Born David James Jones, (Jimmy), on April 19, 1901, in Ruapuna, New Zealand, he migrated to Australia in 1924 and worked as a shearer for the Stock Owners Association.
Possum became a recluse during the great depression, (1929), after having his money stolen from a boarding house he was staying in. He declared himself unfinancial when couldn’t pay his Australian Workers Union Ticket and therefore was retrenched as a shearer. Disillusioned and disappointed, he turned his back on society and relegated himself to the bush.
Possum was widely known around the Wentworth area. For over half a century he roamed the surrounding bush, having numerous camping spots along the Murray and Darling Rivers. He lived in isolation, preferring his beloved bush and the company of animals, to any human contact. He was renowned for his independence and the long distances he travelled by foot in relative short periods of times. He was often seen climbing trees in search of honey and sleeping in tree ‘hides’; these habits led locals to refer to him as “The Possum”.
Possum was a shy, gentle person who didn’t do any harm. He always kept himself clean and fit and his pride would not allow him to accept food or shelter. Station owners often found fences and gates mended, wood chopped, sheep crutched, weeds cleared and newspapers missing (although always put back a few days later!). The only payment he ever accepted was for salt and matches. He was well trusted, although if no-one was about, he also habitually released station dogs which were chained up
Possum died at the age of 82. His body was found against a large gum tree on the Victorian side of the Murray River, just up from Lock 8, on August 4, 1982. It is believed that he had been dead for at least four weeks. A funeral was held, paid for by locals, and was attended by over 250 people, including local and national media. He lays at rest at the Wangumma Cemetery. His headstone simply reads: “David James Jones ‘Possum’ 1901-1982 – at rest where he roamed”.
A statue of Possum is now located in Fotherby Park, Wentworth and pays tribute to the larger than life recluse who became a local legendary figure.
A book titled “A Man Called Possum” was written by Max Jones of Renmark. Max Jones, an ex-detective, was one of the few people who spoke briefly with Possum from time to time. “A Man Called Possum” has had ten reprints and is available for purchase from the Wentworth Visitor Information Center.