Rachiegarlo

Migration story

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    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

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    Part 2 cos its a bit long.....

     

    It took 10 days to cross the Indian ocean. My mum borrowed books from the library and we would sit on the deckchairs and read. There was a cinema that showed oldish films and we went once or twice. Night times there was entertainment from dressup dinners to fancy dress competitions. The swimming pool was reserved for adults except for an hour in the morning and the afternoon. If you were accompanied you could go anytime. Every few days the swimming pool would be emptied and refilled with fresh seawater. This was great because the kids would all get in while it was filling and be sloshed with big waves from one end to the other. There was a ceremony when we crossed the equator, many peolpe hurrying to see if their water did actually turn the other way when draining.

     

    There was a children's playroom and a playground with roundabouts etc. These were tied up most of the time as the ship rolled too much and the ship's stabilisers were turned off at night to make up speed. Children were to the school for a few hours in the morning now to learn some culture, money, songs etc. Most of the people on the ship were migrants but about 1/3 were on a round the world cruise. Dolphins would sometimes follow the ship.

     

    1/2 way across the Indian Ocean the ship ran out of fuel and had to burn crude oil, leaving the decks covered in soot. 2 days out of Perth fresh water supplies were low and so we had to drink soft drinks and some items were off the menu. During the crossing some people died. I was one of the few who didn't get gastro at all. The brother in law of the lady who was in our cabin had a heart attack. A baby died from sunstroke. They had to be buried at night at sea. Bags of rubbish were also thrown overboard. The old lady was a little strange, she had trouble closing her case so my mum went to help... she had 3 Oxford telephone directories in there. She had her breakfast delivered to our cabin and would line up the fruit on the table My mum had to surrepticiously dispose of the most rotten everynow and again.

     

    The ship had to go through Immigration at Perth, the first port of call. The port for Perth is Fremantle andl anded on a Sunday. We had a day here and went into Perth. I used my first Australian money trying hard not to make mistakes. There wasn't anything open, but we walked around. I had my first milkshake made in a shiny metallic cup. Perth had and still does this Fake Tudor shopping mall.

    It took 2 further days to cross the Bite to get to Melbourne. During this time the Bingo prize pool was won by a young man travelling from Perth to Sydney. Melbourne was where we left the ship. It was a sunny day in October. We had been at sea for 3 weeks. Adelaide didn't have a deep enough harbour then to handle large ships. We had to walk around a large shed to find our cases. One was missing and we didn't get it back until about 3 months later. All of the migrants going to Adelaide were fed at a Melbourne hostel and then took the overnight train to Adelaide, most heading for the migrant hostel at Pennington. It's not there anymore.

     

    About 2 weeks later I had my first day at school. Nobody wore uniform until High school. No one learnt a languagetil Hig h school. The kids were friendly. I had 3 weeks until the long summer holidays began.Recess in the morning and afternoon. No school lunches everyone brought a packed lunch or bought from the local bakery. Pasties were pronounced "parsties" and tomato sauce was squitred inside. Sweets were "Lollies"and Ice lollies were "Ïce Blocks"

    The class I was in was gr 5 - 7, it was a small school. I was way ahead in English. The school competed in softball, netball and Aussie football and cricket against other schools.

     

    The ship..., it sailed on to Sydney and New zealand depositing more migrants. Unfortunately after Sydney sewage leaked into the baggage hold and peoples luggage had to be destroyed. The late 70s was the wain of migrants on assisted passages having the choice of flying or sailing. My father and two siblings flew ahead of us a couple of months earlier. They left Heathrow in Feb and landed 2 days later walking out into a wall of heat. The ship only made 1 more voyage before being sold to be a criuse ship in America and it now languishes in a ship's graveyard in Asia waiting to be cut up for steel.

     

    I'm glad my mum chose 2 sail, she thought as it was costing us nothing, (the government was employing my father and paid for everything) we may as well have the experience. We only shipped out 1 trunk, it took 6 months and when it arrived much of the things we thought we wanted and would need we didn't actually need.

     

    In those days flying cost about the same dollars as now,but in todays money it would be like paying for first class. No one came on reccies. You just came and learnt to make the best of it when you got here.

     

    Better go to work now. :arghh:

    Rachel

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    Guest Django

    Wow what a fabby story. Thanks for sharing. Soooo much better than 'kids played up a bit, films were ok, food edible now feel jet lagged' :biglaugh::biglaugh:

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    Rachel - thanks so much for taking the time to type all of that up. What a fantastic read. I was just starting to think that I would like to sail there (at least you can walk around a lot and stretch your legs) and then you mentioned that people had died! ..

    But what a great adventure!!

     

    Thanks,

     

    Hazel.

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    Guest caoimhe

    An amazing story Rachel, Thank you

     

    I'm sure at such a young age it was a fabulous experience

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    Guest mOZzy

    what a great story!!

    i can see why you are glad to have had the opportunity to sail over - although hearing about the lost people it puts it into a different light!

     

    it sure was an adventure!

     

    i liked the 'sultana cake' - wouldn't want to eat it though :goofy:

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    Guest graandjac

    :notworthy:Thanks for a great story , thats it i've made my mind up we're coming by plane, dont fancy the sea sickness.....lol thanks very much cheers Graham

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    Guest theshearers

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post your story Rachel. What a fabulous start to you new life on the other side of the world.

    Really enjoyed reading it.

    Vicki

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    Guest Nicky&Andy

    :daydreaming:wow what a great story, what a way to arrive, we loved reading it, im sure some of the journey was hard ,but what an adventure, thanks for taking the time to write it rachel,thankyou:wideeyed:

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    Guest chillyanna

    great story rachel, nice to read about a great adventure.. should be made intoa movie.

    maybe you would like to visit this website.... http://www.ssaustralishomepage.co.uk/

    and maybe you could help the person whomade the website.

    thanks

    paul

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