heard tales from Mick about his so-called misdeeds. "He told people that when we left I tied a dog to a tree to starve to death which was not true." Jon gave me the name of the business in Marian where he had purchased the Honey Spinner to check out.

I contacted the business "Hello Honey" owned by Peter and Lynette Zahra in the hope they may have record or recollection of the matter. They did recall that Jon Hickling had purchased the Honey spinner in question for $600 in about 97. The Zahra's had done a lot of business with Percy Island via the Hicklings over the years. They would buy all the honey that was offered them and reported that their dealings with Jon Hickling had always been satisfactory. They were angry about Mick Cotter. They claimed they had made a deal where they would give him a new, larger machine and containers in exchange for a small down payment, the smaller machine that had been purchased by Jon, and a future quantity of honey from the island or cash equivalent. The Zahra's report that they have received nothing except the original down payment. The older machine was not handed in as a trade as they say they had agreed, nor any additional money. The supply of honey also ceased. Lynette provided me with copies of court documents that represent their attempts to force the payment of the debt which according to their documents is over $1500. They expressed doubt that they will ever see the money.


Editors comment; The universal concern of the local yachties I have talked to about the island is the fear that it could all come undone because of the personal 'dynamics' involved. Whist it is acknowledged that Mick has the lease there is a strong feeling in the community that the island belongs to all and the lessee is the caretaker of the public's resource.