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Memories of Living and Working in Australia in the 1960's


L.M. Reid is an Irish writer who has published many articles in magazines and online.

This Irish couple  who emigrated to Australia in 1967 with their 5 young children. Peter and Chris Reid.

This Irish couple who emigrated to Australia in 1967 with their 5 young children. Peter and Chris Reid.

My family of 7 Emigrated to Australia in 1967

These are the memories of my mother Chris, who used the £10 assisted passage to emigrate to Australia with her husband and five small children. I was ten years old at the time.

Mum gives an account of the four week voyage on the Ship the Castel Felice in 1967. And her views on the ten pound poms when she stayed at the Assisted Passage Hostel in Adelaide .

This is mum's story in her own words

Leaving Ireland for London, UK

When I married Peter in 1953 we stayed in Stoneybatter, Dublin for a few years and I had my first three children there. We moved to London in 1957 and I had my next two children there. There was no work in Dublin at the time and everyone was leaving Ireland to move to England. We had no choice really. Peter went over first and stayed with his sister in London.

Working in England

He looked for a job in the factories over there but it was hard. A lot of jobs had a sign which said, ' No Blacks, No Irish Need Apply.' But he managed to get a job and saved some money so that I was able to join him with the children.

Soon we had some money saved and borrowed some too so we were able to buy a house in London. It was very cheap at £1,150 because there were sitting tenants living in the upstairs part. We lived downstairs which had two rooms, a scullery and a garden. The mortgage was £2 a week. Peter left the job in the factory and started work in the Underground for London Transport.

Emigrating to Australia in 1967 on board Castel Felice Ship

Emigrating to Australia in 1967 on board Castel Felice Ship

The South Australian Railway

We were in London for a few years and the tenants had moved out too so we sold up and moved back to Dublin. But the job situation was still very bad so we only stayed a while and then went to live in Manchester.

Ten Pound Assisted Passage

That was when we were thinking of moving to Australia on the Ten Pound Assisted Passage. We had seen the adverts for a while but with five small children it was too much of a risk. Even though they promised there were plenty of jobs and houses out there we still hesitated. But when the job for the South Australian Railway came up which included a house we knew it was safe to take the chance.

No Disabled Children Allowed

When Peter was accepted for the job we applied to Australia House for the £10 assisted passage. We went for an interview in Manchester and when we passed they asked us to come back and bring the children. I only brought the eldest three. But they wanted to see all five of them so we had to go up again.

I didn’t understand why at the time but I realise now why they insisted on seeing all the children. They wanted to see if any of them were handicapped and to make sure they were white. We didn’t know that at the time but I suppose we should have really. We had to put up with a lot of that already because we were Irish and living in England and a lot of foreigners were also in that position especially if they had dark skin.


We had six months before the ship left for Australia so we had plenty of time to prepare. Our parents came over from Ireland to say goodbye which was very hard on everyone. We sold our house in Manchester and when the time came we got the train to Southampton and boarded the ship, the Castel Felice in April 1967.

The Cabins on Board Ship

We were allocated a six berth cabin for myself and the four girls and Peter and my son who was twelve were put in a cabin with two other men. But they came in with us because the children were small; the youngest was five so they were able to sleep in a bed together. The cabin was very small with the three lot of bunk beds and a wash basin in between.

We had to use one of the toilets on the landing which was shared. But we got by really because the ship was very big and there was plenty to do for the children. They would be tired by the end of the day and sleep grand at night. The three older children were able to go about the ship on their own during the day and made friends with the other children on board.

Food on the Ship was Fantastic

They had the four youngest children in the children’s sitting and I would stay with them while they ate their meals. Then the two eldest minded the younger ones while myself, Peter and my son had our meals at a later sitting.

The Voyage

The food was always lovely. Now that was the set meal times but every single night they had a buffet that anyone could eat from. All the food was free. When they had an Italian theme I tried Pizza for the first time in my life. I always remember that, it was gorgeous.

Port Said in Egypt

We went through Port Said in Egypt because it was open then, actually our ship The Castle Felice was the very last one that went that way on the route to Australia. The British Army were there. But the children were not allowed off the ship as it was too dangerous.

They warned us that the people were fighting for their Independence and there might be trouble. But we decided to go anyway and left the Children on the Ship. We had to get into small boats to go on land. They told us at the first sign of any shooting we were to run back to were the boats were immediately.

