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Article: Ten Pound Poms

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    Ten Pound Poms

    54 Comments by Brian Probetts (Site Admin) Published on 21st May 2012 03:01 PM
    Ten Pound Poms

    by Mike Williamson








    On a bitterly cold morning in January of 1955, my family set out on the adventure which was to determine the direction of all our lives for many generations to follow and without doubt was to set the course of my future at sea.

    We were a family of five – my Mum and my Dad, my 13 year old sister, five year old brother and me. We were “ten pound Poms” on our way to Australia on the P&O Liner, “SS Strathaird”. What an adventure for a nine year old boy!
    Having sold the family house in late 1954 we started the year living in rented accommodation in Mapperley in Nottingham before embarking from Tilbury on that day in January.

    The trip took about five weeks. I remember the Suez and the bum boats coming alongside at Port Said, selling all kinds of souvenirs and collectables. My mum bought a couple of wooden plates inlaid with shells. I remember her telling me years later that the first words the local vicar said when he came to introduce himself were what nice collection plates they would make.
    There isn’t a lot that a nine year old can remember of such a trip – but the memories of a long exciting sea voyage must have left an exciting impression, because I’m sure it was why I went to sea as a ship’s engineer a little over ten years later.

    The Strathaird completed her maiden voyage in 1932. With a length of 200 metres and a 24 metre beam, she weighed just over 22,500 tons gross and cruised at 20 knots. She carried a crew of 480 and 1,242 single class passengers. During the Second World War she saw service as a troop ship, after which during her refit, two of her original three funnels were removed. Along with her sister ships, Stratheden, Strathmore and Strathnaver these wonderful ships must have delivered a hundred thousand or more fresh faced new immigrants to Australia during the fifties and the early 60s. She was eventually retired from service in 1961 and sold to a Hong Kong breakers yard shortly after.

    The first place we stepped ashore on foreign soil was the port of Aden, now part of Yemen, but at that time a colony of the British Empire at the eastern approaches to the Red Sea. After that it was on to Colombo in Sri Lanka. Of course it was called Ceylon then. It was amazing. There were beggars on every street, in every doorway, and by every road. Vendors thrusting their wares in our faces and following us as we were hustled along the busy thoroughfares. The throng of humanity after the relative calm of shipboard life was overwhelming. Yet the most exciting thing which I remember to this day was the thrill of being in Aden and Ceylon and being able to buy postage stamps from those countries to add to my schoolboy collection. Vendors were everywhere and I’m sure I would have pestered the daylights out of my parents to let me spend some money.

    After Ceylon the ship made the long trip across the Indian Ocean to Fremantle. We had some terrible monsoon weather and one night a passenger fell overboard after too much partying. Although the ship turned several circles he was never found. What a terrible way to go.

    Shipboard life for the kids was wonderful. I’m sure it was for the adults as well, but I particularly recall sharing a dining table with several other migrant kids and our steward, a Londoner who told us to call him Seb who used to say to us, “what you don’t want, don’t eat.” This was heaven – no one telling us to eat our vegetables. We were even brought tea in bed at breakfast time. We did have to attend school lessons of a sort, but it wasn’t difficult or like real school. We were taught songs about kookaburras in gum trees, and were shown pictures of kangaroos and told something about the history of this great country we were about to call our new home.

    We disembarked in Sydney in February 1955 and shortly after were on a long train journey to Brisbane. Along with all the other Queensland bound settlers, we were first accommodated at the Yungaba Immigration Centre where we stayed for several weeks. Yungaba was the first port of call for many thousands of the migrants who came to Queensland. Built in 1887 by the Queensland Government expressly for that purpose, it is situated right on the tip of the Kangaroo Point peninsula and with three-sided river views, it was a marvellous location for such an establishment.
    Although Yungaba was a government-run institution, there was always an obvious concern for the comfort and welfare of its residents; not just for compassionate reasons, but also because of the competition that existed between the states as they each attempted to attract migrants who could boost their labour force. Extensions and improvements to the centre were added to present a favourable atmosphere to incoming migrants. This included playground equipment for the kids and a supply of multi-colour check blankets instead of the usual institutional grey. I think my parents were quite happy to be placed there even after the relative luxury of shipboard life.

