Eric Haines

Ship name / Flight number: AIR BA814

Arrival date: 17/01/1974

Even though I grew up in rainy England, I spent much of my youth outdoors. I played football and had many enjoyable years in the cubs, boy scouts, and venturers. Little did I know, this was preparing me for my adulthood in Australia.

I was born in 1954, the third surviving child of Eric and Monica Haines. My father enlisted in the Royal Airforce (RAF) in 1939 to train as a pilot but was instead assigned to an anti-chemical warfare unit and posted to Yorkshire. This is where he met his wife to be. He was then sent to South East Asia and ultimately Burma. During his service there he worked and fought alongside both Americans and Australians. There was something different about the Australians that attracted him to their way of life, and he put every effort in to planning how to migrate there. He asked to be demobilised to Australia after the war, but the RAF refused, so instead, he came back to England, married Mum, and lived in Southampton, near where he was born.

I had a busy childhood, full of extra-curricular activities like cubs and football. The scouting movement allowed me to flourish, and I attained the role of ‘Sixer’ (leader of my group of six cubs); and was awarded the Leaping Wolf badge (the highest award in cubs). When I graduated from cubs into scouts, I went on to be a patrol leader and receive the Chief Scouts Award in my teens. I progressed to the Venture Scouts where I played football for them and refereed games for younger players. This contributed to earning the Venture Scout Award. The scouting movement imbued me with the ethic of giving back.

In 1959, my parents purchased a house in Bitterne, near Southampton, and converted the loungeroom into a shop where they sold music records and repaired record players.  My Dad, who was highly intelligent but had to leave school at age 14, picked up some skills in electronics when he was both working with wireless radios and serving in the RAF. Their business venture was perfectly timed, as they capitalised on the rising popularity of bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In the 1960s, they were able to open a second shop, and my two older sisters and I helped sell records after school.

In addition to working in my parents’ shops, playing football, and participating in scouts; I passed my 11+ examination and was offered a place at Taunton Grammar, a selective school. I graduated in 1972 with my A levels (senior leaving certificate), and instead of attending university, I secured a job at the Trustee Savings Bank in Bitterne. I started as a teller and soon had prospects of promotion.

During my first year at the bank, I noticed an advertisement in the local paper placed by the Big Brother Movement (BBM). They were inviting young men who were interested in migrating to Australia to visit their temporary information booth at one of the main hotels in Southampton. I had grown up listening to my father extol Australia as a land of opportunity; a place where if one was willing to give, the country would give back. (This assessment was based on what my father assumed Australia was like, rather than any evidence.) Predictably, my father encouraged me to go to the hotel and find out more about the BBM.

The first positive thing we learnt was that, under the BBM scheme, prospective migrants only had to pay £10, not the £50 now required, to go to Australia. I agreed to go to London with my dad for an interview with the BBM at Australia House. Two weeks later, they phoned my father and offered me a seat on a plane that was leaving in just four weeks! I had to decide right then, whether to accept it. My dad was encouraging because he wanted me to live his dream of moving to Australia.

The next four weeks were hectic as I scrambled to do the paperwork, buy things for my trip, (including suitcases!), and say goodbye to friends. In January 1974, I made another trip to London, this time without my father, to board the BOAC with three other Little Brothers. Our ‘direct’ flight from London to Sydney had stopovers in Rome, Athens, Bahrain, Tehran, Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Darwin and, finally, Sydney. Dressed in a three-piece suit, fresh from an English winter, I vividly remember leaving the plane in Darwin. The intense humidity and extreme heat were unforgettable and I thought: ‘What the hell have I done?!’ Thankfully, when we disembarked in Sydney, it was not like stepping into a sauna.

We were greeted at the airport by Gerald Hickey and taken to meet Mr Mansell, the leader of the BBM, at their office. Ken Johnstone, treasurer of BBM and a Little Brother himself, was also there. Ken’s career as a Chartered Accountant was launched by the former Treasurer of the BBM, who had taken him under his wing, and I think he wanted to do the same for me. He told me to ‘come back to the office tomorrow and we’ll have a chat’.

After that we were taken to the BBM House in Burwood. Gerald Hickey didn’t give us any advice about adjusting to life in Australia, but he did warn us not to show our faces in the hotel next to the Burwood hostel, because that was where he went for a drink. Heeding his advice, we decided to take the train into Sydney and spent the afternoon exploring Circular Quay, the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens in perfect weather. It was a wonderful introduction to Sydney and Australia.

