Patrick John Longfield
Ship name / Flight number: Fairsea
Arrival date: 22/10/1960
The Big Brother Movement – my story.
I left school in in the summer of 1960 when I was 19. At that time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had two A levels in Chemistry and Biology, and a batch of O levels, which was not enough to get me into university. I had spent the last two years of school in the Science sixth.
My family had friends who had two boys, both of whom had immigrated to Australia. Their parents were over for a meal one day, and during the conversation they showed us some letters from their sons. They were working as jackaroos on a station in the Northern Territory. Their letters made great reading, and the whole life they led exciting and rewarding. They learned to ride horses and use motor-cycles, as part of the job, and they flew 200 miles to an adjacent property to play tennis on the weekend.
We talked all around it, and in the end, after further talking with my parents we decided we would go to Australia House in London and see how the land lay.
A few days later I made an appointment to meet with someone about immigration to Australia. The office there sent me a package with some information in it about migrating to Australia, some of which were about the Big Brother Movement for young men and boys to immigrate.
We went up again for an interview, which went well. One major decision I had to make early on was whether I wished to work in an office in a town, or on the land. Up to that time I had lived in houses associated with farms, so I chose to go on the land.
In the meant time Dad had bought tickets to Swan Lake at Covent Garden Opera House that evening. Overall we had a good day together, and I made the decision I would like to go to Australia.
My trip to Australia.
My ship, the S.S.Fairsea, was to set to leave from Portsmouth on the 17th September 1960. So, I went up to London with my parents the day before I had to be at Portsmouth, and we spent the night in an hotel not far from the railway station. In the morning, we went to the station, where we were met by Australia House representatives, and a bunch of young boys. It turned out I was the eldest.
It was not easy to say goodbye to my mother and father, even though I had done so on very many occasions over the years. This time was different as I was not expecting to come back to England.
I had hoped to say goodbye to other relatives, but they were late getting to the docks. I was not allowed to leave the ship, but was permitted to go to the bow, where we called and waved to each other, my grandmother and Aunt and Uncle. The ship played Waltzing Matilda, and all in all, it was a tearful, lonely few minutes. I never saw my grandmother again.
The ship went vis the Suez Canal, and after that stopped off at Aden, where we were able to go ashore. I enjoyed some time on my own wandering the back streets. Probably the wrong thing to do, but it was most interesting.
Back on board before sailing some local small boys were diving into the water when passengers threw coins into the water. They were able to catch them all.
Leaving Aden I went outside onto the deck, to watch the coast disappearing into the dusk. A woman came and stood beside me and we got chatting. It turned out she was from New Zealand, where I was born early in the war (1941), and knew of my family. We talked for some 10 minutes or so, and I never saw her again.
During this trip I learned how to play draughts, properly, as an adult not a child. I found it a challenging and enjoyable event playing with men two to three time my age, and learning the rules and tactics.
Also while in Aden most of us bought a small transistor radio. Some while before arriving in Perth, we came within radio range and were able to make them work. We were amazed to find the voice of the people on the government stations, the ABC, sounded just like those on the BBC. We had all expected to hear Chips Rafferty!
Arriving in Perth we left the ship and were entertained by ladies from the Victoria Society. I was asked to give a vote of thanks for the effort they had made to entertain us. Don’t know why me!
Arriving in Sydney on the Fairsea, on the 22nd of October 1960 at 6am in the morning, we were met on board by a number of people representing various organisations: The Commonwealth Bank, and medical insurance people. The most important people were from the Big Brother Movement (BBM), who would look after us for the first 2 years of our life in Australia. Two years were mandatory or we would have to refund our passage.
On disembarking I was immediately contacted by friends from Borneo. After reporting to the BBM Office in Macquarie Place I decided to meet and see the two families who had met my ship when it docked in Sydney, the Parnells and Collesses. Both these families were associated with my parents during their life in Borneo.
