“Mum,” Susanne said when she got home from work. “Jess and I are going over to Mooraburra for a barbecue tonight. Sorry it’s short notice, but Walker only just phoned me about it late this afternoon.”
“No worries, love,” Beryl replied kindly. “What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion,” Susanne said as she sat down beside her. “It’s this campaign that Jess and Denny are trying to get organised.”
“To save Anzac Hall?”
“They’ve sweet-talked Walker into helping, and somehow I’ve been roped in, too.”
“Well, I think it’s a great idea the four of you working on it together. What’s the strategy?” Beryl asked, with a genuinely interested look on her face.
“Walker feels we should give the girls guidance, but let them take the lead for just now. Their first step is getting a formal petition under way, so they’ve asked us to help them put that together this evening. Hopefully they can start collecting signatures tomorrow.”
“Walker’s a decent bloke,” Beryl said, smiling. “He won’t let the girls down. If he says he’ll help, I’m sure he will.” She didn’t need to say any more than that, because it was well known that she had a fondness for Kate’s eldest son, but still, she didn’t want her daughter to get the impression that she held hopes of a romance between them which she secretly did, of course! And she’d seen the way Walker looked at Susanne. Maybe Susanne was oblivious, but Beryl saw more than friendship in his eyes.
Susanne, however, was more practical.
“Don’t be getting any thoughts about me and Walker ending up together, Mum. The focus is Anzac Hall, remember?”
“If you say so,” Beryl said. “I am surprised how many people are up in arms about it being pulled down. Who would have thought it would cause such an outcry? But I’m glad it has.”
“Heartening, isn’t it. And last night proved that the hall can still serve a purpose,” Susanne added.
“True,” Beryl said. “It was a great night.”
Susanne touched her mum’s arm lightly.
“You did Nan proud.”
There was a moment’s silence.
“I’m still not sure if I believe what Ruth Jones said about her having a sister,” Beryl said quietly.
“You don’t think the story adds up?” Susanne asked.
“Well, bits of it do,” Beryl admitted. “But other bits are a little hard to accept.”
“Hard to accept, or unlikely to be true?”
“Both, I suppose.”
“Well, listen,” Susanne said, reaching into her bag and pulling out her laptop computer. “I’ve found a website called Home Children Families Reunited, and if you’re interested we can put Nan’s name and date of birth into their search engine right now. Then, if her details are in their records, it’ll give us her sister’s name, too.”
“Crikey,” Beryl said. “It can give us that information here and now? It’s as easy as that?”
“Apparently so,” Susanne replied, turning the portable computer on. “Do you want to give it a go, then?”
Beryl nodded her agreement.
“Right,” Susanne said, looking at the computer. “I just need to put in Nan’s date of birth.”
“First of July, nineteen twenty-one.”
The two women stared at the screen expectantly.
“There you are,” Susanne said a few seconds later. “Helen McIntosh. Shipped to Melbourne, Australia, 1931, as part of the British Child Migration scheme. And look ” Her eyes widened.
“Jean McIntosh . . .” Beryl said incredulously. “Strewth! Ruth was right.”
“What about this?” Susanne said, pointing. “Their mother, Colleen McIntosh, died in 1929, but, look at this, their father, Euan McIntosh, didn’t die until 1969 . . .”
“That’s the year your dad and I got married.”
“They weren’t orphans at all,” Susanne said, turning to stare at her mum, a look of shock on her face.
“Then, why in heaven’s name,” Beryl asked, “were they shipped all the way over here?”
That was something she just had to find out.