David Bonnett

Ship name / Flight number: Ranchi

Arrival date: 07/11/1951

For as long as I can remember, my grandfather has been a man whom I admired. His determination, ethics and value of family bonds enchanted and inspired me from a very young age. The story behind this man, however, is even more inspiring than any fictional story involving James Bond ever could; a man who endeavoured to overcome an unfamiliar land, numerous adversities and yet still had the determination to persevere and build a life and legacy that has inspired the second generation of his descendants.

This is the story of my Grandfather; David Bonnett.

It was a warm afternoon that greeted David as he made his departure from England on September 12th 1951. A 17-year-old fresh faced David optimistically left Tilbury with 10 pounds to his name, on the SS Ranchi bound for a new life in Australia. After an eventful voyage plagued with rough seas and a multitude of unscheduled stops in Ceuta, Alger’s and then delayed at Port Said for several days before a tug boat towed the Ranchi down to Port Suez for engine repairs, the voyage finally continued, stopping at Aden, Colombo, Freemantle and Melbourne, finally making land in Sydney HHarbour on November 7th 1951, eight weeks after leaving Tilbury.

Original menu from SS Ranchi gala night 23rd October 51

On arrival, David and 41 other Little Brothers were taken to either Fairfield Farm or a hostel at Homebush. At Fairfield Farm, the young arrivals were taught the basics of farming, including the milking of cows.

On Sunday the 25th of November David commenced the lengthy train trip to his placement in Grenfell. Arriving at 9am the following morning, David found his way to his Big Brother contact; Mr Bill Dun. From there,  his new employer, local farmer Mr Clark took him a further 25 miles into the bush to the foot of Pinnacle Mountain.

Sadly, David was treated poorly at the Clarks, and on Christmas Eve, he returned to Mr Dun. Spending Christmas Day and New Year with Mr Dun and his wife, David found a job just outside of town with the Bradford family.

David Bonnett, right

After spending a joyful 18 months with the Bradfords, David worked for nine months as a farm hand at Carema just outside Forbes until being drafted for National Service for the first intake in 1954. His service with the 19th Battalion at Holsworthy lasted three months.  David returned to Grenfell, finding place at a farm on the outskirts of town owned by Mr John England, the Federal Member for Calare.

David enjoyed many trips into Grenfell in his first car; a T model Ford Ute, where he met local girl Pat, his future wife. David moved into town and worked as as a postman with the local PMG Office. David and Pat married in April 1957 and had two daughters, in June 1958 and January 1962.

David, now being a family man, searched for ways to advance himself and began a correspondence accountancy course through the University of Sydney in 1959. In October of 1962, David became accountant office manager with the local Holden dealer, learning all aspects of the General Motors Dealers Accounting System.

David acquired a Sheerline pre-fabricated cottage which, to the astonishment of locals, was built in just seven days. The following year David welcomed his third and final child; another daughter.

The next several years saw David fulfil one achievement after another. In October 1972, David acquired a position as the accountant with a larger Holden dealer in the riverside town of Nowra.

Four years later, David went into a two-year partnership in a Kitchen and Bathroom renovation business, finishing only when David purchased the Holden dealership and NRMA franchise, employing 23 staff in the nearby coastal town of Milton Ulladulla. Life became tough during this period as interest rates climbed to a staggering 17.5 per cent. Making matters worse was the competition from an aggressive Nowra Holden dealer, selling new cars in the same area at cost prices. In 1982, David sold the Dealership, retaining the NRMA Roadside service and Insurance business.

In 1995, David and Pat sold their seaside home and made the move to a quiet village outside of Nowra where they built their dream home at the foot of Cambewarra Mountain. David commuted daily from Nowra to Ulladulla until he sold the business and retired in November 1998.

In 2009 David and Pat moved into Boutique Retirement village in the country town of Berry NSW, where they enjoy a relaxing life.

Missing his roots, David travelled several times solo to London. Wanting to share the experiences with Pat, they travelled both domestically and internationally, including an 8-week trip touring the UK and Europe; a memory they will never forget.

David and Pat on one of their overseas trips.

Along with the many professional and personal successes, David has had many social achievements.

As a 27 year member, joining as a foundation member of Rotary in South Nowra in 1976, David held many positions in Rotary including that of president of the local Clubs in Milton-Ulladulla and Bomaderry, transferring membership to the local club every time he relocated. In 2000 David became a member of Shoalhaven Probus, where he held multiple positions, including that of President, over his 14-year membership.

At their retirement village, David soon joined the Residents Committee, quickly becoming Vice Chairman and then Chairman. Having to step down after three years, he then became secretary.

Soccer with Little Brothers in Grenfell. David is standing back left 1955.

An avid sportsman, David enjoys soccer, bowls, golf, tenpin bowls, and is still a one-eyed Arsenal supporter. As life has taken a relaxed pace in retirement, he now enjoys playing pool twice a week with fellow residents of the retirement village.

David has welcomed nine grandchildren and nine great grandchildren over the past 60 years, many of whom have inherited David’s desire to achieve and advance via professional and personal means. Grandad has constantly cemented the fact that if it wasn’t for the Big Brother Movement, he would not have been able to have the life he enjoys today with Pat and the role of grandfather to his many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Compiled and written by Jessica – Granddaughter

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