One day in those first two weeks, I was contacted by Don Colless, an entomologist with the CSIRO, who became friends with my parents when he was working in Borneo. He invited me to his parents’ house to meet his parents Ping and Marg, at their home in Pacific Parade, Manly. He told me how to get there by ferry, and met me at the wharf and took me to the house only a short distance from the beach. So, I caught the ferry to Manly the next Monday and met Don and his daughters, Susie and Vivienne, and parents. I was to meet Peg, Don’s sister and her husband Sandy, a bit later. When I returned to Sydney I had many happy weekends with them. Peg, Sandy and I remained in contact right up to their deaths. They had become a very significant part of my life in Australia and I miss them both.
Of the Parnells it was the daughter Norma whom I saw most. She was the senior manager of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, whose offices were in Rydalmere. It was Norma who during my two weeks after arriving in Sydney looked after me prior to my leaving for Corowa. During the first few days she drove all around Sydney from Hurstville to the UNSW, to Sydney University and Parramatta. I was very lucky. I met her parents and spent a couple of nights with them in Burwood.
She also had become friends with my parents while on a holiday some years after the war. She was a great tennis players and they had some great times in Borneo.
The boys I came out with were classified into two groups, those who wished to work in a city, and those on the land. I was in the second group. The two groups were put up in different places, with my group, farming, staying in a boarding house near Strathfield . One day we all went out to a farm owned by the BBM, where we spent the day, wandering around the property. Sadly one of the boys who was carrying an axe came across a yellow-bellied black snake and instead of walking away from it chose to kill it.
On the left: Gunning House in Homebush, where I stayed for a while on arriving.
My first job, on a farm near Corowa.
In early November we were all separated and went our various ways around NSW. Over the following years I only ever saw one of the group, who I bumped into at Central Railway where he was working.
I caught a train to Corowa, where I was to start my new life in earnest. I was a £10 pound Pom – and when I boarded that train, and all I had in my pocket was the residue of the £10 pounds after the ticket price was taken off it. I think it just over £5 pounds!
In those days there was no single gauge track continuous from Sydney straight through to Melbourne. We had to change trains and tracks at Albury. So we all got off the train and had to wait an hour so for the train to Corowa. While there I went into the railway bar to get a drink and refreshments. It was there that I first saw photographs of Australian Rules football – players climbing all over each to get at the ball. Unusual and spectacular images.
I was met at Corowa by Ken Forge who was to be my boss. We had a coffee in a shop run by Italians, and went shopping for ‘farmer’s’ clothes; shirts, shorts, trousers, boots and hat.
Their farm, then 1000 acres of wheat and other grains, 30 milking cows and a 100 or so sheep, was 20 miles out of town, so it was not a long trip there. Today it is over 2000 acres and Ken’s son works it with him. As I recall it was on the trip to the ‘property’, definitely not a farm, when Ken asked me if I could milk a cow. Luckily I was able to say yes, and he replied that my first task was to milk 30 cows twice a day! I will say here that I enjoyed everything I did when there. I think the time spent as a boy up at Beenham farm, and Silton, my Uncle Jim and Aunt Charlotte’s place in Dorset, and the one cow we had at Barrymore, gave me a head start.
On arrival I met Mrs Forge and her three children, a boy and girl and a young baby girl all under 6. It was a very pleasant and happy household to live and work with.
My life there was very busy, and I earned £14 a week of which £3 went to Mrs Forge as board. I really never had a day off, even though some days I did nothing. I had no driving licence and no car and living 20 miles out of town there was little to do beyond farm work. Luckily that Christmas, Mum and Dad sent me some LPs of classical music, one of which was a favourite of mine, Brahms Double Concerto, which I still have today, and with my savings spent £11 on a record player. This enabled me to play some music at least.
Ken’s sister lived in another house on the property, some 200 hundred yards away, and I often went over there on weekends where I would work on the chess puzzles whenever they were in the daily newspaper.
Other jobs I would learn to do were managing sheep and working in the fields on wheat or other crops, and checking dams and water-pumps that brought water for the stock up from the Great Artesian Basin beneath the ground.
