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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Old mates

Old mates
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

I finally managed to track Bob down the other day.

He was surprised to hear from me after such a long time, and came round for a while on Saturday afternoon.

It was strange looking at him for the first time in 33 years. Age has changed us both, but I could tell it was still the same old Bob I knew in the 70's.

We reminisced about our school days. I'd completely forgotten that we both went to our first rock & roll concert together in 1975: Skyhooks at Festival Hall in Brisbane. He also came to my 13th birthday party that year and still remembers kissing Leslie Hillhouse when we played spin the bottle.

I got onto Google Maps and showed Bob some of the streets in the town where he lived before his family migrated to Australia. I'm hoping he'll bite the bullet and go back there one day soon. When we were kids, he always said he'd do it, but he never did.

Bob has taught me that friends can change your life. Not through heroics. Just by being friends.

So when you look at it like that, friends are very important.

Migrant Ships

Here is a partial list of Ships that brought immigrants to Australia between 1950 and 1971.

This list is not complete. If you have any additions, or better links, please let me know.

Achille Lauro
Angelina Lauro
Asturias (2)


Castel Felice


Ellinis (2)





New Australia
Northern Star

Otranto (2)

Southern Cross


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcrossing postcard from Timo and Hanna in Finland.

Their 2yo son very kindly drew me a picture of a cruise ship on the back of the card. I'll hang on to this. If he becomes a famous Finish artisit it might be worth a fortune some day!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gornergrat, Zermatt, Switzerland

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcrossing postcard from Stefan in Switzerland.

Thanks Stefan!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Letter to Gran, April 1972

Letter to Gran, April 1972
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

It speaks for itself. I have no idea how this turned up after 36 years. Sometimes it pays to be a hoarder!

It's amazing the facts that co-incide with this old letter:

1. Tropical Cyclone Emily occurred from 27 March to 4 April 1972. Eight lives were lost at sea. It crossed the QLD coast south of Gladstone, wreaking havoc in the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race, in which only 5 of the 25 starters were able to complete the race.

2. Dad's brother Brian was working in the merchant navy at the time. His ship was in Brisbane on 17 March 1972. Next time I get to the State Library, I'll look up the name of the ship in the Courier Mail.

3. Mum's Father, John Mitchell let us know he's be visiting us in September 1972.

4. The TV talent show, "Opportunity Knocks", very popular in Britain at the time, started screening in Brisbane.

5. Bruce (Dad) spars with Australian Light Middleweight boxing champ, Jeff White. Dad was a heavyweight, and says White wanted some sparring practice with a heavier boxer. Dad landed a beauty on White's nose, and White got pretty annoyed after that, and Dad had scars and bruises to show off for weeks after.

Here's the interpretation for those who can't read the writing of a 9 year old:


Dear Gran,

Hello, I'm sorry I couldn't write, it just skipped my mind. I hope you had a happy easter and that you are keeping well. Easter was great over here.
I had my bicycle fixed not long ago and now it's got a puncture, but I need not worry because I bought a puncture outfit. There's a new cyclone coming down the coast called "Emily". At six pm yesterday it crossed the coast. Uncle Brian came last month and we had a lovely surprise. It was a coincidence because he was here for Karen's birthday. Grandad says he'll be coming over here in September. I said a lille prayer for you so you could get better. Now we are having "Opportunity Knocks" on over here. Dad goes to boxing now and he sparred with Jeff White, in case you don't no who he is, he's the champion boxer of Australia. We'll it's signing of time I guess, so good bye and god bless you.
From your grandson Neil xxxxxxx
PS. Sorry the letter was so short.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friends that changed my life.

Late July 1974.

My mates, Robert Mason, Bob Wilson and Me.

This was the day Mum, Dad, Karen, Kevin and I flew to the UK, aboard a BOAC Super VC10 flying to Darwin, Singapore, KL, Abu Dhabi and eventually London (Heathrow).

It was really good of Robert and Bob to come up to the airport to see me off.

I used to sit next to Robert in grade three in Henry Palasczuk's English class. Henry was really strict. He'd sorted the class into rows according to ability. If you didn't do well on your weekly spelling test, you'd have to go down a row. Eventually, if you didn't do well while you were in the lowest row, you ended up getting moved to lower level English class next door.

