This collection explores the story of a professional migrant to Australia, the classic Australian 'working abroad in England' story of the 1950s and 60s and the shipboard meeting of an Australian and non-Australian citizen.
Amy McCloskey was a young Sydney woman in her late 20s she when she and a friend decided to go on a 'working holiday' to England in 1954. As she was a trained nurse she was able to work in this field in London and a year later, when she had saved her fare home, she decided to return to Australia. Amy left London on the Orient Line ship the SS Orontes in May 1955. On her first night on board she met Percival Alfred (Pat) Thomas.
Pat was 34 years old (he was born on 6 December 1920), a trained librarian and was immigrating to Australia. Pat felt there was limited potential to move up in his field in England, and a female cousin who had immigrated to Australia had told him of the opportunities available here. Family responsibilities kept him in England, he was looking after his elderly parents and an aunt, but once they had passed away his brother encouraged him to 'take the plunge' and move to Australia. Pat applied to Australia House in London for assistance but was rejected and had to pay his own fare. He also made contact with a librarian group in Melbourne before he left; Amy stated that 'he came out with the idea of succeeding'.
Amy and Pat struck up a friendship and had dinner together every night on the voyage. Most of the immigrants were put in the bottom half of the ship but Pat was on E Deck like Amy because he had paid his own fare.
Amy recalls that it was a great, fun life on board and felt the Australian Government had set things up very well for the immigrants travelling out, except that families were broken up when males and females were separated. One night she and her friend won a prize, an ashtray with an image of the Orontes, at a 'Fancy Dress' competition when they dressed as 'Siamese Twins'.
On arrival in Australia immigration officials came on board and checked that everyone had their small pox vaccination. In Melbourne Pat left the ship and Amy returned to Sydney. However they corresponded and Pat visited Amy in Sydney.
Pat stayed with his cousin in Melbourne and then got his first job, as a librarian at Sunshine Library. He then worked at Ballarat Library and helped set up the Malvern Library. In 1958 Amy and Pat decided to get married, Amy moved to Melbourne where the couple lived in Noble Park. They had two children and often returned to England by ship for holidays. Pat retired in 1982 and passed away on 19 October 1996. Amy paid for a memorial case in Pat's name to go into the Reading Room at the State Library.