    My father had already organised his place of employment before we left Britain, and shortly after we arrived in Brisbane, Dad flew up North Queensland where he was due to start work as a motor mechanic at a small garage in the town of Mossman. We had no idea where that was but we were soon to find out! Dad’s job was to prepare the ground for us. To make sure we had a decent home to live in and to get settled into his new job. Mum was to follow on by train with the rest of us a week or two later.

    What a trip that was. I have often thought about what a harrowing experience it was for my 38 year old mother, literally fresh off the boat, having left a fairly comfortable (if cold) life in England boarding a train with three children to travel 1000 miles north to “God knows where”.
    Air-conditioned Sunlander trains were still a few years in the future, as we headed north on a rattling old train straight into the North Queensland wet season. Even today, conventional rail travel in Queensland can be a slow experience with a lot of stops and starts as bogeys rattle along in narrow gauge 3 feet 6 inch tracks, although Queensland’s new Tilt Train is now the fastest train in the world using a narrow gauge track. However, nothing was further away than the old rattler which took us about a week to get us to Cairns. Stopping at sidings and stations for long hours, it was a slow, uncomfortable trip with Mum doing her best to look after and feed three kids. And there were no sleeper cars; this was a journey where we were sitting up all the way. Every time the train stopped at a station, passengers and locals would make their way to the railway bar, or if there was no bar on the platform, to the local pub where they would buy and consume more and more booze for the long trip. What an ordeal it must have been.

    When we came to the Burdekin River which separated the towns of Home Hill on the south and Ayr on the north, the train was unable to cross the bridge which was several feet under water. We were forced to leave the train and were ferried across the mile wide river in little flat-bottom boats, with water almost lapping the gunwales as we made our way to the other shore. There we were crammed into another even older train for the remaining 300 miles or so of the journey north.
    When we eventually arrived in Cairns, Dad was waiting for us and we still had another 50 miles to travel, north along the Cook Highway to our new home. We were piled into an old International truck stopping every few miles along the way to ford another flooded creek or causeway. We eventually made it Mossman and our new home.

    Mossman was a cane town – it still is. Its sugar mill was not far from the middle of town and the little cane trains with their cargo of freshly cut cane would travel down the centre of Mill Street through the town several times a day, holding up what little traffic there was. The town had five pubs and a little picture theatre in a corrugated iron building with deck chairs for seating where we saw such wonderful films as Magnificent Obsession and Dial M for Murder.

    Our home was a little one storey fibro dwelling a long way from the home in Beeston, Notts. I remember one day doing hand stands in the hallway and putting my backside through a fibro wall – not something which went down too well with my Dad.

    We didn’t have a car, which is something which would have disappointed my father who was always an enthusiastic motorist. We did have use of an old International flatbed truck with a foot starter button on the floor and a split windscreen which you could wind open on hot days (ie every day). My Dad painted it red.

    We didn’t stay there long – about a year maybe before moving back down the Cook Highway to the big smoke – Cairns, where Dad got a job as workshop foreman at the local council. It wasn’t the big tourist town that it is now – just a few streets, a muddy esplanade, no traffic lights, no parking meters and lots of places for youngsters to go swimming.

    I have great memories of those times.




    This article was originally published in blog: Ten Pound Poms started by Mike Williamson

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  3. #2
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    I was on the old GEORGIC taking £10 Poms to Australia in 1955, The voyage of six weeks round Cape Town to Freemantle , Mellbourne and Sydney. It was an awful voyage for them, Ten passengers to a cabin, all males in one and all femails in another, families split up. No A/C. Very few if any of the Catering staff worked , they were always drunk or on strike., Cunard paid the women passengers 12 shillings a day to help out in the galley and wait on the tables.
    I met a lovely girl on there from Bury Lancs, going with her family to Melbourne, I had every admiration for these people going to the other side of the world to a strange land. In Melbourne, Sheila and her family were sent to an old military camp at Brooklyn , then outside Melbourne, surrounded by barbed wire fences and two families to a Nissen Hut, seperated by a breeze block wall. and one cold water tap outside, they had to stay there for 12 months,
    I went to visit her there, it was awful, like refugees, not todays refugees. After a year they rented a farmhouse in Melton South, way out in the country, now a part of Melbourne. I went to visit them there, Shielas Dad, said they wanted to go back to England but Shiela and her brother wanted to stay so the family was in a dillema.
    I lost contact with Shiela after some smooth talking Australian guy took over and I was out. so I dont know what the outcome was.
    But I still admired the guts of those £10 Poms. They had it Hard and most made a success of it.
    The reason we sailed around the Cape to Australia was, the previous voyage Five children died due to the heat between Suez and Aden, those families who were taking their Children to a `better` life in Australia were devestated.
    Cheers
    Brian.
    Last edited by Captain Kong; 21st May 2012 at 04:47 PM.