Robert and I used to do science experiments in our spare time, mixing up whatever chemicals we could find, or wiring up old radios to see what we could do.

Robert and I discovered our love of Science together.

When my mum and Dad needed some time alone together in the early seventies, Roberts parents (Brenda and Marshall) kindly let me stay with them for a while.

Bob was a ten pound pom like me, but he arrived in 1972. His family were from Nelson (near Manchester) in Lancashire. I actually visited Nelson in 1997 when Liz and I went back to the UK. Where their family moved to in Rosella Street Inala was much nicer than Nelson, although the view of some of the green hills around Nelson was quite pretty.

Bob and I used to ride our bikes down the bush and smoke cigarettes that Bob used to magically procure. He and his brother Graham were brilliant at soccer, and I think Graham actually went on to play it profesionally.

Bob was the main reason that I decided to go to Oxley State High School instead of Inala High or Richlands. That decision changed my life.

The schools in Inala were rough. As a result, most kids under achieved. I went to primary school at Serviceton South in Inala. I found it very difficult since I was younger than most kids in my class, and smarter than most of them. So in their jealousy they made life tough for me.

So Oxley High was a big step up for me.

I ended up being School Captian of Oxley High, and am very grateful that I did well academically, eventually being able to get into Uni.

It was at Oxley High that I eventually ended up getting mixed up in the church, which in a way was a good thing, because it's how I got to meet my lovely wife, Liz.

So Bob, I owe you a hell of a lot, mate. You changed my life, and neither of us realized it at the time.

I am so glad I met both Robert and Bob, and I very much regret not keeping in touch with either of them.

MS Lofoten in Trollfjorden, Norway

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

The Hurtigruen Ship MS Lofoten in Trollfjorden, Norway.

A postcrossing postcard from Joey in Norway.

I recently received a postcard from Joey's cats, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive a postcard from Joey himself.

Thanks, Joey!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nurnberg, Germany

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcrossing postcard from Luna who lives in Nurnberg, Bavaria, Germany.

Thanks Luna!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Voringsfossen Waterfall, Norway

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcrossing card from LA & Joey in Norway.

This is the Voringsfossen Waterfall, in the southwest of the country.

What a beautiful picture.

Thanks, LA & Joey!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A postcard from an old friend

A postcard from an old friend
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcard from my dear late friend, John Brendan O'Shea that he sent to me in 1991.

He passed away in July 1997.

Often I wish he were still here, even after all this time.

The Wacol Migrant Hostel

P48a (Feb 66)p29ap32ap33a
p37ap45bp45aWacol Hostel 1965
p47bp38bp29bP48b (Feb 66)
Click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger picture.

After spending ten days at Yungaba, we were finally transferred to the migrant hostel at Wacol.

This was a place where many migrant families lived after arriving in Australia, until they were able to find a job and get a place of their own.

Our first few weeks in the hostel were in a hut made out of corrugated iron, called a "Nissen Hut". It looked like a tall skinny galvanized iron rainwater tank, sliced down the middle, and turned on its side. They were cast-offs from the Second World War, and made for cheap housing for new arrivals.

After that we were moved into nicer accommodation in wooden huts.

My memories of the hostel are a bit more coherent than my earlier ones:

As a three year old, my first memory of a childcare centre occurs at this time. It was in one of the Nissen huts. Lots of kids were standing around painting on butchers paper attached to easels. I can remember painting just what I felt like - just enjoying splashing the paint on paper. Some of the older kids were painting recognizable things - square shaped houses with triangular roofs, cars with wheels that had spokes in them. I think it was around this time that I started losing that innocent artistic quality that artists speak about where kids forget how to paint what they feel, and start trying to paint like everyone else.

Later I remember going to childcare in a wooden hut. We called it "Nursery School". Sometimes we'd play on the swings outside the hut, and sometimes inside, sitting at little tables, or playing on makeshift slides setup indoors, presumably when the whether didn't suit going outside.

The playground was surrounded by (what seemed to me) to be a huge mesh-wire fence. The gate had a curved metal latch on top - so you couldn't open it unless you were really tall.

