Donald Bate

Ship name / Flight number: Orion

Arrival date: 23/01/1954

Don Bate

I was born in 1938, at Birmingham in the United Kingdom, the third eldest of six children.

On numerous occasions, after the Second World War, my parents applied to move our family to Australia but Australia, at that time, was only looking for working age migrants. As our family had six dependents, we were told that at least three of the children had to be sixteen years of age before they would accept our application. As I was the third eldest, I needed to attain sixteen years before we could all move to Australia.

In 1953 my oldest sister, aged 19 years, accepted a job as a trainee nurse at Brisbane Hospital and moved to Australia. My brother, Eric and I followed soon after – we first had a reception at Australia House on 18 December 1953 and then, under the care of BBM, boarded the SS Orion bound for Australia and the BBM training farm at Cecil Park, New South Wales.

I should have been aged at least sixteen years before I was accepted as a Little Brother but an exception was made as I was travelling with my older brother and I would stay at the training farm until I turned 16 in April 1954.

We had a wonderful journey out on the Orion and landed in Sydney on 28 January 1954 – the first day of the rest of our lives. Within a short time, we reached Cecil Park and were met on the farm by the managers, Bob and Jean Girvan, and their son, Sandy. That meeting was wonderful and our friendship with the Girvans endured until the death of Bob and Jean, and with Sandy, until 2016, when he died.

After the training farm, my first job commenced in April 1954 at a dairy in Freemans Reach, New South Wales. I wasn’t happy there, though, and BBM found me another job on a dairy at Wingen, near Scone. While working there I lived in an old Coach House, on the northern edge of town adjacent to the New England Highway.

My time there was enjoyable with one exception. The dairy machinery ran on kerosene and each morning, before dawn, either the farmer or I would round up the cows in the dark whilst the other started the machinery. Petrol was needed as the starting fuel and then the motor was switched over to kerosene. One week after I began work there, I was left to start the motor and overfilled the petrol tank. Not realising the consequences, I left the kerosene lamp used for lighting on the ground. The fuel ignited and set the dairy on fire! I compounded the problem by hosing the motor down – the fuel ran down the drains and ignited and I had quite a bonfire going.

Mal, the boss, could see the fire from the cow paddock and it must have looked very ugly. We eventually put the fire out, tidied up, cleaned and started the motor, and milked the cows. The next few days were spent repainting the dairy. And Mal didn’t sack me, for which I was eternally grateful.

I worked a three-week, seven-day shift at Mal’s dairy and then took three days off. My parents and the three other children in our family had recently arrived in Australia and were living at Cabramatta Hostel. On one of my breaks, I travelled to Sydney on the Friday and caught a train back to Wingen on Sunday afternoon. At this time, I was a lad of just sixteen years from Birmingham and had no idea where Wingen was. My instructions for the return trip on the Sunday were to alight from the train at Scone, find the Station Master and ask him to stop the train at Wingen; for otherwise it would just keep going. I sat in the train terrified that the Station Master wouldn’t pass the message on, and I would end up on my own in some other strange and lonely place.

Eventually, I left this employment when the boss’s son wanted to return home. During my time there we also constructed a well for irrigation and for domestic use. Today that well is still supplying the old coach house with water.

I then spent a small amount of time at another dairy in Cabramatta, adjacent to the golf club. By this time, my brother Eric had obtained a job with a Sydney businessman to start a dairy on virgin land at West Hoxton Park. Eventually my whole family moved to this property and assisted in building and running a successful dairy.

During this time, three Little Brothers were also employed – one, Graeme, became my brother-in-law.

While we were setting up the dairy, my father and my brother, Eric, bought five acre lots adjacent to the dairy land. Within a few short years the owner subdivided the dairy land into small acreage lots. Those lots are now adjacent to the new Badgery’s Creek Airport. I married in 1959 and built a house on land purchased from my brother Eric – my father built the house himself on an adjacent block.

Meanwhile, with the assistance of the owner of the dairy, my father began an engineering patternmaking business in a rent-free building on the farm property. The business prospered and I worked with my father for several years. Eventually we bought our own land and built new premises in Liverpool.

When I moved on from my father’s patternmaking enterprise, I variously built fridges at STC Liverpool, grew vegetables and raised rabbits. I also worked at Inghams on the weekend and, seeing an opportunity, joined with my father and Eric to purchase a six-acre block at Kemps Creek on which we could raise meat chickens under contract to Inghams. I sold my house and built a new house on this property.

We then bought another property, built sheds, and increased our throughput of chickens. Eric left his job as manager of a dairy at Windsor and operated this second farm. In time, Eric purchased one farm and I the other and we continued to raise chickens. Eric, though, succumbed to a bad back, cut back his production and obtained a job at Inghams as an animal health service man.

It also turned out that Graeme, the Little Brother who married my sister, managed Inghams Badgery Creek farm. Sandy Girvan, from the training farm and best man at my wedding, managed Inghams’ Appin Farm. All three were very successful and worked until retirement from the chicken industry.

Inghams approached me with an offer to carry out their animal health services under contract. I did this for twenty years, as well as running the farm and the business, and eventually sold both and moved to Caringbah. There I undertook house renovations and, under contract, carried out some part time hatchery work for Inghams.

By 1985 I had discontinued these jobs and decided to work part time. This led me to set up business as a photographer and a videographer and, for several years, I successfully ran the photography business and oversaw the management of the large apartment complex where I lived. Eventually, I sold the apartment and moved into another house, before finally settling on the Central Coast. I retired from the photography business in 2010.

I have two children, three grandchildren and three great grandchildren and am still a country boy at heart. In a motor home I travel through Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales and enjoy golf, snooker, gardening, visiting family and fiddling in my shed

I came to Australia, as did all my family, thinking that if we worked hard we could prosper. We did and, to support the argument that hard work never hurt anyone, all six of us are alive today, the youngest being seventy-seven years of age. The best country on earth? Yes, by a long shot.

The BBM gave us this opportunity.

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