Anthony Edwards

Ship name / Flight number: Ormonde

Arrival date: 17/11/1947

Tony first learned about Australia from a merchant seaman, the uncle of one of his close friends. This intrepid sailor wove tales for Tony and his mate about his numerous visits to Sydney, Melbourne, and other Australian ports. It sounded like a wonderland. Tony was gripped by the excitement of these stories and the promise of a different, more hopeful future.

Tony had been born into and grown up through the most difficult of times in England. The Great Depression, the Second World War and the constant shifting of his family from barrack to barrack were part and parcel of those years. For his father was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the British Army – a tough, demanding character who expected his son to jump into action every time he gave a command. By the early months of 1947, aged fifteen years, Tony was looking for a way out.

Somehow, he learned of the Big Brother Movement and sent in an application. After a few months, he learned that his request had been successful, and his ship, the S.S. Ormonde, would leave in October.

Tony embarked at Tilbury Docks. The Ormonde had first been commissioned in 1918 and had been used as a troopship in the First World War before it was refurbished as a migrant ship. During the Second World War it reverted to a troop ship and later again, after peace was declared, shipped migrants to Australia.

That five-week journey from London to Australia was for Tony an exciting adventure. He joined a group of about a dozen Little Brothers and, together, they enjoyed life at sea and stopovers at exotic cities like Bombay. Eventually, the Ormonde docked at Fremantle, then Melbourne and, finally, Sydney, where Tony disembarked.

Tony’s stopover in Sydney was brief; for his BBM employer lived in the Hunter Valley. The young man boarded a train at Central, bound for Muswellbrook and, after arrival there, switched to a train that dawdled its way to Sandy Hollow, dropping provisions to settlers along the route. At Sandy Hollow, Tony was met by his employer, John Sullivan, who with his wife, Anne Marie, ran a farm, Alfalfa, at Baerami. The Sullivans also had two young daughters and Anne’s rather frail father-in-law in their household. Tony, though, was from the outset treated as one of the family.

On the morning after his arrival, Tony was asked to take morning tea to John in the paddocks. Tony was mounted on a very quiet horse – his first taste of riding – and given directions. All went well as he passed through numerous gates and it seemed as if the journey would be unremarkable. As he neared a clump of trees, a raucous cacophony started up that nearly scared him out of his wits. Shaking in the saddle, frightened beyond words, he eventually reached John Sullivan. John soon realised that the deafening noise of which Tony complained was made by some forty Kookaburras. He reassured Tony that all was well and that he was receiving his first lessons about Australia.

Tony’s time with the Sullivans opened a new world. He learned about all aspects of life, even dancing – a skill acquired during the morning milking of the Sullivan’s cows.

The Sullivans looked after Tony for some months before they purchased a farm near Tenterfield. Tony then moved to another Baerami farm run by H.W. Ellis and his family. One of the Ellis’s sons, Colin, became a friend for life. The Ellis family, though, gained a soldier settler block near Muswellbrook and Tony had to move to another farm in the Baerami Creek district.

In 1949, Baerami Creek flooded and the local dairy farmers were cut off from the milk factories. One ingenious farmer designed a flying fox that would straddle the flooded creek and, hopefully, deliver eight milk cans at a time from one side to the other. To accomplish this, it was necessary to run a hefty cable across the rushing water. Tony volunteered to brave the flood and somehow managed to pull the cable over and attach it to secure mountings on the far bank. It was a memorable feat.

Just over a year later, in January 1951, Tony moved to the beef farm of R.P. Edwards and met his extended family. One related couple, an older sister and her husband, took Tony aside and said that if he ever decided to give away farm life, he could count on a place in their household at Branxton. Tony took up the offer and they became surrogate parents to him and, in years to come, to his wife and family.

Tony married Patricia when he was twenty-two years of age. They set up home at Tarro, near Newcastle, and Tony secured a factory job in Maitland. He became a leading hand and earned his boiler operator’s certificate. Patricia and Tony had three children, John, Margaret and Elizabeth, and were surrounded by friends and community.

Tony was virtually never without employment and, eventually became manager of a large sheet metal works, from where he retired at the age of sixty-five years.

Yet Tony had many other talents. He was a gifted darts player and won the Newcastle Championships three years in a row, as well as a couple of State championships. On the one occasion, in the early 1960s, when he had a couple of weeks off between jobs, he and two friends entered a darts tournament at Muswellbrook that boasted a purse of £500. They won it! At the time, it was a significant sum of money.

Over the years, he and Patricia returned to England several times and brought his own parents to Australia to visit. Now, blessed with nine grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren, Tony continues to live in the lower Hunter and ponders on how the BBM brought him

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