From London to Aussie country
BORN in London in 1941, Chris Roberts has travelled all over the world and now calls Biggenden home.
An illness in 1946 put Chris in hospital for considerable time. Through this illness, Chris lost his ability to speak and had elocution lessons for three years.
During this time his parents separated but Chris was able to spend time with both of them. In 1949 he went to live with his mother in Meopham, a little village in Kent, where he joined the church choir founded by Simon De-Meopham in 1100.
He was also a member of the Anglican Young Peoples Association and joined the bell ringers at age 14.
Chris also joined the army cadets, and in 1956 at the age of 15 left school and went to work for Henley’s Tyre and rubber factory. Later that year he decided to come to Australia. His parents signed his papers and in February 1957 he sailed out to Australia under the Church of England Council for Commonwealth Settlement. He arrived in Melbourne on March 25 after sailing round South Africa due to the Suez crisis.
The 16-year-old went to Burton Hall Training Farm at Tatura and spent 12 months there before he got his first job on an 1100-acre property between Berrigan and Finley. After six months he moved on and worked on dairy farms.
Coming to Australia at such a young age, “I think I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.
“At Burton Hall there was not a hint of bad management or mis-treatment.
“We got five bob aweek pocket money and that didn’t do you any harm.”
He spoke with a public school accent because of his elocution lessons.
“I practised for three months in front of a mirror to perfect my Australian accent,” he said.
In 1960 he moved to North Queensland for the crushing and also joined the local diving club.
He was offered a job with the MRD as a diver and was paid 53 pounds for four hours’ work a day. At the end of the year he had saved enough to visit his parents in England.
So on February 26, 1961, Chris sailed to England via India, Colombo, Suez, Marsai in France and on to Tibury, and then spent most of the year in France, Germany, Belgium and sightseeing around England.
Later that year he joined the merchant navy and sailed for Norway on the MV Gladys Bowater. During the next six months, there were further trips around the world before he ended up in Hong Kong, where he was paid off, coming back to Australia on a 707.
By the end of 1962 he longed for the bush and got a job on Waiharunga Station, 60 miles west of Hughenden.
Around Christmas 1963 he went to Townsville andwas introduced to his future wife, Lynette, and a courtship followed.
In March 1964, Chris was lucky to gain employment as a chainman with John Reynolds & Associates, who took him under his wing and taught him howto use the instruments.
Lyn and Chris were married in 1966. In 1968 Chris took on the job with Queensland Railways on the resurvey of the Mt Isa line from Julia Creek to Mt Isa.
Over the ensuing years, there were further surveying and foreman jobs in the Cloncurry region before he moved south as foreman in charge of North Stradbroke Island for the Redland Shire Council.
Then from 1987 to June 1994 he was foreman in charge of the Mt Morgan Shire Council and then retired on doctors’ advice because of his hip.
His retirement brought Chris and Lyn to Biggenden, where they settled into the community close to their five children and 12 grandchildren.
“We never liked cities. Biggenden suits us fine plus the people are wonderful,” he said.
Chris did stand for council and spent three years working for the people of Biggenden.
BORN ENTERTAINER: Chris Roberts chose Biggenden as his place to retire, and enjoys his time teaching schoolchildren the guitar and entertaining people.