Whilst in the RAF during World War II, Alexander Ernest Barton constantly met fellow service personnel who were from Australia. Listening to their stories and anecdotes of the “land of opportunity”, ”the wonderful sunshine and beaches” Alexander, my grandfather, developed an ambition to move halfway across the globe and start a new life in Australia.
It was not until 1964 that he was able to realize this dream.
Alexander Ernest Barton was born at 8:50am on the 7th November 1924 at 4 Inglison St, Edinburgh, Scotland to John William Barton, a stoker in the Royal Navy and Annie Mack. He was the second child of four. He had one elder brother, John William (Sept 1922), a younger brother Frederick George (Aug 1926) and a younger sister Christine Harriet Rose (Oct 1931). The Bartons originally came from London.
My mother recalls him telling stories of his youth in Edinburgh:
- Playing on Arthur’s Seat (a large hill in the centre of the city itself about about a mile to the east of Edinburgh Castle),
- Of him climbing over a cemetery wall, slipping and having the stake go through his leg. After which he had to hobble home to seek medical attention. He had the scar for the rest of his life.
His future wife, Elizabeth Bennie Simpson Hutchison was also from Edinburgh. She was born on the 12th September 1926, Lothian, Scotland to Simpson Buglass and Catherine Hutchison. She was the second youngest of six children. Her siblings, in order of age, were sisters Susan (1916) , Jessie Joiner, Catherine, her brother Simpson and her younger sister Annie who passed away at a young age. The Buglass’s came from the country-side around Edinburgh.
As a young girl, Elizabeth had a cat called Molly who she used to dress up, place into a pram and push around pretending it was her baby. One story she of told of this, was that one day whilst pushing the pram with Molly in it, a passing lady looked in to see her “Dolly” and instead screamed wit shock when she saw it was a cat.
Elizabeth loved music and loved to dance,
Although very young in 1939 when World War II broke out, (Alex was 15 and Elizabeth was only 13) both of them did their part. By the war’s end Alex was co-piloting Lancaster bombers and Elizabeth was in the WRAF working with radar . Neither of them really talked much about their experiences during the war.
We do know of one time when Alex was found lying on a stage and was put in jail for being drunk when in fact he had been bitten on the leg by a scorpion.
Elizabeth had a hard time in radar, guiding anti aircraft guns and fighters to incoming bombers off the coast of England, as her brother flew bombers and she thought of the crews in the incoming bombers in the same vain as her brother.
My Grandfather Alex met my grandmother, Elizabeth,(who was an avid and graceful dancer), at a dance after the war. From this meeting they continued to see each other constantly. They married several years later on the 22nd April 1950 at Stenhouse Church, in Chesser Ave, Edinburgh .
Alex and Elizabeth Barton moved into Stenhouse Ave in Edinburgh and had their first daughter Catherine soon after. Over the next few years Alex became a Machine Tool Fitter with Ferranti Ltd for whom he worked from the 27th September 1954 to the 20th November 1964 and Elizabeth got herself a position as a manager in a bakery . With the birth of their second daughter, Jeanette, in 1957 the Barton family moved from Stenhouse to Clermiston, Edinburgh, where they remained until their move to Australia.
All through this period my grandfather still harboured the ambition to move to Australia but my grandmother always maintained she did not want to leave her mother, Catherine Hutchison and father, Simpson Buglass. It was not until they passed away on the 24th March 1961 and 22nd April 1963 respectively, that she gave her approval.
According to my mother Catherine, it was the middle of winter in Scotland when my grandmother asked my grandfather if he still wanted to go to Australia. Apparently he nearly fell of his seat in shock when she asked him after so many years of being told no.
Because her parents had passed away, her sister Katie had met, married and moved to Canada years before, Jessie had moved to England, her only family in Scotland was her sister Susan who lived in Madison, Falkirk outside Edinburgh and brother Simpson who lived at Broomhouse.
