Monday 14 August 2017

John Beckett

Very many of the Dreadnought Boys had quiet lives and little is known about them. Occasionally we do hear of them, and John James Beckett is a case in point.

From available records, we learn that John Beckett was born in 1910 in Bromley (South East London). He came out to Australia in 1928 on the Balranald, one of a group of 40 Dreadnought Boys. Two days out from Fremantle, on the 4th May he was paid £2.0.0 landing money, subsequently arriving in Sydney on 22nd May. He was one of the four boys sent to Wollongbar Research Farm near Lismore NSW.

That might have been the sum of it, but the late Hazel Holmes (nee Cresswell) of Ballina, remembered him, as Bertie Beckett.

Hazel wrote……

‘Bert Beckett was sent to Wollongbar Research station. He was not happy there and told people that the other boys nearly drowned him! It is most likely that he was “flushed” in an initiation ceremony and never in any real danger.

During the late 1920’s he made his way to Browns Plains (20 km south of Brisbane), where he met up with Charles Cresswell (Hazel’s father). He kept himself with casual labour, but the depression was hitting. The Cresswells were running a shop but with times hard and getting harder, Charles started making extra money from scrap metal. He hired Bert to help. Charles built a hut on the banks of the creek for Bert and another man. It was one room, with the doors hung in jam tins. The beds were each made from four forked sticks driven into the ground to give the shape of a single bed. Two long poles were stretched between them with open-ended corn sacks slipped on to them to form the bed base.

During 1936 to 1938, Bert worked in Ballina on the dredge SS Harrington, which Charles Cresswell was wrecking for scrap. They also scrapped the SS Wollongbar at Byron Bay.

From then until Christmas 1942, Bert and Charles travelled the road looking for scrap. Their searches took them all over the New England and North Coast areas of NSW.

In late 1942 the Cresswell family moved to Lismore, and lost touch with Bert Beckett who moved on. We heard that he never married and later went to Queensland, where he died in 1958.’