Oriana in Sydney 1960s
In the first and second parts of Coral’s memories, we found out about some of the issues related to emigration and why a large number of British people were attracted to life in Australia and New Zealand and some of the highlights of the journey. In part three, after a short stay in Sydney, she finally arrives in New Zealand. Things do not get off to a great start but slowly she begins to enjoy her new home and begins to build a new life but still remembering her roots.
Bondi Beach 2017
After visiting Perth and Melbourne, we arrived in Sydney where the majority of passengers had chosen to settle. We had a 3 day layover there and it was, and still is, a bustling city and resembles London for the crowded streets. We visited famous Bondi Beach and was surprised to see how small an area it is but is very popular with the surfers.We just took a look around the area and were looking forward to sailing to NZ and getting excited to know we were nearly there.
The crossing took 3 days and we started getting excited but wondering if moving to NZ would go well and that we would like what we were about to see. It was smooth sailing and we arrived in Auckland Saturday late morning.
The sun was shining with blue sky as water skiers passed us waving and smiling, lots of small sailing craft accompanied the ship as we headed to port. What a wonderful welcome, looking around we passed small to large islands in the harbour looking green and we were so happy to be there and easily the best port we visited on our long journey. Friends were waiting on the quayside to meet us, John had met Dave who is a Londoner who was on a working holiday in London at the time we were considering emigration and we stayed with them while we waited for our car to be unloaded from the ship.
They took us to their home as we were to spend the weekend with them. As I got out of the car I remarked how quiet it is, it’s so peaceful, it seems like a Sunday. They said it’s like this all the time and they were right. In the suburbs where we live it is very quiet with plenty of bird life.
On Monday morning, John cleared the car through customs and the next day we drove to Wellington some 300 miles away to take up his job. Once there we visited the glazing company that had sponsored John and later took us to the accommodation they had waiting for us. What a disappointment that was. The house was a big old villa and made into 2 flats. Holes in the walls, no doors on cupboards. We couldn’t live there and the kind man who showed us around was embarrassed. We didn’t expect a palace but did want somewhere clean and tidy. John said we wouldn’t live there and wished to be released from the job contract. John visited the Immigration Dept and they agreed we could return to Auckland provided John worked as a glazier for 2 years, which of course he did. As we left the ship John was handed an envelope from Immigration Dept stating that if John did not complete 2 years working at his trade he would have an amount of around 400 pounds to pay for the passage out to NZ.
Back in Auckland John was given a job by the company who had sponsored him at their branch here in Auckland. Driving back and finding a place to live on a Friday afternoon was difficult and we ended up in a caravan park but at least we had somewhere to sleep and keep our young lad comfortable. Later in the afternoon we found a shop nearby to buy some food and groceries. The shopkeeper was whistling and said what a lovely day it is, John said” you might think so.” “Why isn’t it” he said, John explained we had been searching for somewhere to live and ended up in a caravan. The whistling man said “well there are 2 empty flats next door”, what a chance meeting that solved our problem. We rented the caravan for a week and during that time we had to buy beds and furniture, kitchen table and chairs for the flat. We had less than 1500 pounds to buy all that and leave us some money to survive on until John started working.
Meanwhile all our tea chests and large crate with all our belongings in them had gone down to Wellington and we had to wait about 3 weeks for them to be sent back to us. Meanwhile the landlord of the flat we were renting lent us bedding, crockery, cooking ware until our goods came back to us.
We found that most Kiwi’s (NZ’ers) are very friendly and obliging people and we have been grateful for their acceptance of us, a great many of them come from English, Scottish and Irish heritage. The NZ family who lived next door were middle aged and had 3 sons around our age. They made themselves known to us and made us so welcome we settled very quickly, and in time they became our NZ Mum and Dadand each morning fresh vegetables were left on our verandah as they were keen gardeners.
Another thing that surprised me was that when I walked along the street, a complete stranger on the opposite side of the street would call out “hello or hi”. I used to look behind to see who they were calling out to but it was to me. Kiwi’s are so friendly, they will say Good Morning if passing and I have had lengthy conversations with complete strangers.
We started to enjoy life here in Auckland and made friends mainly through the “Londoners Club”. This club held a dance and social night once a month, there was a great band and we always ended up doing a “Knees Up Mother Brown” as well as dancing to all the 60″s songs. Here we would learn from others about Auckland and that was invaluable. At that time public houses closed at 6p.m., it was called the 6 o’clock swill as guys would drink as much as they could before 6 p.m. closing time.
Coral’s Home in Auckland
I put our now 3yr old son in a day nursery as there were no young children to play with in the area where we were living. I went out to work and we saved for a plot of land and to build a house on it. Within 9 months we had bought a “section” or piece of land and had a boomerang shaped 3 bed roomed house built on it.
We moved in on Boxing Day 1964, only 9 months after we arrived in NZ. We have never regretted our decision to leave the UK though part of me is still back there even though I have never been back to pay a visit.
