SS Orcades

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of when my dad, his five siblings and his parents left for Australia.

The eight of them had only ever known the hilly lands of a town called Coulsdon in Surrey. I suppose my grandfather thought it was time to seize the opportunity of the 10 pound pom scheme and get aboard a ship to the great unknown. He made an appointment at Australia House in London, and the plan was set in motion.

My aunt, grandfather, two great-aunts and my grandmother in London.

My aunt, grandfather, two great-aunts and my grandmother in London.

My dad, the second oldest out of his siblings, was just seventeen at the time, having only been in the workforce for a year or two. He remembers telling his friend that he’d see him later, just out of habit I suppose, but they never did see each other again. I imagine it was a big upheaval for them all, especially the older kids who had mates they were leaving behind. It isn’t like these days where communication is as simple as an email. Many of those friends were never heard of again.

My aunt (Dad’s older sister), being the eldest, found it especially difficult as her roots were embedded deep in the English soil. I think she’s always had a hard time letting her home country go. She goes back there on average about once a year, and she’s about the only one who keeps in contact with the few threads of family that still remain in Surrey. My dad has no interest in going back to England because he chooses to remember the places how they were, and not how they are now. I’m still trying to convince him that there’s other places to see in England besides Surrey, but he is hard to coerce!

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At the train station to catch the ship.

At the train station to catch the ship.

The ship they came out on was grand, at least compared to their standards. The Orcades was furnished to the nines, and had many luxuries they had never seen at home. It was about four weeks of restrained bliss. I believe it was also the last ship that sailed through the Suez canal for many years before war broke out.

The Orcades in all her glory

The Orcades in all her glory

When the family arrived in Melbourne they were supposed to be split as part of the Fairbridge scheme. The two older kids were supposed to go work on a farm. My great-aunt had come over from Adelaide to meet them, and after a bit of quick talk, it was decided the whole family would take the bus to Adelaide instead. What a different life they all could have had, and most likely not for the better, if my great-aunt hadn’t spoken up!

The family arrive in Melbourne

The family arrive in Melbourne

They all ended up in Pennington migrant hostel, which wasn’t too pleasant. Apparently the goverment deliberately made things expensive at the hostels to discourage the immigrants from staying for extended periods. One good thing my aunt remembers about the place was that it was the only time in her life that she got a room to herself.

Pennington migrant hostel

Pennington migrant hostel

After some time my grandfather decided on a house he wanted to live at in Athelstone, and with the exception of a move to a house not so far away (next door, in fact!) he lived there for basically the rest of his life. His wife and children took a while to adjust, but eventually they flourished. Though it was tough on the family to tear themselves loose from England, I think it turned out to be one of the best decisions my grandfather made.

I, for one, know there’s no other place I’d rather be.


The “When I Was Young” Geneameme

Ok, let’s do this. Meme questions can be found via Lonetester here.

Do you (or your parents) have any memorabilia from when you were a baby? (ie. baby book, lock of hair, first shoes etc.)

I have a calendar somewhere that shows stickers for things such as ‘baby’s first tooth’. There’s a scrapbook full of cards from my Christening. I think I also received a small silver-plated cup too, though I have no idea where that is!

Do you know if you were named after anyone?

Absolutely. I was named after my grandfather, who died just six weeks before I was born. His name was Lawrence, and I got the name Lauren.

And do you know of any other names your parents might have named you?

If I was a boy I was going to be called Joshua. I don’t think this was for any particular reason; my folks just liked the name.

What is your earliest memory?

I truly can’t think of one specific early memory. Everything I can think of relates to a photo or a Super8 movie, so I think they aren’t ‘real’ memories as such.

Did your parent/s (or older siblings) read, sing or tell stories to you? Do you remember any of these?

Sing? Lol, no. Apparently I wouldn’t go to sleep until Dad read me a story though. I remember having a thick yellow book with hundreds of bed-time stories in it.

When you were young, do you remember what it was that you wanted to grow up to be?

Nothing adventurous, because I was sickly shy, and I still am. I thought I could be a hairdresser – until I tried working for one after school. I also wanted to be a florist – until I got obliterated by hayfever.

Did you have a favourite teacher at school?

Miss Miller was my reception teacher and probably the nicest one I had. Mr Gleeson from Year 5 wasn’t bad either as he tried to make things as fun as they can be.

How did you get to school?

I was driven to school by Mum during the Naracoorte years. For the four years at Lucindale I rode my bike or walked, all while trying to avoid vicious magpies.

My first day of school...I think

My first day of school…I think

What games did playtime involve?

