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.