A Sense Of Belonging – Episode 37

January 15, 1931

Nell touched her sister’s back as they rode the North Star en route to Australia.

“Is it sea sickness that’s botherin’ you again, Jean?”

“No,” Jean replied, turning from the railing near the stern of the ship where she’d been standing for some time, staring out to the sea, keeping her distance from the other children who were entertaining themselves with deck games. Nell noticed immediately that her eyes were wet and full of sadness. “It’s no’ my belly.”

“What is it, then?” Nell squinted, lifting her hand to shade her eyes. She liked the warmth of the sun, and had been amazed to see that her skin had changed colour since they had left Scotland. Unlike Jean, who’d gone as red as a pillar box, she was nearly as brown as the coconuts they’d been given to eat when they’d landed briefly at Colombo the journey changing her before she had even reached Australia.

“I was thinking about Paw.”

“What about him?”

“You ken what,” Jean said, voice tight. “I’ve told you a hundred times, have I no’? It disnae seem right to me that we’re being sent to Australia afore he had the chance tae come back for us.”

“He signed the papers they told us so at the home.”

Jean shot her a look that Nell knew to be verging on anger.

“I’m no’ believing any of what they said, and you shouldn’t either. Paw promised he’d come back for us. It was easy for them tae say that he wanted us to start a new life in Australia, but I’m no’ believing that he wants us to be wi’ strangers on the other side o’ the world. I dinnae ken what happened, but he must have been tricked into signing those papers. He would never want rid of us like this.”

A pause hung awkwardly between the two sisters.

“We’re no’ being got rid of,” Nell said after a moment. She wanted to comfort her sister, be of some help to her. But it was difficult. Jean was older, and didn’t see things the way she did. From the first mention of Australia, Jean had been set against it, her attitude being that they’d be no better off on the other side of the world without their dad.

Nell, on the other hand, was excited to have a chance of a new beginning, and she was quite happy believing that child migration was a wonderful thing, and that they were the “lucky ones”, as the Government man had said at the port in Glasgow.

“I think we should jist try tae be happy. It’s too late now anyway, Jean. We’re on our way.”

Jean folded her arms against her chest.

“It’ll no’ always be like this, Nell. They’ll no’ be able to tell us where to live when we’re older. And then we’ll be free to do as we please. We’ll go home.”

Australia is going to be my home, Nell thought, though she didn’t dare say that. I’m going to be one of the lucky ones.

Suddenly a voice called her name and she swung round to see her friend Ruth waving.

“Quick, you pair,” Ruth shouted excitedly. “Come and get your picture taken!”

Nell turned back to face Jean.

“Coming?” she said, smiling, hardly knowing what else to do.

When she got no reply, her gaze moved to the sea. A porpoise was swimming alongside the ship, as if encouraging them on their journey.

“Do you no’ miss them, Nell?” Her sister was weeping now. Weeping and grieving and lonely.

Nell stood motionless. She didn’t need to ask who Jean meant. And she didn’t need words to give an answer. She simply nodded. Aye, they were missed. But in her quietest moments, when she was not quite asleep but another world beckoned, when an angelic hand reached out and took hers, she felt sure it belonged to her mother, and she had a feeling that it didn’t matter where in the world she was, they were all right there with her.

Every mile she travelled. They were with her. Colleen, Euan and Douglas. There and everywhere, and always with love.


Beryl’s ears rang with the whoops of delight as people whirled and birled all round her in time to the ceilidh band, the sounds of celebration mixed in equal measure with the resounding approval that everyone was giving to the rebuilt hall, residing with honour as it now did beside the Great War memorial.

Jess and Denny had done a brilliant job of decorating the interior, with the Aussie and Scots flags tied together with tartan bows, which abundantly festooned the hall, giving added colour and symbolism to its inauguration. Of course, it was the people that were there that gave the evening its joy, Beryl thought, and practically everyone that she had hoped would be there had indeed accepted the invitation including several of the Dundee cousins.

And what an event it had turned out to be! The culmination of everything that was important in life, a great moment of oneness the ceremony, the vows, the dancing, the jubilation.

“Crikey, who made the cake?” Kate asked Beryl with delight between the Gay Gordons and the Dashing White Sergeant, admiring the amazing fruitcake and sugar icing creation, which was a replica of a pair of bagpipes.

“Avril and Spike organised it,” Beryl said. “It was made by a specialist baker in Cairns. They insisted on paying for it. Told Susanne it was their wedding present to her and Walker. Seems appropriate when you think about where they got engaged.”

Beryl and Kate simultaneously turned to look at the newlywed couple, then quickly cast each other a content expression, one that confirmed mutual optimism for the future of both their families.

It was Alan, however, who managed to sum up everything that had happened in the past year or so, as he stood on the stage, face flushed with happy emotion, and charged his glass to his beautiful daughter and new son-in-law.

“Families wouldn’t be families, and life wouldn’t be life, if we didn’t have each other to fall back on and move forward with.”

Tears flowed. Smiles widened.

Later, alone on the veranda at Emu Hill, Beryl and Alan contemplated the changes ahead of them. Retirement, they realised, came easier now that Susanne and Walker had embraced the farm and all its challenges.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a holiday you and I,” Alan remarked.

Beryl turned to face him with a relaxed smile.

“Where do you want to go?”

“That e-mail you told me about the other day. The one Sally forwarded to you from your long-lost uncle Douglas. Where did you say he lives?”

“Boston. His family moved there when he was a teenager.”

“America, eh?” Alan said with inspired eyes. “Now that might be an adventure . . .”

Beryl leaned over and kissed him. She didn’t care where they went, or what they did being together was enough.

The End.


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