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    My brother in law and his wife came out on the Stratheden in about 1959, they were lucky as his uncle was alreday here. The migrant hostel you speak of Brian is still there in Maribynong, now used as a student hostel for uni students. Some years ago I was asked by the uni to give an opinion on the kitchens when they first took over, I have never seen anything like it, straight out of Oliver Twist. They have somewhat modernised it now.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default 20 Rand Golden Girls

    Well Irenes Sister Brenda was the first to come here to Aus from South Africa,and in those days they were the 20 Rand Assisted passage Golden Girls haha!
    She came here in 1967 on the Himalaya.
    The next Year one of the Brothers ( no not a Golden Girl haha)also used that APassge here and sailed from Durban on a Ship that i cant remember but will find out!
    After that when the rest of us decided to Migrate,the APassge was no more in force,so we had to pay our own Airfares etc! Damn!! Should have come along sooner haha!
    Me and Irene arrived here with no more than $120 Aus,but we were happy,and managed to get ourselves sorted quick smart!

    But great stories will i am sure be posted here like the first two!
    Thanks
    Doc
    Senior Member and Friend of this Website

    R697530

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    i remember the migrant camp in brisbane.it was on the right hand side of the road as you crossed the bridge.(the only bridge in the early fifties) it was terrible. the kitchen? was shared by all the women from different countries. that included the cookers and all the pots and pans. there were always rows between them as they couldn't understand each other. my mate and i used to stand outside and listen.
    i used to think it was deliberate to make them get out and find somewhere to live.
    Backsheesh runs the World
    people talking about you is none of your business
    R397928

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    Default only joking!

    Hi! Brian ,
    Shouldn't have thought You would have been inconsolable for long.
    As the place is "Down by the Head !" with" Sheila's'

    As for the Smoothtalking Aussie Guy .Haven't met one yet. Reference the Oz, "making love.' approach. Quote.

    He. peering over his schooner , looks Her up and down . Her ,responds similarly.

    He .'Do you F---?" Her"'thought you'd never Ask". " Bstd.!"
    !
    '

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    Reminds me of the saying? Why do Aussie men only last a short time having sex. Because they are in a hurry to get to the pub to tell their mates all about it.
    That's the way the mop flops.

    My thanks to Brian for this site.

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    Default £10???

    Hi shipmates, I was one of the people on the small tankers who put the black stuff into the big ships, to get them to Aussie lost count how many ships I allways think how many of them did get a better life? My mate ended up working at a mine miles away from any city wher the main hobby was catching snakes and putting them in other people beds they lived in dorms and never saw any girls??? drink{beer} was few and far between I am glad I did not go to join him, had a job there if i wanted to go? {snakes and no women} but good wages So i stayed in the merchant navy !!!

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    Default Ship Jumper.

