A day to re­mem­ber and re­joice

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KATE JOHN­STON

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.

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