January 5 has particular meaning for me; it is the anniversary of my father's death. He died in 1967 which is a while ago now. I always felt that I didn't really know my father that well because up to the age of 15 (when he died) I had never really talked to him at great length about his early life. Those missed opportunities over those 15 years to talk about him, have occasionally plagued me over the years. I wrote about my dad's final illness in this post. (Sorry I always seem to be linking back to that same post, but I guess so much happened in that decade ) Let's fast forward to January 2008...
DH had had to go to Canberra (the national capital) for work and because I was working .8 again that year, I joined him on the Thursday night. DH suggested that on the Friday, while he worked, that I should go to the National Archives and see if I could find some records of my dad's migration to Australia. I was a bit hesitant as I felt that I had little detail to give them to start the search. However on Friday morning I fronted up to the enquiry desk at the NAA building. The lady behind the desk was so helpful and encouraging...she said I would probably be surprised at how much I did know. I said that I think he was 16 when he arrived so I thought he may have arrived in 1925 but I had no idea of the ship or which port.
Her fingers seemed to fly over the keyboard and within a matter of minutes she had found my dad and told me he had disembarked in Brisbane in March 1925 and the ship was the Regina D'Italia. I just stared at her in amazement...and then burst into tears because of the emotion of the moment! The archivist then took me to the microfiche 'room' and hepled me load the machine and then find my dad's name on the ship's manifest. She then said that the details on the other file showed there was another document available which I could order as it wasn't scanned and put into the public domain at that time. I organised for that document to be sent to me, not having a clue what it would be.
|My dad and his brother|
|The cane has been cut! Dad is third from the left|
|The boys have got the knives ready to cut; dad is third from the right|
My dad came to join his older brother who was already in Australia cutting cane in the Innisfail district of Queensland. My dad used to tell the story that when he arrived he was too young to join the canecutting gangs so my uncle and his mates 'hid' him in their barracks' accomodation and he did the cleaning etc to earn his keep. Then when he was 17 he started cutting cane. His stories used to make it sound such fun...but as I got older and read about those days, I realised that it was a hard life and immigrants also ran the gauntlet of racial intolerance as well. But I guess my dad wasn't afraid of hard work and he did seem to enjoy his years in the cane districts.
|Dad on the right; note the swimsuits! The building in the background is the 'castle' in Paronella park in Nth Qld circa 1930s|
|Dad and his first wife Vera|
|Dad in his early 40s when I was born|