My Unfinished Father – A Life Lived to the Full
A Life Lived to the Full
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
Part 12 – Pages 112 – 116
Me, front row middle – the hippy wearing the brightest jumper there!
Jenny – Top photo – second row from bottom, 2nd in from right, wearing black dress with white trim.
As 1976 dawned we gradually became used to the idea that we were going to return to the United Kingdom. We had lived in Australia, including counting our two years in Malaysia, for eleven years and were becoming a tad bored. I had a decent job, which was unchallenging, but a decent job nonetheless. I was quite well paid and I changed my car every eighteen months or so. I even managed to get a few games of cricket in.
We had a nice home and two great children. We could afford to go away whenever we felt like it and yet, Margaret seemed happy and so did the kids. But there was a feeling that we did not quite fit in amongst the Aussies. And frankly we simply missed home.
Some of our friends suggested that we take a certain cure by actually visiting the UK, rent our home out for a few months and take off to England. There were as many reasons to not do what was suggested as there was to do it all.
One of the problems was that our parents were getting older and that we may not have too long to see them again. Another reason was that our own kids had to attend school. So we struggled with the idea for perhaps six months and finally said ‘Yes.’
In the meantime we continued to explore Victoria, going to visit Beechworth where Ned Kelly used to perform his daring deeds. Beechworth was an old colonial town with a rebuilt Powder Magazine and a statue of Ned.
Kelly was probably the most infamous murderer in Australian history. He had a penchant for killing mounted policemen, or troopers as they were called. To me, he was simply a coward and a murderer. The song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was brought about by Ned Kelly.
He was eventually captured by police and hanged at Melbourne jail. As an ex policeman I did not regard Ned Kelly as any kind of hero and I objected to the expression sometimes used by Australians when they described someone being as ‘game as Ned Kelly.’
The town of Beechworth was a pleasant small country town, enlivened a lot on the day we were there by a display of vintage Rolls Royce.
We stayed in a motel while we were exploring the Beechworth/Glenowan area and both children refused to take a shower. Fortunately there was a very large bottom basin to the shower and they fitted into this as a bath.
Meanwhile the cricket season started again at GMH. There had been a couple of games at the end of the previous year, but with the New Year, we started in earnest. The season was compressed into the period 8 January and 21st March. I had a most successful season scoring 163 runs in twelve innings, ten times not out, for an average of 81.50. My highest score was 30 not out but there were several other scores over 20.
In addition I took eleven wickets and held four catches. The secret of my success was less to do with me and more to do with a lesser standard of cricket we were playing. We also held a double wicket tournament which Mike Caffery and I won.
An interesting event occurred while playing in a game with the local police, Port Melbourne Police, with whom we had excellent relations. I was bowling when a new batsman came in to bat, over halfway down the order. One of my police colleagues was acting as umpire at the bowlers’ end. He muttered under his breath to me “Watch this bloke. He’s played Sheffield Shield cricket.”
I was impressed, thinking back to my last encounter with a first class cricketer, namely Barry Knight of Essex and England way back in 1957.
I bowled the first ball which he wafted at and missed. The second struck him on the pad. I appealed unsuccessfully. The third ball he hoicked into the covers to be caught.
As he walked off I said to my policeman /umpire friend. “He did not play a lot for Victoria I assume.”
“Sure didn’t look like it,” was his reply.
Later I searched Wisden for my victim’s record. He had one game for Victoria in 1951. His one innings was a duck and he neither bowled nor caught anything. I felt rather less like boasting than I had done.
We had become quite friendly with Bill and Peggy Kelderman. Bill was a Dutchman who worked for me. At the time the Netherlands were overrun by the Germans in 1940, Bill was serving in far eastern waters with the Royal Netherlands Navy. The crew decided to turn their ship over to the Australians and surrendered their ship in Perth.
Bill spent the rest of the War ‘fighting for freedom in Australian waters. At the end of his time he had married an Australian girl, Peggy and settled down in Australia.
From 9th to 12th February I attended an Intermediate Management Worksop at Dandenong. I note now something that is undoubtedly not normal today. All twenty members of the group were male, not a single female.
There was a scout camp in Gilwell Park which Rory and I attended. I have the feeling that Gilwell Park was owned by the Scout Association. A bit of swimming and general tom foolery went on.