I remember queueing up in a "canteen" for meals with all the other migrants. The strong odour of cooking smells, stews, vegetables, custard, and tasting milky tea out of brown/gold china mugs. In the warmer months they had big industrial sized fans on stands that would blow the air around to keep us cool.

I also remember lots of British mums with their kids on the hostel. Many of them were very unhappy. Some of them were really friendly. One lady who I remember as "Mrs Jackson" had a Christmas tree in her hut. The tree seemed huge to me. It was laden with presents and candy canes in its branches. This must have been in December 1965. Her hut seemed magic to me.

I remember mosquito nets in our hut - obviously there to protect English skin that wasn't used to mosquitoes! My net had a small hole in it that I could poke my finger through.

I remember a small tin bathtub that mum used to wash me in, so that I didn't have to go up to the shower block at night time.

And I remember dad's "Rock Garden" at the base of the stairs leading into our wooden hut. I often sat on these stairs, and remember having some of these photos taken on the stairs - especially the one where I'm sitting next to Karen.

Wacol was miles from anywhere. If you walked out the front gate, there was a highway. There were no houses, just an army barracks on the other side of the highway. The only way out, was to buy a car, catch a bus that occasionally came to the hostel, or walk down to Wacol Railway Station, and catch a train into the city.

I remember catching the train into the city with mum after walking down to Wacol station. The manual wooden boom-gates had to be dragged by hand across the road when the train was due, then dragged back across the railway lines to let the cars through.

The city was a magic place, with tall buildings, wind blowing paper up into the sky, crowds of people, and trams. The trams had wooden slat seats, open windows, and leather straps hanging from the ceiling. And sparks used to fly from roof attachment that drew their power from the overhead cables. All these pictures are still there in the recesses of my early memory.

Here's some of mum's recollection of the time:

Because I was pregnant we were the first family to be moved to Wacol hostel. We didn’t really know what to expect. It was situated near bush land. Across the highway from it was the army barracks. We were taken there by taxi. It looked very much like an army camp. There were a lot of wood huts also Nissan huts. They were made of corrugated iron, had doors at each end and usually housed 2 families. This was our first home.

The problem was if you were in one room you would have to go out side to access the other room. This meant one of us had to stay in the room with the Neil & Karen at night, in case they woke up. It was also very cold at night. I honestly had no idea that it got cold in Australia! I was very naïve.

Life on the hostel took a bit of getting used to. Meals were served in a large canteen not an ideal place for a young family. A lot of children were unsupervised. We had to queue up, cafeteria style for our meals. The food was okay, but if you didn’t like it well there was nothing else. The washing was done in a communal laundry, which consisted of 4 laundry tubs, scrubbing boards and a few gas boilers to boil your clothes in. No washing machines or clothes dryers in those days. There were clothes lines near the huts but you had to share them. So a lot of time was spent waiting to do your washing and then finding some where to hang it up to dry. You also had to keep an eye on it in case the washing disappeared!

There were also shower blocks male & female. That was another shock to the system. Not a great place to take small children to get washed. We were supplied with a small tin bath, so mostly we washed the children in the bath in the hut. How ever there was no water connected to the huts, so we would have to carry water back from the laundry. There were a few taps near some of the hunts. This was cold water, so we would have to heat it in the electric jug. When I look back now, it was really quite primitive. It was also very confining transport wise. After a few weeks we bought our first car a Consul.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mount St Helens

Mount St Helens
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A postcard received via Postcrossing from Mary in Washington State, USA.

Mt St Helens is a volcano that errupted in 1980.

Mary says she used to swim in the lake on the left as a child when she camped there with her family.

Thanks for the lovely postcard, Mary!


Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

That zigzag path on the left is actually a road.

"Eagle Bends" must be Norway's most dramatic road.

The lower part runs in a spiral tunnel, then climbs in 27 hairpin bends to about 1,000 metres.

Here at the edge of the road is "Eagle's Nest", with a fantastic view of the valley.

Received via Postcrossing from Joey and the Cats, in Norway.

Thanks, Joey & the Cats!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

St. Ann's Church, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

St. Ann's Church, built in 1495-1500, Vilnius, Lithuania.

A Postcrossing postcard from Darius in Lithuania.

Darius says that when Napoleon saw this beautiful church, he wanted to carry it out by hand to France. It looks amazing.

