New Cumnock to New Zealand
Leaving New Cumnock, was a mix of excitement and sadness, excitement about starting our journey for New Zealand and joining Alex after being apart for a year and sadness at leaving my parents as we didn’t know if we would ever see them again.
My Mother and two friends traveled with me to Kilmarnock to meet up with Alex sister Nan who was going to New Zealand with me, we met up with her and her mother and some friends where we were to get the bus to London.
Saying goodbye and getting on the bus we were crying our eyes out, after picking up more passengers at Glasgow the driver came to get our tickets to London. There is some baggage going to New Zealand in the back of the bus he told us. We said it was ours.
We got off the bus in London not too far from the station we were told and as it was like the blind leading the blind decided to take a taxi to the station to catch the boat train to Tilbury.
After going through customs then to the ship, the first look at her was stunning, she was huge and like the experienced travelers we were [country bumpkins] we walked up the gangway on legs like jelly.
Were welcomed aboard by an officer then a steward escorted us to our wee two berth cabin. After we sailed we got lost every time we came out of our cabin, took us about a week to find where we were going and how to get back and to get our sea legs, I was violently sick for a couple of weeks.
First port of call was Gibraltar but unfortunately we didn’t get off as we were late leaving Tilbury due to fog and only stopped long enough to drop of and pick up mail.
On the 31st December we went ashore in Naples for quite a few hours, it was still badly damaged from the war but for all that it was interesting and we did a little shopping. No trouble about being over weight, baggage I mean, back on the ship all dressed up for the special dinner then later for a dance and party to bring in the New Year 1954. A great time was had by all.
In between ports of call there is always plenty to do on board ship, play deck games, swim sunbath, read [plenty of books in the library] or sit in one of the little bars and have a drink with other passengers. After dinner there is always films, concerts, dances or back in the bar having a chat and most likely a singsong. Port Said was a bit scary had to go off in groups as it was not safe otherwise and I can believe it with soldiers walking the streets with rifles over their shoulders and Arabs eyeing you up all the time. We didn’t stay off the ship long as it made us feel nervous.
Took a while to sail through the Suez Canal all you could see were sand dunes and more sand dunes they seemed so close to the ship. I kept looking for Lawrence of Arabia coming on his camel in his white robes but no such luck. Leaving Suez we then sailed through the red sea to Aden. Funny I don’t remember very much about this place so it couldn’t have been very interesting. Sailed from there across the Arabian sea to Colombo now known as Shri Lanka.
Seemed very colourful with all the women in their beautiful sari’s a group of us went by bus to Mount Lavinia out in the country some went swimming in the sea. I remember being asked to have my photo taken with snakes round my neck as you can imagine I took to my heels.
Over the Indian Ocean to Freemantle where we spent a good day wandering around looking at the different style of buildings as it was an early settlement dated from the early eighteen hundreds and of course the shops again, glad to get back on board as it was very hot.
Melbourne for two day’s could go off the ship whenever you wanted but back on for dinner. After leaving Melbourne the ship was searched for a passenger who was seen boarding but not after leaving port, she was never found don’t know what happened to her. It had been reported in the British papers.
Docked at circular quay in Sydney where Alex’ Aunt and Uncle were meeting us and stayed with them in Manly for the ten days when we were there. They have lived there for years.
Spent a day in Sydney touring and went swimming at the famous Bondi beach. Everything we did was all new and exciting.
On the 26th January we boarded the NZ Liner Monowai to Wellington NZ
Had dinner the first night then lay on our stomachs for the rest of the journey as we were seasick continually, the sea was very rough and I was never so glad to get on dry land again. From Wellington we had to get the 6pm overnight ferry, back on the water again, to Lyttleton in the South Island then a short ride to Christchurch to catch the Invercargill express which stopped at every station on the way down. First stop Ashburton, one hour later, “Are we there now?” “No just a couple of more stations to go” I was told. I asked Alex this every time the train stopped and I got the same answer, the last time I asked him seven hours later I got the same answer again, “You have been telling me this all day”. “Yes but I mean it this time, had I told you how long you were going to be on this train you might have turned back”.
We eventually arrived at 9pm after twelve hours of traveling by train.
Alex had a rented flat waiting for us and I was glad to get in and relax.
Invercargill was an old fashioned place with all old style wooden homes with some brick and roughcast houses, here and there. After the war there was a building boom going on and they couldn’t get houses up fast enough. Alex always had plenty of work though.
The flat we had, was the front half of a large wooden house and the owners lived in the back half, with very large rooms and high ceilings. Weather wise the summers were warm and winters were cold with heavy frosts and occasional snow, which didn’t lie long. Skiing was popular in both Islands.
Within the first week we had a job in a department store, customers kept asking me how long I had been out from Holland. The Dutch women and I were similar, being tall and fair, and with the accent the New Zealanders thought I was Dutch as well. I told some women I didn’t have an accent (to my own ears I don’t) they nearly fell over laughing.
We went to work on our new bicycles Alex bought us, very flash, the only trouble was the they had back peddling brakes. I always forgot about them and would be scrambling for them on my handlebars and by the time I remembered they were at my feet I was down on the ground. I remembered them after that.
Friday was late shopping with shops open until 9pm, then every thing closed till 9am Monday morning. We could go to the movies or a dance on Saturday. The weekend was dead. You could have fired a canon along the main Street and nobody would have known as no one was there. We made many new friends a mix of Scots, English, Irish, and New Zealanders. We made our own entertainment usually a party and had some really good times.
After three years we bought or own home.
The South Island is a beautiful part of the country with plenty of good rivers to fish in with Trout and Salmon. The lakes and mountains are spectacular. A good rainfall in the south makes the county side very green. Many Streets and rivers have Scottish names; Scottish societies and Pipe bands are throughout New Zealand. Invercargill formed the first pipe band in the southern hemisphere.
New Zealand had a population of only two and a half million when we arrived, with long distances to travel to get to the next city. Dunedin was the next one north of Invercargill about three and a half hours by car which were very old. We had a Bedford post and telegraph pickup truck then an American Terraplane and thought ourselves lucky to get them. To get a new one you had to go on a waiting list and it could take up to three years to get it and then you couldn’t sell it for two years. People would offer more money for it than what it cost you, but you couldn’t sell it for two years. Food was plenty, as it was all grown here but other things had to be imported and it was well into the sixties before thing eased up.
We were married on the 24th Of June 1954 in the church of Christ. It was extra special, as my beautiful wedding dress; veil and headpiece was a gift from my parents. It was also sad at times as I missed my family. I had many bouts of home sickness the first few years, I liked New Zealand but the only thing I regretted was how far away it was from home. I thought I had come to the ends of the world… oops I did come to the end of the world. Go any further and you start going back home the opposite way you came.
I eventually went back to Scotland for a holiday on the 8th Dec.1959 with my three children. I sailed with the NZ line the Rangatata. As the only grandchildren my parents had at the time we were home, they were spoiled. It was heartbreaking when we had to leave again. We came back to Invercargill and settled down, no more home sickness.
We left Invercargill in 1966 for Christchurch. In 2004 we celebrated our golden wedding in, with many of our old friends, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and all in all had a good life here in NZ.