Martin Williams

Ship name / Flight number: BA814

Arrival date: 17/06/1971

Left: Martin, around 1971

I arrived in Sydney (Burwood Hostel , known to the lads as ” Hickey’s) on the morning of Thurs 17/6/71. First thing Friday morning we were sent into George St for the obligatory gov medical. On my return to the hostel I was sent back into Sydney for a job interview. From this H/O interview I was sent back to the local branch of the business for a final interview. I got the job and reported back to the hostel. Next day I was sent to the Clifton Guest House ( known as Specky’s )in Burwood for my accommodation .I moved in on the Sunday and started work on the Monday. What a whirlwind introduction to Australia.

The boarding house was run by Mr and ” Mam ” Speck. They were quite strict with their rules (which didn’t suit some young lads ) but they provided a safe and secure environment for many young people that were not only away from home for the first time but 12,000 miles from home. The Specks lived at the boarding house themselves and the rules reflected their motto of ” this is OUR home too “. For $15 p.w. you got 2 cooked meals a day , your room cleaned and clean sheets once a week. Considering my wages in Australia were double what they had been in England, cigarettes were half the price of back home and a lot of everyday essentials were cheap, what more could a 19-year-old want. Truly the promised land.

Left: Mr and ” Mam ” Speck, 1971

I stayed at Specky’s for almost 4 years until I moved out when I got married. During this time I saw many, many young lads come and go through the B.B.M system. Most were successful in settling but there were some heart-breaking stories too. There were some lads that should never have been sent out (immature etc ). There were some that had unrealistic wild ideas / visions of how life was going to be in Australia and just wanted to go home. The saddest were those who were just downright homesick. My strongest memory was of a young chap who had only been out a few weeks. He hated Australia (he just couldn’t settle). He decided to go home. In those days, if you returned to the U.K within 2 yrs of arrival you not only had to pay your fare home but also repay the Australian Gov for your original fare out. This chap worked at K.F.C on Parramatta Road at the end of Burwood Road. For 9 months solid, he worked 12 hours, 7 days a week. Worked and slept and went home.

Having said that, many of us had great times. Playing pool all weekend at the pool hall on Burwood Road and all going off to Ashfield pool for a swim. We spent many nights in Burwood R.S.L, having a drink, playing the pokies (and in those days) watching a show. You tend to forget the “new” things then that are ordinary now. The sunshine, beaches etc. The sightseeing, Bondi, Manly and the Opera House being opened.

Mr Speck also had the contract for boarding apprentices from the railways in Newcastle. Twice a year they were sent to Sydney for special training. Whilst at Specks they initiated some of us “pommy ” boys into the finer points of surfing and footy. Most of them brought their cars with them, so we had our first experience at a ” drive in”. If they thought, you were cool enough you could also go out at night in the car “cruising for chicks” with them.

Once I got married and moved, I lost track of the B.B.M. I stayed at the job the B.B.M got me for 17 yrs. During that time, I got married, had three kids and bought my first house. Since then, I have moved several times, including interstate and am now retired on the N.S.W. Central Coast. I live very close to the beach and walk there every day. After 50 years I still can’t believe how lucky I am. To live at the ” seaside ” as we used to call it back in the U.K. I have been happily married for 48 years and now have a family including 10 grandchildren.

I have met many good people, who have helped me in many different ways since I arrived in Australia, and I too have tried to do my bit.

However, I will always remember and be grateful for the start I got from the B.B.M, so many years ago.

Below: Martin, around 2021

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