Lee Corpe's Story and Picture page.


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I believe I was luckier than most having made two trips on the Australis. The first was Southbound to Australia and New Zealand - I was only 18, in fact I had my 18th birthday onboard. I can see that birthday cake now, sparklers twinkling in the dimmed lights as our table waiter Tony carried it towards our table, A lovely gesture yes but oh I was sooo embarrassed.At Auckland, guy waving in background is a workmate Paul

My second voyage on her was twelve months later. My parents and myself had to return unexpectedly to the UK after only nine months in Australia ( we returned on the Ellinis) and after a mere nine months back in England we returned again, this time permanently to New Zealand and then later to Australia, once again on the Australis, I think it was voyage 41 Southbound in January 1968 but don't quote me here as I may well be wrong. My memories 35 years on are still remarkably vivid. As a young girl fresh out of the Midlands my first sight of the ship was one of awe. I remember looking up at its hull from the dockside, it towered above me and I had to crane my neck to see its top decks. I had recurring dreams for many years because of that vision, I saw it falling on me in slow motion, I would try to run but my legs would hardly move. That goes to show what an impact that awesome vision can have on someone.

I was terribly shy back in those days and when it was announced that they wanted girls for the Greek dancing night I literally forced myself to go along and join in. I'm so glad I did as I met some terrific friends, and my days of shyness were slowly edging behind me. Harry Hogarth was the organist who used to play it seemed continously in the main lounge. Our cabin was 71 on the sundeck just along from the mezzinine and we could hear him playing from the cabin, like it or not, well, my folks liked it.

I became friends with the Greek band members, then called " The Seniors from Athens" The band leader was Dennis Vernadakis. I didn't get to know him terribly well, however, I corresponded for many years with the bass guitarist Andreas. I can remember several of us squashing into this unbelievably small cabin way down in the ships bowels ( crew cabin) and listening to 45s over and over again trying hard to pick up the correct lyrics so the band could play them at later dates. I think I got my claustrophobic fears from these times. I would listen in on their band practice each afternoon and correct their lyrics. One of the other girls from the Dance night was also friendly with the band, we would listen to them together and they valued our input as to whether they had got a certain lyric or tune right.

My older brother was also on this first voyage. He and his wife and two littlies were returning to Australia, he being the reason the rest of us in the family were emigrating in the first place. My younger brother and older sister having gone before us, my sister also on the Australis and my brother on Sitmar's Fairstar. I remember a Fancy Dress night. My little nephew and niece then 3 and 5 looked absolutely adorable as Mini Minors. We dressed them in black, their little faces smudged with black and placed torches on top of their little hard hats we had asked the security men that paced our corridors for. They came second in the children's category. In the adults category the 1st prize went to someone wearing a British flag sown up as a dress. On the front of it read "Many a Battle was fought Under this Flag..." mmmm- we wonder? We visited a band member in the hospital. He fell off his bunk and had eleven stitches in his side. He found out the hard way that the top bunk was definitely not meant for two!!!. Poor Takis.

Seated at our dining table we had the most interesting of people. Of course we were aware that once on a ship people can tell you what the heck they like and we can't dispute it, however there was one dear old gentleman who's name was Jim, we later were told it was Sir Jim. We tended to believe him as he always had the most amazing stories to tell that we doubted could ever be made up with so much accuracy. Many a meal passed quickly thanks to Sir Jim and his wonderful tales. Others on our table were Richard a young boy leaving England to become a Jackeroo in Oz, I hope he made the transition successfully. Pat and Helen from Hull who became great friends to my parents. Not forgetting our wonderfully well mannered table waiter we knew as " Tony". Panama Canal, Christmas 1968.My mother would say at every mealtime, oh he's a lovely boy, so well mannered and so patient. We only needed telling once mom.

Towards the end of the journey there was trouble on the sundeck one evening. A bunch of Aussie blokes returning home had apparently gotten into a drunken brawl and had started throwing deck chairs overboard. The following day the newsletter told us that several of them had been arrested and an unprecedented number of people were in the ships brig and would remain there until the ship docked in Fremantle.

We passed through the Panama canal just on Christmas ( see photo) and I remeber the feast was truly magnificent. Many times have members of my family commented that for a migrant ship she did herself proud. If there were such boats today I doubt they would measure up. My brother and his family left the ship in Sydney after a tearful farewell. My parents and I went onto Auckland and started our new life there where my other brother lived. I moved to Sydney in 1969 after just nine months in Auckland, I loved the country but found it a bit too quiet for a girl who was no longer shy. Had that shy girl disembarked at Auckland she may have stayed but after five weeks at sea it kind of changes ones outlook on life and all that's out there. I married in Sydney in 1971 and I now live in Brisbane.

No longer married I live close to my three children all in their late twenties.Yes I have a lot to thank the Australis for. She not only gave me a life free from terrible shyness she gave me a new life the other side of the world. Seeing the photo's of how she is now bought more than a few tears to my eyes. I am sure many of you felt the same. Have any other passengers ever wondered where they would be and what they would be doing if it had not been for that ships journey they decided to take many years ago, to the other side of the world?

May she rest in peace.

Lee Corpe ( nee Crump).


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The story and photos above are courtesy of Lee Corpe.




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