WHEN cousins Linda Candy and Valerie Linden boarded the SS New Australia at Southampton on August 29, 1951, they had high hopes for a new life in the sunshine Down Under.
Crammed in a tiny house in the wake of The War IITheir father – who was a brother – aspired to build a better life for their family.
They immigrated to Australia as part of the Ten Pound Pom program, like Michelle Keegancharacter in new BBC series.
But shortly after arriving, Linda, now 75, and Valerie, 76, were torn apart after the family fell apart.
They moved thousands of miles apart, and although Linda often thought of the cousin she grew up with, she thought they would never see each other again.
That was until Valerie tracked her down, more than 70 years later, using an ancestral website before hesitantly sending her a message on Facebook.
Earlier this year, the couple were finally reunited at the same spot they came to the country from in 1951, at Pier One in the shadow of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Linda said: “It was a great feeling to see Valerie again after all this time.
“I gave up hope of a reunion decades ago, because we had no way of communicating.”
Linda said she and Valerie are “more like sisters than cousins”, adding: “I often think about the fun we had on the ship on the way to Australia.
“We both have older brothers so we’re attracted to each other and are more like sisters than cousins.
“Even though a life has passed, it is as if we have never been apart.
“We are as close as a house on fire. We went to Valerie’s daughter’s house, near Sydney, and we danced at 2am, acting like we were when we were 4 and 5, I suppose!
“I am so grateful that she found me again. We have a lot of work to make up for lost time to do now.”
Linda’s father, Charles Rossiter, was a seasoned soldier and served in the Africa and Middle East before and during World War II.
Meanwhile, his brother Les was working in the mines in Durham County.
But by 1950, they found themselves living in one room with their parents, husband and wife, and young children.
Desperate for housing and job opportunities, along with Charles’s thirst for sunshine and adventure, they decided to emigrate to Australia together.
They set sail when Linda was four and Valerie was five.
Linda recalls: “I remember the journey on the boat quite clearly, our mother was always afraid that we would fall into the sea so we had to control quite closely during the journey.
“When we finally arrived in Australia, I remember how excited I was to play on the pitch, and how hard it was for my mother to get me on the train to Bathurst.”
Two families live in migrant dormitories, tin huts with basic furniture and no fans, let alone air conditioning, in the scorching heat.
“It was difficult for all of us,” Linda recalls. “It was scorching hot, in the middle of summer, we had no money and we all got measles.
“There is no medical care other than calamine lotion. I remember my mother putting paper on the hut windows because we couldn’t stand the light.
“Our mothers must have thought they had made the worst mistake of their lives.”
The brothers were both planning to head west to South Australia for work – but their plans were cut short when Les convinced Charlie to lend a friend £70 so they could buy a truck to work together. journey.
Somehow, this didn’t work and there was a heated argument – the result was that Linda’s family had to go away alone.
Since then, the two families have gone their separate ways.
“There is no way to stay in touch; we moved south to Salisbury, South Australia and they stayed in Fairy Meadow, New South Wales,” explains Linda.
It was very difficult for all of us. In the middle of the hot summer, there is no money to catch measles
“We used to be friends. It was a big change getting used to life without them.”
Within two years of moving to South Australia, the Linda family’s fortunes changed after they won the £15,000 lottery. Australia’s currency was still in pounds at the time.
They moved back to England and bought a farm – but within three years the Australian way of life was too tempting and they moved back to South Australia, where Linda attended university, completed an art degree and became a teacher. .
Valerie’s family also returned to England in 1959, but she and her brother Ian eventually returned as adults, going to school in England. Now she lives there, as do her children.
The two cousins discover that they have both spent their entire lives yo-yo between the two hemispheres.
“I built my family tree on a genealogy page and tried to trace the branch of Linda’s family,” says Valerie.
“For many years, my thoughts often wandered not knowing where Linda was and what she was doing.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found her husband. The rest is history!
“It may take 70 years but it is worth the wait.”