Re-connecting

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I think my first real link with Australia was in the 1960s when Dorothy Mitchell came to stay with us in Glasgow.  Dorothy is my mum’s cousin but her family had left Scotland for Australia in 1950 on the Ten Pound Emigration Scheme.  Dorothy was only about six years old at the time. My mother was about 17 and she recalls the day the family left Glasgow.

I remember very clearly as though it was just yesterday, the day we all gathered in the Central Station in Glasgow to see the whole family off on the start of their journey to Australia, a six weeks hazardous sea journey.  It was a very emotional time for all the family.  Uncle Harry played the bag pipes and everyone around us was saying their goodbyes to their families in tears, especially when “Will ye no come back again” was played.  I will never forget that day.

Uncle Harry002

Uncle Harry

Dorothy returned to Scotland for a working holiday when she was about twenty but her parents never saw home or family again.  She stayed with my Great Gran Chapman (who, Dorothy told me recently, used to sing hymns at the top of her voice all day long) and other members of our family.   She spent a couple of nights with us.  My memory of Dorothy then was of a tall, slim, pretty girl with long hair and a funny accent and, although I was probably only about seven years old at the time, I never forgot her.

Dorothy and Gt Gran Chapman

Dorothy with Gt Gran Chapman, while on holiday in Scotland

After Dorothy returned to Australia, the family lost touch.

In 1979, I came to Australia on a working holiday and ended up settling in Sydney then Perth.  I often wondered where Dorothy and her family lived but I never thought to ask my mum.

Last year my son, Kyran, and his partner, Vanessa, moved to Melbourne from Darwin to settle and have their baby (my first grandchild, Tommy).  During a conversation, my mum said to Kyran “look out for any Mitchells in Melbourne because they are family”.  I was confused when he mentioned this to me and I asked my mum about it in an email.  This was her reply –

My mum’s sister, Aunt Nan, married Billy Mitchell who was in the Merchant Navy, a very handsome young man.  They had three children – Billy, Dorothy and David.  You may have been too young to remember Dorothy who came over to Scotland.  She stayed with Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary and worked beside them for a while. Dorothy came to see us and Dad and I were decorating the lounge.  She was fascinated with us putting up wallpaper as they only painted their homes, because of the heat, in Australia.  They were billeted to Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. 

Mum had no idea what happened to the family and did not know Dorothy’s name if she had married.  She was disappointed when I told her there were thousands of Mitchells in Victoria.

Gran & Granpa Brown, Nan and Billy

Aunt Nan (front, left) with Uncle Billy (back, right) with my grandparents and Gt Gran Chapman (front, centre)

Aunt Nan, David

Aunt Nan with David

The Mitchells

The Mitchells

However, it planted a seed.  I was going to visit my new grandson a few weeks later.  How wonderful if I could find Dorothy.  But where to start looking?

I went straight to my family tree.  Ah, so that is where Aunt Nan fits into the picture!  That is who Dorothy is!  A few more pieces of the jigsaw slot into place.

I started at the beginning.  It took a while but I finally found the passenger list for the Mitchells leaving the United Kingdom and arriving in Melbourne in 1950.  From there I was able to find out that Dorothy (Dorothea actually) had married a Phillip Tocknell.  Luck was on my side.  Tocknell is quite an unusual name and I discovered an old newsletter online from a rotary club which mentioned both of them.  I wrote to the secretary of the club of the time, whose email address was on the newsletter, and asked to be put in touch with Dorothy.  A week later, I heard from her.

Dorothy

Mitchells

Dorothy and Phillip visited us at my son’s house.  They live close-by!  Kyran, Vanessa, Tommy and my daughter, Tayler, were also there.  Kyran was thrilled to introduce Dorothy to Tommy, her third cousin!  As soon as she stepped out of the car, I recognised her – even though it was more than 50 years since her trip to Glasgow.

It was a wonderful visit.  We exchanged photos and filled in gaps and it was lovely to be able to update my mum on what had happened to her Aunt, Uncle and cousins over the years.  Sadly Aunt Nan and Uncle Billy died some years ago – within weeks of each other.

Dorothy and Phillip's wedding

Dorothy and Phillip’s wedding with Aunt Nan and Uncle Billy on the right

Dorothy and I keep in touch (and she has been in contact with my mum).  We met up again when I visited Melbourne in January and we spent an afternoon together.  It felt odd to me lunching and shopping with a second cousin.  It was a novelty; I don’t have any family here in Australia to do these things with (other than, of course, my husband and children).

Dorothy and Phillip 2016

Dorothy and Phillip in 2016 when we met

Dorothy and Phillip’s daughter lives in WA and they plan to visit her very soon.  I am hoping to be able to spend some time with them and meet Megan – my third cousin, I believe?

War Time Evacuation

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Glasgow was heavily bombed during the Second World War, particularly Clydebank, as that’s where the shipyards and many of the factories were.  Just after war was declared in 1939, thousands of children were evacuated from Glasgow to protect them from the threat of German bombers.  My mother was among them.  She was just six years old when she and her sister, Elizabeth, were sent to Kilhilt Farm near Stranraer in Scotland.  “Operation Pied Piper” relocated three million children over a few days.  This is my mum’s memory of that time (paraphrased) –

Elizabeth and I were very small children when we had to leave our parents – it is a time that will stay in my mind until I die.  We started off with our cases and gas masks, saying cheerio to our mum and dad who, like all the parents, were crying.  Dad and Aunt Cissie (Norma’s mum and my mum’s best friend) took us on a tram car into Glasgow Central Station. There were hundreds of children and parents there.  When we went to get on the train, it was the wrong one. We ran to find the right train, said goodbye to Dad and Aunt Cissie, having no idea why we were being put on a train, and shunted away from everyone.

Being very scared, Elizabeth, Norma and I were taken to a church hall in Stranraer where children were being taken away by strangers to dear knows where. Norma was then taken away.  NO-ONE CAME FOR US.  Finally a very nice lady took us to her house for tea and sandwiches then we were taken back to this empty hall until a man came to collect us and he took us away in a big car.  It was dark.  We were scared and very tired.  After a long run into the country, we stopped at this big house where we spent the next three years.

Mr and Mrs McCaig had three children – John, Sheila and Sam (who was a wee horror).  We went to the school in the village called “The Lochans”. I hated it!  Elizabeth and I were called “The Glasgow Keilies”.  The boys in my class were disgusting and every night I cried.  Poor Elizabeth was only 7 years old when we arrived and she had to be very brave and comfort me.

During our time there, Mum, Dad and Aunt Cissie came on a visit but we were not allowed to stay with them so we only had a few hours a day with them and we could not go home.  That was heart breaking for parents and children.

 

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