Ship name / Flight number: Strathmore
Arrival date: 09/04/1963
After working at Burton’s Family Tailors for twelve months a work mate told me he had been to Australia House and had become a Little Brother and was booked to fly out to Australia in a few weeks-time.
I thought, this sounds ok, so made the appointment to go to the Big Brother office in London and see if I was eligible – which I was. Much to my mother’s and girlfriend’s displeasure I was booked to depart on the SS. Strathmore in April 1963.
With twenty pounds in my pocket I boarded the ship with an unknown future to an unknown land at the bottom of the globe. After spending five great weeks at sea we arrived in Sydney where we were bused to the farm in what was the countryside of Sydney back in the day.
I got acclimatized at a position on a property near Wagga. It was a mixed property in a small town named Milbralong about 50 miles from Wagga. Really only small to Australian standards but huge to what I was accustomed to in UK: about 1200 acres from memory with sheep and a small herd of cattle. They hadn’t had a decent rain for about seven years I was told, and they were finding it hard to grow crops.
The owner and his family were named Grause (they were of German descent), and the property was called The Pines. I was shown my bedroom on the sleepout of the house. It didn’t amount to much – just a bed basically, and I was told: where the carpet starts you stop – the only uncarpeted rooms were the bathroom and the kitchen – needless to say I didn’t get to see the rest!
I remember it was still very warm out there in May and I turned 18 a couple of weeks after arriving. The boss carried on about how he asked for a 17 year-old, not an 18 year-old as now he had to pay me an extra five shillings a week, (bringing my weekly wage to five pounds). He was a hard task master. I recall he would get me out of bed about 5.30 am, give me the jobs he wanted done, and go back to bed.
After a few months I worked out he just wanted cheap labour and realized why his 19 year-old son didn’t work on the property but on one a 100 miles away.
So, it was five months later I decided to hand in my notice and head for Sydney.
Once in the big smoke I met up with a few of the guys who made the voyage with me seven months earlier. We lived in a boarding house in Alt St, Ashfield.
The war in Vietnam had started and the Services were recruiting so I applied to the Regular Army but got knocked back for medical reasons, only to be called up for National Service three months later and was told I was ok to go to war! I but still very annoyed that I missed out on the Regulars so when I listed the reasons for not being accepted previously to the medical officer, he looked into his little black book and said I was exempt. That was music to my ears I remember!
Christmas of ‘63 a fellow Little Brother (David Phelps) and I headed of for Mildura and the grape picking season. It was six weeks of hot dry weather but paid well (six pence a bucket).
I was rich with 90 quid in my pocket when I headed for Adelaide to catch up with my uncle and family, hitching a lift outside Mildura in a Hillman with a trailer in tow. A couple of young guys and girl asked where I was heading: Adelaide I said. Good, that’s where we are going, they said. So off we went.
Got to outskirts of the city and the wheel bearing was making a hell of a racket so we pulled into a servo when a couple of guys in suits approached us and presented us their police ID.
So, I spent the next eight hours in the Police Headquarters trying to explain I was only a passenger. It appears the car and trailer were stolen, and the girl was a 14 year-old runaway. The Superintendent apologized for detaining me and told me to beware of strangers and got my uncle to come and pick me up.
I bought my first car, a 1934 Ford, for 50 pounds (would be worth a fortune these days) and after 12 months went back to Sydney, got married, had children, got separated and went back to Adelaide.
Then on to Katherine, NT for a couple of years, over to Qld – Bundaburg, Gladstone, Townsville, all with Coates Hire – managing their branches till I turned 50 and was too old for their corporate image.
Retired now and enjoying the life of farm-sitting with my wife of 20 years. In a small country town in SA.
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