MY MEMORIES OF SHAKESPEARE COTTAGE AT FAIRBRIDGE

 

Arriving at Fairbridge in 1953 was an overwhelming experience. My brothers were put into a separate cottage from me, shoes were taken off, all personal belongings taken away. With my mother in london working 3 jobs my oldest brother being 8-10 years old was left to look after us. As you can imagine having him being separated was so sad. The roads were of gravel, our poor feet suffered many a stubbed toe. One could always pick out the new arrivals by the way they hobbled on the stones to walk. Our legs were fully plastered up because of the mozzie bites. I can tell you it was no mean feat taking it off in a bath on cold water – the screams never leave you. We walked on separate roads from our brothers – the girls on the top road. We worked before school, after school and if you were on kitchen duty you would have to get up at Sam, summer and winter, light the wood stove and make sure you had the kettle boiling to bring the cottage mother a cup of tea. Woe betide you if due to wet wood, there were tea leaves floating on top of the cup. Punishment meant any of the privileges we had were taken away and we had to work longer in the kitchen. WE were not allowed to go to the toilet after 7pm at night and often she would use the stick on us. Our cottage mother was a spinster from England and she had to be the most heartless woman you could find, she would never eat from our plates, cups and cutlery calling us “we were little gutter snipes”. We were never allowed to sit on the lounges as they were for her; we sat on the floor, standing up just long enough to brush he grey locks. I could not put into print many of the personal hygiene things she made us do or not let us do. She scared the living daylights out of us. A few presents that were sent out to us from my mother were immediately taken from us and were sent to her nieces in England. There are so many unkind things she did to us girls that one of our older

girls in our cottage became very friendly with the then headmaster or principal, Mr Allan’ daughter telling her all the things she did to us. The cottage mother was immediately given the sack. I was fifteen and a half so I had endured her since I was eight and a half years. Those last 6 months at the farm were the happiest of my childhood. The day came when I reached 16 and was taken to Perth to buy a few clothes and a small suitcase to begin my life on my own. On my last night I remember having dinner at Mr Allan’s house and not being able to touch a mouthful. The next morning the deputy head, Mr Brayne took me by car to Mt Barker to work as a domestic. I cried all the way down with my head turned towards the side window. I was so frightened to leave alii knew and to be alone and not know how to buy a bottle of milk let alone have any social skills.

I left my 2 siblings at the farm and with my first 2 or 3 pays bought them each some thongs

to wear and my younger brother says to this day how proud he was to have something on

his feet.

We were totally unprepared for the outside life with not having anyone to go to. Fairbridge

was so isolated and we were treated without love or compassion, never knowing what to

tell people about our lives. We were ashamed and self blaming. Thanks Margaret

Humphreys for giving us a label as child migrants.

At least we were something.