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Children

AE Didi Murphy
August 1, 1953 - Waterman

We left Holland on July 24, 1953 and arrived in Halifax August 1, 1953 – my parents and sister (who was 4 at the time) and myself (10 years of age). The voyage for my mother was not one of the greatest moments in her life. Holland had had a huge flood that year and originally they wanted to go to Australia. Because of limits and quotas we were unable to go to Australia so they opted for Canada and a better life.

My mother spent most of the voyage in a bunk seasick and not liking the water anyway, she was not a happy person at all. We were too young to understand what she was going through at the time. The ship was a converted cargo ship so to get to the theatre we had to pass through the galley. It was exciting for us kids but our room was near the galley so the kitchen smells did not do much to help my mother’s seasickness much. I remember the crew was wonderful and did things to keep us busy. Also we had other families sharing our cabin with my father in another one. My dad was used to ship life having been at sea since he was 16 years old but we sure were not. When it was announced that land was in sight and the port of Halifax, everyone was very excited. The voyage had bad weather most of the way so we were excited and glad to finally reach our destination.

I remember seeing nothing but trees and fog and a big building that the ship tied up to near by, this was Pier 21 where we were herded into customs and rooms if we did not have immediate accommodations or places to go in Canada. We were not used to meals in this country and living in a building with bars on the windows. My poor mother was so upset she had a nervous breakdown and had to have medical help. I remember standing in the hallway looking in the room where my mother was screaming and crying and had to be sedated. I understood some of what was happening but my little sister did not. They were kind enough to give us a place with just beds for our family and help for my mother. Years later I found out that we could have been sent back to Holland.

We came to this country as Canada needed engineers and were told we would have a house and my father a job. Well, no job and no house. My father was the only one who spoke some English so he went looking for a job, which he found at the Halifax Shipyards and a place to live in Port Wallis within a week of our arrival. We had some things shipped in a big crate and my father built us beds from the lumber and people were kind enough to give us an icebox, something we never had in Holland. Stores are close by in that country and still are so it was not an item that was purchased much in those days.

I started school in September and was tested to see what grade I should go into. I was put back two years because of language but in math I was way ahead of the class and why not I lost two years. Life in school was difficult. I did not understand the language and knew kids were laughing at me. I cried going home from school every night for over a month. A kind teacher taught me English by having me come to her desk and starting with primary books she taught me the language. Us children had it easier- we learned from other children playing outside, but my mother did not have things so easy. My dad worked all day so she was alone with my little sister. I often wondered why we ever left our families but mother did not talk much about it and since we knew it would upset her, we did not ask much.

My dad has now passed away and my mother is in a nursing home unable to speak because of a stroke. My sister lives in Toronto and my two brothers that were adopted here in Canada live in Dartmouth. I have gone back to Holland several times and always feel sad to leave my family but we have our families here in Canada and Holland is not that far away anymore. Canada has been good to us but nothing will ever replace your original homeland. We all become Canadian Citizens and I served in the Canadian Armed Forces for a while.