James Yule

Ship name / Flight number: Fairsky

Arrival date: 09/11/1960

I was born in Aberdeenshire, in the north-east of Scotland on 24 September 1944. I was an orphan and was fostered by an elderly couple whose children had already grown up. They treated me like their own son. However, I didn’t take their surname of ‘Sangster’, I kept my own.

I went to primary school in Aberdeen and then onto Inverurie Academy, which was like a high school. In 1959, a couple of gentlemen came to the school and told us there were plenty of jobs in Australia if we wanted to go there with the BBM. By now, my foster parents were both over 70 years old, and I didn’t want them to have to worry about me and my future. I put my hand up to be a ‘Little Brother’.

My application was approved and I was set to sail from Southampton on the Fairsky in October 1960. I said goodbye to my foster parents in Aberdeen and caught the train to London. I had just turned 16 years old. It felt like a momentous occasion for me, but it was also significant for the BBM, as we were the 100th group of boys to travel to Australia since World War II. We were all invited to a special luncheon at Australia House and met the Duke of Gloucester.

Left: James Yule meets the Duke of Gloucester, 1960

There were 51 ‘Little Brothers’ in my group. We had three escorts, all of whom were school teachers, including Ben Crop, who became a famous underwater photographer and wildlife documentary filmmaker. One of the escorts made us do lots of exercises on deck – I think he was a physical education teacher. I got to know some of my fellow migrants, but I was the odd one out. There were four beds in each cabin, and we were assigned bunks in alphabetical order. With a surname starting with Y, I had to share a cabin with the escorts.

We docked in Fremantle on the first Tuesday of November, and I didn’t understand why the captain stopped the boat. Then the calling of the Melbourne Cup race came over the PA system. The captain explained that this is the only time that Australia stops.

When we docked in Melbourne we were allowed to disembark and we were taken on a trip around the city. They took as to the MCG, where the 1956 Olympic Games were held, and the zoo. We arrived in Sydney on 8 November 1960, exactly one month after we’d left.

Having grown up on a small farm in Kinkell, I decided to go to the training farm at Homebush. From there, I took a job on a dairy farm in Bass Strait. I chose to go to King Island, because I wanted to escape Sydney’s heat and I prefer smaller communities. There were already four or five other Little Brothers on King Island, as they started coming there in 1956. They looked out for me and helped me settle in. I still keep in touch with two of them, one of whom still lives on King Island.

For the first 18 months, it was hard yakka. I was up at 5 am to bring in the cows for milking and we didn’t finish until 7pm when the evening milking was done and the sheds were cleaned. I worked seven days a week.

One day the manager of the island’s abattoir approached me and offered me a job as a slaughterman. I started work at 7.30am and finished at 4pm, Monday to Friday. I could now have a life, as well as a job! I worked there for about eight years.

King Island only had 1200 people on it and everybody knew everybody. They weren’t clicky – quite the opposite, I felt very welcomed. People talked to you no matter who you were – sometimes you wouldn’t know your neighbour in England! At Christmas time, I was invited to join other families for the main meal. I learnt to play Aussie Rules and joined one of the four teams on the island. I often did voluntary work on the weekends, like mowing the grass at the hospital, as there wasn’t that much to do.

In 1970, when I was about 26 years old, I thought, will I just keep on working? I decided that I’d like to have a look around Tasmania, so I flew to the mainland on a DC3. I left the island on a Wednesday morning and by the afternoon, I had a job at another meat works, just outside Launceston. I stayed in that job until 1976, when the meat works closed down.

Then I got a job driving public buses and school buses. It was shift work, but I didn’t mind. I worked there for 34 years. I kept fit by umpiring and playing football. I still like to kick the footy around, but after 27 years, I’ve stopped umpiring.

I met my first wife, Colleen, at the velodrome where we were both watching a race. She was 21 years old and I was 26. We were married in Launceston in 1978. My foster parents had both died a year or so earlier, so I just invited my friends to our wedding.

When our daughter was attending kindergarten at a centre in Munford Street, they didn’t have anyone to cut the lawns or keep the grounds. They got a grant to cover the costs and asked if I could do it. I’ve been doing this for the past 46 years. I kept it up after I retired as a bus driver.

Colleen and I also had a son, but sadly he died when he was only 26 years old. He was a jockey who had one too many falls.

Left: Margaret, holding Montie, and James Yule outside their home in Tasmania, 2008

I married Margaret in 1998, and we’ve been together ever since. My daughter, Belinda, has three sons and when the youngest asked about my parents, he was surprised to learn that I was an orphan. Belinda decided to do a bit of digging into the past, and she found someone in England who was my cousin. They started corresponding to check that their research was correct. Then I was given a phone number for one of my sisters. I discovered that I had four sisters – three older and one younger than me! They were raised by our grandmother. I still don’t know what happened to my biological parents.  When I first started talking to my sisters, we all agreed that we wouldn’t go back in time. We decided to talk about the future, rather than dwell on the past.

In 2011, after 51 years, I went back to Scotland. I finally met my sisters who all live in Aberdeenshire. I don’t look like them – I have a darker complexion, which doesn’t come just from living in Australia. They took me back to Inverurie and I visited my old school and church. It was good to go back. They showed me around Scotland. The countryside was dotted with windfarms – technology is taking over! The roads were better – I knew how bad they were because I used to ride my bike over them when I worked as a delivery boy in the 1950s.

I’m glad that I migrated with the BBM in 1960. I’ve had a wonderful life here with no regrets. This is a lucky country, and I feel very lucky to be here.  Margaret and I live on a 20-acre hobby farm near Exeter, outside Launceston. I’ve had a very good, healthy life.

Left: James with a steer in Tasmania









Below: James on tractor in Tas, 2023

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