Monday, 8 February 2010

Genes reunited

In the migration museum of Adelaide, there is a verse by Mary Thomas, an emigrant in the 1800s:

Yes, England, I have fled from thee
Fast fades thy beauteous shore
then flow my tears, for I shall see
my native land no more

In 1964, my father's brother took advantage of the assisted passage scheme and left Somerset for the heat of Adelaide, South Australia, as a Ten Pound Pom.

He has returned several times since - for holidays - and the last time I saw him was twelve years ago. It is a hugely emotional experience for me to meet him and his family on the other side of the world.

He walks out on to the pavement from his front door and playfully asks: 'Who's this then?'

I hug him. I can feel the tears running down my cheeks. After 45 years or more, he hasn't lost that lovely and soft Westcountry burr.

He tells me about my grandfather, who was an ANZAC and fought at Gallipoli in the First World War. He tells me about my great uncle, who left in the 1920s and never came back. He tells me about my great uncle's farm I hope to find in New South Wales. He recalls how the house wasn't finished when Uncle Jim moved in. On the first floor, the walls hadn't been put in and you could look from room to room. Jim never finished it either, but he built up a fine farm of 4,000 acres with cattle, horses and dogs. Lots of dogs.

'They used to sit underneath the house to keep cool,' my cousin recalls. 'There were loads of them.'

When Jim left for Australia, he begged his Somerset sweetheart to join him.

'He offered to pay for her to come out but her mother said he'd have to go back and get her,' my uncle recalls.

Both of them grew old and single on opposite sides of the world.

I think of Jim and his lost love as I stay with my extended family (and Jim's) here in Australia. It is a story of loss and regret and what-might-have-been. I hope I can find some remnants of his life here.

Our next stop is Sydney - Bondi Beach to be precise - where an old friend lives with her husband and son. We move on tomorrow from Adelaide, where we have been so welcomed by my family and their friends.

Until then, here's a photo of Jim's great-great-nieces. More photos later.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

1 comment:

  1. What an experience you are having. My Dad had us all set to go when I was 10 years old. We were to be Ten Pound Poms. My mother's bottle went within 3 weeks of our departure so my Dad caved and we stayed in England. I often wonder how our lives would have turned out.
    Keep posting more stories. And pictures, pictures, pictures.


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