Hugh Archer

Ship name / Flight number: Otranto

Arrival date: 13/06/1953

When my elder brother Brian, saw the BBM ad in the local paper, he applied, and after the usual formalities he boarded RMS Orion at Tilbury on 21 July 1951 arriving in Sydney 27 August 1951 having had his 16th birthday on board on 25 July 1951.  Shortly after, I had my 16th birthday on 30 October 1952 and sailed from Tilbury on 8 May 1953 on the S.S. Otranto and arrived in Sydney 13 June 1953.  The trip itself was quite an experience.  Meeting Little Brothers and other friends.

Left: Otranto

I enjoyed the Little Brother singsongs and watching the wake of the ship stretching to the horizon.  The various women groups at Australian port were very good to us taking us on tours at Fremantle and Melbourne.  Also, the Victoria League took us to places including the Holden factory.  When arriving in Sydney I stayed at Gunning House and couple of days after arrival I went to the Calmsley Hill Farm.  I was only at the farm for eight days, during which we milked cows, cut timber and de-barked the logs for slip rails. In the evening walk we often would walk to the shop.  It took us one hour I think, and I remember the lady who played the accordion for us in the meal room.  We said goodbye to friends we made such as Bob, Jean and Sandy and went with a Holden ute to the Liverpool Railway Station.  This included the driver Eddie, John, Edmund (Ted) and myself.  Another friend I made on the ship was “Brummie” but he was sent to training at Goulburn and I have not seen him since.

Ted and I continued on to Wagga, where we were met by our respective employers.  I said goodbye to Ted but our paths have crossed since. I was sent off to the delights of dairy farming.  One highlight was walking a shorthorn bull in the 1953 Wagga show grand parade.  The Bull got the ribbon.  There are a lot of good experiences I remember which have been a highlight at the dairy farm.

Nevertheless, I later moved to a mixed farm at Cootamundra mustering and dipping sheep and help with fencing.  I learned to ride a horse, cutting and baling hay and digging out or poisoning rabbits with Larvicide.  A bad brew that was.  After Cootamundra I returned to Wagga where I had seen the Queens visit some months before.  I vividly remember that we had celebrated the Coronation on board of the Otranto on 2 June 1953.  Back in Wagga on my day off, I met two little brothers, Sam, Belfast and (Jock) John and Frae.  I became a” townie” shortly after.

Eventually I was called up for service.  I knew I would fail the exam as I had tried to join the RAAF and Army before I went for my medical after which I asked the Doc, “Am I in”? “Go home son, you’re blind as a bat.”  His exact words.  So, with those kindly words of encouragement, I went back to work mainly in the motor trade and transport industry and one by one acquired the appropriate drivers’ licenses.  I covered quite a lot of territory, meeting all sort of people in the farming community.  I always seemed to get on with them.  I carted wool, hay, coal, cement, general goods, piping and steel.  Eventually, I met my wife and she happened to be a country girl too.  Up until this time 1958, I had met off and on seven or eight little brothers from different ships. Two from the Otranto.  By this time, I had experience of an all-round nature and was able to slot into a job somewhere.

I had met my fiancé’s family by now and never would have thought to work for any of them as an employee but enjoyed working alongside her brothers on their farms.  On my time off we would head off to visit one or the other.  The women would get together and the men were out sowing, harvesting or mustering.  I loved the farm life, but never have been able to own one.  Eve and I married in November 1960. Our little girl came along in March 1962, at which time we moved to the ACT.

I was offered a well paid job which gave us a chance to buy our own home in Canberra.  I have never regretted it.  We later had 4 boys one by one they married, and we have 9 grandchildren.  I have taken my wife to meet my relatives in the U.K. in 1983 and 1995. It was a trip we would happily do again.  In 1976 I was offered a job as a government bus driver.  I took it and remained there until retirement in 1994.  My wife being a country girl we often go back to country.  My family are all doing very well.  We own our home and its contents with rainy days well covered.  So, all I can say is “Thanks Australia and BBM”.

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