Thanks, Darius!

Houston, Texas.

Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A Postcrossing postcard received from Alyssa in Houston, USA.

Thanks Alyssa!

Monday, August 04, 2008


Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

An unusual postcard of "Concerto" the "Most diverse recordstore in Holland" received via Postcrossing from Maya.

Thanks Maya!!!


Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

A beautiful postcard received via PostCrossing from Hans in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

As an added bonus, the stamp of the Aurora Boreallis is amazing.

Hans runs a B&B called "Carpe Diem" in Provincetown.

Thanks Hans!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yungaba May 1965

Yungaba May 1965
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

This is Sylvia (Mum), Karen and Neil (me) in the garden at Yungaba not long after we disembarked from Ellinis.

Mum's seven months pregnant here, with Kevin.

It was around this time that Karen and I caught chicken pox.

As a 23 year old mother of 3 in a new country, Mum can be forgiven for not smiling!

Mum writes:

The next day we saw the coast of Australia it was quite an emotional experience for me. It looked absolutely awesome. We were nearly there! Out first stop was Adelaide, where we only walked around the docks for a short while. There wasn’t really a lot to see. Next stop Melbourne; there were hundreds of people waiting to greet the ship, mainly because a lot of the Greek passengers left the ship here. This was very emotional watching people waving to their families who were waiting for them. There wasn’t going to be any reception like that for us when we arrived in Brisbane.
Sydney was the last stop before Brisbane. We went ashore and caught a ferryboat to go to Taronga park zoo, unfortunately it was closed. So the only wildlife we saw that day was a mother duck with her babies waddling behind her walking across the road in front of us. That also was the day we lost photos Bruce had taken since we bought the camera. He was changing the spool of film and somehow came undone. So we have no photos of our journey, only a few that someone else had taken.

1 st May 1965 we arrived in Brisbane! There were lots of people to meet the ship, but none for us. Everyone was waving I was crying, and Bruce said just wave, pretend you can see someone”. We had actually arrived at the wheat wharf! We left the ship mid morning, and waited in a long line to have our documents checked. There were officials seated at tables in a big shed and in the corner of the shed at the back was all the grain. It was late in the afternoon when a bus arrived and took us all to Yungaba under the story bridge. There were 12 families that went to Yungaba, we were supposed to go to Wacol Hostel. However it was full, so this was just temporary whilst they made room for us. We were shown to the dining room where we were given salad bread & butter and a cup of tea. We were then shown to our accommodation. The men & boys were in a dormitory that already had single men staying there. The women and small children were shown to another dormitory on the first floor. By this time we were all very tired it had been a long and emotional day. The room had irone framed bunk beds. They all had rolled up mattresses with clean linen & pillows. We had to make these beds up before we could put the children & our selves to bed. There were no facilities to make a cup of tea, in the bathroom there was a wash hand basin 2 toilets & 2 showers. It was about 7 pm some of the men came to the dorm to sit with their wives and children before retiring. There was a large table at the end of the room with a few chairs. We were told later by the matron that men were not allowed to be there! This whole situation was not good. We had all been through such a lot to get here, everyone was quite upset. Still tomorrow was another day. We had arrived on May Day holiday weekend so a lot of places were closed. Neil and Karen were both ill with chicken pox, most of the children had it. It was very hard to look after sick children in those conditions. We had to let Karen stay in hospital for about a week because I was unable to give her the proper care she needed. Because of our situation we were moved to another room, which was in fact a cubicle! Everyone was complaining and not very happy. Bruce was the only one of the men that went and found a job after 3 days. It was at Paul’s milk factory.

I hope you don't mind me disagreeing, Mum, but I think we might have gone to Fremantle first like most of the other ships. Adelaide would have probably been the second stop.

Here's some more photos. Just click on the thumbnail for a larger copy. Have a look at the last one which we took last week, compared with the same view in 1965, 43 years earlier.
Yungaba May 1965 #1Yungaba May 1965 #2Yungaba May 1965 #3Yungaba May 1965 #4Yungaba May 1965 #5Yungaba May 1965 #6Yungaba May 1965 #8Yungaba and Gardens

Friday, August 01, 2008

Clowning Around at Dinner Time

Clowning Around at Dinner Time
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

Ellinis 1965.

