Ship name / Flight number: Otranto
Arrival date: 26/04/1955
Left: David with his stock horse Darkie at the farm, Cabramatta, 1955
I was adventurous as a teenager and a member of The World Wide Club with a magazine that was full of adventure stories based in Canada, Australia, New Guinea and Africa. I wanted to leave behind the class structure in England and have a more adventurous life than that I saw if I stayed in England. I tried initially to go to Canada but they had no schemes for minors to emigrate to there. I then walked to Australia House and they welcomed me with open arms. I got all my references, had my medical and was accepted. I hadn’t told my mother but took the paperwork home and said “I want to go to Australia mum and you have to sign to allow me to go”. She said “are you serious?”. I said “yes”! So she signed and roughly a month later I left on the Otranto.
The journey to Australia was fantastic. Really wild initially as there was a massive swell in the Bay of Biscay. The bows of the ship were plunging into the huge waves that were breaking over the whole ship with the ship’s screws coming out of the water. The Otranto was also rolling severely from port to starboard. All the external decks were roped off to stop loss of life and both passengers and crew were being sick everywhere. We were having hysterics playing table tennis on a table that was pitching and rolling like a roller coaster ride. At the same time there was an outbreak of some skin condition and half the passenger’s faces were covered in purple potassium permanganate. We then arrived at Gibraltar. It was beautiful and sunny and all the people wore white and colourful clothes, so different from drab and grey London and it was lovely to stroll around.
Next stop was Naples our first foreign country! Here a friend and I hired a horse drawn carriage to take us into town. Where we got off turned out to be the red light district of Naples much like Soho in London. Here we both had our first pizza from a wood oven. This was our first adventure and we got a horse drawn carriage back to the ship. From here we crossed the Mediterranean Sea to sail along the north coast of Africa. The sea was like a mill pond and you could see smoke drifting up from thatched roofed huts in villages. I was by myself looking out from the starboard side at this view and wanted to remember it. I’d been given a gold signet ring on my 16th birthday. I took it off and threw it into the sea and watched it glint as it hit the surface and sank. I can still see that view as though I had a photograph. Our next stop was Port Said prior to entry to the Suez Canal and our first encounter with all the bum boats with the locals trying to sell goods to the passengers hauling things up and sending down money in straw bags attached to ropes. One of the items on offer were “dirty pictures” my and probably most, if not all little brother’s first exposure to pornography. I bought a Parker pen, that amazingly I still have! From here it was the 164 kilometres through the canal. The sun was blazing hot and temperatures off the scale for us Brit’s when we anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, until it was our turn to head south in convoy to the Red Sea. The was no wind and no air conditioning in cabins. It was really stifling on board so quite a few of us elected to sleep on deck. Finally we were under way and got some breeze from our movement and with sand dunes on both sides, where we saw the occasional arabs who greeted us with rude gestures, we finally arrived in Aden. Here our bum boat experience was replicated and after a short stay we were on our way to Calcutta, now called Kolkata on the Hooghly river in West Bengal. Here we anchored well off the city but could not escape the all pervading smell. Stores were ferried from shore to ship and once this was complete we then set sail for the town of Colombo in Ceylon, as it was and now Sri Lanka. This was a lovely and welcome stop after coming through the Red Sea and across the Arabian Sea. I went ashore with my same friend with whom I’d adventured in Naples and we went swimming and climbed the local palm trees. I took photos of this that I still have. From Colombo we headed towards Singapore, some 3000km. It was on this leg that we crossed the equator with all the ceremonies associated with this event. I should add here that the weather in the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Red and Arabian Seas and the Indian Ocean had been wonderful with beautiful sunny days and balmy temperatures. It was on this leg that I managed to win the teaspoon gathering competition in the swimming pool. Loads of teaspoons were thrown in and the person who managed to dive in and collect the most was the winner.
