Ship name / Flight number: Fairsky
Arrival date: 27/07/1962
At the age of 9 or 10, when we first got a TV, I watched an advertisement on the ten pound migration to Australia. What appealed to me was a picture of a young boy with his school cap on his head. It obviously meant something to me, as he looked a similar age.
At some stage in my school days, I had a dream that I was on a ship that had shops on board.
I left school at 15 years old and had a job working for my dad as an electrical contractor but was told to find another job after one week of work, as I was sacked for being late at home.
July 1961: Monday morning my mum asked me what type of job I wanted to do. I told her that I wanted to join the Merchant Navy. I didn’t know that she went down to the employment office in town and had come home saying that I was too young to join the Merchant Navy. I had to be seventeen and a half years old. She also told me that I could go for an interview at an electrical engineering factory. I got the job and to cut a long story short, in my job I met lady who asked me what I would like to do in life and I told her that I was too young to join the Merchant Navy and that I was considering to go farming. Her answer was “Why don’t you go to Australia, lots of farming out there”. I’m thinking about the advertisement with the boy wearing a school cap and ships with shops and thought that this could be my thing.
I sent a letter to the Australia House in London for more information on how to get to Australia and the return mail was information about the Big Brother Movement.
Things must of moved along quite quickly from then on. I got an interview in London and my mum came with me. She was asked how she felt about Alan going to Australia and her answer was that “He wants to go”.
A letter came that I was accepted, including a list outlining what clothing sheets and boots I needed to take to Australia. I filled two suitcases and not much later came my ticket for the sailing date being the 23rd June 1962. Three days after my sixteenth birthday, my dreams had come true and I sailed on the Fairsky and arrived in Australia and BBM farm five weeks later.
As mentioned I left England three days after my 16th birthday, with two suit cases and 25 pounds in my pocket. It took five weeks to get to Australia. There were 16 former Little Brothers in our group. We went with the Big Brother Movement all for free of charge. We travelled through the Suez Canal and called in the Port of Port Side.
There, I purchased a pair of rubber thongs. We all got sun burn on our feet and legs and I had to go to the sick bay with my big blisters at Aden. We continued our journey and crossed the Indian Ocean, which was scary as the waves were taller than the ship. We saw lots of flying fish and docked at Fremantle and Melbourne to let people off the ship before going to Sydney, where I disembarked. During the duration of my five week journey I had already spent 5 pounds all on smokes, cake, drinks non-alcoholic except for one 1 Aussie beer and it was fowl.
We left the ship and went to a training farm. Only 5 of us went farming. We were up at 6am and some of us had to milk the cows and feed the animals, someone had clean the dormitory, showers toilet block and one would help in the kitchen. We would all swap jobs weekly.
There was a full time cook at the training farm who did all the meals for us. When the cook had her day off the bosses wife took over. It was about the second or third week I was on kitchen duty and I can’t remember what I did or said, but it must have been something. I remember that the bosses wife came out of the kitchen screaming “Max Max” for her husband. I was told to pack my bags. They made me wait around but sometime later I was told I could stay.
Once all of us got up late and I told them that nobody had an alarm clock, so the Boss took me to town to purchase one. Consequently now all of us were able to sleep in till the last minute. I also told all boys how to make their beds so one can sleep in them without wrecking them. The boss came in the dorm one morning going crook, saying “how come you are all late”, and I responded that “no we are not”. He pushed past me to see if the beds were made and of course they were and he could not say a word and off he went.
After the training farm I went to Finley, which was 14 hour overnight trip, by two different trains one was a Rail Motor. Upon arrival I was picked up by my Bosses wife, Mrs Nursey, with a three-month-old baby girl, Caroline, and taken by car 20 miles out of town “Baringa” (Mayrung NSW).
I noticed channels all over the farms as we drove along. I thought they should be some good fishing. I went fishing but the fish I caught all were small. Upon arrival I was shown my room, a very small room around 3m x 2.8m. Well I thought, my cases have to go under the bed, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand up by the bed side.
I met the boss soon after arriving. He looked dirty and old, but after a shower he looked better. He had been driving the tractor all day.
The water for the house came out of a dam and a wind mill pumped it up into an overhead tank and then gravity fed the house. The dunny was way down the back yard, a can under a wooden board. It stunk like hell, of course someone had to empty it.
My job was to milk the twenty cows, twice a day, I had half hour for lunch and other jobs in between. I worked 6 days a week for 5 pounds a week (600 acre farm). I only went to town once a month and was taken twice by the boss.
About 9 month later I purchased my first motor bike so I could get around by myself. I got the bike after I had to walk 18 miles one after noon, and it took me from mid after noon until midnight.
On one of my days off I would go for walks around the farm looking at flora and fauna. One day I was walking through a wooded paddock and stood on a big snake 4’6” long. I felt it rigger ling under my foot and remember jumping about 2′ striate up into the air and killed it after I came down on it.
