My family and childhood

I was born in Belfast on the 13 April 1907 My brother Percy was born in Portsmouth two years later, while Les was born in Malta two years after again.

Our father was an Armour Sergeant at first in the Gloucestershire regiment and then he'd been to the Middle East. He spoke Turkish fluently, but I think his main language was Arabic. Maybe he got the Arabic from Iran, he had been there, and those two languages are very similar. He'd been sent to China where I think he was an ADC to a Governor. He was in Canton for a short where he got Cantonese, which is the easiest of the Chinese languages. Then later, he learnt Mandarin when he went to Teintsin. Then he joined, or was impressed into, the Diplomatic Service.

He must have met my mother before he went to China, for they married when he returned from his first posting there. My father was Norwegian/Irish while my mother
(Amy Ellen nee Durden) was English. They were married in Birmingham. Her parents didn't like her marrying an Army man. But when he got out of that, apparently they thought that was more respectable. My mother had been, for a while, a teacher; I don't know what kind of teacher. She had a sister who had a very fashionable boutique in Moseley, Birmingham, and she joined her in that for a little while. It must have been while my father was away, because he came back to England after two years.

I think he only made two trips back to England from China. You didn't flip back overnight like you do now. On one trip he came back via America where he landed in San Francisco the night of the earthquake. It was quickest to come that way and get off at San Francisco, hop on a train and come across, and then you crossed the Atlantic on another ship. See, there was no Panama Canal in them days. He sailed back to England on the White Sail Line - the Cedric - that's why I got named Cedric. But I found that with the name of Cedric, you got yourself into a bit of trouble. When I got back to Ireland I looked like having trouble, and my uncle advised me to switch to Sid. He started calling me Sid. So I kept it like that.

When we landed back in England after being in China, we moved to my Grandmother's house in Mosely, Birmingham. My father was hauled off somewhere. We didn't know where; he was just gone. But years later I learned he'd gone to Turkey. They were prevailing on the Turks; Sambroo the Fourth or somebody, was the big shot there. The Germans were wooing him to join on their side and they had given him a railway train and six railway carriages, and five or six miles of track and two hundred men to install it. The Germans were working frantically doing it, while the old man's there. Well, all the English took over was a few baubles and things that were portable. So of course, he could see this great German gift was finished in a matter of weeks - and here he was choofing around in the train; who wouldn't go on the side of the Germans in the war?

Then my father went to the France; as he was an armourer officer he would have been in some gunnery business, I take it. He came back after he got partly gassed, and he had to go away into a sanatorium for two months, three months or something. While he was there, he got fed - they reckon as a cure - a lot of garlic. So he'd written home and had the people who owned the house where we were in, plant a lot of garlic in the garden. The place used to stink of garlic but it cured him; he would have had TB otherwise. I talked to a doctor afterwards and he said: 'Its quite likely it did cure him' - if you could suffer it. He was quite healthy to the last.

Then we came out here to Australia. They got the Ben Lomond Number Two, I think they called it. That was a big station divided into three - and they got that under some scheme. I sometimes visited them on leave, I came off the ship and went up by train; all day in the train just about, or all one night. My father was in his element. He used to ride a horse about - this is before the days of tractors. My brother went to some agricultural college - I suppose it was Hawkesbury or something. Then he got the tractor bug, so they bought big tractors then, and they used tractors. Percy went on to be a farmer in Ben Lomond, taking over the property our father had, and Les had another one and he grew peas. Les was the first one that grew peas on a huge scale; like Edgells do now. There was a man named Weller down from them, who was a German but an experimenter; like many Germans are good botanists, he found that you could grow peas there - and they could grow peas there better than anywhere in Australia; so that's what they did. They grew so many peas that they flooded the Brisbane market twice.

My mother died in 1965 from kidney trouble, though the doctor was treating her for heart trouble. Percy died many years earlier as the result of a shooting accident which led to gas gangrene in his leg.
(Les died on 20 February 2003, in Brisbane, aged 93.)

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