Redcliffe Pier

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FASCINATING FIND

I can't believe it is 15 years since I had to put my dear old mum into a nursing home, and cleaned out her apartment and brought her stuff home. I had noticed a diary amongst her belongings which looked interesting and thought to myself I must retype her story when I'm retired and have time. Well the time has come and I'm finding the diary fascinating. My mum had senile dementia and paranoia and lived another five years in the nursing home. She died 10 years ago this year. She was tortured by her illness and it saddened me to see her like that but reading her diary has reminded me what a vibrant, lively, adventurous, tough woman she was.
She was born in Yorkshire England in 1912. She was the second youngest of eight children. At 18 she went to London to study nursing and met my dad, who was a truck driver. They married and had my brother and me. They endured six years of war torn London and four more years of rationing and 'doing without'. So they decided to find a better life by migrating to "sunny Australia, the land of milk and honey" as it was advertised. This is her diary of the voyage to Australia in 1949.
It wasn't a new 1949 diary it is an old company diary with 1930 written on it. I have no idea where she got it from, if only it could talk to me. It says "The Fur Trade Aristocrat" on the cover. When I opened it I found.........
......a 1930 calendar and a letter mum had started writing to her friend, Dorothy. It obviously never got sent because mum had decided to turn it into diary entries. It started on Tuesday but she didn't write the date. However ,when I was researching the ship we came on, I discovered it left on Tuesday 11 January 1949. She writes.........
"We left the boat train on the Quay side and could see our boat lying at anchor, through the custom house window. Customs was a walk straight through, and up the gangway we hopped, at about 2 pm."

After a few entries she stops writing on the letter paper and continues in the old diary. She crossed out the diary dates and wrote her own in. Later she had crossed these out and put in new dates, but I found they didn't match with a 1949 calendar. Eventually after much puzzling I worked out that she had the days right but the date was one day behind. She mentioned she found it hard to keep track of the days as they often had to put the clock ahead an hour.

I flipped through the diary and found these interesting ads.
So the Diary was a business diary for "Mendoza Fur Dyeing Works." Mendoza Beaver is made from "carefully selected New Zealand Buck Coneys." I had no idea what they were, so I googled and found out it is a male rabbit. 'Lapin by Mendoza' is also a bunny it is also the language spoken by the rabbits in "Watershed Down".
Then we have the Seal fur which is made from the finest quality Buck Coneys. (Doesn't it sound awful today?) I still wonder how my mum got this book. There is no way she could afford a fur coat then. Anyway on with her writing...........
"It seemed as though thousands of people were walking around everywhere, and it looked as though we should never find our way around. When we had found our cabins we had a snack of fresh, crisp white rolls, loads of butter (no margarine on board), cold ham, beef and salad, tea or coffee.
At 6 pm we had dinner with roast lamb and all the trimmings.'Lovely grub.'
Very weary at 8pm, we tucked up in our bunks to sleep without unpacking much. Besides Diane and I there are 2 other women with a girl each, one 6 years old, so Diane has a playmate. One woman started being sick almost as soon as the boat moved, so I thought not so good. The beds are lovely and comfy and I slept well."
Printed on the back of this photo is: "GEORGIC" Alongside Princes Landing on Tuesday 11th January 1949, immediately prior to sailing with over 2,000 emigrants for Australia. (The Georgic is the ship at the back. The dock was in Liverpool)
(My mother didn’t explain that families didn’t have a cabin of their own. All the women and young children were on the upper decks with 6 to a cabin and the men and older boys were on the lower decks. So my brother and father were separated from my mother and me for the 5 week journey. However we spent a lot of time on the deck together.)

Linked to Sepia Saturday

45 comments:

  1. What a great find. And what wonderful information it gives you from your mom.

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  2. I actually got chills reading this, how amazing to find such a treasure fom your late mom.

    Lovely post this.

    I couldn't find your email address, but to answer your question, yes it's on the net, not sure if they have it there, they didn't in SA, hopefully you'll find a group there.

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  3. Diane, you should mention that your mum (my mother-in-law) was a very elegant, intelligent and strong-willed lady but had a heart of gold. She was the backbone of your dad when they were building a home in their new country.

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  4. Oh my goodness! This is indeed a TREASURE - what a wonderful legacy to leave behind. I can only imagine your joy, sadness and delight in the discoveries you've made. I only *wish* all or any of my older relatives had done this - never got to meet and of my Grandparents - all gone before I was born- but their stories MUST have been amazing - thank you for sharing this with us and enjoy every minute your Mother left for you!

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  5. What a treasure. Embrace and enjoy this Diane. So few have such a treasure.

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  6. Diane I think this is such a wonderful post, I have enjoyed it very, very much. Your mother had quite an adventure didn't she?

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  7. Fancy that! The story of a journey to another land across the oceans to Australia. A wonderful 'find' for you Diane, to read your late mothers diary and her words of how she found the long journey.
    Thanks for sharing :)

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  8. My maternal grandmother traveled alone from Austria to the United States in 1914, when she was just 14 years old. I only wish we had a diary of her trip. We have searched the Ellis Island website for a record of her arrival there, but the names were often misspelled by the officials who could not understand the different languages they encountered.

    How wonderful that you are able to get that glimpse into your family's past!

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  9. It's so special to have something like this. Very amazazing... Thanks for sharing it! :)

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  10. Wow ! how interesting ! you should write more about your parents start into a new life ! I have read so many books about emigration to Australia but these were mostly "forced" emigrations. Especially in the beginning. But then I read a book of a woman who had been sent to Australia because she was in an ophanage from which all children were sent to Australia to work there as housemaids. It was in 1960 ! The poor girl had been put there during the hospitalization of her mother and they found each other only 30 years later.

