Peter Barton

Ship name / Flight number: Strathaird

Arrival date: 25/01/1961


I was born in Meriden, in the English midlands, the third of 3 children. I finished school when I was 15 and started working at the Triumph Motorcycle factory, which was set up in Meriden in 1942, after its factory in Coventry was bombed during World War II. I worked on electrical components on the assembly line.  I got the idea of going to Australia after talking to some friends who were going with the BBM.  I applied and they arranged everything – passport, documents – I didn’t have to pay anything.

Then, in 1960, a month or so before I was due to leave, my father died suddenly. He came home from his work as a foreman and bricklayer and told my mother that he wasn’t feeling well and was going to lie down and rest. When my mother went to check on him, she discovered that he had died. We think it might have been a heart attack, but we’ll never know for certain. I decided I really wanted to get away, and my mother would still have my two older siblings around. In order to start on my adventure, I had to get myself to Tilbury dock, east of London. It was the first time I had been outside the west midlands!

I sailed on the SS Strathaird. It was a beautiful trip. I met two other ‘Little Brothers’ on the voyage – Steven Franklin and Barry Croaker – and we’ve re-connected in our later years.

I arrived in Sydney on 25 January 1961, in the middle of summer.  My first job was with Langford and Co. at their office supplies factory in Regent Street, Sydney.  A couple of months later, I was given a job with Radford Industries in Auburn, and then the NSW Railways.  I started working for the Australian Paper Manufacturers (APM), which was located at the northern end of Botany Bay, in late 1961. I had various jobs and worked in different sections, but mostly operated a hydro pulp machine which recycled paper and cardboard to make new paper. I worked there for 30 years and was given a ‘golden handshake’ (good pay out) in 1991 for my service and loyalty to the company.

I was living in Leichhardt, Sydney, when I met Tanya in 1961. She’s Russian and emigrated to Australia with her family in 1959. We were married in 1962 at St John’s Anglican church in Darlinghurst.  I was only 19 years old, and we are still together 60 years later. We decided to renew our vows after 25 years together at St John’s in Strathfield. We have three children – Kathryn was born in 1964, Mark in 1966 and Geoffrey in 1968.

Even though I rode and worked with motorbikes in England, I didn’t buy one in Australia – they are not family-friendly vehicles! I did buy a mini-bike, or trailbike, and taught my sons to ride on a property we owned in Penrose in the southern highlands, about two hours south of Sydney.

In 1980, we bought 25 acres near Mudgee (about four hours drive west of Sydney). After I retired from APM, I lived there for a while and set up a small business repairing washing machines and doing general maintenance. My Dad taught me to repair washing machines in England and I became familiar with machines and engines through my work with APM and Triumph Motorcycles. Little did I know, that a fellow ‘Little Brother’, Steven Franklin, was also living in Mudgee just a stone’s throw away! When my son Geoff contacted the BBM in 2022 to see if any other ‘Little Brothers’ who came out on the SS Strathaird were still alive, they put us in touch. We have been able to visit each other in Mudgee.

I have been back to England once – I was able to see my mother before she died. None of my family followed me out to Australia.

I’m glad I came out to Australia with BBM, because there were more opportunities here than in Meriden.

Triumph Motorcycles:

St John’s Darlinghurst:

Australian Paper Manufacturers

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