My Irish family on Board Castel Felice on the way to Australia

My Irish family on Board Castel Felice on the way to Australia

Port Said

We got a leaflet to tell us what cost a lot of money in Australia and what were the best things to bring over with us. We had brought three trunks with us but wanted to buy some electrical stuff on the way. They also said that we could be conned when shopping and we were to watch out for that. I wanted a Murphy Richards Iron.

So I made the man at the stall show it to me and then he packed it. But when I got to Australia it was a Murphy Richards box but not a Murphy Richards iron. It was not a nice place really it was warm and dusty and smelly.

There was an awful lot of poverty too; we could see that people were living under the grating that we were walking on. We went off the main road and ended up in a side street and there were people sitting there with their legs off and arms off. It was a shock and we got out of there quick enough.

The Children Were Terrified

We were on the last boat coming back and hadn't realised what the poor children had being going through. The two eldest had been watching the boats arriving back to the ship and as every one of them came back without us they were panicking. They thought we had missed it and the ship was going to leave without us. They were delighted when they saw us on the last boat.

The Railway house in Lamaroo, Australia

The Railway house in Lamaroo, Australia

Hostel in Adelaide

We stayed in the Assisted Passage Hostel for two weeks. We had an introduction by this man when he was bringing us to the hostel and he said we’d get meals there that would be the best food we had ever tasted. We were expecting something great but it was just ordinary food. I felt that was very condescending as if to say we weren't used to good food.

The Accommodation Was Very Bad

The room we were in was very small and there was no privacy. The wall and even the door only went two thirds up to the ceiling so everyone could hear you and you could hear everything that went on in the rooms all along the corridor.

The Whinging Poms

We had to do the washing by hand outside in the yard in troughs. I was just getting on with it, maybe because I knew we had a house to go to and Peter had a job waiting. But when I was doing the washing out there all you could hear was the English women giving out. They'd be saying, ‘This is an awful place; I don’t know what we came here for.’

Some of them were looking at their money to see if they could go back home and they only there a week. I know the hostel was bad but they knew it would only be for a little while. I don't know what they were expecting, but they should have given Australia a chance.

Adelaide South Australia

Adelaide was very backward really which did Surprise me. I had the impression that it would be modern but even in Ireland we were way ahead of them. I remember going to the phone box and it was one of those real old ones and I thought it was very funny, me trying to reach up to the mouthpiece.

The people in the job Peter had in Lamaroo advised us to buy all our furniture and stuff for the house in Adelaide. We got everything in the main street and had it sent down to Lamaroo.

A Wonderful Time

Now on the ship it was all people who had availed of the assisted passage. The entertainment was great for the kids. There was something going on all over the ship for them everyday. They had parties, a cinema with children’s films, a club, fancy dress parties etc

But the food was fantastic and we were treated very well. When we crossed the Equator they had a big play about King Neptune. They made friends and so did we so even though it took weeks to get to Australia the time just flew in.

Freemantle Perth

We all got off and went on a bus tour. It was our first sight of Australia. A lot of people got off at Freemantle to live there but we stayed on till we disembarked at Adelaide in South Australia.

My son and his dog in Australia

My son and his dog in Australia

New Life in Lamaroo

Then after two weeks at the hostel Peter’s job sent for us and they paid for a taxi. It was a hundred miles to get there. It was a long journey with five children and I wasn’t feeling too well either.

The Railway House

It was dark when we arrived at the house and there was no electricity on either. The house was one of ten in a group that belonged to the Railway. The neighbours gave us candles and we got the kids to bed.

There is one thing the adverts and posters never mentioned about Australia which was a major shock, the insects and flies. As sick as I was I stayed up all night with Peter in the one bedroom we had put all the kids in that first night. There were hundreds of insects all over the kids as they were sleeping.

Daddy long legs we called them. They were all over the children sticking to them. Oh I can see them even now. We were horrified and stayed there pulling the insects off.

Enjoying Christmas day in Lamaroo, South Australia 1967

Enjoying Christmas day in Lamaroo, South Australia 1967

Our Adventure

There was only a wood burner for the cooker and oven. I had never seen one before and didn't know how to use it. It wasn't working properly and had to get a man out to fix it. But it was ok because he took some of the electrical goods I had bought on the way over in exchange for money.

I had brought a small electric two ring cooker with me. I used that till I was well enough for the neighbors to show me how to work the wood cooker. When I got used to it was great to cook on.

Great Neighbours

I was very ill for a few weeks with a throat infection but the neighbours were fantastic. They helped me with the children and the house and we all soon settled in to our new life in Lamaroo in South Australia. The kids started their new school and made friends too.

