James and Eileen Leech migrated from England to Melbourne with their daughter Susan on the 'Orion' in 1953. Eileen's homesickness resulted in their decision to return to England in 1956.
Deciding to Leave:
James and Eileen Leech and their daughter Susan (about 2 ½ years old) migrated from Manchester, England under the ten pound assistance scheme in 1953. James had been in the navy during World War II, and spent some time in the Pacific so he met many Australian soldiers and developed an enormous desire to move to Australia. He had married Eileen after the War, he had no siblings and did not feel tied to England. Eileen however had a very close-knit family with three sisters and a brother and was extremely close to her mother – she was not keen to come. James felt the opportunities would be better in Australia and that it was a better place to raise a family. Eileen’s mother was distressed by their emigration.
They migrated in November 1953 on board the Shaw Savill & Albion Co. Line ship ‘New Australia’, arriving in Melbourne and staying first in Sandringham with their sponsor (people they had met in England). James was an optical mechanic and he was employed by Coles and Garrard in the city. The family later moved into a rental house in Dandenong Road, Frankston.
A Difficult Time:
James loved the lifestyle in Australia and while Eileen had no issue with Australia itself, her homesickness only worsened. She never got over the separation from her family. Depression progressed to a nervous breakdown and she was admitted to hospital for two weeks. As James had to continue working full time, young Susan was placed into care at a local convent for that period. She remembers that time as confusing, disorienting and frightening as she did not understand what was happening and whether her parents would even return for her. Later, when Eileen became pregnant, her depression worsened and doctors advised James to take her home. Susan recalls having to leave behind her tricycle which upset her.
Deciding to Go:
They left on the ‘Orion’ in January 1956, having borrowed the costs of relocation from Eileen’s mother. When they arrived at Southampton on a cold and rainy grey day, the family lore is that Eileen remarked ‘what have I done?’ The family moved in with Eileen’s parents (who had moved from Manchester to Middlesex) and stayed for about three years, paying off their loan. It was a tense time, with the close proximity in a small house a trial even for the close mother and daughter. Finally they were able to purchase a home on the other side of London. James never fully recovered from his disappointment at leaving Australia and his longing to return.
The Next Generation:
Susan had an Australian accent and remembers the other children asking her to speak. Susan later in life herself was keen to migrate to Australia, even collecting information from Australia House, but was unable to convince her English husband to make the move. She returned to Australia for the first time in 2014, visiting relatives in Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney and Melbourne, where she returned to Frankston and imagined her father travelling on the train into the city every day.