What followed was a period of intense activity which included visits to Australia house and numerous medical examinations until finally a letter came through that confirmed they had been accepted to migrate to Australia under the “10 pound Pom” immigration scheme. My mother asked if she could be the one to tell her father and when he came home from work. She asked him “Three guesses what is happening?” to which he made a number of incorrect guesses” When he gave up she then told him “Australia and we leave in a month”
Again another period of intense activity followed as they got themselves ready to move to Australia. My mother recalls with great sadness watching furniture and precious toys being sold, removed from the house or being left behind.
The Barton Family travelled down to London the day before boarding with all the possessions they could take, packed into two small trunks, one suitcase and whatever personal items they could carry. For some reason which my mother cannot remember, this included a small four legged table which was “carried like a painting”. They stayed overnight in London with Elizabeth’s sister Jess and the next morning they took another train to Southampton. No one came to see them off as it was such a sad occasion. They boarded the SS Canberra on the 24th November 1964 and left for their new life in Australia the same day. At the time Alex was 40, his wife Elizabeth 38, Catherine was 13 and Jeanette 7 .
The journey took approximately one month and along the way they stopped at Naples in Italy for a day where they visited Pompeii and were one of the last ships to pass through the Suez Canal before it was closed due to local conflict. Their time on board the SS Canberra was spent swimming, attending clubs playing games on deck and watching movies.
They arrived in Sydney after stopping a day each in Perth and Melbourne on the 19th December 1964. Before they docked in Perth they were given an envelope which stipulated which city in Australia they were to be settled. The Bartons were allocated to Wacol Hostel, Wacol Brisbane.
On disembarkation in Sydney, they had tea at the Sydney railway station and boarded a “cattle train” for Brisbane. This train had only the barest of essentials including only wooden seats to sit on. An overnight trip had them arriving sometime after lunch on the 20th December 1964.
On arrival in Brisbane they entered the Wacol Hostel where they would base themselves until they get settled in. Elizabeth got a job in a pineapple factory where she worked in the open. On one particular day it was scorching hot, the flies were intolerable and she had pineapple juice running down her legs. When she stopped to wipe herself off and move the flies the female boss came out and yelled at her to get back to work and keep cutting the pineapples. She never went back!
Their youngest daughter Jeanette also remembers an occasion where she was playing a game of jumping of the steps and Mum was catching her and swinging her around. When Mum was told of by her mother she insisted she told her she was not playing any more as she was talking to a friend but she jumped anyway and injured herself. Jeanette also recalls the school uniform, especially the hat which she especially loved, and vanilla paddle pops. She can still remember the milk flavour to this day. She also recalls her dad, Alex Barton bringing home chocolates for them. She did not like them at first as she said they were not as sweet as the chocolate back in Scotland.
From 15th January 1965 to August 1965 Alex worked as Machine Fitter with the A.E.I Pty Ltd. He then got a job working on the Snowy Mountain Scheme as an Engine Fitter at Khancoban, New South Wales between 11th August 1965 and the 19 January 1966. Elizabeth, Catherine and Jeanette stayed in Brisbane whilst Alex went to the Snowy’s alone.
Whilst in Khancoban, Alex heard there was plenty of work in Melbourne so he moved down there and stayed originally at the Nunawading immigration centre. His youngest daughter Jeanette recalls being taken to Luna Park on Sundays where she went on the pony rides.
He soon took up employment at Fisherman’s Bend as an Engine Fitter until around 1969. He then left and took up position as a caretaker at the Presbyterian Ladies’ College on Burwood Hwy in Burwood. By this time he and his family, had grown to include Alex and Elizabeth’s first Granddaughter Susan Elizabeth. Over the next few years Alex and Elizabeth held various caretaker positions including a factory warehouse on Springvale Rd, Springvale and then at the Balwyn Bowling Club in Balwyn.
Alex went back to England once during a “world tour” in 1986, during which mum tells the story of being on the beach at Venice and asking her dad to “tell her now if she has any brothers or sisters she ought to know about” since he had been stationed there during the Second World War. Granny and mum went back on numerous trips over the years, Jeanette has been back once.
Alex Barton died on the 29th May 1989 and Elizabeth Buglass passed away on the 7th May 2002. Both passed away in the rear bedroom of their daughter Catherine’s House in Burwood.