When we arrived in NZ the population was around two and a half million, it is now 5 million. Our son went back on his own aged 11 years to stay with his grandparents who both lived in the same street and meet the families he had not remembered because he was so young when we left, he went to school for a term before returning back home to us. He was looked after by airline staff on both the outward and return journey.
Ten years after arriving here we applied for naturalisation and to obtain dual citizenship. We were accepted, and it cost John and I just 2 pounds each. We didn’t need to pay for Steve. We were each sent a large piece of printed cardboard certificate.
We did not have a passport for years until we decided to visit Australia. In the early days we did not need a passport when visiting there as our two countries were “open”to each other. Then Australia insisted on a passport and so we now need one to visit there.
Coral and John in the USA
We did several trips to the USA on motorcycle tours and we used our NZ passport. We decided to obtain an English one and we only used it once on a trip to the USA on the outward flight. Upon our arrival back in NZ the immigration officer said where’s your Kiwi passport? We did have it with us and passed it over and he said it’s so much easier with your Kiwi one. So the British one was never used again and if travelling with it, one needed to obtain a re-entry permit to allow one back into the country.
Migration has been a popular theme in the last few years and we tend to not think of the human stories behind the statistics, Coral made her dreams come true by creating a new life in a new country but these things are generally not straightforward and involve lots of determination and sacrifices.
I was fortunate to meet Coral a few years ago in Auckland and could she how well she felt at home in New Zealand but she still has fond memories of her family and living in Poplar and enjoys keeping up to date with latest developments on the Island and Poplar. People on the Island have come from all over the world and many Islanders have found a life in distant lands. When I started the website many years ago, I assumed it would only appeal to those who lived on the Island, I quickly found out that the attraction of this small part of London was more global with many people wanting to share their memories of the time they spent in the area, be it those who were born here, worked here or just visited here.
Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation
In these strange times, I have found there is plenty of time for research, therefore I was delighted to find out about a new resource to investigate from Debbie Levett, Secretary for Friends of Island History Trust.
Debbie informed me about the Heritage & Education Centre of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and their digital online records. I had visited the centre some years ago and was fascinated by the information in their records. However the access to the physical records was not straightforward and I thought it was more useful to search for information in other ways.
Fortunately many of those records have now been catalogued and digitised, and are searchable online for free and available for public use.
Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation
When I visited their office, I was fascinated by the history of Lloyd’s Register which was the first maritime classification society, the Register began in 1760 and has inspected and surveyed vessels on the basis of the quality and condition of their workmanship and materials. These vessels were given a classification and entered within our annually published Register of Ships as a record of safe ships, and later, a record of all vessels over 100 tons regardless of whether they had been surveyed.
Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation
The society operated at ports and offices all around the United Kingdom and Ireland, and eventually, across the globe. The society eventually accumulated a large collection of material (1.25 million documents), that are being digitised and catalogued, consisting of survey reports, correspondence, photographs, ship plans and certificates, dating back to 1834. Around 200,000 of these are now online with more scheduled at a rate of around 30,000 a month.
Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation
From a local point, it is worth mentioning that Lloyd’s Register has long had a presence in and around the Isle of Dogs and a number of the records deal with the main shipbuilding areas of Limehouse, Blackwall and Millwall.
Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation
I will be exploring the site over the next few weeks and hopefully will bring some of the stories related to ships built on the Isle of Dogs.
The portal to the online catalogue can be found here
On my allocated daily exercise, I was surprised by the appearance of the Super Yacht Ilona in West India Dock, the Ilona last visited the dock in 2016 and also visited when the 2012 London Olympics was taking place.
In these strange times, it seems odd that the yacht would visit the dock but we do not know the reason for the visit.
The 73.81 metres (or 242 ft) long custom built yacht was launched by Amels in the Netherlands in 2004 and she has also refitted in 2006, and 2012. She is classed as one of the world’s top 100 largest private yachts and has the unusual feature of a helipad, when she was built the helicopter could be stowed in a hangar below deck. In the latest refit, the helicopter garage was replaced by a large 10m by 3m swimming pool.
Estimated to have cost 100 million dollars, Ilona was and maybe still owned by one of Australia’s richest men, businessman Frank Lowy who made much of his fortune developing shopping centres with the Westfield Group.
Coral’s Garden in Auckland
Regular readers will know that Isle of Dogs Life has contributors from all over the world reminding us that you do not have to live in a place to have a connection to it. One of our regular contributors over the years has been Coral Rutterford who lives in New Zealand. Coral lived with her family in 2 rooms in her grandparents’ rented house in Bright St, Poplar and about 1949 they moved to a block of flats in Watney St, Shadwell. About 2 years later they moved to St. Paul’s Cray, Kent. In 1964 Coral and her husband and baby son sailed on the P & O liner Oriana to Auckland.
