Thursday, February 02, 2006

A bit of nostalgia today as I remember it is the anniversary of the day the Winch family set sail from Tilbury docks in England aboard the P&O Liner S.S.Mooltan, many years ago.
One morning, tired of miserable foggy weather, and getting up to a child who was coughing all night, my father declared: "That's it - we are migrating!"
That very day, he and my mother headed up to London and to New Zealand House. Ironically, the first person they spoke to was abrupt with them, so they went straight to Australia House, and thus everything was set in motion!

Six weeks aboard ship was a great adventure for a seven year old. I did not mind that we were on the lowest deck, in a sex segregated cabin which my mother, my sister and I shared with females from two other families.
On the trip, I fell in love for the first time (well, almost) with an Irish sailor called Paddy O'Reilly. Even after reaching Sydney, we called to see Paddy everytime the Mooltan was in port for a couple of years ...but really, I guess, it was only a shipboard romance!
The Bay of Biscay crossing was very rough, and we were all so sick, that we did not notice my 11 year old sister's absence. That is, until the ship's nurse appeared at the cabin door with Sally, her head all bandaged. A freak wave had washed over the top deck, breaking a pane of glass!!
Nearly all the children on board caught the measles - except me. However, during one of the longest stretches between ports, I was taken to the ship's doctor with a small rash. He took my temperature, and I bit the thermometer in half, much to his annoyance.
There were six ports of call..Port Said (even then, too dangerous for us to go ashore), Aden, Colombo, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne.
There was a Ship's concert, and after the pre-arranged items, they asked for volunteers to come on stage. Much to my parent's embarrassment, I went up and sang. Then I volunteered to play the piano. After all, I had never been near one before, and this was my big chance!
A fancy dress parade aboard ship really tested my mother's skills of improvisation, but she produced a wonderful "Little Dutch Girl"outfit for me out of crepe paper, golden plaits and all. Crepe paper was used alot for dress-ups in those days.

This photo shows my sister and myself near the ship's pool in our shirred swimming costumes. Nearly all our clothes were made by Mum in those days. Just before our sea voyage, Mum had bought us each two dresses from Marks and Spencers, because she had not had time to fit us out properly for the voyage. Today's kids would really snigger at the homemade outfits! But we thought our mum was really clever. I still have her Singer sewing machine, which was secondhand when she married in 1937, and it still sews beautifully.

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