Oh so many! There were a myriad of phases of what was ‘in’ during school. Activities ranged from climbing trees, hanging upside down on various pieces of equipment, the swings, elastics, yo-yos, retreating to the library, hopscotch, My Little Ponies, kites, red rover, dancing, playing on the tunnels, and a helluva lot more.

Swing time

Swing time

Did you have a cubby house?

Hmm, not as such. I had a space between a tool shed and a huge lemon-scented gum tree that served as a cubby for a while. I would make indoor ones a lot, working in the design of the bunk beds so that I could try to get away with sleeping inside the cubby for a night or two. Pegs really come in handy for blanket cubbies.

What was something you remember from an early family holiday?

Five us were crammed into a small maroon hatchback, which we took all the way to Port Lincoln. I remember staying with my Nanna there. She lived near a cemetery, and I saw one grave covered in small glass chips. I had never seen such a thing before and I yelled out to Mum to come look at it, all the while running on a concrete path. I went splat and had to be taken back to Nanna’s to be Band-aided.

What is a memory from one of your childhood birthdays or Christmases?

I remember getting a pink bike when I was about 5 and sitting on it in the lounge room in my pink pyjamas.

What childhood injuries do you remember?

The black eye stands out in my eye. My brother was responsible for that. We were playing chasie and I hid on the bottom bunk. He yanked my arm and my face went into the base of the top bunk. Ouch!

What was your first pet?

Ginger was a ginger cat (fancy that!). He’d had a mate called Meggs, but Meggs went missing before I was born. We had Ginger all through my childhood until he had to be put down when he was around thirteen.

Ginger up close

Ginger up close

Me with Ginger

Me with Ginger

Did your grandparents, or older relatives tell you stories of “when I was young ..?”

Nah, not really.

What was entertainment when you were young?

Mostly it was entertaining yourself. We had a great garden to explore and play in. I spent a lot of time on the trampoline or out riding the bike through the garden paths. Indoors I would watch a bit of TV or a video. We also had an Amiga computer that was fun to play on.

Our old driveway

Our old driveway

Do you remember what it was it like when your family got a new fangled invention? (ie. telephone, TV, VCR, microwave, computer?)

I remember we started out with a Beta video player, but I don’t know when we made the switch to VCR. The telephone and TV were already there. We went through a few computers, from the Dick Smith Wizard to the Commodore 64, followed by the Amiga and CD32. Mum received a microwave on her 40th birthday and I barely used it, except to heat up some Weat-Bix in the morning.

Did your family have a TV? Was it b&w or colour? And how many channels did you get?

Yes, we had a TV. It was colour. I think we went from an old TV with no remote to a newer one with a remote when I was about 8. We had two channels to start out with – ABC and Channel 8 (later WIN). We got a bigger aerial which allowed us to get a couple of Victorian channels, but it was very weather-dependent.

Did your family move house when you were young? Do you remember it?

Yes. Unfortunately. It wasn’t the best time of my life, that’s for sure, but it worked out well for my parents, so I’m glad for them. We moved from my childhood town to one half an hour away when I was 11 then moved back to the childhood town, to a new house, when I was 15.

Was your family involved in any natural disasters happening during your childhood (, flood, cyclone, earthquake etc)

Thankfully no.

Is there any particular music that when you hear it, sparks a childhood memory?

Puff the Magic Dragon by the Seekers and Alexander Beetle by Melanie Safka seem to compete in my head for the first song I ever remember hearing.

What is something that an older family member taught you to do?

One of my brothers taught me how to play a lot of sports. That’s about all I can think of!

What are the brands that you remember from when you were a kid?

All the ones I can come up with are probably still around! Is Aeroplane Jelly still going?

Did you used to collect anything? (ie. rocks, shells, stickers … etc.)

What didn’t I collect? Haha, I went through many phases. Cat stuff, zebra stuff, smiley-face stuff, Slinkies, yo-yos, stamps, shells, Glow-in-the-Dark things, beach huts, The Lord of the Rings stuff, movie tickets, business cards, etc.

Share your favourite childhood memory.

I think I was ten when I had already received a bunch of a great things for Christmas, but then Dad came walking through the door with a shoebox in his hand. He handed it to me, and inside were two kittens! They were gorgeous and I remember them walking and playing in the Barbie van I’d also got that same morning. Good times.

Carlo the kitten

That’s all for now! This was a nice trip down memory lane. The good thing about this meme is that I know the majority of the answers my parents would give because I’ve sapped them of all the information I can already!