Coral and her husband took part in the assisted passage scheme which was a scheme to provide labour to Australia and New Zealand. From 1945 to 1972, over a million and a half United Kingdom migrants travelled to Australia and New Zealand on board ships. The migrants became known as the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ because although you could aboard a liner for a fare of just ten pounds, the catch was you were required to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years or pay the full amount of the trip there and back.
Why did people leave in such large numbers? Britain was suffering from the effects of the war with shortages and rationing even in the 1960s. Other factors were that the war had allowed people to travel and experience other parts of the world, wages in Australia were typically 50% higher than those in Britain (especially for tradesmen) and many of the brochures advertising the scheme made a big deal about the outdoor free and easy lifestyle Australia and New Zealand had to offer. With limited opportunities in Britain, young men and women in particular were tempted by the scheme. For all the attractions of Australia and New Zealand, it was estimated that 25% of those who went on the scheme returned back to Britain very shortly after they arrived.
In a time (until recently) of mass travel, it is worth reminding people of a time that the majority of people had not even travelled outside of Britain. A trip to the other side of the world was a major undertaking and Coral’s adventures remind us of a world that has in many ways disappeared forever.
Starting a new life in New Zealand
Smithfield Poultry Market was constructed in 1961–1963 to replace the old Victorian market building in Smithfield, which was destroyed by fire in 1958.
The bitterly cold winter of 1962 set my husband John and I thinking we needed to live in a warmer climate. He was a glazier and employed to re-glaze the dome area of the then newly rebuilt Smithfield Meat Market that had suffered a fire previously. He and an apprentice were working on this area and each morning they could see the layers of dirt upon the recent snow falls and it was a real effort to soften the frozen glazing putty to complete their work as well as trying to combat the severe cold weather conditions.
The markets roof was claimed to be the largest concrete shell structure ever built, and the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe.
John used to travel by motorcycle most days and would dress over his pyjamas to keep warm during his time spent working on that dome. The young apprentice would pull down his woollen jumper sleeves and force finger holes in them in an effort to try to soften the putty ready for glazing. John at one time was so cold on his motorbike one morning that he got off and cuddled up to the exhaust pipe, a policeman noticed him and asked what was he doing, “I’m trying to get warm mate so I can drive my bike”.
Soon after he made inquiries at New Zealand House to ask if there were was a request for tradesmen in the glass trade in New Zealand. There was, and he obtained an address of a glazing company and luckily they offered him a job through the assisted passage immigration scheme. It took at least a year to complete all formalities and then await a sailing to Auckland, New Zealand on February 8th 1964. We were 25 and 26 years old at that time. We have recently celebrated our 56 years here on March 8th, that was our arrival date here.
Coral’s home in Kent 1960s
That gave us time to sell our small terraced house with a 12ft lounge and a 3ft staircase to two bedrooms. Our first home and a starting point for our future whatever was in store for us. We were given 6 weeks notice of sailing and we already had a young couple who bought our house and chattels as we did not take furniture to NZ. But we did have 6 tea chests of our household items and a large wooden crate to store our 2 yr old son’s toys that included a go-cart and tricycle to ensure he did not go without his comfort toys and we were pleased that we did that and kept him happy when we were all his family in a new country and no other relatives. He used to see his grandparents daily and probably couldn’t understand why we were going to a new country and not seeing them again.
After being accepted for emigration we all had to undergo a strict health check up by having X rays, and a smallpox vaccination. This gave us a very sore underarm and didn’t feel the best. I developed big blemishes all over my back and I wondered if I had smallpox. The doctor advised me to stay home and he would visit me. It was just a reaction, but scary. Eye examinations were done and I was requested to see an eye specialist to ensure I did not have impending blindness. The specialist said why do they want this examination as the prescription for your eye is for reading glasses only. We can appreciate these examinations have to be made but did make me think I had a big problem with my eyes. We paid our 50 pounds to the Immigration Dept and this was our cost of the passage to NZ. and incidentally Australia charged 10 pounds each adult at that time.
We decided to take our Ford Anglia car to NZ and we contacted P & O shipping company to inquire if there was a place for us to ship our car on the ship we were sailing on and John drove it to Southampton and it cost 90 pounds which we thought was reasonable and he cashed up an insurance policy to pay for it.
Oriana in Southampton in the 1960s
John hired a car to drive back to Sidcup, Kent where we were then living. We were to sail in the P & O Liner “Oriana”. Then another trip was needed to take our tea chests and crate to be loaded onto the ship.
We drove to Southampton the day before sailing and boarded the ship. John had to take his tools as hand luggage as he had to start work in NZ as soon as possible. As we arrived our luggage was taken and the tool bag and was told it would be loaded later as some 2000 plus passengers were boarding. Meanwhile we were shown our cabins and looked around the ship to get our bearings. Much later our luggage came aboard and John’s tool bag that had contained a pair of new working boots and they were missing, some lowlife decided he needed the boots more. Fortunately the tools were all there.
The next post will follow Coral on her journey as she travels to the other side of the world with some fascinating stops on the way.