Often I was out ploughing fields preparing for the next seasons sowing. This was a good and bad task. An interesting experience although after a while a trifle boring going up and down the plough-lines. On a hot day, which was most days, and with a light wind blowing when driving up-wind it was OK as the dust stayed behind. But when going down-wind the dust came with you! Quite nasty at times – still it had to be done. But to lay the boredom I set myself a target to get perfectly straight plough lines. I became quite good t it actually. No GPS in those days!
The family went to the local Presbyterian church each Sunday and I joined them. I had been a communion server at school, and on board ship coming out. I never did it while at Corowa, never telling the minister anything about that aspect of my past.
One evening there was a dance party at the local church hall. Well, a dance party in rural Australian 1961 was not like an English one. It was a rather staid affair with the like of slow waltzes and barn dances to rather slow music. After a while I became somewhat bored. I asked someone if they had different music – such as Guy Mitchell and Singing the Blues. Now, today you might think both were a bit tame compared to modern ‘rock’, and you would be correct. But there was a large gulf between Blues and country dancing. Anyway, I got the music and more dance partners than I could handle, and was dog tired when going back to the property late at night. I still had to be up at 5.30 to milk the cows!
One day I and another worker were stripping a paddock of wheat. My job was to drive the wheat truck alongside the header, which blew the grains into the back of the truck. When the truck was full I went back to do other jobs while the truck went to the silos to deliver the wheat. When it came back empty, I was soon back behind the wheel. The cycle went on for some time. During this period I became interested to see the silos and what went on there, so I went there on one trip with the man who drove the header. Ken came to hear of this and was not impressed! I seem to keep asking questions. But I did learn to handle sheep, including drenching and crutching – processes that were quite difficult at times.
I had never before experienced such heat through that summer – it was much hotter than Borneo, and drier. I wanted to know the temperature, and the only one in the house was in the kitchen. Anyway Mrs gave it to me and I took it outside and laid it on the concrete in the sun. Needless to say it shattered! But it was well over 50oC – I did get that.
The heat of the day brought other pleasures. One that I still love to hear these days is the song of a magpie. Its hollow melodious song. Today when I hear it my thoughts go back to those days. I would like it, and maybe other native birdsongs played at my funeral rather than music.
Two weeks into January I woke in the middle of the night with extreme pain in my lower body. I was given something to try and settle the pain, but to no avail. A quick call to Corowa District Hospital saw me very quickly there as it seemed most likely that I had acute appendicitis. This turned out to be correct, and I was operated on immediately. The operation went well. I was two weeks in hospital that was not all bad. One time the nurses decided I needed a haircut. Four nurses later I had a crew cut!
Daw, my aunt, kept me in books, and I was sent parcels with ones about Satanists and science fiction. I listened to a lot of country music on the local radio – interesting.
After leaving hospital, I was not allowed to do any work for quite some while. I did spend some time in Corowa when someone was going to town, and I spent some time at the local pool with other young people. But I was now no use to Ken and the farm for some weeks. He told me he could not afford to keep me.
Within a few days I was on a train to Sydney, getting there on a Friday afternoon. I went to the YMCA near Central Railway Station, where I stayed for three nights. I knew no-one, had no access to a phone as knew no phone numbers. So, in a crowded city I just walked around till Monday morning when I called in to the BBM office in Bridge Street.
When I had finished at the BBM office I caught the ferry to Manly, and walked to where Don’s parents lived. They took me in and said I could stay with them till I sorted things out.
My second job, at Badgery’s Creek.
In less than a week I had a new job on a poultry farm at Badgerys Creek beyond Cabramatta where I was to work for 18 months. I had my own room in their small fibro cottage which was quite adequate for my needs. Today the farm is gone under the concrete being laid for the new airport.
The family consisted of two adults, Merv and his wife and two small children, and we seemed to fit in well together.
On the left: Me at the egg sorter and cleaner at Badgery’s Creek.
