Howdy all, I was asked about what I remember about emigrating by ship and thought I would put it here if some others may be interested.
We left St Helens(my aunt lived here and this was where the oldest sibs were going to stay to complete A levels) on a wet, overcast day in September. My mum and Iwent to Southampton and stayed overnight with my Grandparents who lived nearby. Next day we went back into Southampton and got a taxi to the docks. My G’parents didn't come because they didn't like goodbyes.
There it was, the SS Australis. Our small amount of luggage got checked and put into the hold and we cleared passport section and boarded. We were taken to our cabin which was above water line on C deck. It was an inside cabin with 4 beds bunkstyle and a bathroom. We were lucky because our bunks were placed lengthways with the ship. Some people werent so lucky, their's were across the ship and when the rolling started they had to sleep with their feet tucked through the bars to stop themselves moving up and down the bed.
Other people in our cabin were a young girl emigrating to Perth and an old lady who was on a world cruise with her sis and bro in la w, which they did every 10 yrs. Departure time came, we stood on deck watching tugs pull us out and listening to the horns. It was grey, midday, damp cold wind. I was wearing my coat, one of those that zips up into a snorkel with fur round. Never wore that coat again after a few days of sailing. We weren't sad but there was no one saying goodbye either. We'd done that already. After sailing it was dinner, we had been put in first seating which was about 5.30. The tables had ledges on them to stop the crockery falling off when the ship rolled. When they saw how young I was my mum was asked if she would prefer the children/family seatingtime. Luckily she said no cos this was at 4 and I later saw the menu was nuggets, chips etc whereas we had crepes suzettes, lobster, fancy food, etc. My mum later met some people who took this seating and regretted it, it was too early and noisy. There was a map by the Pursor's office that showed where the ship was. There was also a shop that sold sweets and other small items, and another that sold more expensive stuff like perfume and jewellery.
The ship was built as a luxury liner and still had all the trappings in the main halls, but it had been gutted and used as a troop ship in the war by the US. It had covered decks with deck lounges on. If you bagged one of these in time then you had your morning/ afternoon tea served to you. If not, you had to line up.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay they put up ropes to hold onto as it was rough. A lot of people were sea sick and the dining hall was emptier. However the kids coped a lot better and used the ropes in the Foyers to swing on.
Our first port of call was Heraklion in Crete, site of Knossos and the minotaur. My Mum and I went on a tour, but lost the party and strolled around at leisure. Crossing the Mediterranean was great. It was calm and warm. I've got photos of the sun setting over Africa.
We sailed on down to Port Said in Egypt. The traders came out to the ship in their skiffs and were hauled up the side onto the ship to sell their wares.Mum knew a little arabic from when we lived in Saudi and enjoyed haggling. I bought a camel made out of wood, another from bone and three wooden dolls painted to look like locals. Before we docked we had been warned not to buy any stuffed toys as these were often stuffed using used bandages. In Port Said 4 a few hours and took a tour in a horse carriage.Horses were thin and the tyre broke off at one point. Driver fixed it with string. The highlight of the tour was the local high school which was brand new and they were very proud of it. There was a Woolworths there, very small and everything was locked away in cabinets. Down a side street you could buy chickens, that would be killed on the spot for you. There was also a cake shop that had this pile of sultana cakes piled up in the window, except when you got closer all the sultanas flew away!
Back on board we queued up for our timeslot to enter the Suez canal. It was pretty impressive to look backwards and see a trail of ships leading back to where we had come from. On both sides of the Suez you could see the bunkers dug into the sand left over from the conflicts in the 60s.
At the end of the suez was our last stop, Djibouti, a former French run country. On the dockside there were large bags of concrete that had been left to get wet and set. As we came into the town we saw the local police rounding up local people and sticking them in the back of vans. These turned out to be the local pickpockets etc and they didn't want them preying on the visitors so rounded them up for the day. There was a small zoo enclosure in the middle of the town which had a few deer and tortoises in. We sat at an outside cafe for a drink, my mum insisted on no ice and a glass for my coke, experienced traveller that she was. Back at the docks waiting to board we went for a walk along the ship, you could see into the kitchens where the cooks were chopping hunks of meat while smoking at the same time. On the rocks you could look down into the water and see all these tropical fish...... onto pt 2