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(October 1998) [Printed in "Reality Module No.6."]
A Little Family History
*David Cummer wrote an article about family history in his fanzine "Everyday Practical Desperation." It was so interesting, I was moved to quiz my mother.
My mother was born Anne Rosalind O'Flynn at 61 Queen Street, Dublin, in 1924. She was the eldest girl in a family of eight children (her brother William died of complications from measles at 2½), growing up in near poverty. She left school at 14 and took up a job weaving sheets (which she hated) to provide money to help support the family.
Mum's dad was a shoemaker - he was skilled but he had poor health. His partner used to do a lot of work for people "on the tick" and the business lost a lot of money. Mum's mum worked very hard cleaning well-to-do people's houses for 2s 6d a day.
In 1943 Mum was recruited by GEC and moved to Birmingham, England, where she undertook armature winding for bomb-sights and later on worked on search-lights for the war effort. (She was in Birmingham during the blitz, and told me that "rationing was dreadful.")
She paid £10 in 1949 and emigrated to Australia on the SS Georgic from Liverpool. (There were 2010 people on the ship. 500 children were stricken with measles.) The trip took a month - without a stopover. (There was some trouble at the Suez Canal preventing that.) Mum told me they had a 'Crossing The Line Ceremony' with King Neptune when they crossed the Equator. There were dances, and 'Housie Housie' (Bingo) every night - which put mum off Bingo for life!
Job recruiters came on board ship when it reached Australia - lots of firms were looking for workers, and mum was able to start the next Monday weaving carpets in a factory in Tottenham (near Footscray).
My dad, Frederick Green, was born at 22 Ruth Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1924. He was apprenticed to Harland & Wolff (the firm which had built the Titanic), and spent the war as a ship's plater helping build battleships. (It was a "restricted industry" - they wouldn't let him off to join the airforce.)
My dad paid his £10 in 1949 too, and came out to Australia on the Empire Brent. (The Captain died at sea.)
My mother was staying with a friend from Northern Ireland in Melbourne, and first met my dad at a "Welcome to Australia" party later in 1949. My dad proposed to my mum after he'd known her for 3½ weeks - "How romantic!" was her ironic response, and she turned him down the first time. (There was also a Scotsman eyeing mum at the time. He'd arranged to met her at Flinders Street Station, but when she saw from the train that he was standing on the platform in full regalia, kilt and all, she was too embarrassed to be seen with him!)
Mum finally accepted dad's proposal many months later, after he'd said he was planning to go to Tasmania with his mate to accept a job on an engineering project - and this was her last chance!
My parents got married at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1951. (There was a small congregation.)
My dad had a variety of industrial jobs, finally ending up down in Gippsland where he worked at the paper mill, the Gas and Fuel, and finally as a boiler-maker at the SEC for 25 years. (Before it was privatised.)
My sister Deirdre was born in 1952, and Maureen was born in 1956. I didn't arrive until 1963.
My father died in 1987. I still miss him sometimes.
My mum thinks it highly ironic that she'd travelled 12,000 miles to the other side of the world - and ended up marrying an Irishman! (From the "Black North" as it was referred to in the South. There doesn't seem to have been much concern amongst both sets of Irish relatives that my father had been an Orange man and my mother was a Catholic girl.)
My parents didn't return to Ireland until 1970 - when passenger jetplanes had been invented. They took me along.
Copyright © 1998 by Michael F. Green. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: 29 August 2006