Ship name / Flight number: New Australia
Arrival date: 28/08/1955
Laurie Poysden was born into a poor working-class family at Holloway, London, in August 1938, the fourth of six children. Leaving school at the age of 14, he worked in various factories and then as a general wholesaler in the bicycle parts department. Life was tough and food supplies remained strictly rationed by the government, since the end of WWII. The combination of limited career opportunity, constant bad weather, serious health risks from coal fires in homes and factories pollution, led to his decision to apply to the Big Brother Movement. Laurie’s parents supported his decision. Little did they know it would be 21 years before he’d return for a visit.
Laurie came to Australia on board the New Australia (a troop ship in its earlier life), arriving in Sydney on 28th August 1955. He celebrated his 17th birthday on board on an unremarkable six-week passage from Southampton, with a short stop-over in Colombo.
Upon arrival in Sydney, Laurie, fellow Little Brother Roy Spence, and the others were directly transported to the Big Brother Movement training farm at Fairfield. After about three weeks they visited the “big smoke” with train tickets in-hand and headed-off to their next unknown destinations.
Laurie caught the mail train to a sheep and lucerne farm called “Cranky Rock” at Canowindra, 300km west of Sydney. The main job was all about lucerne hay – “grow it, cut it, bail it”! His first experience with Australian farming included teaching himself to ride a horse and drive a tractor, and the shock of the outback’s summer weather…..”bloody hot!”
After a short time, he relocated to a rice farm near Yenda, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation area of southern New South Wales, 550km from Sydney. Living standards were primitive – no power or running water, an outdoor drop toilet, kerosene lanterns and fridges. Accommodation was a makeshift bedroom inside the farm’s food storage shed. Laurie had to teach himself how to herd, harness and handle the three Clydesdale horses used for stripping rice for harvesting. The farm owner expected Laurie to do everything including butchering sheep for consumption on the property. The farmers were his mentors… some good and some not so!
On weekends, the only social life for older teenagers from the region was in the township of Yenda. Yenda’s population was about 900 in those days. 65 years later its grown to approx. 1,500. They would hang out at the main park, play tennis, meet at the local milk bar, and enjoy the thrill of pinching fruit from each other’s farms. Laurie was “Mr Popular” because he was the only one with a vehicle (the get-away-car).
Whilst there are many anecdotes that could be shared from this period the most significant moment was meeting his wife to be, Yevonde. They were engaged and married in 1958 and have been together ever since, celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary in June 2019.
Their escape from the country, in 1957, was to Port Kembla. Laurie was employed as a “midnight runner” on the outdoor toilet can collections before being promoted to the garbage run. Laurie then scored a job at BHP’s Port Kembla steel works. Initially as a coal sampler but was quickly promoted to supervise a team preparing coal for sampling and testing. This work predated purpose-built machinery and was all done by hand. None of Laurie’s team could speak any English so he became quite good at charades and improvised sign language.
Army conscription called for him to report for basic training in Sydney. After being discharged from the Army, Laurie did a short stint at a panel beating workshop before joining Grace Brothers Removals and Transport department. This was the beginning of a long career in the removals industry. Furniture removals is a tough gig anytime, but in those days, pieces of furniture were large and made from solid heavy timber. It was common to devour a loaf of bread in sandwiches for lunch to maintain energy levels. The industry was in its infancy and camp-out allowance didn’t cover adequate accommodation so to make ends meet Laurie would camp in the back of the truck.
Laurie quickly determined that his future was not in busting his backside for wages. Purchasing his own truck and sub-contracting would allow him more control of his destiny. In 1966, with Grace Brothers assistance, he purchased his first truck and was the first contractor to transport furniture from Sydney to Darwin. The rate was two shillings a mile.
Work was busy, long and hard, but prosperous. Australia’s growing economy and more mobile population opened opportunities across the nation. This led Laurie to upgrading his vehicle to a prime mover and trailer and do longer trips all over the country. The main routes were nothing like the freeways of today. For example, the Nullarbor Plain was predominately a dirt road and many hauliers had to put their rigs on a train between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.
A break away from removals included general cartage including delivering construction camp and materials for a major project in the Victorian high country. This rig was bigger and had its own sleeper cabin to make life on the road a little more comfortable.
In 1976, they ventured on an extended holiday to London. Laurie hadn’t seen his parents and siblings since departing Southampton on the New Australia, 21 years previously, and it was the first time to introduce Yevonde. It appeared that things in London hadn’t significantly changed over the past 21 years, whilst Sydney, and the rest of Australia, had experienced massive development by comparison.
Laurie returned with fresh vigour for the removals industry but preferred to be home more often than what long haul required. So, he commenced sub-contract packing to Grace Brothers. What appeared to be a simple process of packing client’s personal effects and furniture in preparation for uplift was quite physically demanding day after day. After 6 years of contract packing, Laurie and Yevonde embarked on a sea change from Sydney to Mackay, in tropical Queensland. Their son and daughter-in-law had done similar. Their two grandsons were born in Mackay.
Finding work as a newbie in the parochial town of Mackay was difficult. After a short stint in the cane harvesting season and driving a school bus run, Laurie purchased another truck and semi-trailer, to transport mining equipment and materials from Brisbane to Mt Isa and other regional mining towns.
In 1990, Laurie and Yevonde sold up and commenced a gap year, caravanning around Australia. They eventually settled in Jimboomba, south west of Brisbane, and purchased another home, truck and trailer. This time, sub-contracting to Pickfords, Laurie was back in the removals business, primarily running regular transfers between Brisbane and Darwin.
Laurie continued to work in the removals industry up until his retirement in 2003.
The travel bug has been constant throughout Laurie and Yevonde’s life together. In addition to travel all round Australia, they have travelled to UK, several West European countries, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Tahiti, Vanuatu, China, Singapore, and Thailand.
Laurie lost contact with BBM from the time he left the farm in 1955 until 1959, when he collected his birth certificate from the BBM office. Decades later, in 2001, a chance meeting in a busy café in Vanuatu led to his reconnection with BBM. The café’s tables were all occupied so Laurie asked a gentleman if they could share his table. The guy happened to be Ben Mohide, a LB also there on holiday. During their chat Laurie learned that BBM was still an active organisation and holding LB reunions. Since then he has regularly travelled to attend BBM reunions in Sydney and Gold Coast.
Lucky Starr first made the song “I’ve been everywhere, man!” popular in 1962. Throughout his career, Laurie has clocked up more than 3 million kilometres moving people all around Australia. That song could well be his theme song. Since arriving in 1955, there aren’t many places he hasn’t been in this vast country. Laurie’s travels started as a LB and now at 81 years of age, Laurie and Yevonde continue to travel, towing their caravan across the country to visit life-long friends and attend reunions.Contact Little Brother