    Hi, old timer ! I jumped ship in Maryborough, Queensland as it was then known in 1958-9. Had joined the King Charles in Tanjong Priok, a beachcomber A.B signed on as greaser. The ship had been out tramping for eighteen months and was a hell ship. There had been lots of trouble with other beachcombers who had joinecd and jumped again and I got it in the neck because of my predecessors. A peggy had been killed in Dar es Salaam, manslaughter put down as accidental death as related by the other boy. Two trips with sugar to Taikoo refinery in HK and I loaded up with the first trannie radios Standard and Sharps making a tidy profit. The second engineer a little Belfast guy really took it out on me because the previous fellow picked up in S.Africa. wouldn't do any work, he would sit in the engine room all day smoking ganja and playing his guitar. I had to red-lead all the bilge compartments under the engine while at sea, that kind of thing. The same AB's who had killed the boy had been caught by customs men to whom they had tried to sell bolts of Thai silk. Hearing that I had been selling radios around town entered my cabin one night with a broken bottle and threats that I wouldn't see Honkers again. Phoned two guys in Brisbane who had ordered two pairs of racing binos, sold all the engine room paint and rolling five forty gallon drums down the longest jetty in Australia was no joke. The Aussie guys gave a lift to Brisbane and I was on the bus to Sydney the following morning. Got digs in 112 1/2 Victoria St, The Cross and work in a butter warehouse for five months. After two months and with a sizeable bank roll handed myself up to the police as an illegal immigrant, the law then being that one had to be escorted back to the place one had jumped ship to be tried and deported. The police sergeant wasn't going to give two of his men a weeks paid holiday to escort me north, so signed the papers to say I was now legal and could get a driving license, credit etc. Stayed there two years working on the Snowy Mountain Project and as a railway porter in Sydney. Went down to Melbourne with a Greek mate and we lost all our dough at the centenary of the Melbourne Cup, crashed the car and had to work as builders labourers on a synagogue for three weeks before getting back to Sydney. Couldn't stand the constant sneers of 'whinging poms' and 'ten pound migrants who couldn't take it' and returned home, so shipped out again after two years. Had a holiday in Queensland ten years ago, saw the old jetty had lots of memories come back. It's changed a lot in half a century even if I haven't, much better today after dropping the white Australia policy. But oh ! is it a dangerous place.

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    Default ten pound Poms

    I obviously have not been accessing this wonderful Site,in full.
    As i would never Have postd so flippantly ,an opinion, (just accesed) lower in the Thread

    After reading Brian's very accurate description , Of all involved in their Family venture to the land Down Under.
    The Stath Boats, as mentioned.
    Stood on the Gangway , many times some few yrs. later as the passengers embarked ,at Tilbury Rail Berth.
    Having moments earlier ,kissed Goodbye.to their loved ones. Going to then still considered an unknown , twelve thousand miles ,across the sea. Certainly ,We'd all heard of Don ,Bradman. ,and to Seamen Penfold's Plonk was A familiar drink. Along with the Six -O- Clock Swill

    Getting to know passengers during those voyages. plus the indulgence of the P&O top Personnel Helped , As opposed to Uniion Castle and Cunard , with their mostly Ex Metropolitan BoBbies ,
    ( Masters at Arms) ,Straying was a NO No! The same Bobbies .were afraid to venture up the For'd alleyway to approach a Disturbed , rather large Engine Room Rating , . Whereas ,A tough little J.O.S. from Leeds,walked up conversed ,and genyly ,led him by the hand .to the Well Deck , where the Full force of the Law, Took command (excuse please the cynicism)
    To get Back to the main Story , Brian;s description of those days ,is a Gem. And I'm sure more accomplished persons than i .can see the Historical value , in The Posting.
    To Bring You ,Up to Date . Currently in Oz ,There is renewd interest in the origins ,(Discard , peoplle like Paul Keating , and his Vile mouth, Ex. P.M as it were. One of his out bursts ,As A good Irish Catholic Pom. Basher. Referring to the Royal Family, as A Bunch of Dropkicks,

    And more recently, Peter Moody . (trainer of that great Racehorse (Black Caviar, During such a auspicious visit to Royal Ascot, decclaring , the Brit" Quote were only using Aussies inWars As Cannon Fodde
    Conveniently forgetting , the most revered Hero of the Annag Campaign at Gallipoli, Was none other a Merchant Seaman ,Hailed from South Sheilds. to whom A Statue has Been erected.
    V.C. awarded Simpson and the Donkey, famous in Aussie History, Short lived ,as it is,.
    coming up to the present .the London olympics and Contenders involved have put u. K. back on the Map. A nd in many ways reminded New Australians Wh settled this Country. 'I repeat the only Aussies I know , live mostly in the Bush , and were here before the White Man.
    Even our present P.M. is an ingrate. Not prepared to acknowledge here Birth. . Makes me ashamed. How much more her Parents .?
    Cymru Am Byth!To Qualify that I.d like to add. .That one should not be Proud to reject Stead fast British Ciiticenship, unles of gourse the come from backgrounds ,where they lay no claim ,such as permanent wanderes ,or These African provinces ,who not so many years ago were :bingle bangle Bungle, We're so happy in the Jungle. are now victims of industralists ,in theie Quest for the valuable resources bebneath them And Victims of the Arms Manufactures n
    I Rest my Case,

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