Robert Moore

Ship name / Flight number: Orion

Arrival date: 05/11/1958

I was born in Galgorm, just outside Ballymena in Northern Ireland on 24 March 1940. I didn’t meet my father until I was five and a half years old. He was in the regular army and when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, he was sent as part of the expeditionary forces to fight in France and Belgium. He was missing in action for about six months and my mother, who was only 21 years old when I was born, was very, very anxious. We later found out that he was captured in Belgium by the Germans and a POW in Poland, but at least he came home alive in August 1945. We lived with my mother’s father and her four younger siblings and I ‘got away with murder’. That all changed when my father came home. He left the army as soon as he was demobbed. There was no ‘thank you for your service’ or special privileges for veterans. Even though one of his eardrums burst as a result of the abuse he suffered in the POW camp, he got a job as a telephonist working the nightshift on the switchboard in Ballymena Post Office.

I grew up on a farm in County Antrim, but when the new owners sub-divided the farm, we were evicted. Fortunately, this pushed us up the waiting list for a council house and we moved into one in Harryville, Ballymena in 1951. My youngest sister, Shirley, was born there in 1963 and still lives in that house today. Back then, everybody knew everybody else and their business.

I went to school at Gracehill, the local primary school, and loved playing football (soccer in Australia). Some children progressed to the academy, but that was a private school for really smart kids and the wealthy. I went to the intermediate school in Ballymena from when I was 11 and a half until I was 14 and a half years old, and could leave school and get a job.

My first job was as a ‘bottom maker’ at McDowell’s Shoe Factory in Ballymena. It was my job to shine the outer sole of the shoes. Yes, it was a boring job, but everybody had a boring job back then. We talked, laughed and sang as we worked on the production line. I stayed there until I came out to Australia.

I became friends with Joe Miller, one of my co-workers, who decided to immigrate to Canada (where he joined a famous band, the ‘Irish Rovers’. Ballymena’s other claim to fame is that it is the home of the actor Liam Neeson). The idea of leaving Ballymena was in my mind when I saw an advertisement from the BBM in the local paper. I couldn’t see much of a future for myself in Ballymena, so I spoke to the travel agent, and spoke to my mother and she said it was up to me. I still had to ask my father to sign the papers – we weren’t very close, since he’d been absent for my formative years. All he said was ‘just don’t join the army’. Both my parents came to London to see me off.

My decision to leave Ireland and go to Australia with the BBM made it into the local paper in Ballymena. A neighbour’s colleague had also decided to join the BBM, and saw the article, and I met Arthur McKitterick when I got on the boat, but I never saw him again. I was one of 35 ‘Little Brothers’ to arrive in Sydney on the Orion on 5 November 1958. I didn’t have a passport or proof of my identity, but I did have a vaccination certificate for smallpox, whooping cough and TB. It was a terrific six weeks on the boat. The best part was coming in under the harbour bridge to Walsh Bay.

Left: Bob Moore (left) on the SS Orion, 1958

We were taken to the hostel at Homebush, where I had an abrupt introduction to adult responsibilities. For the first time in my life, I had to do my own washing! I’d never used a washboard and copper before. My mother did everything for me when I lived at home – she’d even leave Horlicks and milk out for me to heat up if I was coming home late from a dance.

When I was asked if I wanted to work in the bush or the city, I chose the city life in an instant. Having grown up on a farm in Ireland, I knew that it was long days and hard labour. I did not want to work from dawn to dusk 7 days/week. My first job was at HMV – His Master’s Voice as a general hand Then I was offered a job in a shoe factory called Arcola at Rushcutter’s Bay. This meant catching a bus, train and tram from my boarding house in Concord to the shoe factory. When I started, I was earning £8/week and paying £6/week for full board. The BBM insisted that all Little Brothers pay for private health insurance too. Fortunately, the shoe factory recognised three years of my prior employment at the shoe factory in Ireland, and I was paid a ‘full man’s wage’ of £20/week before I turned 21 years old.

