Wednesday 26 July 2017

They Passed This Way

This plaque is located in Kendall Lane on the corner with Argyle Street, The Rocks, in Sydney. Unveiled in 1984, it commemorates the Dreadnought Scheme and the Dreadnought Boys who passed that way. Nearly all the 7,500 boys would have come along Argyle Street, from their ship, while on their way to find out about their destination – for farm training or direct to rural employment.

(The plaque mentions 5595 boys, but those who came before World War 1 need to be added to this number.)

Have a look for it next time you are in The Rocks area of Sydney!

Monday 24 July 2017

Jack Simpson

John (“Jack”) Simpson was one of the quiet ones. In a taped interview called How I spent my first £12, he talked about his coming to this country, and the following has been put together from the transcript of that interview……….

Unemployed in Liverpool, and after wasting time tramping up and down the wharves looking for work, along the main street Jack saw a sign “Join the Army”. He tried, but being still only 17 years of age, he was knocked back. Then further along the main street there was another sign, from the Liverpool Education Committee, “Join the World – Go to Canada or See Australia.” As Jack puts it ‘I went and saw the Liverpool education people……….I passed my medical……we got in…..they told me we were going to Australia – Your choice, OK? They sent me to a hostel where we used to go out every day to a farm, and learn the rudiments of farm life. Then all of a sudden we are going to Australia, cost £12. We are going on Christmas Eve……..from Southampton.’

Jack Simpson left England on 24 December 1928 on the Largs Bay, one of the Aberdeen Commonwealth Line ships. ‘I made friends with other boys on the boat and we had a wonderful trip! We sailed across the Bay of Biscay… was like a pancake. Down the Mediterranean into the Suez Canal to Colombo and down the Indian Ocean to Aussie. But the Great Australian Bight was rough as bags, the boys were nearly all sea-sick.’ For much of the trip, Jack was plagued with tooth-ache, but found it was useful to have his bible (his deck of cards) with him. Prior to reaching Fremantle the boys were each paid £2 landing money. 

The Largs Bay arrived in Sydney at 9pm on 4th March 1929, and the next morning they disembarked. ‘We landed and had to climb up and over the approach to the new Harbour Bridge, and then went to the Department of Labour and Industry. We went in there, we were all sat around and introduced to a big brass boss…… He said Where does everyone want to go? That was where the fun started because nobody knew where they were going!’
Then Jack spoke up ‘I have information that my father was married to a girl, his second wife, who came from Cardiff, and her brothers lived at place called Cedar Point.’ The response was immediate, Wonderful information, that’s the kind of thing we want. Now we will get the map out and find out where Cedar Point is. This was done and showed that Wollongbar was the nearest training place, and another seven boys were picked to go with Jack.

Jack says ‘We didn’t know we were blessed, we went up North and got a wonderful place at Wollongbar Experimental Farm.’
After training, Jack Simpson was placed on a farm out between Lismore and Cedar Point. He lived in Tweed and Gold Coast areas for many years, and passed away on 5th January 2009, aged 97 years.