They loved the outdoors and we had a huge garden because the house was in the middle of a big patch of land. Peter was working for the Railway and with the children in school I was able to get a job as a waitress in the local hotel. We had taken a chance by emigrating to Australia. But because we were able to use the £10 assisted passage to emigrate it cost us very little money.

Our adventure in Australia had begun.

Driving in the South Australian Bush in 1967

Driving in the South Australian Bush in 1967

Memories of a 10 year old who Emigrated to Australia

Lorraine recounts her experiences of attending a new school in Australia in this article. What it was like compared to her other schools in Ireland and England.

She describes in detail the family's first Christmas day in their new country during a heat wave. There are lots of photos for you to see as well. To read this article click on the link below

First Christmas in Australia 1967

Emigrating to Australia in 1967

My father also recounted some of his memories to me and I have written them down in this article. He tells what it was like to work for the Railway in the London Underground and the railways in South Australia. To read this article click the link below

Working for the South Australian Railways in 1967

Other Articles by L.M.Reid


L M Reid (author) from Ireland on June 09, 2020:

Hello Jodi, that is amazing that your parents were on the same ship as us. We did have a great time on board as kids. It is a shame your poor mother was so sick on board.

Jodi Rashbrook on May 26, 2020:

Hi, My parents were on the same ship as you as they arrived in Fremantle in 1967 too on the Castel Felice with my sister and grandparents. I can't even imagine what it was like on the ship coming over. My mum was sea sick the whole way and only came out of their room when they got to Egypt.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on December 04, 2019:

Hello Rita, yes it must be a great place to live in Perth. We enjoyed the journey on the ship there and back too. That was a great experience for all of us. Oh I do remember all the mosquitoes and flies too I couldn't believe the way the just stuck to you lol.

Hello Virginia, Yes it would have been a hard decision for your dad to make. My parents only took the chance because the job my dad got on the South Austraian Railways included a house.

I often have that feeling too, wondering how different our lives would be if we had stayed out there instead of coming back home to Ireland.

Rita on November 22, 2019:

Brilliant story. I loved reading it. We are 30years here. I loved Australia from the moment I came, it just suited me and my family and the weather oh how I love it. Mind you, I came by plane straight to Perth. I found people very helpful and ready to guide you and invite you to their home. Time flys, I can’t believe we are here that long. The one bad thing I have to be careful I get bitten from mosquitoes that I used to get bitten in Ireland too. Mam gave me a hard time over that, she would say how come they always go over to you. Lol

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on November 21, 2019:

I read 3 of your family stories about moving to Australia. My dad had the opportunity to go to Australia in the 1950s from the States. With 5 children, he decided it was too big a change to make. I'll always wonder what our lives would have been like if we had gone.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on October 19, 2019:

Hello Rosina, Yes my mother is 85 now and still going strong. I can not believe it is over 53 years ago but I still have very vivid memories of my time as a child living in Australia. Thanks for reading.

Rosina S Khan on September 20, 2019:

I am very much intrigued by your family's decision to take the giant leap to Australia with little children. It must have been exhausting yet you say the older children made friends during the journey by ship. Finally, you were able to settle down with the children going to school and their adventurous parents working in Australia. A great story- simply loved it, Reid.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on July 28, 2015:

Hello Rita here is some info for you

Immigrant Ship to Australia

Before departing from Genoa on 6 October 1952 for her first journey to Australia, she was christened Castel Felice. She arrived in Melbourne on 7 November.

Between 1952 and 1955, the Castel Felice made only three voyages to Australia (but many to the Americas) before again being refurbished. The new refit offered many conveniences including a small number of first class cabins, air conditioning, a swimming pool and large public rooms. But for the tourist class, things were still cramped. Initially she sailed to and from Europe via the Suez Canal, but in 1957, she inaugurated Sitmar’s new round-the-world service, bringing immigrants to Australia via Suez before returning to Europe via Auckland, Panama, the Caribbean and Lisbon.

Here is a link of another family who were on board the ship at the same time as yourself.


Rita Harrison on June 01, 2015:

I arrived in Sydney, Australia, in January, 1957. I'm having trouble finding any reference to the Castel Felice being in Sydney then. Any ideas? Rita

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on June 09, 2014:

Sorry for the delay in answering but I have been sick.

Hello Castel Felice It is good to know about your Facebook Page I will have a look and join.

Hello sealegs thank you for letting us know about your family's experience of emigrating to Australia. Yes the ship would have been a great adventure for teenagers lol.