Left: Four former Little Brothers, Otranto, April 1955
On arrival in Singapore I decided to go adventuring by myself. How different was Singapore then. It had dusty dirt roads with open drains full of discarded rubbish. Nothing like the magnificent and beautiful city it is now! After walking for quite some time I came across an imposing white building which I saw was a hotel. I later discovered it was the famous Raffles Hotel. At this stage I was busting for a pee, so found the gents and went in, relieving myself at the urinal. I then nearly jumped out of my skin as an elderly lady, I’d not seen, without saying a word, dried my manhood with a little hand towel! An unforgettable experience! From Singapore our next stop was Fremantle, our first port in Australia. As we slowly sailed in through Gage Roads a pod of whales surrounded the ship seeming to welcome us to this new and wonderful country. We were moored and came ashore at the E Shed in Fremantle. The shed is still there and no different to when we arrived. Here we were met by young women from the Victoria League and escorted on the train to Perth and taken to Kings Park for a picnic. A nicer welcome to our new country would be hard to imagine. From Fremantle it was onwards through the Great Australian Bight to finally arrive at Sydney. Here some of us going to farms were headed to Cabramatta and those going to city work went to Homebush. I always remember that day. We got on a bus. It was lashing down with rain and we drove into George Street. It was the end of the day and people were leaving shops or their offices to head home. I looked on in amazement as both men and women were taking off their shoes. Men were also taking off their socks and rolling up their trousers while women were taking off their stockings, if they were wearing them, with both walking barefoot on the pavements. I loved it and Australia immediately, thinking you’d never ever see anything like that in London.
It was great getting to the farm at Cabramatta. Apart from finding out what we could expect in our new jobs and the enjoying the companionship, I did come close to a major injury when kicked really hard by a horse, luckily on my thigh and not between them. All I suffered was a massive bruise. On the ship I’d met an interesting family from South Africa who were settling on a farm in Australia. It was not far from the BBM farm and they picked me up on a weekend to visit them. The farm was on the banks of the Nepean River and we all confronted our first bush fire. It was on the other side of the river but it was so hot that after filling the gutters of the house with water we all went down to sit and stand in the river. Fortunately, the fire did not jump the river and next day I was taken back to the farm. The next stop was my new job.
This was on a large property in the Riverina in Ned Kelly country. The boss met me at the railway station after a long 700-kilometer journey, and we drove to the property. As we entered it, we saw a sheep on the ground. We got out and walked over to it. The crows had taken out her eyes and tongue. We picked her up, took her to the homestead and that first night I learned how to butcher a sheep after dark, so the blow flies were not active. Next morning, up at six, I was shown my daily tasks of milking the two-house cows, skimming the milk and making butter, then shopping the firewood. I was then asked if I could ride a horse. I said no! One that had not been ridden for 4 years was rounded up and I was put on its back. After it buckjumping and try to throw me off, I managed to stay on, he headed off on a mad gallop and after a few kilometers I managed to get back in one piece. I rode my horse, Darkie, every day I was there. My learning curve then went vertical. In no time I was driving cars, trucks, tractors and other farm implements plowing, sowing and harvesting. I was castrating and de-tailing hundreds of lambs, dehorning rams, shearing and drenching sheep, carrying out basic veterinary procedures such as injections and sewing up wounds, felling trees, turning trees into timber, erecting fences and building a large Woolshed from scratch. The hours were long. Sunrise to sunset and when we were irrigating it was 24-hour days with small breaks. I was routinely doing 70 hours a week and receiving 4 pounds a week in my hand. I added to this by catching and selling rabbits. 2/6p for the pelt and 2/6p for the carcass. I loved every aspect of my work but could not see a career without ownership of a farm so after 18 months I managed to get accepted to train as a pilot in the RAN Fleet Air Arm. So left to join the Navy really missing my lovely horse and daily companion Darkie, who I often rode bareback, to start a new career.
My life now is one that has been well lived. I have three great children and grandchildren. I’ve travelled to over 60 countries. I’ve worked in Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Uruguay, Middle East, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. In addition, I’ve had had some real adventures in Australia, New Zealand and Africa. In the latter it was canoeing the Zambezi River with my partner Christine. I’ve had a career in business as far as Managing Director, started 3 businesses in finance, coffee and tourism. All are still operating, one now owned and managed by my oldest son and one by me. As an academic I ended up with 4 degrees, lectured at two universities in Australia and also as Adjunct Professor within MBA programs in Indonesia and Singapore. I worked as a consultant to major international companies, the Australian Federal Government, state governments and the Indonesian Government. I also floated a company on the Australian stock exchange and participated in the startup of a number of mining companies in Australia and overseas. I’m still enjoying life. Still working and travelling and am just finishing a management book on Understanding Organisations that I started while in hospital for a month following an overseas misadventure.
Migration had a fantastic influence on my life. My class from Greenford County Grammar have kept in touch every year right up until 2024. I’ve also gone back to meet them in England a few times. My life has been dramatically different, richer, and more adventurous than all but a few who also went overseas but when much older. As well as seeing my old classmates I also went back to see my parents every 2 or 3 years and did post graduate studies in Bath University for a year in 1979.
Below: David Paris, Margaret River WA, December 2023
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