It had just started to rain as we walked up the steps of the old Methodist Church Hall. Once inside we looked for a spot where there were enough seats together. Four young men and their partners sat down and waited for the meeting to begin.

The information event had been organized by the West Australian State Government, who were keen to enrol prospective migrants. I had encouraged the rest of my friends to come along. I was keen to see a bit of the wider world before the inevitability of settling down. Most of my older workmates had little experience of travel and had been employed by one firm for many years. I was worried that if I didn’t make a move, I would be sentenced to the same fate of being stuck in the same job all my life. I had often talked to my girlfriend about my plans and she seemed keen to join me.

Many of the other people in the room were families who were planning to emigrate. Most of the evening was taken up with promotional films about the good life in Australia. Sun, surf and how a hard-working migrant could soon make his fortune cutting cane or digging mallee roots, then go to the beach after work. It all looked so easy, in fact it looked too good to be true – and it was! It was quite a misleading depiction of life in Australia. None of this promotion affected me. As a single man, I had no family to be responsible for. I was in it for the adventure.

After the meeting, Gordon and I took the application forms. Gordon and Glenice were keen to try their luck. My girlfriend was a bit more reticent and said that she would think about it and maybe follow later.

Mam and Dad were distraught. They expected me to live at home until I got married. Single people only left home if there were underlying family problems. It was like a slur on their character.

“I’m not going for good. I just want to see a bit of the world before I settle down. I’ll be back in two years.”

“And what about your girl?” Mam queried.

“She doesn’t like the idea, but she knows I’m desperate to go,” I replied.

Gordon and Glenice had decided to get married and they applied to go to Australia at the same time as I did. Shortly before we left, I was the best man at their wedding.

The night of my departure the weather was miserable and cold. The snow was once again falling and was starting to build up on the already icy roads. I climbed the stairs for the last time to say goodbye to Dad as he lay sick in bed. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

Mam, Coral, Ronnie, Tommy and a heavily pregnant Audrey were there on the windswept platform of Middlesbrough station to see me off. The families of Gordon and Glenice were there also, saying their tearful goodbyes. After long hugs, kisses and tears, we boarded the train for London.

Connie Francis – ‘Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You’  1962
Darling please don’t hurt me
Please don’t make me cry
I don’t know what I’d do
If you’d ever say goodbye

Next: Leaving home

Previous: The Officers’ Ball