Your parents were very brave as were mine to take so many kids so far away. When I think now that there were very few or cheap ways to keep in touch with family back home too.

sealegs on April 25, 2014:

Our family left South Hampton 24th August 1962 we settled in Adelaide,Glenelg hostel for one week but it wasn't close to any work and moved to Finsbury hostel. Dad and all four girls got jobs pretty well straight away. Mom found a house to rent on the esplanade at semaphore and the boys started at the local school. 52yrs later we all still live in the area. except mom and dad they passed away. We scattered their ashes in the sea across from the first house we lived in when we arrived in Australia. We combined their scattering with a celebration of our 50yrs here and had a lovely nostalgic day. The move to Australia was a very brave and wonderful thing our parents did for us. Mom and Dad and 6 kids. All the girls being teenagers had the time of our lives. What great memories we have unfortunately we didn't have any photos so thankyou all for posting yours so we can enjoy them

Castel Felice on April 23, 2014:

If Anyone would like to join our - Castel Felice - Group on Facebook please look us up and add friend to share all your stories, photos, memorabilia and find fellow ship mates! So many stories have been shared and people reconnected, it's a Great page! With over 160 friends (members) and growing fast, your bound to know someone & find others who travelled on the same Voyage as you in our group..

Love to have you aboard!!

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on May 07, 2013:

Hello Gwen, thanks for getting in touch. You did the same journey as us except we got off at Adelaide. Yes I agree with you the ship the Castel Felice was certainly like a cruise ship.

We had a few rough days too with the decks out of bounds one day but I was just a kid so loved the rocking and rolling and we didn't have any fear lol. I would if I was this age now though.

Gwen Golding on May 01, 2013:

My family and I left Southampton on June 6th 1966, on the Castel Felice Ready for a nice long holiday, 6 weeks on the sea. When we were crossing the Bay of Biscay, I thought we were all going to die, the sea was so rough. Travelled to Port Said , down the Suez Canal, to Aden { Steamer Point } then weeks across the Indian Ocean to Fremantle,Adelaide , Melbourne , arrived in Sydney on 13th July, it was a CRUISE I will never forget .

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on October 13, 2012:

The time we spent on the ship the Castel Felice was like a dream holiday too. As mum explains in the article we had the best of food and facilities even though we only paid the ten pound fare.

Izzy welch there is a link to the Sitmar Line in this article that you can click on and search for the info. I did this and they sent me the passenger list free by post of my journey.

Maria it sounds like you enjoyed the trip out to start a new life in Australia too. Yes some great memories even after all these years

Maria on September 09, 2012:

I left Southampton on 30 July 1968 on board the Castel Felice. I travelled with my Brother and spent a fabulous six weeks travelling to Sydney where we arrived on 6th September, 1968. I have beautiful memories of that trip and, although I have been back to the UK many times, I made Australia home.

izzy welch on June 29, 2012:

in reply to priday family,i think we must have been on the same voyage,my parents and brother and sister left southampton june 24th 1963 aboard castel felice,i was 7yrs old i have great memories of the voyage and maybe 6photos,we disembarked at sydney date unknown,would love to know port of call dates,passenger list information,michael

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on March 05, 2012:

Yes those six weeks on the ship Castel Felice were great. Lyn I am glad you were old enough to enjoy and remember the trip back home as well. Ahh great memories to cherish for ever! We stopped at all those places you mention above too.

Lynn on March 05, 2012:

My parents were 10 quid poms, with 6 children, emigrating from Lincolnshire to Queensland at Christmas time 1967.

2 years later my Mum brought 5 of us home on the Castel Felice , my elder brother having joined the Australian Navy.

We shared a 6 berth cabin as described by the Irish lady.

It was all a huge adventure for the children, as we left Brisbane for Southampton, stopping in Tahiti, Panama, Curacao, and Lisbon on the way.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on February 26, 2012:

Silvio Medoro Thanks for your comment. I translated it here to english.

My father and mother met on Castel Felice, Brazil course, My father worked on the ship Carmine Medoro.

It must have been hard work for your father but I bet he also enjoyed the travelling too

Silvio Medoro on December 28, 2011:

Mio padre e mia madre si sono conosciuti sul Castelfelice, rotta Brasile, mio padre Carmine Medoro lavorava sulla nave.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on December 19, 2011:

Thanks for reading and your comments.

Lilliana Delanor. Yes you are right about taking a chance in life to get some excitement and experience new things in life.

My parents were very brave because in those days you could not just hop on a plane for a visit back home. They were in a strange country with 5 small children and no relatives at all.