Left: Bob Moore with his new Morris Minor, c.1961

I bought a car in 1960 and this changed my life. It was a Morris Minor. I had to lie about my age and say I was one year older than I was in order to buy it on hire purchase. Now I could drive to work and also to dances on the weekends. I met Pauline, my future wife, at a dance at the Trocadero in the city in 1961. She was a first-class dancer and taught ballroom dancing near her home in Hornsby. She had Irish grandparents, so that was a point of connection. We were married at the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Waitara on 13 July 1963. Rick Archibald, another ‘Little Brother’ who came out a year before me, and lived at the same house as me in Concord, was my best man.

Pauline and I rented a flat in Blues Point Road, McMahon’s Point, while we saved to buy a house near her parents in Hornsby Heights. We had three children: Cathy born in August 1964, Gregory born 18 months later, and Linda who was born in June 1971.

In 1964 I got a better job in Chatswood as a pattern maker at a shoe factory called Leather Soles. There was a tannery attached to it in Victoria Avenue, which burnt down around 1969. Mr McCabe moved his business to the south-east suburb of Botany and they gave me a Combie van to drive around and pick up the workers on the way to Botany. When Mr McCabe passed his business onto his sons, they made a lot of the workers redundant. I was given one week’s pay and had my five weeks of Long Service Leave paid out. We’d just built a new house at Mt Colah, I had two kids, and no job!

I registered at the CES (Commonwealth Employment Service) and three days later I had a job at Riker Laboratories in Thornleigh. At first, they only wanted to pay me $35/week to look after the supplies and do deliveries but I said I needed more than that to support my family and talked them up to $50/week. They also let me take a truck home so I could use that to travel to and from work. I was then put in charge of the furnace, which meant I was handling chemicals and burning all the drugs that the customs office said we couldn’t keep. Riker was bought out by 3M Pharmaceuticals in 1970.

In February 1971, I got a job in the purchasing department at Macquarie University in North Ryde. For the first time in my life, I was in a ‘white collar’ job and I had to buy a suit, business shirts and a tie. In those days, you had to ask the office manager’s permission to remove your jacket, roll up your sleeves or loosen your tie.  My pay was now $70/week.

I stayed at Macquarie University for 37 years. I liked the pay and conditions and the people I worked with. I worked my way up to being purchasing officer for the university. I used to purchase vehicles, hire cars and everything the university needed. When I started, there were no computers, but I learnt how to use one to place orders and check deliveries.

I wanted to clock up 40 years of service, but in 2008 when I was 68 years old, HR called me to a meeting out of the blue and told me that there was a restructure and my position would be made redundant. I asked for a VER (Voluntary Early Retirement) and my last day in the office was on D-Day, 6 June. I took a month’s holiday and officially finished on 4 July, in the next financial year. I decided that this was good opportunity to do more of what I loved, which was travelling. I went overseas at least once every year up until 2020 when the COVID pandemic put an end to that. Now that I’m over 80 years old, it’s harder to get travel insurance, so I mostly travel in Australia and NZ.

In 1993, after 30 years and three children, Pauline decided to leave our marriage. There’s no animosity between us. In the 1980s home loan interest rates were around 13.5% and we were paying school fees so our children could go to Catholic schools. I was working three jobs at the time and away from home from 7am-9.30pm almost every day. Our children were all adults by 1993 and I think Pauline was lonely and wanted a different life.

Left: Bob Moore with his children Cathy (at the back) and Gregory (right) and Linda, 1980

I went back to Northern Ireland for the first time in 1994. I didn’t tell my family that I was coming. Once I arrived in Ballymena, I rang my sister Margaret, as I often did, and told her to put the kettle on, so we could have a cuppa. I made the mistake of going to the front door, instead of the back door, and Margaret was so excited she fumbled with the keys to open it.

I didn’t really get to know my siblings, as they are so much younger than me, and I left Ballymena when they were still children. Shirley, my youngest sister, was born after I left Northern Ireland. She’s only one year older than my eldest daughter, Cathy. I met her for the first time in 1980, when she came to visit with my mother, after my father passed away. They stayed with us for six weeks in Hornsby Heights.