The girls got their own back in May 1976 when we were invited to a fashion day at someone’s house. This was to raise funds for the Liberal (Conservative) Party who were facing a General Election. There were lots of pretty ladies wearing long dresses.
I played my first, and last, game of hockey on 11th July at the cost of sore shins. The Indians in the security group displayed far superior skills.
Rory was busy with his war gaming and had set up a diorama in our garage. Margaret had begun to make Australian jewellery from gemstones. Very good it was too and she sold quite a lot.
In August we visited Hanging Rock. This was a pretty eerie place where many years before three girls had disappeared and had never been found. This led to an Australian film being made about the whole story.
Hanging Rock was a weird place. This feeling was encouraged by our having seen the film, then new, recently and being persuaded by its auto suggestion. We came away with both children quite safe.
In the latter part of the year we began to make the necessary arrangements for leaving Australia. This included handing in my notice. Bob Henderson was to take over from me. We booked our passage on the S S Australis, a Chandris Line vessel.
In November we attended the wedding of Marie Bishop, a Maori girl who was one of my security team. It was a quite splendid affair, after her wedding at a Catholic Church. Marie’s nickname was ‘Puss’ because she insisted on wearing knee length boots at work. This eventually became ‘Puss in Boots’. Some rude security officers even lengthened the word ‘Puss.’
The bride wore a traditional long white dress and looked very happy about the whole business.
At the end of November we took off once again along our favourite Australian road, the Great Ocean Road. It was cold and wet but we stuck with it. We stopped at Port Campbell and had a look at London Bridge and the Twelve Apostles before they began to fall into the sea. These made a very special picture, with the blue of the sea set against the lighter blue of the sky and trimmed by golden sands.
We paid a brief visit to Loch Ard gorge and viewed, rather sadly, a grave stone memorial to some sailors who were lost in a shipwreck. We also visited a penguin rookery, but the little devils were hiding that day. However there was enough beauty in the Victorian coastline to make everything worthwhile.
At Port Campbell we were attacked by a bunch of cassowaries looking for food and in Jenny’s opinion, lucky to escape with our lives. She was even more shocked at Port Campbell harbour to see a fisherman slicing up a live cuttlefish for bait. He said he preferred fishing to watching television at home, “because there was too much violence on the TV.”
We enjoyed our break away, as we always did in this part of Victoria. Now that we had made the final decision we were by no means certain we were right. I agreed to hire John Teague’s house for the last few weeks, which was a move which suited both of us.
And the cricket season started again and I played nine games between September and January. It was successful but not as good as the previous season. I scored 117 runs in ten innings with six not out for an average of 29.25. My last innings in Australia provided my highest score of the season, , 27 not out. I also took eleven wickets at 7.o9.
In the meantime I had some financial problems to sort out with the bank, or banks, as they also involved the Midland Bank in far off Wales. I wanted to borrow $20,000 against the sale of our house. I then wanted to transfer the money to the Midland Bank in Wales. The Midland was the forerunner of the HSBC Banking Group. I wanted to do this at the time because the dollar/pound exchange rate was very favourable towards the pound. The IMF was in the process of intervening to help the pound.
The bank in Australia would not play ball, saying they could not lend money to speculate against the currency. I wrote to the Midland explaining what I was trying to do. They wrote back saying it would be very useful if I could deposit funds in the UK account against the future purchase of a property.
The Australian bank gave way and loaned me $20,000 at a very low rate of interest. In turn I deposited this sum, in sterling, in the Midland. The rate of interest I was earning was higher than I was paying on my loan
In due course, the IMF stepped in to support the pound which raised its value.
I am still not totally certain how I pulled it off but the transaction overall made me a nice profit.
GM held an open day in October when we had loads of visitors, including a red lion that went by the name ‘Rory’. Our Rory introduced himself nicely and Jenny shook hands with the lion. GMH also laid on the usual Christmas party at Melbourne Zoo, which made me reflect what a decent employer they were. We all went to the zoo to commune with the animals.
On 19th December we attended a farewell party in the home of the fire marshal, an English man from Liverpool whose surname I forget.
Our time in Australia was coming to an end. On 23rd January 1977 I played my last game of cricket in Australia.
Part 12 – Pages 112 – 116