Canberra in Lockdown and from Africa to Australia..

Ken the local gardener extraordinaire has made this garden (called 5 ways)

Canberra has been in Lockdown for over two months now and there are just one or two highlights every day that keep us afloat. We are allowed a daily walk, and fortunately there are many paths and bush trails near us…

This huge dead Eucalyptus tree remains to provide habitat for birds who nest in hollows.

and lots of gardens to look at along the way.

Even in the middle of winter, it is lovely to get outside and walk around. Another daily highlight is buying a take-away coffee at our local café. It’s the small pleasures that count.

The Brindabella Mountains around us are a deep blue hue in winter and early spring. Even with our mandatory masks on, the clear mountain air is a tonic.

Almost everyone I know has become a bit more reflective in Lockdown, we all appreciate family, friends and neighbours now that we cannot spend time with them. People need people!

During this time I have been putting together some of my family history. ..and not for the first time I’m reminded of my family’s good fortune in emigrating to Australia.

It has taken three generations for my family to find a place to call home, and how lucky we are to live in Australia.

My father was born in Scotland of Irish parents…amongst his many stories he talked about hiking in the mountains of Scotland ….

Hiking in Scotland 1937

I’m sure he would have loved to spend his life in the wide open spaces, which he always loved, but earning a living was the most important thing to do and he applied for and got an apprenticeship on the Clyde River in Glasgow.

My father and his brother decided to emigrate to Africa, for work, and in my father’s case, for adventure. As they boarded the ship, my grandmother stood on the dock, and said

“I wish you were all wee again”.

It was only when I was a mother myself that I realised the poignancy of that remark, he thought he was off for an adventure, but she knew the truth. Both her sons left for a better life and she never saw them again.

My mother was born in Ireland, and brought up in South Africa.

Her father and mother left Belfast and ”the troubles” only to find life in their new continent just as difficult.

My mother became a nurse, and she and my father moved to what was then Northern Rhodesia, and is now Zambia.

My mother (left) was never happier than when she was nursing .( 1941)

Although my parents had excellent skills to survive in a new country, my father had always wanted to be a farmer, and so they accepted a job of farming and care-taking a farm in a remote part of Zambia called Abercorn. In the way of new migrants, my aunt and uncle came to stay on the farm as well, and all their skills together, kept them afloat.

My mother sitting in the front with my two brothers and my cousin and uncle. My father on the top step on the left. My aunt and my cousin leaning over the balcony.

My older brothers and my parents loved this time of their lives, despite the trials and tribulations. The stories they told were wonderful, and I feel I missed out on something special.

However, the remote farm was a precarious long term prospect, and my father and my uncle were able to get work in one of a cluster of copper mines in Zambia.

I was born in the small mining town of Mufulira. My brothers and I had a happy childhood in this town, but, over time, there were tensions as Zambia struggled for independence. It was our temporary home.

The Malcolm Watson Hospital in Mufulira, where I was born.

Eventually, at the difficult age of 55, my parents made the decision and we left Africa for Australia. I was eighteen and my brothers were in their early twenties. We had a clean slate and a future full of possibilities in Australia.

My brother and I on the ferry enjoying Sydney Harbour. The Opera House only half built!

It was more difficult for my parents. They left behind relatives and friends, people who had the same experiences and interests as themselves. Just as many migrant children have done, we became the bridge between our parents and the new country. At an age when we were leaving the family home, we were helping them make a home. We worried about them, often without realising how resilient they were.

My mother and father and I getting to know the coastline around Sydney Harbour.

When I married, it was to a 5th generation Australian. (although Paul’s ancestors are Irish too!) I was glad to know that my children had ancestors, not only from all over the world, but also in the country of their birth. Our daughters have a natural sense of belonging in Australia, they wear their nationality with ease.

What could be more Australian than going to the Australian Open Tennis Tournament in the summer holidays?

The initial struggle to live in a new country was successful for my parents. They came to love Australia, and over the years they appreciated the landscape, the Australian humour, and the uncomplicated way of life.

This photo was taken not long before they died. They were very proud of their home and garden .

They loved their big garden, and filled it with mango, avocado and many failed attempts at pawpaw trees. Many years later, although the house and garden have long been sold, the avocado trees survive…. which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good avocado tree down!

Brindabella Mountains

Lockdown is almost over in Canberra, and we will, very tentatively, begin moving around, and seeing family and friends again.

Best wishes to everyone and stay safe and sensible!

16 Replies to “Canberra in Lockdown and from Africa to Australia..”

  1. Your story of how you came to be in Australia was very interesting. It was good to see the photographs which illustrated the story.

    1. Thanks Susan, I really enjoyed looking through all the old photos, I agree you need them to illustrate the story…and the photos take you back in time.

  2. What a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, Geraldine. I have a similar photo of my Dad hiking in Scotland …. I wonder if I could find it???? I think we have both been blessed to be able to experience two such spectacular countries to live in.

    1. Yes, I agree! I had a lot more photos of Africa, but I couldn’t put them all in. Your Dad was probably taking the photo of my Dad hiking!

    1. Thanks Dina glad you liked my family story. I agree, Lockdowns get old fast, and I think this time round, no one in Australia would want to do another one!

  3. Yes, such a fascinating post! So poignant. As a mother, I feel for your grandmother, who never saw her sons again. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. Wonderful photos, too. I really enjoyed seeing pictures of you and your family. Hope the lockdown ends as planned.

    1. Thanks Laurie, I felt quite teary writing about my grandmother waving goodbye to her sons. Families had to make tremendous personal sacrifices for their future children to have a good future.

  4. You made my day, seriously, with this post. It is such a wonderful account of your family including such good memories and a record of how hard our parents, grandparents, and beyond worked to pave the way for us. You have some wonderful photos that I know must make you smile. Your daughters are very lucky to come from such a solid line of ancestors. Congrats on getting through the lockdown. Our numbers are still way too high. Personally, we’ve had our two shots and the booster and choose to still wear a mask when in public places even though many times we are the only ones. It makes me think of the old saying – better safe than sorry.

    1. Thanks Judy, yes, researching family history really puts our lives in perspective, many of my ancestors died of TB too, so between illness and general survival their lives were so much tougher than ours (even with a pandemic).
      I agree we will continue wearing masks and being cautious!

  5. I absolutely loved this post. What a rich family history of adaptability and resilience. I’m also impressed with everyone’s discipline in following a two-month lockdown. I can’t imagine that happening here.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Brenda, it was nice to be able to share our family story. I don’t think Australians would take many more Lockdowns, they worked well for a while. Melbourne has had more Lockdowns in the last 18 months than any other city in the world! Now protests have begun in the big cities. Fortunately we have a high vaccination rate now.
      Best wishes for your weaving projects for the winter.

  6. It captures and brings to life those bits of family history that can so easily slide away and be forgotten. Without the backstory old photos lose their significance.
    I think the only picture of my father in NZ was his graduating class from engineering at University. And that is where now?

    1. Yes, I agree, photos tell the story, and the backstory, and as you say, the history can easily slide away and be forgotten.

      Thanks for the comment, I hope all goes well in Cape Town.

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