On the following day, I caught the train into Sydney again to meet Ken Johnstone and visit the offices of the Institute of Chartered Accountants to check my qualifications.  They determined that I had sufficient education to enrol in a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting Finance & Systems) degree. The only university that offered this course after hours was the University of New South Wales, so I enrolled in 1975, studied at night, and was awarded the degree in 1980. The Institute’s appraisal must have pleased Ken Johnstone – after chatting with me for a few minutes, he said: ‘That’s great! We’ll see you on Monday.’ From that time on, my relationship with Ken as a friend, employer and, in time, a business partner, flourished. Ken was a most wonderful human being.

Once you were placed in a job, the BBM required you to move out of their Burwood Hostel and find your own accommodation. I moved firstly to a guest house in Clifton Avenue, Burwood, and then rented a house with three other Little Brothers in Strathfield. Together, we would go to the Wests Soccer Club on a Friday night and play darts. Soon we started going back to our place to play cards – just for fun, not for money – and this could continue all night.  We also frequented the Irish Club in Lidcombe on Sunday nights. This led to us meeting lots of Aussie and Irish people and I soon had a large friendship group.

Photo left: On a night out with fellow Little Brothers, (L-R) Myself, Chris Kiley from Weymouth, Jim Kerins from Glasglow, and Phil Stone also from Southampton, at the Stagecoach Restaurant and Nightclub in King Street, Sydney. We shared a house in Strathfield for six months before Chris Kiley, and I decided to rent together in Concord.

For my first Christmas in Australia in 1974, I decided to travel to Bourke (757 kilometres north-west of Sydney) to meet up with the brothers of Chris, my housemate. The road trip was long and eventful. At one point, just short of Nyngan, we were passed by a vehicle travelling at high speed. A few kilometres on, that car ended up in a ditch. We stopped to help the driver and took him to his family in Nyngan before resuming our journey. Bourke was well worth the trip: the Darling River provided swimming holes to cool off, there was tennis to play and other fun times. After Christmas, we drove east to Byron Bay and Queensland, which was absolutely magic. The road trip helped me understand why so much of Australia is called ‘the outback’. This ‘wide brown land’ was so different to the dreary drizzle and gentle green hills I had left behind, but I was starting to think of Sydney as home.

My studies at the University of NSW were beneficial in more ways than one. Within the first month, I met Joy Scott, a fellow commerce student, and we started dating. I’m very old fashioned and insisted on escorting her home to Chester Hill, where she lived with her parents. Her Dad would sometimes drive me back to Concord, where I shared a house with Chris, and I got to know her parents that way. We married in the semester break in July 1977 and honeymooned on Hayman Island, near the Great Barrier Reef. My Dad came to Australia for our wedding and stayed for three months. He loved it.

After we married, Joy came to work with Ken Johnstone and myself and specialised in preparing superannuation returns. We went to England in December 1979 so that Joy could meet my mother and other family members. One of my sisters thought Australia sounded fantastic, so she decided to immigrate in 1981 with her husband and two children. Unfortunately, they missed their family too much, and returned to Southampton after a year.

I was too busy with my university studies, work, and marriage to miss my family that much, especially when we started our own family – Vicky was born in 1981 and David in 1984. I was able to pay for Mum and Dad to come out to Australia a number of times and, surprisingly, they didn’t mind the heat. They loved catching the train to Circular Quay, then the ferry to Manly where they could have fish and chips by the sea. This probably reminded them of their life in Southampton, albeit with more warm sunshine!

My daughter followed in her parents’ footsteps and worked for one of the ‘big four’ accountancy firms before moving to London and working for large financial institutions. My son was adamant that he wasn’t going to be an accountant like the rest of his family – he eventually settled on a course in computer systems. He now runs his own business in Sydney as a MYOB software and computing specialist.

Joy and I continued to work with Ken Johnstone. In 1988 Ken and I became business partners and later changed the company name to Johnstone Haines. Sadly, Ken died in 2022. It was an honour to give the eulogy at his funeral. Ken was like a father figure to me: he came to my wedding, attended my university and Institute of Chartered Accountants graduations, and provided fatherly advice when I needed it. He has passed the baton of treasurer of BBM Youth Support (as the organisation is now called) to me.

Looking back on my last 50 years in Australia, I have no regrets about that quick decision to come to Australia with BBM. It has made it possible to go from being a shop-keeper’s son to a business partner with an office in Sydney’s CBD. I think I have been more successful in Australia than I would have been in Southampton. My Dad taught me to ‘make of life what you can’ and I think there were more opportunities to forge an enjoyable life in Australia. The ethic of ‘giving back’ that I learnt in the scouts is still with me, and our accountancy firm supports a number of charities, including Stepping Stone House (which addresses youth homelessness) and BBM Youth Support. It was hard to leave behind my family and all that was familiar, but coming to Australia with BBM was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Eric Haines Cub Scout Summer 1964 – New Forest – presented to Chief Cub Scout Leader for Hampshire

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