I worked twelve days straight then took two days off. These two days I would be away by 6am, and cycle to the Crossroads where there was a garage where the owner knew my boss. I would leave my cycle there and either walk or catch a bus into Cabramatta, then a train to the city. I had breakfast at the ‘Apache’ café in the QVB opposite Farmers – it is of course long gone with the upgrading of the whole building. The QVB then was not as it is today but a conglomeration of offices and restaurants. Later it was very nearly demolished, but was rescued, thank goodness, from that when a Malaysian company bought it and made it what it is today.
After breakfast I would go across to Farmers to shop, and then just wander around a while, ending up at Circular Quay where I would catch the ferry to Manly. Here I would stay with Ping and Mrs. Colless.
Come Sunday evening, I would make my way back to the farm. I would usually catch the Cabramatta train and walk back to the garage where my cycle was. I often tried to hitch a lift, and one night I was walking to the garage around 11pm. I seemed to not be getting one, as all the cars just drove by without stopping. In the end one did pull up with four young people in, and asked me where I wished to go. On telling them they said I was lucky to get the lift as a taxi driver had been killed elsewhere that evening. Sometimes I was getting back in the small hours of the morning ready to start the day’s work. One night I was so tired I slept in the back of a car at the garage, and when waking around 5am hopped on my cycle and rode back to the farm.
During this time I met an English boy my age, working on an adjacent poultry farm, and an Englishman, Roger, on another who owned his farm. It was through him I joined the Southern Cross Gliding Club at Camden. I started to go with him every second weekend to learn to fly. I think I flew on and off over 12 months or more, with an offer that I go solo at the end. I never felt confident to do so, so never did. Bad mistake.
I also joined the local church fellowship, where I first met Jen. After one of these meetings Jen on going home told her parents that there was ‘A nice English boy’ in the fellowship, and could she ask him over for dinner. They agreed, and that day I met Joy her sister, who was to become my wife.
Merv went out west shooting kangaroos. When he came back he brought a joey with him. Although I took it to the zoo to learn how to look after it, it died a few weeks later.
On the left: Me with the joey.
Merv and I went, each Wednesday to Marrickville where he had an ‘egg run’. We would load up the ute with eggs in cartons, and visit very many houses where eggs were bought from us each week. One day Merv told me he would not be able to do the egg run as he wished to go kangaroo shooting with friends, one of whom was a local policeman in Penrith. Well, I still did not have my driving licence. So he called his policemen friend, and next day we drove into Penrith where I was introduced to him. He told me to get into the car and drive down the main street. This I did with him beside me, and when we got to the bottom of the town near the river, we pulled over near a yellow police box, he got out and went into it. Coming out a moment later he said “OK. Now drive back to the station.” On arriving there he just got out of the car, handed me a piece of paper, told me to take it to the registry office and get my driver’s licence. How many people got their licences that easily?
Well, Merv went out west, and I kept the essential things going: feeding and keeping clean 5 000 hens, and doing the egg run on my own. When he came back a week or so later, he handed me a very small joey! This was, for a while fun. I tried all I could to look after it. I called the zoo to find out about looking after it, treating it for sickness, and feeding it. Sadly it did not last long, dying after about two to three weeks.
After 12 to 15 months on the farm, I started to consider my future. Since I only had two ‘A’ levels I decided to study Chemistry to give me the equivalent of three ‘A’ Levels. At this time I was considering to study vet science. I cannot say it was a mistake not to, but part of me still wishes I had.
In June 1961 I turned 20. During this period I was spending quite a lot of time over at Wallacia where Joy and her parents lived. It was during this time that I made my decision to leave the farm and get a job in chemistry, as I had done a lot of this at school. Also, I was finding I wished to spend more time with Joy and her family, rather than chickens.
At this time I turned 21, and Joy’s parents organised a 21st birthday party for me. I still have a large ‘key’, signed by those present.
Joy and I travelled around the countryside quite a lot over these weeks, and it was not long before I proposed to her.
