A day to remember and rejoice
MALENY, QUEENSLAND WE all thought we knew what to expect when family members recently met in Adelaide for a reunion. After all, we had attended six previous Johnston reunions. But we were to be proved wrong.
It was in 1953, on the Queen’s Coronation Day, when the Johnston family of eight from Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, left for England’s Tilbury docks to sail for Australia. As my husband Bill states in his poem, ‘‘The village is all decked out; ’tis for June 2 of ’53, it’s really for Elizabeth and not for you and me.’’
The Johnston siblings and their partners met near the sea at Semaphore. Sandra, an Adelaide resident and wife of Des (my husband’s brother), had arranged the event. She knew the family — Charles and Violet (now deceased) and two daughters and four sons (including Bill and Des) — had sailed to Australia in 1953 on P&O’s SS Mooltan, which berthed in Adelaide before docking in Melbourne.
What an adventure the Johnston youngsters had on the ship. Each night they sat at the captain’s table; one of the girls, Jane, kept a diary of the journey. Of the ceremony of crossing the International Date Line she wrote, ‘‘It was all such marvellous fun.’’
What was unexpected and extraordinary about the reunion’s timing was it took place exactly 60 years to the day and hour of arrival. Jane read from her diary that the family landed in Adelaide at 11am on July 8, 1953. It was now 11am on July 8, 2013, and no one knew until the day of our get-together of this coincidence.
We took a short drive down to the Gulf Point Marina for coffee and cake and then to Outer Harbour Railway Station, across from the Port Adelaide Ship Terminal. It looked new and very sleek, vastly different from the era when the Irish migrant family arrived at a tin shed.
We then made the short journey to Outer Harbour Station and caught the train into Adelaide CBD and later reboarded the ship for Melbourne.
After the siblings and partners shared stories and photos, we ended up at the 1880s Largs Pier Hotel on The Esplanade overlooking the Gulf of St Vincent for lunch, drinks, laughter, blarney and many memories of Charles and Violet. Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: travel@ theaustralian.com.au. Columnists receive a Kathmandu Travel Security ID kit of a brightly coloured luggage strap, tough ABS luggage tag, secure set-your-own combination lock, money neck pouch and carrybag ($79.98). More: 1800 333 484; kathmandu.com.au.