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  11. Diane, I am so glad for you that you found your Mothers diary. It is very interesting to read. It was a different world. The photos are a wonderful memory, there were no digi cameras around then!

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  12. How wonderful for you to have this diary.

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  13. Mum! I'm so glad you are doing this blog! I'm so tired right now, but I'm going to come back to this on the weekend and savour it!

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  14. Such a wonderful diary. I wonder, do you keep one? I love it. Thanks for posting it for a yank to read....

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  15. Great find, Diane. I would like to create a link to my Ten Pound Pom post because your mum wrote openly about her experiences.

    Only one sentence will shock most people: "Families didn’t have a cabin of their own. All the women and young children were on the upper decks with 6 to a cabin and the men and older boys were on the lower decks. So my brother and father were separated from my mother and me for the 5 week journey. However we spent a lot of time on the deck together"

    My husband came in 1952 and they were very fortunate that the five of them were given one cabin. Presumably this was because two of the children were very young.

    Many thanks
    Hels
    http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/ten-pound-poms-from-britain-with-love.html

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  16. Your accounts are fascinating! I'll continue to stop by. Thank you.
    Radhika Budhwar

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  17. What a great find with this very historic diary. I will be reading this story with great interest over the next few weeks. Thanks for pointing it out on the side of your blog page. Diane

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  18. Fantastic post! Thanks so much for recommending it to me. I loved reading all about the voyage - thank you too for your note about families not having a cabin together; I didn't know that.

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    1. Thank you Alex for coming back to these posts.

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  19. What a treasure you have in those diaries. It's comforting, I'm sure, to remember your mother as she was in her younger years. My grandmother also had dementia, and my mother's greatest hope was that she would not fall victim too. And she didn't.

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  20. Journals like this are the best window we have on our ancestors lives. And on other lives during that time. Great to have!

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  21. Fascinating and what a treasure to have your mother's thoughts at such an exciting but tumultuous time in her life.

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  22. We should always be grateful to any of our family members who wrote anything at all that still survives, but this is a real treasure, so full of detail.

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  23. You have written such a beautiful tribute to your mother and how wonderful to find her diary and to read of her experiences in her own handwriting, I loved the fashion ads. I could relate to the times you mother talked about as my Aunt Peggy emigrated from Liverpool to Melbourne in 1950 with her new husband.

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  24. A great post. We are so lucky when we have some personal written history for our family. What's going to happen in the future with the young ones ? Will they be researching a series of Twitter and Facebook entries in trying to "find" their grandmother. Thanks for sharing that beautiful story.

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  25. Fascinating! My Mum also wrote diaries and kept scrapbooks of all her trips, including one of a voyage from NZ to England and back in 1953 when I was one that is great to delve into.

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  26. Coneys...? in a local dialect in Southeast Asia, their word for bunny is conejo (pronounced coneho). Very interesting how languages and dialects have similarities.

    Hazel

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  27. Sometimes posts are special and then - like a fine fur coat - they need bringing out again and again and showing off. Fascinating story - lapin and all.

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  28. Hazel's comment reminded me that conejo is the Spanish word for rabbit too. I don't remember many Spanish words from high school Spanish. The only reason I remembered conejo is because I have a little book "Pedrin El Conejo" (Peter Rabbit).

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  30. There is a challenge here for us! How many of us keep diaries of any sort these day? It would be a shame if we had stories that will never be told as a result.
    Your mother's diary is a tremendous find and describes her experiences in a time frame I can relate to. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  31. I think in some ways blogs are the diaries of today, so keep it up and share more of your mother's diaries - you are lucky to have a daughter who is interested too (I see from her comment).

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  32. Fantastic treasure you have there. Thanks for sharing.

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  33. What a lovely story...great to have your mother's words to share with us...and you did good research to get the dates and days straightened out. Thanks for sharing this.

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  34. What an interesting find. Your parents like mine were very brave to step out into an unknown land to make a safe and healthy life for their family.

    My mother too wrote diaries (in German which she translated years ago to English) They left Germany towards the end of 1950 with high hopes of happier times. It was very hard work being a migrant in those days especially as my father spoke no English. My mother could as she was a translator for the Americans.

    I'll have to come back soon and read more of your Diary posts

    Alexa from Sydney,
    http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

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  35. How wonderful to have such a journal of your mother in happier times. It must be a very previous legacy. My aunt emigrated from Blackpool, Lancashire to Melbourne in January 1949. and I thought back to her when reading your mother's entries, especially the fashion adverts.

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  36. This post is absolutely fascinating and how lucky you are to have this treasure of a diary. My father emigrated in 1923 and he did tell me stories about his adventures, but I wish I had it all written down.

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  37. I'm as fascinated by your mother's story now as when I first read it in 2013.

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  38. It's magic, isn't it, how somebody's diary can bring them back to you...this is a wonderful post!

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  39. I enjoyed reading this again, and appreciate the photos and story of your mom's life. All my friends in their 60s and 70s talk about how dementia is coming and can't be avoided. But having a daughter like you has brought your mom's journal forward, preserving her life and giving us a glimpse of "before dementia."

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  40. What a treasure! It's so great to have a diary of her adventures and a catalog of the journey.

    It's funny to us now that she left out the bit about being separated in different cabins, but it was probably something then that was just known and accepted and wasn't strange at all.

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  41. Thanks for sharing these words from the past. For me, diaries and letters are the most valued of my genealogical history -- no filter between present and past, just real thoughts and words. Thanks again for sharing.

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  42. Are you lucky to have that diary. It's particularly wonderful that she came back to life for you. I hope we hear more about her experiences.

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  43. A full typescript of the diary will be of interest to anyone connected with voyage and historians. What a treasure.

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