Didn’t that open a can of worms! The ship upon which my family travelled to Australia as ten pound poms was called Aurelia. Yep, sometime in September in 1968, The brood from Cheshire arrived in Southhampton for the journey of a lifetime. Mum 34, Dad 36, me 11, HippyBro, 9, Babybro 7 and Babysis 2.
We were very impressed with the ship until we realised that it was in fact the P & O Fairstar that actually had us agape and agasp, complete with white linen, floral displays in the dining room and full fare paying passengers.
Notice three rows of portholes below deck?
We were to follow her fablious giganticness across the globe wishing it was us on her lofty decks instead of squished on the tiny Aurelia creeping demurely behind her at every port. No flowers on our white tablecloths - I can't even remember if there were table cloths! It was an Italian owned and run ship but originally made in Germany and named the Huscaran and after just one voyage was seconded by the German Navy and saw service as a troop transport, armament freighter then sub marine depot and was eventually captured by the allies in 1945! Far Canal! She was refitted in Liverpool in to carry 775 passengers and Sold to Pacific Canadian. She became a Beverbrae . . .seriously she brought refugees from Bremen to Canada and freight from Canada back to Europe. In 1954 she was sold to Cogedar Line and renamed Aurelia. She was rebuilt for emigrant service to accommodate 1,244 passengers with the sole purpose of supporting emigration originally from Italy and eventually from England. She re-measured at 10,022 GRT. Her first voyage was from Trieste to Sydney. Incidentally carrying the mother of a girl I was to meet in 1995 and eventually write a 50th birthday speech which is how I found out about the Aurelia connection.
Notice one row of portholes below deck?
Later incarnations saw her reborn as a Mediterranean cruise liner, for 177 passengers (now you get the picture of how many people were on this little ship!) Romanza and then Romantica – she even survived an engine fire and was eventually taken to Alexandria in 1997 for scrap. Quite a life the old girl had!
We all have differing memories of the six week sojourn having never been on a ‘cruise’ before, we had no expectations . Families were split into different cabins. I don’t really know why. Mum, Babysis and I were in one cabin to ourselves. Dad, BabyBro and HippyBro shared with Alain Fageurey and a non-English speaking Spaniard called Christian. All BabyBro remembers is the Spaniard forcing him to smoke Gitanes or some other strong French cigarette and being locked out for periods of time while Alain entertained the ladies.
Babysis remembers the p urser. He would approach with arms waving as if about to shout out a warning and kiss her spaghetti smeared face, pinch her cheeks and announce to everyone in a bellowing voice “Ciao bella . . wanna day I’ma gonna eata that kid!” He never seemed to tire of kissing this disgustingly sauced (literally) two year old or pinching her chubby cheeks. She was a poppet of a kid with short-cropped, dead straight, blonde hair and massive brown eyes. He loved her.
My memories are of a pungent odour near the galley, attending school for a few hours each day, colouring in Australian native animals and learning the words to Waltzing Matilda. This was apparently introducing Aussie culture to the foreigners . . . we Poms had been exposed to Rolf Harris and Skippy and knew all about Australia.
I remember everyone being so ill that the place was deserted crossing the Bay of Biscay other than the brave souls who believed that rising and falling with the storm waves would help them acclimatise before hurling their breakfast over the side. We were all incredibly sick for four days.
I was very disgruntled at almost being a grown up and forced to eat at children’s sittings which comprised invariably of spaghetti bolognaise and ice cream for dessert and cups of incredibly weak tea with powdered milk sachets. In fact a quick round-table at our family lunch the other day, revealed that we did indeed eat little else than spag bol for six weeks. None of us could remember breakfast or lunch.
There were parties, dressups, crossing the equator shenanigins and fun. . . all it seemed, for people a little younger than my parents or a little older than me. There were movies, and play centres, and a teeny weeny swimming pool . .it wasn’t a large boat. And I had a pair of blue buckle shoes with a kitten heel that matched the colour of the ocean and I saw my first albatross and sea lions – I loved those shoes.
I remember Las Palmas where I celebrated my birthday and received a pretty Spanish fan. I remember a disgusting birthday cake which, instead of frosting, was spread with coffee flavoured butter and a sprinkling of icing sugar. I remember the NO Blacks signs in Capetown where we had a wonderful milk shakes with fresh milk (only powdered for the peasants) and I remember having afternoon Tea in Kings Park in Perth . . more toasted sandwiches and thinking that this place wasn’t so bad after all!
Because it involves water flowing and change and how my father must have felt and I just like it!