‘Fearless adventurer’ who held top jobs across the world, dies aged 74

Georgina Knott SUS-170118-105528001
Georgina Knott SUS-170118-105528001

Georgina Ann Knott, (née Payne) who has died aged 74, was a fearless adventurer and woman of her time.

Born in Farnborough, Kent, in November 1942, Georgina was the daughter of Albert and Kitty Payne and the youngest of five children - Kathleen, Maureen, Michael and Jennifer. The war saw the family close up their hairdressing business and move from Farnborough to Ramsgate and then on to Camber Sands, where they had holidayed and where Kitty saw an advert for a café for sale. The Kit Kat became a home and training ground for Georgina as she was required to help out in the family business, which later expanded to include the Marina and Green Owl Hotel.

Georgina Knott SUS-170118-105501001

Georgina Knott SUS-170118-105501001

Georgina often spoke of knitted swim suits full of sand, of collecting pop bottles on the beach with her friend to earn some pocket money, and making a little extra by hanging around sand dunes until courting couples offered them cash to move along.

She attended the Freda Gardham School in Rye. After school she began working as a tour guide on coach trips for Davies Coaches and even learned to drive a bus. She then managed to get a job in London working as an assistant to Mr Hedges of Benson and Hedges.

Her work must have been exemplary because when she decided to emigrate to Australia, Mr Hedges wrote her a letter for the Imperial Tobacco Company asking that they employ her.

On January 13, 1967 she departed from Southampton under the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme and six weeks later, arrived in Sydney.

Georgina Knott cutting the cake on her wedding day . SUS-170118-105559001

Georgina Knott cutting the cake on her wedding day . SUS-170118-105559001

Her plans to go to the Imperial Tobacco factory were put on hold when she realised just how far away from Sydney it was. Instead, she got a job working on telephone switchboards for the Department of Commonwealth Services.

But she wanted to see more of the country, so applied to work as a driver, companion and housekeeper for a Mr Chittick, whose family pioneered breeding Illawarra Diary Cattle.

Here, she met a cattleman from Eastern Europe, fell in love and got engaged. He gave her a beautiful fire opal ring but tragically died in a road accident not long after.

News from home that her father was dying of cancer meant her Australian dream was coming to an end but she never lost her love for the country and its people. She returned many times to visit.

Georgina Knott with Alistair and Cath. SUS-170118-105544001

Georgina Knott with Alistair and Cath. SUS-170118-105544001

On her way back to see her father she stopped in Singapore and Malaysia to visit her sister Jennifer, who was married to an RAF airman. It was on this visit she met a young airman called Alistair Knott. After her father’s death she returned to Australia briefly. On her way back she stopped in Malaysia and again met Alistair, and they began walking out.

On her return from Australia she became a partner in the family business in Camber, working the tea urn, the deep fat fryer and the tills from dawn until dusk.

Alistair Knott arrived back from his Singapore posting and came searching for Georgina. In the days before phones and texts, she was called out from the kitchen one day and found him standing on the car park, waiting for her. They wed on October 31, 1970 at St Joseph’s Church in Camber.

She dissolved the partnership with her mother and left Camber to join him in married quarters at RAF Halton, where the first of their two children, Helen, arrived. Alistair left the RAF in 1972 and the family moved back to Camber where Georgina bought a house called Seven Chimneys, started a shop in her garden shed and turned the whole front of the building into a general store and car park. A second child, Trevor, arrived in 1973.

In 1978 she moved to her dream home, a bungalow in Icklesham.

Alistair got a new job in Somerset which meant long commutes and eventually the family sold up and moved to Somerset. Here she worked in shops selling high-end fashion to fit around her children’s schooling until the family were posted to Hong Kong in 1986.

Her energy found an outlet again working as an administrator for the British Government in Hong Kong.

She returned to the UK in 1989 and got a job in the Co-op Estates department where she fostered her interest in property. She became a magistrate in 1993 and served on the bench in Taunton. She was a parish councillor in Cheddon Fitzpaine and also served on the board at the Brewhouse Theatre. After redundancy from the Co-op she worked for Persimmon Homes selling houses. She finally retired in 2008 and focussed her attention on her grandchildren and her love of foreign travel

Georgina died from Myeloma on December 31, 2016 after seeing the New Year fireworks in Sydney on television. She leaves husband Alistair, two children Helen and Trevor and three grandchildren, Emily, Talia and Ellis.

Her funeral takes place on Friday, January 27 at Taunton Deane Crematorium. Donations in memory of Georgina to the RNLI and St Margaret’s Hospice, through Wallace Stuart Lady Funeral Directors.

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