 

 

Left: Bob Moore (right), right with his siblings (L-R) Ivan, Shirley and Margaret, 1994

My family and friends are very important to me. My children, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren all live in Sydney and I see them regularly. I still keep in touch with Rick, my best man and Agnes, a friend from Gracehill School. I drive my neighbours crazy chatting to them and I love working in my garden. Coming out to Australia with the BBM was the best decision I ever made.

 

 

Poem

In 1994 I returned to Ballymena in Northern Ireland for an unannounced holiday. I had not seen most of my family for 36 years, and they got a second shock when I told them that I was on holiday for 3 months (long service leave). What’s that they asked? I have been back many times since. My last trip was in August 2013. During my first trip I travelled all over Ireland, England, Scotland, Isle of Mann and even Canada east to west. My brother in law was so impressed with my travels that he wrote a poem about my time in Ireland. There are approx 24 verses, I have selected a few that should appeal to everyone not just Ballymena men.

I had dreamed of returning to Ireland
Going home to the place of my birth
To see all my friends and relations
And to walk where the grass is the greenest on earth.

Well I’ve been; and I’ve seen; the nine Antrim glens
And the lighthouse at Donaghadee
I crossed the rope bridge at Carrick a Reed
And watched the river Bann flowing north to the sea.

I saw part of my dream; when in Galway
I watched as the sun, set over the bay
And stood on the high cliffs of Mohir
To hear the crashing Atlantic and taste the sea spray.

I awoke each morning at daybreak
To a breakfast of fadge from the pan
Soda farles and spuds for my dinner
For my tea there was dulse and some sweet yellowman.

Yes I have spent the summer in Ireland
But the days have to quickly passed by
To Australia, I’ll be off in the morning
You can tell by the tear in my eye.

Ah, but my trip was well worth the effort
I’ve some really good memories for sure;
I’am taking home more that I came with
For my shoes are now caked in manure.

There’ll be a lump in my throat when I’m leaving
As I climb in the aeroplane door
I know what it’s like parting loved ones
For I’ve travelled that long road before.

Still there’s pride in my heart as I’am going
My dream was truly a joy to fufil
I saw family and friends and sweet Lisnafillan
My birthplace and home overlooking Gracehill.

Glossary.
Fadge. Potato bread, made with mashed potatoes and flour. Baked on a griddle.
Soda farles. Large round scones baked on a griddle.
Dulse. Seaweed harvested from just off the coast and dried in the sun before eaten.
Yellowman. Honeycomb toffee, usually home made.

Hope you enjoy.
Bob Moore

Left:  My family with me on the day that my name was revealed on the Welcome Wall at Darling Harbour, October 2022 of

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story in BBM newsletter 01/2024 here:

65-year-old friendship between former Little Brothers Robert and Rick

Do you have a friend you kept in touch with? Friendships are unique because they can develop from a special bond formed through facing similar challenges, adjusting to a new country, and sharing experiences, fostering a deep sense of understanding and camaraderie that can endure for a lifetime.

Robert arrived in Sydney on the Orion on November 5, 1958. He went straight to the BBM hostel at Homebush and, three days later, began working at H.M.V in Homebush, which was just a short walk from the hostel. The hostel manager arranged lodgings for Robert in central Concord, providing full board. Upon his arrival at the house, Robert discovered that former Little Brother Rick was already living there, marking the beginning of their friendship. They resided in the same house for nearly five years. In 1963, Robert left to get married, but he and Rick have remained in touch for 65 years. They have been meeting regularly, with their most recent meeting occurring in December 2023.

Below:  Robert Moore and Richard (Rick) Archibald (Dec 2023)

Below: Left to right: Richard Archibald, Rodney Want, Robert Moore at Robert’s wedding in July 1963

BBM Copy of BBM Newsletter Template (canva.com)

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