Another time I was on the tractor with my boss as he was showing me how to drive it ploughing. A 6′ brown snake was just in front of us and the boss told me to get off and chase the snake under the tractor but it went away from us. I picked up a small piece of wood 4” long and the Boss yelled out “what are you going to do with that”? I threw it and it hit the snake and nearly cut its head off.
At Christmas the boss and his wife went for a week’s holiday. The day they were to leave the boss gave me 10 additional big jobs to do as well as milk the cows. The one I remember the most I had to dig a plot for a flower bed. I had dug it before they left and the boss said to me to double it as he thought that might slow me up. I continued and finished by mid afternoon. The rest of the jobs were all done in two days so had a bludge for the rest of the week.
I did offer to the boss that I could walk around the sheep and cattle to check on them but he said no they would all be ok. When they came home the boss asked me if I went around the sheep and I responded “ No, as you said they would be ok”. When he did go down the back paddock he found twenty sheep dead. They had died of grain poisoning, from the bags of grain left there after the harvest.
The following week the boss gave me a week’s holiday down at bosses’ wife parents’ holiday house at Point Lonsdale down by the sea side. But to get to Point Lonsdale I had to get myself down form Finley to Melbourne. The boss suggested that I thumb a ride with transport, so I had to walk around town and ask the truck drivers if I could get a ride with one of them to Melbourne. I did get a ride but he wasn’t leaving until later on that evening so I had to just wait around town for hours. I don’t think the driver was happy with me asking for a ride, but I think he must have felt sorry for me. When I got to Melbourne I was to make contact with the bosses sister. She picked me up and I stayed the night with her. She was to get me to the station and put me on the train to Point Lonsdale. While I was in Melbourne I also tried to catch up with a friend Andrew Lintott who left England a month before I did. I found where he was living knock on the door and a woman came out and said he had moved out just a few days ago. To this day I haven’t seen him again.
After my stay in Melbourne I caught the train later and arrived at Point Lonsdale late afternoon.
I remember going out to their back yard where apricot trees were growing. This was the fulfilment of my lifelong love of apricots and apricot jam sandwiches.
The worst job I had to do was round up sheep and lambs pen them up in the yards, because the rams had been running with ewes to early the lambs births were out of sync for the time year. I, the boy from the city had the job getting rid of lambs. I thought this was a strange thing to do but there was not going to be enough feed to grow them out, so they had to euthanasia them.
One day I needed a booklet given to me by the Big Brother Movement on the do’s and don’ts around the boss and family, it was missing from my case. I asked the boss and his wife if I had left it lying around or if they had seen it. They responded no, but some days later I looked in my case again, and there the booklet was. The wife must have had put it back. The booklet provided suggestion on what I should do around the house, but before I even had a chance to put any into action I was told to get on and do them.
The Big brother Movement was meant to check to see how I was going during my employment. Only once someone came to the farm to check and he was told that I was way down the back of the farm, so he didn’t make contact with me that day. Instead, he did call via phone a few days later. No further contacts were made that I know of.
Two more incidences happened before I left.
Because the farm was an irrigation farm there had to channels running through the farm for the water to flow down. Late summer the Boss and I cut new channels with tractor discs and delver, driving pulling each implement alternately from one to the other out of the open ends. When the channels were down to the right depth, the ends had to be sealed and tidied up with the shovel, I was given this job. When the boss came home, I had completed it hard and fast. The job I did was prefect and the boss was surprised to see me at home, and said “What are you doing back here” I said “I finished it”. He didn’t believe me and went down to look and came back and didn’t say a word, I know I had a smug look on my face, and in my mind I would have said “I told you so”.
I once also was told by the boss to round up the sheep and run around them like a sheep dog. Certainly I wasn’t happy with that. Another job that I had to do was to cut Bathurst Burr in midsummer. In those days cancer wasn’t thought to be a problem, so get a sun tan was the norm, no shirt, just shorts boots and socks and a water bag at one end of the paddock.
As mentioned I only had half an hour for lunch. This was a year, when I started growing. At lunch time I went for another slice of bread and was told “No we are going back to work”. After a row I handed in my two weeks’ notice. One week later the boss offered me 10 shillings a week to stay. I left one week later as all I wanted was a slice of bread.
They drove me to town and dropped me at the pub. I was to stay and make plans to go to Queensland to meet up with Andrew Lintott.
Plans changed when I made a phone call to a friend whom I met on this ship. He came out with the Big Brother Movement as well. His name was Peter Newberry.
Peter told his boss what I was up to and rang back and said I could get a job with his bosses’ brother which I took up and moved to the town Berrigan.