Priday Family on December 19, 2011:

arrived Aussie 1st August 1963 from South Wales on Castle Felice Family of 2 adults and 3 kids under 7 but still remember, what an adventure. Thanks Australia for a great place to live. XOXO

Lilliana Delanor from Michigan, USA on October 15, 2011:

I love reading about real people taking a chance in life and coming out ahead. Life isn't worth living if you're not willing to take a chance and make it better.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on October 03, 2011:

Thanks for reading and your comments marimccants and Carl.

Carl I really do have some great memories of this voyage because I was 9 years old at the time, it is a shame you were so young.

That photo was taken by the ship photographer. We kids would run up to the notice board that contained all the photos on board from the day before. Mum and dad were then dragged there when we saw some pictures of ourselves on it. They bought a few of them but would have been bankrupt if they bought them all.

It is nice to have them now after over 40 years

Carl Gubb on October 02, 2011:

I think I was on this voyage at the same time as you with my family , Dad - Taffey ( Graham Charles ) , Mum Phyll , Sisters Angela , Nanette , Carole and younger brother Nigel . I would have been four so don't remember much . Thank you for the memories ! In the photo in the dining room the guy at the back right looks alot like my Dad ...... Spooky

marimccants on August 18, 2011:

Nice hub!

haeckelis on July 28, 2011:

Thanks Viking305. Have already added some comments. Now I'll just have to be patient (have been for the past 40 years!!) & hope that someone reacts!

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on July 26, 2011:

Hello Haeckelis thanks for reading and your comments.

Sorry about giving you the wrong url.

This is the one you need. Just scroll down the page to read the comments and then leave your own, You can leave your details of your time on the Castel Felice and the name of the person you would like to contact you.

Goog luck


Haeckelis on July 26, 2011:

Nearly forgot to mention Viking305, loved reading the story. Fantastic. Well written, very easy & pleasant to read.

Haeckelis on July 26, 2011:

Viking305 do you mean this link http://www.ssmaritime.com/sitmar1.htm ? If so I can't find any info as to filling in my own details. But thanks for the tip anyway.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on July 25, 2011:

Thanks for reading Peter and ur comment.

Haeckelis if you put your details on the Castel felice site you may be able to get in touch with Christine baxter. The link is at the end of this aricle.

Haeckelis on July 25, 2011:

I left Australia in November 1968 on board the Castel Felice from Melbourne via Sydney, New Zealand, Tahiti, Panama Canal, South America, Portugal to arrive in Southampton on January 5th 1969 to ravel onto Holland the following day. I met some great people on the ship, & am especially interested in Kriss (Christine) Baxter who boarded in Sydney. I would really like to know what she made of her life. I sincerely hope someone can help!!

Please mail me at info@billnyhuis.nl

Peter Morris on July 02, 2011:

My family came to Australia in 1954. My Dad, Mum and older sister (14 years) all paid £10.00 but myself and my 2 younger brothers got in for free as we were under 5 years old.

Mind you £10 was a lot of money in 1954 - it would be about £3,000 in today's money.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on June 25, 2011:


Did u get my email? And have you put your details on the Castel Felice website. If anyone comments here with Info I will let you know


bill.lewis1@ntlworld.com on June 25, 2011:

it's me again bill lewis.still hoping that taffy or guinny will get in touch.If somebody knows them please give them my e-mail address.

bill lewis on May 25, 2011:

I emmigrated to australia on the castel felice on the 23december 1965.I met taffey thomas and alan mc guinness on the ship.I would love to hear from them again.Can anybody help.bill lewis.

Arthur Johann Mueller on March 27, 2011:

I came to Australia from Germany by myself as an 18 year old on the Castle Velice. We arrived in Melbourne on the 26/07/1959. What information is available about that journey?

email: enrich@idx.com.au

Victor on February 17, 2011:

I sailed the Castel Velice in 1970 as a 11yr old. Departing from Curacao to Madeire, Lisboa and Southampton.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on February 09, 2011:

I enjoyed this fascinating story of your parents' emigration to Ireland. Thanks for sahring it and the old photos. Loved them.

Love and peace


Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on December 30, 2010:

My parents came to Australia in the 1950's as well. Dad in 1952 then Mum followed in 1956. Their trip wasn't assisted but my Grandfather was already in Australia so he sponsored my Dad. I have heard similar stories from both my parents of their trip over on ships and they have never regretted coming to Australia. Very nostalgic hub, thanks Viking

Jaypyramid on December 16, 2010:

Wow imagine taking the chance in them days going all the way to the other side of the world with five young children! Very interesting hub, Viking

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