The Immigration Story of Norma Geggie (Australian immigrant)

Category: 
Culture : 
Port of Arrival: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2012.2067.1
Story Text: 

A memorable Crossing: January 1953
I could consider myself a fairly seasoned traveller having sailed from Melbourne, Australia to Southampton in 1951, and experiencing extremely rough seas as we crossed the Great Australia Bite.
There were very few passengers on deck as the small semi-cargo ship, the Esperance Bay tossed back and forth. However the crossing from Greenwich to Halifax in January 1953 was exceptional in many ways.
In my memory we were just a day or two out to sea when, in very rough weather, the ship stopped so that the surgeon on board could operate on a young boy with peritonitis. Sadly, he did not survive, and so for the second day, the ship again stopped for a burial at sea. This was a British family emigrating to Canada. What a sad beginning for their adventure.
Also I seem to recollect that a deckhand, fortunately wearing a life jacket, lost his footing and was swept overboard, but was rapidly pulled on board once more.
Despite the fact that the decks were roped off and considered ‘out of bounds’—as my photo depicts, my friend, Jeannete Forsyth ventured out for this photo.
I still recall the names-Audrey Fernie a Canadian returning after teaching in UK for some time. I remember her story of having to 'do her own homework' each evening in having her land-lady teach her the intricacies of the British currency as at the time we were there, ha'pennies and farthings were still in use. I recall a newspaper was 1 1/2 pence or 'three h'apence'.
Another 'travel companion' was Jack Day, a Brit who was travelling out west to a job--don't recall what. But I do remember his concern which he shared with me as to what he was going to do to keep his ears warm--he realised he could wear a scarf around his ears but didn’t think it would be appropriate to wear a hat on top of this. I was of no use to him as neither of us had any concept of tuques and ear-muffs at that stage.
On arrival in Halifax we were 'greeted' by what I recall as a large empty building with booths set up by various charitable groups offering scarves, mitts, clothing, anything that might be lacking in the things the immigrants had brought. Jeanette and I made our way to the "Presbyterian" booth where we were given soap. For this we were teased by our fellow travellers--did we appear in need of soap?
Several then found our way to the waiting train and sat up for the several days it took us to reach our destination. Ours was Ottawa, where we were met at the Central Station in Ottawa, and driven out to Wakefield. On reaching the Gatineau memorial Hospital, we were greeted by a young French Canadian nurse who spoke no English. We learned later that Lucille had expected we would be black as we had come from Australia. Then we were directed to the Hospital Board room where a meeting was just coming to an end. All the board members were men--not a woman in sight, and we were embarrassed at our dishevelled state, having sat up in a train for three days after our rough crossing. The Hospital director, Dr. Harold Geggie was the person with whom we had been corresponding. The founding of the hospital was his life-long dream. He and his eldest son, Dr. Hans Geggie were the medics on staff, to be joined shortly afterwards by the second son, Dr. David Geggie.
We were welcomed with open arms--the fairly newly opened hospital was very short of staff and Jeannette and I having trained in Australia had further qualification as midwives, having gone on after general training of three or four years, earned a second certificate in obstetrics. Also I had operating room experience and the little hospital soon was able to undertake basic surgery.
My friend and fellow traveller, Jeanette Forsyth had to return home in October 1953 because of her mother's ill health, I resolved to stay until the following July when I planned to sail for Plymouth, eventually en route to Australia. However, I was met in Plymouth by Dr. Stuart Geggie, the youngest son, who had spent two years in England,( but had come back to Wakefield for Christmas for 10 days while I was there ). He proposed marriage, and we were married two weeks later in London. I did not return to Australia for ten years, when I had a family of three children.
I remained in close contact with my friend Jeannette whom I saw each time I visited Australia, while she as well visited me in Wakefield. ‘Jenny' died three years ago.
As I am 92 at present I wonder how many if any of my travel companions are still living!
Norma Geggie, (nee Callander)