This new farm was only six miles out of town. I never had to walk into town from here. This boss was very different to work for. Very laid back and he liked the idea of having someone to do his work for him. The first job he gave me to do was to repair a puncture in a truck tyre. I had never repaired one before and boss never came out to show me how to do it. These wheels are very dangerous to repair, because they have a split ring that can fly off when pumping them up again. The bosses brother once had a split ring fly off and hit him in the face. It made an awful mess of his face. The accident occurred some years later.
When I had repaired the tyre I went back in the house. The boss was still sitting at the breakfast table “How did you go”? I confirmed that it was fixed and he said “Yeah”, got up and went out to have a look to see. He came back with a silly grin on his face, from then on he trusted me with all sorts of jobs. Fencing, irrigation, tractor driving, sowing crops, drenching sheep, cutting and raking the hay and slaughtering the lamb (meat for the house).
My wages went up to 10 pounds a week and I got to keep a lot less hours per week too, except for cropping time sowing wheat, barley and oats, and then we would have to work around the clock in shift.
The room I had this time was a sleep out on the side of the garage. It accommodated two beds and a set of draws and was cold in the winter and hot in the summer without any air cons then. I do remember the mice running over my bed and pillow at night.
The boss had four brothers all in 6 mile radius, and we workers were shared around to each brother’s farm, especially at shearing and hay carting time.
Most of the farmers had antiquated farm machinery the tractors and trucks were old. The tractors didn’t have any protection from the elements, sun burn, wind burn, dust and rain. I suppose it is all part of farming.
One incident I remember was at sowing time. I had to work Saturday night shift starting at 8pm. A friend and I were in town in the afternoon and went out to the farm at 8pm to start my shift. The friend said he would stay and help me do my shift, confirming that he would do the first 4hrs of an 8hr shift while I could sleep during those 4hrs.
My friend woke me up and I had to start my shift. After some time I noticed a leak in the radiator hose. So I decided to pack up and go home to tell the boss. I jumped in to the truck were my friend was a sleep, started driving home over a channel down the hill to turn right, but the wheels on the truck locked up and in loose gravel I couldn’t straighten them up and crashed in to the culvert bridge and wrecked the front of the truck. It couldn’t be driven anymore, so we walked home from there to tell the boss. All this happened about 2 am in morning and all the Boss said was to get the truck home. So off we went to get the tractor to tow it home with the 3 point linkage. It took us until daylight to get it to the front gate, and that’s where it stayed. It was dismantled there on the spot. The strangest thing about it was I wasn’t blamed for the accident, instead my friend was. It didn’t matter how much I said that it was me.
I was there for just over one year.
Over the next three years I had numerous jobs. Jobs were hard to find. Also I got to know the locals. I then moved into the town of Berrigan to start a new job as roustabout, going around all the shearing sheds, picking up the flees after the sheep had been shawn, throwing it over the skirting table, sweeping the boards and penning the sheep up for the shears.
Around this time also I worked at Grants Garage Berrigan as a grease monkey, giving cars and trucks a service grease and oil change, checking oils, brakes, changing tyres, the whole lot.
I also spent some time with the NSW railways, where I was employed as a Fettler. To get the job I had to go to Sydney for a medical examination. As this was the only job going at the time, it was an overnight 14hrs up and 14hrs back, all in two days. The job consisted of running the length of 10 miles on a rail trike. A Ganger and four men to each responsible for 10 miles of track. We replaced old sleepers for new ones, greasing the joints in the rails, and straightening the track. It was all manual work and quite physical hard work.
But I will say that it was a big bludge. We only worked when there were no trains, or only in between trains. I moved out from the pub and took up board at Mrs Jones house where I did some painting of some rooms in lieu of some board money.
I got a bit of a shock when I met Mr Jones. He was a drover and was always out droving sheep or cattle. It was after dinner that night when I was off to my room, which was a sleep out off the side of the house with the toilet being a little shed down the back yard, when Mr Jones called out and was peeing on vegie garden or the chook yard. It was in the middle of town, mind you, I have never seen that done before.
I did board at another home for some in Berrigan for about a year just before I got married to my wife Jean.
We soon went to Melbourne for a few month with Peter Newberry. We both had motor bikes and mine was a BSA 650 twin. My first job there was at Swift Abettors. All I did all day and all week was to throw sheep heads down a tube to the lower floor.
After that I started to work at a Forklift company. I was given the job and looking after all the tools the company owned. I had to list all the tools by name and number and made the staff sign out and sign in the tools, to keep track of where the tools were.
I didn’t like Melbourne and left there and rode to Bright. I got a job there in the saw mill peeling logs for making plywood. I lived in a tent at the camping grounds. It was always full around Easter and the camping ground was packed with campers. As soon as Easter was over, we were the only ones left.
Jean and I have four children two girls and two boys and eleven grandchildren and one great grandson.
*From left: John Guttridge Stephan Marbrough ,Alan Snelling, laying down is Rodger Harrison.
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