We left England late summer on the Sitmar Fairsea and arrived in Sydney 21/9/62. Our trip took us through the Suez Canal and some of the places we stopped were Malta and Egypt. I remember the boats coming out to our huge ship, filled with souvenirs and smiling welcoming people.
My sister any I spent a lot of time in the pool, though we could not swim, and on the decks playing table tennis etc. I remember mum in a lot of pretty dresses and skirts, and she was excited and very happy. The other thing I remember was her asking us to buy her unmentionables, her Modess sanitary napkins. Mum was Victorian in her shame about such things.
One day I remember very clearly because everybody was shell shocked. Some people were crying. I asked mum who was also crying what had happened and she told me that the most beautiful woman in the world had died. It was 6/8/62 and it was Marilyn Monroe who had passed away.
I cannot remember any of the passengers or many of the stops though I know we arrived in Fremantle, Australia on my cousin Jane’s birthday. It was a very exciting moment as a lot of passengers disembarked there to start their new lives. We however continued on to Sydney and from there made our way up to the Central Coast to Wyong.
Our other family was in Lincolnshire, near Skegness. We had a wonderful few weeks there with mum’s huge family. The beaches there were fabulous, with donkeys and fun fairs nearby. My sister and I frolicked our days away, perhaps not realising that we would not see this much loved place and mum’s family again. Our aunts and uncles brought their new babies over to say goodbye. From there we drove to Southampton and boarded the ship for Australia.
When I was seven years old dad had saved enough money to get us a really good start in life in Australia. We had family in County Mayo in Eire to say goodbye to. I remember some of the time in Eire but most is what I have put together from photos and from what mum and dad told me over the years.
We had regularly visited our grandparents and knew some of my dad’s brothers from their living and working in the UK. My dad actually met my mum in the boarding house her mum and dad ran. Though mum had a full time job she helped serve at dinner and at breakfast. That was when she met his brothers Uncle M and Uncle P. Dad’s parent’s were in Eire on a farm with a few of his younger sisters and his brother. It was always a full house in summer with beds full of children of various ages snuggled in together under grannie’s gorgeous patchwork quilts which she made with the neighbours in quilting bees. When quilting they spoke in English mixed in with Gaelic, so fast I could barely keep up though I tried.
I remember the haystacks, my sister was usually to be found on the tops of the haystacks, in her good clothes. Mum would not have been happy about that. And I clearly remember the pigs which grandad always caught with the crook of his walking stick and I remember their squeals as they were killed. It did not stop me enjoying eating bacon or ham though!
I had lots of wonderful walks through wildflower filled fields with my grannie. She loved to talk with me and adored my questions. I was named after her, as was dad’s sister, so there was a real closeness there. Mum and I also went out and picked wildflowers and dad took lots of photos.
The bathroom was very primitive, the cottage also as it was a traditional whitewashed one. Grannie used to make tea by leaving the huge teapot stewing on the fireplace embers. It was real Irish breakfast tea, brewed in the morning and topped up through out the day. I also loved the toast cooked over the fire on a huge iron fork, leaving big dents in the thick slices of toast through which the home made butter oozed. There was also a full Irish breakfast for whoever could stomach it, and most could! I adored our times there with our family.
The neighbours, who were usually first or second cousins, would pop in to see the English realatives and share the Craic. In the evening the younger adults would pop down to the pub which was a ten minute walk away. It was idyllic, with farmland, land laid to turf and the wild Irish coastline where my father as a child had often found bones and other items which he tells me now were from the Vikings.
I do not know how long we stayed. We usually had weeks there every summer but this was a special time with family coming from all over to say goodbye. Dad’s sister and husband was there with their red headed baby. I remember being a bridesmaid at their wedding. I was not first choice, my sister was supposed to do it but backed out on the day of the wedding. Luckily I fitted the dress and looked okay in pink lace so apparently I happily stepped in though was shy and particularly camera shy.
One evening on returning from the neighbours or the pub my mum found my sister in her bed with a young woman getting stuck into her privates. She had been sleeping beside her the whole visit. Mum ran and found dad and told him, he grabbed my sister out of the bed and mum grabbed me and said we were leaving. I do not know if we stayed in the village but I do not think anyone was told, I think they probably thought the Englishwoman was being difficult. As they often did.
This incident changed everything in the future, for me, not just my sister.
I was born in my grandparent’s house in a little seaside village near Skegness in Lincolnshire, England. My mum had me with the help of a midwife and her closest older sister P. My big sister P had come along 18 months earlier. My grandma and grandad and lots of young aunts and uncles lived there and often came to stay with us wherever we lived.
Dad worked in mining and as mum did not like being without him we lived in a caravan on various job sites. I do not remember much at all of my life before I was seven but a few things I do remember were Uncle J who was only in his middle teens staying often. Mum told me the story many times of how he saved my life when the kitchen caught fire. Mum had left a chip pan on the burner and there was an incredible amount of acrid smoke. Panicking, she grabbed my sister and ran outside with her. When she turned to go back and get me the smoke was too thick for her to enter. She screamed and Uncle J ran right into it and found me and brought me out. As this is one of the few things I remember being told I have locked it into my memory banks! That such a young man would be so brave and clearheaded as to go in and as my mum always said, “save your life.”
There are a few other memories from my childhood that I recall clearly. My dad had gone over to Australia to prepare ahead for us to migrate there. He found work on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Mum and my sister and myself stayed with her parents in the house where I was born. My grandmother ran a boarding house and was very busy cooking and washing lodger’s work clothes. I used to help her. And while I helped her I asked her lots of questions and chatted to her, barely drawing breath.
Grandma told me if I did not stop asking questions the Boogie Man would get me. I was so frightened of this Boogie Man but I had to know who he was and how he got inside the house. She told me he was big and black and was watching me. I was truly terrified but had to help my Grandma and there was so much I had to know! I cannot remember what my sister did during this period, I was told our mum went back to work in the Pop Factory where she worked before she married. She was known to sing with the most glorious voice which could be heard outside the factory.
After two years my mother became dreadfully ill with a burst appendix, she then survived peritonitis and returned to her parents house and promptly nearly died of a Pulmonary Embolism. The priest was called and performed the Last Rites and the Doctor told the family she would not make it through the night. Mum always told me that in the middle of the night a statue of The Virgin Mary lit up and she heard voices. She said she heard “her children need her, she cannot go yet.” She made it through the night and over a few months returned to good health. Meantime dad had booked a bunk on a ship back to England. He always told me how several workmates had to hold him down to stop him going crazy when he was told mum was likely to die.
After dad returned we moved to various job sites while he saved the money for us to get a good start in Australia. I do remember starting school at a Catholic Primary School. That was in Buxton in Derbyshire and there was a really steep hill to climb. It kept us all quite fit. I was a bit mischievous in those days and got into trouble for putting salt into my lunchtime glass of water. I was imagining it was lemonade. However Sister M was not amused and made me drink it, salt and all!
One other memory that is crystal clear and always has been is of me meeting some really fun friends whose parents became friend’s of mums. I must have been quite forward as I went outside their caravan and started to do my exercises. Perhaps we did them at school, no idea why I would choose that method to introduce myself. But it worked! One of the boys declared his undying love to me and asked me to wait to marry him when we were grown up! Later on that family migrated to Australia too and we visited them and they came to stay near us at Christmas each year