Leaving the poultry farm after 18 months, I got a job at Boral Bitumen Research Laboratories in Silverwater. I worked there for six months, working on various aspects of bitumen and road emulsions along with other road surfaces made from or extracted from oil. It was not a good place to work as we were exposed to organic solvents such as benzene a lot of the time. This along with a few other aspects, led me to realise I would prefer to work in biology rather than straight chemistry.
I enrolled to study chemistry 1 at UNSW, to give me another A level, and after leaving Boral and getting a job at Sydney Technical College in the school of Biological Sciences, I found myself occupied 5 nights a week, three nights at ‘The Tech’ working with students till 9.30 in the evenings and two at UNSW, things were a bit tight to keep it all together. Weekends were spent at Wallacia.
Later at what was initially NSWIT, now the UTS, I attended and obtained a diploma in Biology. I never did complete any degree till much later, when I obtained a Masters in Social Ecology at Western Sydney Uni.
Looking around it didn’t take long to obtain a job in TAFE NSW at Sydney Technical College, Ultimo as a Laboratory Assistant-in-training in the School of Biomedical Sciences. I worked at the college until 1999, when I retired. It was a really good job, and continually and very rewarding.
My time at TAFE.
While I initially worked in the biology laboratory, I soon moved full time into the instrumentation laboratory, where I began to develop a good knowledge of all sorts of technologies from light to electron microscopy and a wide range of analytical instruments: atomic absorption spectrophotometers, and gas chromatographs. These years saw the huge increase in electronics and computing.
I also did three or four short courses at Lucas Heights, the main nuclear research facilities in Australia. One or two of these were biologically based and came in very handy as we developed radiation biology elements in our own courses.
I became a senior technical officer after five years. In 1971 it was decided that Biological Sciences, given the huge development of science in hospitals and research labs everywhere, was to have a new building. From my position of Senior-Technical Officer, I was seconded to the colleges drafting office where I was the lead consultant between the architects and drafting people whose brief was to design a new teaching block as a new home for the school, and professionals in all discipline areas that were taught in the school. I travelled around many research and educational laboratories around Sydney. I spent a very busy and complicated yet rewarding 18 months on the job.
In this job I became good friends with a few of those working there. Two of them joined one of a series of Dinner-dances Joy and I ran at Oatlands House, to raise money for charity. These became very popular, and were a great success. Anyway, one year one of the draftsmen, John, came with is and sat with us on our table. We all a good time, and it was a sad moment to when parting.
Our phone rang at home at about 2.30 am. Joan, John’s wife was on the end of the line. Could we come over immediately. They lived at St Ives.
We got into the car and went over quite quickly. I rang the front door, and Joan opened it. We went in and she took us to the hall where, at the bottom the stairs was John. He was dead. He had had a heart attack. This event hit the people in the drawing office very hard. There were a few difficult times over the next few days and weeks.
There were many other stories arising from these dinner-dances. Maybe I’ll add them later.
I visited all eastern seaboard capitals and the ACT to explore how other people did in the scientific teaching labs, and the type of equipment we would need in coming years. We moved into the building in 1975.
My area had become so loaded in technology it left some of the teachers behind. I was invited to become a teacher, and working with other teachers to enable them to manage the new equipment. During these years computers along with computer controlled equipment became our everyday tools. At the same time we created an electron-microscope unit with three microscopes, one transmission, and two scanning. We ran a most significant course for six or eight students at a time on these instruments for seven or eight years.
I progressed to being the Senior-Head-Teacher in charge of my Instrumentation section, and acted as Assistant Principal of Biomedical Sciences for 5 years on and off.
I consider myself very lucky to have joined TAFE just when I did, as there was always something to do and learn. I came to really enjoy teaching. As the environment began to raise its head above all our horizons, we amended our course to include relevant areas of environmental studies in existing courses.
I also joined a small sustainability consultancy to work with organisations to assist them to adopt sustainable principles and practices. Following my retirement in 1999 I did some tutoring and teaching at the UNSW Institute of Environmental Sciences, in environmental sustainability, an area I became heavily involved with in the latter years in the 21st century.
On the left: Patrick at the BBM Legacy Celebration in June 2022.Contact Little Brother