Mum says it's no wonder some people are terrified of clowns these days!

Karen, sitting on Sylvia's (mum's) lap doesn't seem too impressed.

Acropolis 1965

Acropolis 1965
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

Early April 1965. Sylvia (Mum), Bruce (Dad), Karen and Neil (me).

Ellinis stopped in Piraeus, Greece on her way from Southampton to Brisbane.

Dad took his young family to see the ancient Greek ruins.

Mum writes:

We stopped at a few Ports. Piraeus, we visited the Acropolis which was amazing. It was the first time I had tasted Calamari. We then travelled through the Suez Canal, it was so hot. Some small boats came along side the ship, Bruce said they were called “bum boats”. The men that paddled these boats were Egyptians who were trying to sell their wares to the passengers. They would call up “hey Mactavish” they called everyone by Scottish names. The next stop was Port Said where we walked around the docks for a short while; Bruce was asked if he wanted to buy a wife! Of course he declined, showing me in all my glory along with two children! We made a quick retreat and returned to the ship. The next port was Aden, we stopped there for a few hours. This was very interesting; we visited the markets and also bought a camera. Most of the time travelling to these different places we were just amazed at all the different sights.

When we left Aden we were at sea for about 1 week, it was at the end of this week that Neil & I saw the dolphins! He was very excited but wasn’t too sure what they were.

Incidentally, once of my earliest childhood memories is looking over the side of the ship, seeing people coming alongside in small boats to sell things. Someone would pass a container down on a rope, the people in the boats would put merchandise in it, and the passengers would take what they wanted and leave money in the container.

When mum mentions Port Said above, I think it was actually Suez. Port Said is at the start of the Suez canal when you're heading south, and Suez is at the southern end. That bit of knowledge might come in handy if anyone is in the market for buying an Egyptian wife :)

Aboard Ellinis, 1965

Aboard Ellinis, 1965
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

Neil (me) and Karen (in the pram).

I don't know who that is pushing the pram.

Mum tells me that most days aboard Ellinis, she didn't have much to do except walk Karen and me around the decks. She was 6 months pregnant.

Mum writes:
We arrived at Southampton docks after a long journey by train from London. After what seemed an eternity we finally boarded the Ellinis. I had never been on a ship before. We were shown to our cabin, which infact was old crew’s quarters.

Those weeks at sea were a strange experience for me. We did have some fun times, but mostly it was hard work looking after two small children whilst being pregnant with a third. Also I suffered from seasickness. And was feeling very home sick.

Departure Day

Departure Day
Originally uploaded by MagicTyger

58 Mount Road, Bexleyheath, on 29 March 1965.

The day we left the UK for Australia.

Left to right:
Bruce Ennis (Dad), Sylvia (Mum), Karen and Neil (me). Harold and Anna (Grandpa and Gran) in the background.

Mum's pregnant with Kevin.

One can only imagine what was going through Grandpa and Gran's minds as their eldest son, only 22 years old left for the other side of the world with his young wife and kids

The house is next door to a pub called the "Polly Clean Stairs".

Liz and I visited here in 1997. Unfortunately no one was home. But at least I can vouch that the place exists!

As a matter of interest, it was spring the day we left - as you can see from the buds on the trees. When we arrived in Australia in early May it was late Autumn. So we experienced summer in England mid 1964, and didn't have summer again till the end of 1965 in Brisbane. That's a long time between summers.

Mum writes:

On his travels in the merchant navy Bruce had been to many countries one of which was Australia. He had really only seen it through the eyes of a traveller. He was sure it would be a great place to live. At the time we were living in Bexleyheath in Kent in a small house the rent was 8.00 pounds. That was a lot of money in those days; he only earned 16.00 pounds working at a dairy delivering milk.

We decided to apply to immigrate to Australia, our application was successful. We left for Australia on the 29thMarch 1965. Having said that, in sounds so simple. Looking back to that time it was heart wrenching. I had never been anywhere before, Scotland was the only other place I had ever travelled to. Leaving all our families was very frightening; also I was already 5 months pregnant with our third child. This was a chance to start a new life and we would never know if we didn’t give it a go. So off we went not really knowing what was in store for us. Ten pound Poms!