1950 – Migration

This is a description of the journey when I migrated from England to Australia in 1950

Our human family had not increased when mum and dad took what I consider to have been a most courageous decision to emigrate to Australia, where they hoped their sons would have better future life opportunities.

A Document of Identity in lieu of a passport was issued to dad for travel to Australia as an approved migrant accompanied by mum and their two children, myself included.

So, late in 1950, we sailed from Liverpool on the MV Cheshire, a ship which had seen service as a troop transport in World War II and, later, was to be used in a similar role during the Korean War.

MV Cheshire

So, for around five weeks, my home was on the seas. We travelled south past France and Spain, with a majority of the passengers including me being horribly seasick for the first several days. The ship had no stabilisers, so it rolled horribly in the waves. Then we went past Gibraltar and through the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea to Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), and across the Indian Ocean to Australia.

My memories of life on board are again fragile. I know that dad, Alan and myself were in a cabin with five other men, whilst mum was elsewhere with a group of women. I also know that the children were given bread and jam as a treat each day. We rushed to line up for ours then took them to mum and dad so they could have them, before returning to the queue for a second time.

On board the MC Cheshire

We stopped at Port Said (Egypt), where locals in small boats rowed out to our ship and plied their wares of fresh fruit. Purchases were hauled up in baskets that were then lowered back down empty. As we passed through the Suez Canal, we passed a ship going the other way, and some of its passengers were disgruntled British people who had tried Australia and called out to us that we were making a mistake.

We stopped again in Aden (Yemen).

At Aden
Dad, mum, Alan and me at Aden

We also stopped at Colombo (Ceylon) and took a short land trip south of there to Mount Lavinia.

Ead, mum, Alan and me at Mount Lavinia
Mum (back, far right). Me and Alan (front, far right) at Mt Lavinia

When we crossed the equator there was a fun ceremony to mark that. On other occasions we wore fancy dress for events that brightened the journey.

Alan in “fancy dress”

After completing our crossing of the Indian Ocean, our first Australian port was Fremantle. Some people, including friends mum and dad had made on board, disembarked at Fremantle to begin their new lives in Western Australia.

Our destination was Melbourne, which we reached on the fourteenth of December. We were greeted by a wild storm which almost prevented the tugs from getting us to the wharf. As a result, we – and the rest of the Melbourne-bound British migrants still on board – did not disembark until the morning of the fifteenth. Some continued on to Sydney.

Melbourne’s Sun newspaper told the story on page 2 of the tugs’ difficult task:

The passenger lists held by the National Archives of Australia show the four of us. They also show the four members of the Pfur family, with whom we remained in contact for many years:

After disembarking, we were met by my aunt Mary & uncle Tom and cousins David & Margaret, and by Tony Wilson – a member of the family that was to be mum and dad’s employers and who had sponsored us as assisted passage migrants.

Met at Port Melbourne. Back- Uncle Tom, Mum Eileen, Aunt Mary, Dad Jim. Front- cousins David and Margaret, Alan and me.

We were driven by Tony what seemed an incredible distance in the Wilson’s Armstrong-Siddeley utility to our new home on their property of Bundoran, near Glenthompson and Dunkeld in the Western Districts of Victoria. That was all the more remarkable for me, as I had always suffered travel sickness even on London buses with mum breaking journeys into two so that I could have some time not moving before boarding a second bus.

Before settling into this new home and jobs we were to spend a short period, including Christmas of 1950, with dad’s sister, Mary Brown, and her family on another property in nearby Victoria Valley, in the Grampian Mountains. Aunty Mary and Uncle Tom, plus cousins David and Margaret, had themselves migrated in 1949, having in turn been enticed to join Tom’s brother Charles, who had come to work with the Methodist Church and had become its Minister at Dunkeld.

One of the things I brought with me from England was a copy of “Bobby Bear’s Annual” – a book given to me by the Browns inscribed “With love and best wishes to dear Brian from Uncle Tom, Auntie Mary, David and Margaret. Dec. 1949. Just as we were leaving on ‘SS Raneli’ for Australia”. Minus its front hard cover, that book remains in my possession.

Not too many years later, although I don’t remember the date, I received another bible. It was a gift from a grandmother, but the inscription is in my mother’s handwriting – not doubt because she would have purchased it in Australia on behalf of grandma nanny still living in England.

And, so, my new life in Australia began.


5 thoughts on “1950 – Migration

  1. Pingback: My Family’s Migrant Experience | brianropephotography

  2. Jan says:

    I too was a child on this journey of the Cheshire. I had just turned 8. We disembarked in Brisbane.
    I remember the big African Staff men who looked after us kids, and were so very nurturing.
    I remember the bread and butter treats.
    And FRUIT.
    And playing pirates on the bow of the ship.
    And the storms.
    And the fire caused by terrorists climbing into the kitchen in Suez during a stop whilst traders in boats sold artefacts to the passengers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian Rope says:

      Oh wow. That’s amazing Jan. Your memories are better than mine, but I do remember the bread and butter treats and fruit. And the traders selling artefacts to the passengers. Thank you for responding to my blog piece.


  3. Jan says:

    Hello Dear Brian,
    I was also on this adventure and probably played pirates with you on the front deck.

    You have shared our precious memories and I thank you.

    I had turned 8years old in September 1950. I brought The Girls Own Annual which had been my birthday present before we left England.

    My family travelled to Brisbane by train through the night in ornate carriages and we felt overwhelmed and helpless. My dad sold his watch when we disembarked in Melbourne to give us some cash.

    We settled down in Lutwych in Brisbane and it was a bumpy start.

    But I am eighty now. It has been a great life in Australia and I thank my parents for leaving all they knew for a chance at a better life.

    Very best wishes. Jan


  4. Brian Rope says:

    Hello Jan. I tried to respond to you earlier today using my phone but after typing a message it disappeared – I suspect the internet connection was poor where I was at the time – in a hospital cafe waiting whilst my wife attended a hydrotherapy session there. So, here goes again – this time from my computer and my reliable home internet.

    How lovely to hear from you again. Yes, no doubt we did play pirates together! That must have been a horrendous train journey for you from Melbourne to Brisbane. Like you, I have always been forever grateful to my mum and dad for their courageous decision to come to Australia to give my brother Alan and myself a better future. And like you again, I have had a wonderful life here.

    And again like you, I am 80 – will be 81 on 3 March. Alan will be 80 on 9 June this year. So we are all in the same general age area. If you’d be interested in contacting me directly, my email address is and my phone number is 0429681178.

    My very best wishes, Brian


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