Life in England
John and Doreen Myerscough were both born in Liverpool England: John in 1938, Doreen in 1939. They married there on 26 July 1958 and had two daughters, Julie and Jill. They lived in what they describe as 'Coronation Street' style housing, rows of small, attached two storey houses with two bedrooms upstairs and a couple of rooms below (known as 'two up, two down'). John was a cabinet maker by trade but he had to work on construction sites to supplement his income. It was better paid but the conditions in winter were terrible.
Deciding to Go
One day he saw an advertisement in a newspaper promoting migration to Australia, offering better climate, work and opportunities. John and Doreen, attracted by stories of better working conditions and a warm climate, decided in their youthful enthusiasm to go (they were in their early twenties at the time), despite their neighbours changing their minds to accompany them.
Upon application, they were advised that they were eligible for, along with the ten pound assistance, a 'Nest Egg Scheme' as they had substantial assets (they were selling their house and had 1000 pounds to take with them). They stayed with Doreen's parents between selling up and sailing. Under the scheme people were required to transfer to Australia at least 500 pounds and be able to arrange their own accommodation.
John and Doreen sailed from Southampton on the P&O Orient Line SS Canberra on 20 November 1963 and arrived at Station Pier on 13 December 1963. They had sent ahead three packing cases and a metal chest which arrived six weeks later, and they took suitcases on the ship. Doreen and the children were in one share cabin (with two other English girls) and John in another (with three other men). They found the first and third class very clearly defined and it was difficult to mingle (less so when they returned to England two years later). They describe the experience as the biggest trip of their lives and it seemed 'high class' after life in Liverpool. The stewards looked after the children.
In Perth the immigration officials came on board and assigned destination stickers to them (the couple had decided to settle in Melbourne as promotion had described the climate as the closest to England). They were tempted to get off in Perth by offers of work in Fremantle but felt committed to Melbourne. In transit Doreen discovered she was pregnant and under the circumstances they were offered accommodation at Altona Migrant Hostel in Koroit Creek Road Williamstown directly from the ship.
John and Doreen remained at the hostel for the length of their stay in Australia, paying nominal rent (although this wasn't the generally accepted practice). They describe the accommodation as acceptable - unit 2, block E12, basic and small, little privacy with paper thin walls. The Myerscoughs had one bedroom where the children slept while Doreen and John slept on a sofa bed in the living room. There was a connecting door to another flat, which for larger families was open. John made some furnishings for the flat and also made flyscreens for the windows of many of the huts to save residents from the mosquitoes.
Arriving at Christmas time, John found work to be scarce - he finally secured a job working on the oil pipeline from Melbourne to Geelong, crawling inside the pipe lengths and wiping them with paraffin wax. He described it as terrible work. He was promoted to welding work and stayed for a couple of months. He then worked construction around Williamstown - all his work was casual contract work, relying on word-of-mouth communication for jobs as they became available. While working construction at the Royal Children's Hospital he broke his nose.
Around this time, John also did a little radio announcement work - his Liverpool accent being very fashionable with the Beatles hysteria at the time. John then formed a 'company' with another man from Liverpool and an Italian man, working on ceiling installations. They were sub-contractors and were sent around Victoria and New South Wales. John didn't like being away from his family (sometimes for weeks at a time if the job was a distance away), but he was well paid and he did it for around a year.
Home and Family Life
Doreen gave birth to Paul on 19 June 1964 and six months later (with a daughter in school and the other at the hostel kindergarten), she got a job at Rothman's cigarette factory in Brooklyn. She filled the hoppers with tobacco and was employed there for 12 months.
Not long after arriving in Melbourne, the couple purchased a block of land at a new estate in Melton. They were shown land sale plans by an agent and went out to Melton to choose their block. It was promoted as being a growth area (John believes they were played for suckers!) They saw only a church and one shop and Doreen realised that, with John gone to work with the car, she would be trapped in her house and completely isolated. At a local cemetery they saw the headstone of a 19th century woman who had died and her inscription mentioned England - it seemed like a sign to the couple that they were not 'pioneers' and for Doreen, the first realisation that Australia may not be the answer for them.
Change of Heart
After two years in Melbourne John and Doreen did not feel that they had improved their lot and that in fact, they felt that England in the1960s was better off than Australia. They felt misled by the advertising, especially regarding working conditions which in John's field, they felt were no better than in England. It didn't seem to occur to them to try settling in an established suburb. So they decided to leave, not an easy decision as they had sold up everything in Liverpool and invested their money in the Melton land. But they borrowed funds from John's parents for their fares (over 460 pounds which they knew they could repay), and put the land up for sale (which sold later after they had left at a small loss).
The family sailed for Liverpool on the P&O Orient Line SS Oriana on 2 January 1966. They felt a degree of failure and had to return to the small 'Coronation Street' style housing with their parents. However, John and Doreen state that in many ways, their Australian experiment was the best thing that could have happened to them. They decided that if they worked as hard in England as they had to in Melbourne that they would succeed. It seemed to give them a new outlook and renewed energy. They succeeded in property and doubt they would have changed their lives if they had not come to Australia. The couple returned to Australia three times for extended holidays and love it and their children visited in 2006. John and Doreen far preferred Australia as visitors rather than as residents.