Home » Human Life » Starting a new life in New Zealand by Coral Rutterford – Part Two

Starting a new life in New Zealand by Coral Rutterford – Part Two

In the first part 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. Getting to these countries from the UK was not an easy undertaking, in the days before mass air travel. Ships were the main mode of transport and the standard could vary considerably, Coral was fortunate that the ship she travelled on was of quite a high standard and was quite new.

Oriana in Southampton in the 1960s

The SS Oriana was the last of the Orient Steam Navigation Company’s ocean liners and was built at Vickers-Armstrongs in Barrow-in-Furness, and launched in 1959 by Princess Alexandra. The Oriana was a Orient Line ship until 1966, when the company was fully taken over by P&O. The Oriana’s maiden voyage was from Southampton to Sydney in December 1960 and had a capacity for more than 2,000 passengers in two classes (first and tourist), Oriana was the largest passenger liner in service on the UK to Australia and New Zealand route, until the introduction of the SS Canberra in 1961.

But let us return to that day in 1964 when Coral leaves the UK and looks forward to the great adventure ahead.

We drove to Southampton the day before sailing and boarded the ship, the next morning we were due to sail and as we left the shore we had to endure a life boat drill. We were allotted our lifeboat stations and the men had to stand by the handrails and women and children had to stay back against the super structure of the ship. It was raining and the wind high and was most uncomfortable and trying to hold my son with both of us wearing life jackets made it very difficult and we prayed we didn’t actually have to go through this again in the event of a disaster, horrible to even think about it.

Oriana 1960s

There were 2 lifts installed in the ship and our car and others perhaps, would be lifted down into the cargo hold. The cargo hold held our 6 tea chests and crates and the many other goods of the passengers.

Oriana 1960s

On board there were deck games, a nursery for the kiddies to play. A cinema each night with 2 showings for first and second sitting diners. We were 2nd sitting as I had to feed Steve before we ate, the kiddies had an earlier meal. Often we couldn’t get a seat in the movies as they were all taken by first diners. But we made friends on board and there was other entertainment in the form of dancing or games in the ballroom. Plenty of drinking going on with bars in various areas.

Joan Regan

Joan Regan was a British singer in the 1963-64 era and she was on board in first class of course, and she came down into our area and did sing one time. The first class people could come down to our decks but we could not go to theirs.

Postcard Oriana 1960s

We sailed on and settled into life on board, crossing the Bay of Biscay was rough and taking a step forward made one unsteady as we negotiated the turbulence, onward to the Rock of Gibraltar where we anchored some distance from it as we took on some passengers and then resumed our journey. As the voyage progressed we started moving into differing time zones and this became difficult to adjust with eating and sleeping. Feeling we had no sooner gone to bed it was time to get up and try to eat breakfast at local time of around 5 a.m. and breakfast had to be out of the way in order to dock at our destination on time.

Mt. Vesuvius 1960s

The first port we arrived at was Naples, bearing in mind it was early February and was still very cold and we took a coach trip to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius. With our full coach of passengers we started the journey up the mountain to the summit. The driver was trying to roll a cigarette while steering the bus with his elbows while negotiating the bending road. I lost interest looking out of the windows and focused on this driver who had no interest in the safety of his passengers.

Onwards to the Suez Canal and onto Port Said. We had to queue in the Bitter Lakes for our turn to enter into the canal and took some hours and then as we entered the canal I was surprised to see it was narrower than I expected and there was little room either side of the ship as we passed through.

Document of Identity

As we were travelling on a “Document of Identity” a single page stating our name, height, colour of eyes and no photograph of ourselves and by not travelling on a passport we were not allowed ashore at Port Said and we had to stay on board. We were not requested to obtain a passport. Those that did hold passports were allowed ashore to go sightseeing.

Aden 1960s

The next port was Aden in Yemen and we arrived late afternoon and extremely hot. After dinner we decided to go ashore and noticed the massive network of piping that covered a large area that carries oil to tankers. It was a smallish town centre that I recall and I was surprised to see a Boots Chemist there. Surprisingly we saw a black shiny Mercedes car being driven around with goats running around on the back seat.

Now a long journey to Colombo and after setting foot on the quayside one could feel the intense heat, taxi drivers waited at the gates hoping for fares and as it was so hot and unwise to walk in the heat and we decided to take a tour around the area. He drove through the immediate area and saw a neatly planted area called “Queens Gardens” that was grown for a visit by Queen Victoria. Snake charmers lined the roads and we saw cobras rising to a tune on a flute and other musical instruments. The driver asked if we wished to get out and watch, we quickly assured him no thanks.

Postcard of Mount Lavinia

We returned to the ship for lunch and afterwards decided to see a bit more of the local area. The taxi driver took us to a local beauty spot called Mt. Lavinia and was a quiet beach location with a stately building that may have been a hotel.

Back on board we sailed towards Australia and was a 4 day trip during which time we sailed past The Direction Islands and it was extremely hot and humid on deck while passing. Turning one’s head into the wind took your breath away with the heated wind. These islands were used during WW2 as radio stations.

After all this excitement, my son contracted chicken pox as did every other child on board. The ships’ hospital was full of them.

Oriana in 1980s

Coral’s son Steve grew up to take a great interest in ships and works for the Hamburg Sud shipping line, his initial experience on the ship as a child did not put him off the Oriana because he was on board the last time the ship sailed from Auckland to Sydney in the 1980s before it was sold to China as a floating hotel and museum. It was in China, where the ship was badly damaged in a severe storm and was sent off to be scrapped.

Many thanks to Coral for her contribution, the last part of Coral’s memories is how she adjusted to life in a new country with a young child.


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