After almost 6 years researching the history of the Ransom family (my Dad’s side) and the Appleby family (my Mom’s side) it was time to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Branches from both sides reached out to Australia and having made contact with living relatives the next step to understanding the past was to visit the present. So it was on 29th October 2022 that my parents and I boarded an Emirates flight to Sydney, Australia switching flights briefly in Dubai, UAE.
My Mom’s two half brother’s Norm and Jim Appleby were sent out to Australia in 1948 as child migrants and remained there for the rest of their lives. Both had died before we started looking into our family history but we had discovered Norm’s wife Daphne and their family, also the family of Jim.
My Dad’s great aunt Maud Ransom had emigrated to Australia in 1911 and we had tracked down her living descendants and arranged to meet them where Maud made her home and where they still live, Canberra, ACT.
The first leg of our journey saw us arrive in Parramatta, a suburb of Greater Western Sydney where we would meet Daphne, my aunt and my Mom’s sister in law. Daphne, like my uncle Norm was a child migrant and was sent to Fairbridge Farm School in Molong, NSW. Daphne was sent age 7 in 1948 on the “Empire Brent” – a P&O steamship. Travelling with her was her brother Victor, age 9 and also the cousin of Norm and Jim (who were yet to be sent), James G Young, age 12. Fairbridge Farm School was to be their home until they reached adulthood.
The Fairbridge Farm School experience is long and detailed story and there are a number of books that document life on the farm and the experiences of the children who were sent there so I will not cover the details here. A good starting point is to read “The Forgotten Children” by David Hill. In the book David interviews a number of now grown up children about their lives at Fairbridge and including his own memories having been sent there with his brothers.
During our stay with Daphne, she and my cousin Lisa took us on a 4 day trip out to Orange. On the way there we caught a train that took us to the Blue Mountains.
What surprised me was how green everything was. They have had so much rain that I saw none of the barren red Mars like ground that you see on TV. Everywhere was lush and green – very much like the English countryside. If you dug beneath the grasses though the soil was indeed red.
We got off at Katoomba which is the chief town of the Blue Mountain city region.
Whilst at the Blue Mountains we visited Scenic World which is an attraction offering a number of rides that let you see the Blue Mountains in all their glory.
On one of the days we visited the Historical Museum, Molong where our guide Sue, daughter of an ex Fairbridge kid showed us the collection of artefacts they have recovered over the years related to the Fairbridge Farm School.
Quote from The Forgotten Children bookDaphne Appleby
We also managed to get access to the farm school site for a tour around what remains of the cottages that were home to the children.
After our tour of Molong we visited my cousin Tony in Parkes.
Tony had arranged a party for us at his local club, The Parkes Services Club together with some of his friends. He was full of stories of his Dad Norm and made us all feel very welcome.
We had a great afternoon and we returned to Orange in the evening.