Tommy’s story

It was while in Adelaide that I received a letter from Tommy saying that they had been approved for emigration and would be disembarking in Melbourne in April 1965. This decided me – it was time for me to travel further east.

All prospective migrants had to be examined to determine if they were fit and well with no serious medical complications. Tommy and Audrey were very lucky to pass.

Tommy recalled the situation:

“I am surprised now that I was not more apprehensive about the ‘Australia’ medical. I am a born optimist, which is my strength and weakness. Anyway, we had an appointment with the doctor who was not part of our National Health but employed by the Australian Government. He seemed very old to us young folk and maybe semi-retired. When he examined me and sounded my chest, he asked me a lot of questions about my TB background and then got his pen, wrote something on my forms and said ‘Australia is the place for you.’

Years later when I talked to my cousin Pauline, who also emigrated, she said: “Yes – the old bugger used to touch us girls up during his examinations!”

Tommy’s story continues:

“So, everything was in place and we just had to wait for a sailing date. Audrey’s sister Nancy and Ron and their five children were also on their way to Australia by this time. Audrey’s mam had decided to come with us, seeing as most of her family had gone. Harry and Francis had lived at his mam’s since they were married and we would take her to live with them in Australia.

“I was working with Bill and John at Park End housing estate when Audrey turned up pushing Barbara in her pram, bursting with the news that we would be sailing on the SS Orsova from Tilbury docks.

“By now Barbara was almost two years old and we were living with Mam and Dad in their semi-detached house in Brambles Farm. There was plenty of room as Raymond had left and Coral and Gordon were married and in their own house. This was good, because Audrey and I both worked to save extra money for our new life.

“During this time, after the medical but before our sailing date, I had been out one evening with Bill and John for a few pints and I was in bed laid on my back. Suddenly I started coughing and my mouth filled up. I went straight to the bathroom and vomited more than a full cup of bright red blood. I had a sputum specimen container that I was supposed to take back to the chest clinic with a sample and instead I filled it with this frightening red blood and the next morning took that to the chest clinic. They were a bit surprised and booked me into Poole Sanatorium, the same hospital that I attended as a child. I was there for some weeks and had several tests.

SS Orsova

“This was a good hospital and, for those who can remember, it was in the television Doctor Findlay’s territory. The hospital was built on an extensive estate donated by an Industrialist Mr Poole. It was a very modern building for its time. All the bedrooms and wards had lots of light with French doors leading out to a large continuous veranda that beds could be wheeled out on to get fresh air.         

“Of course, Australia House knew nothing of this and in due course we sailed. After we arrived in Melbourne, I haemorrhaged again a number of times. Once in Wattletree Road I had to stop the car and vomited up bright red blood. Mostly I have been well and hardly ever had time off work. So, we’ve been very lucky and I’m sure I would have had an early retirement if we had stayed in Middlesbrough.”

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