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Sea-Going Employment

My cousin David had given me one of his radio officers uniforms and my mother had altered it to fit me as David was a good deal taller than I. It was an expensive black doeskin double-breasted jacket and trousers and the cap fitted perfectly. The sleeves were emblazoned with one gold stripe with green trimming which indicated a junior Marconi radio officer.

With my brand new suitcase all packed, I said my goodbyes and nervously set off on the 3am train from Fishguard to the Marconi office in Chelmsford. By the time I got there, I was so tired and nervous having not slept a minute, thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

The interview went smoothly so my nervousness was unfounded. The clerk who attended to my application made a point of reminding me that I was now an employee of the famous Marconi International Marine Company, (MIMCO) founded by Guillermo Marconi himself and who were the employers of Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, Radio Officers of the ill-fated liner Titanic.

After all the paperwork and documents had been completed, I was accompanied by one of the office personnel who drove the one hour distance with me to my new posting on the M/V Baron Kinnaird at Poplar Docks, London.

It was February and the weather was cold and drizzling rain as we climbed up the gangway and made our way to the radio officers quarters. I was introduced to Angus, the Chief Radio Officer Who would be my boss for the next few weeks.  He was hardly much older than I was at 21 while I was just 19. I was handed a mug of steaming tea by the steward which looked and tasted like Varnish.

A strong pungent smell of heavy oil emanated from the engine room as the heavy metal door clanged shut whenever the engineers entered or left. This, together with the smell of the sea and the taste of the stewed tea made me feel rather squeamish in the stomach.

But I was determined not to show it as Angus and I entered the radio room for the first time. The equipment was very familiar to me as we had been trained with similar gear at the College.

It turned out the ships crew including officers were all Scottish, so I was the only Englishman on board. To my naive and innocent nature, this wasn’t a problem and indeed I was keen to meet people from every country and walk of life. I was very interested in finding out about people from different cultures, languages and backgrounds.

One time I remember, two Italian boys were visiting our town and I was very interested in learning their language. I bought an Italian-English book and asked them to help me learn how to speak Italian. However I soon found out the Italian boys were only interested in one thing. Picking up girls! So they laughed at me and ignored me as their attention was on the girls who hung around the cafes where the bikies were.

Although Angus was a good instructor and friend, many of the other crew were, I found out later, anti-English and would bait me with questions so they could make me feel alienated.

Very soon the Baron Kinnaird was leaving port and heading out into the English Channel and into a full blown gale. We were bound for Tampa, Florida light ship (empty) to load a cargo of Phosphate so she was rolling quite badly.

I was instructed by Angus to do all the operating and he would be sitting watching.

Fishguard

The pub was going nowhere and our family were all sick of living in the city, so the next move was to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, Southwest Wales.

We had somehow bought a house near the Strumble Head lighthouse overlooking the Irish Sea. The green rolling hills and winding laneways with blackberry hedgerows was a breath of fresh air to our clogged up city lungs.

I had to travel with all our furniture in an old van with George Proudman, a workmate of my fathers and stay there on my own for 3 weeks until they had finalised the sale of the pub.

It was a lonely isolated place and the nearest shop was a 5 mile walk.

My parents seemed to favour isolated places and often discussed “getting away from it all”. I think they wanted to get away from themselves as they didn’t seem to like other people and when visitors came round, they were always glad to see them go and heaved a sigh of relief when the left.

I also discovered there was an abandoned chapel behind our house with a disused cemetery. Most of the gravestones were overgrown and broken.

In the night the light of Strumble Head flashed its warning far and wide. I had a little money and did the long walk to the shops, passing farms, opening and closing gates and stopping to stare at the wild sea. Once there was a ferry boat heading to Cork or Rosslare in Ireland, the white water streaming off its bows.

I had a small telescope and could see people on the deck and the sailors going about their jobs, hauling ropes and stowing things away. It gave me a sense that I was getting closer to my dream of going to sea and travelling the world.

When my family arrived at Strumble Head, we settled into unpacking everything but it wasn’t long before the deal fell through and we were on the move again. I don’t know if it was money or what but the next thing we had moved to a caravan in Goodwick, near Fishguard. This was to be our temporary home, my father informed us but it was 2 years before they moved to Llwynon.

Pembrokeshire was a holiday destination for tourists so it seemed like we were always on holiday. The beach and the ferry terminal was also very close. My sister went to school in Fishgurd on the school bus and I just hung around waiting for a letter to be offered a job at sea.

After a while I became sick of waiting and applied for a job on a local farm. The farmer, Mr Phillips came round to our caravan to interview me and seemed impressed as I got the job. Mr Phillips told me he wanted a permanent employee not one who would up and away in a couple of weeks. I assured him I was reliable, but I didn’t mention to him that I was on a waiting list for a better position.

The job entailed living at the farm which was located about 5 miles from Fishguard. We would rise at the crack of dawn to bring in the cows for milking and escort them back to the fields afterwards. Then it was mucking out the cow sheds, heaving the manure into the muck spreader and driving the tractor out to the fields and spreading it.

There was always work to do on the farm and now I was 18, I was strong and fit. We had home cooked food as much as you could eat and homebrewed beer. The family would speak Welsh to each other so (again) I felt like a foreigner not being able to join in the conversation.

Of course there would be rugby on the television at weekends. How the Welsh love their rugby!

On Saturday afternoons I was allowed to go into Fishguard on the bus and meet my parents in the Fishguard Arms for an hour or two. We would have a couple of drinks and a snack, then I would catch the bus back to the farm again. I would give my parents half of my pay to supplement their meagre pension.

The Fishguard Arms was where the last invasion of Britian peace treaty was signed between Britain and France. There is an historic plaque on the wall outside commemorating the event.

My parents moved from the caravan park to a beautiful small rented cottage on the Haverfordwest Road called Llywynon in the village of Scleddau. (for the uninitiated, it is pronounced Clue-wee-non, Sklethee).

This routine continued for about three months, then one day, I received a letter in the mail from The Marconi International Marine Company, Chelmsford, Essex.

The letter invited me to come  to their Chelmsford office for an interview for a seagoing position as a junior radio officer.

So I had a dilemma as I now had to pluck up the courage to tell Mr Phillips. However he was quite nice about it and gave me his blessing and good wishes so I left the Phillips farm the following week and started excitedly getting ready to travel to Chelmsford.

Ashton-Under-Lyne

My father had always dreamed of owning a pub in the country, having a variety of cheeses on the counter and serving a nice drop of ale to a customer.  Suddenly without much warning, we were moving to Ashton-under-lyne to a pub on the corner of a dirty street, opposite a cinema, with another pub on the opposite corner. Hardly what you would call countryside.

Only upside was a motorcycle shop on the other corner, selling Japanese bikes which were a new innovation. I could look into the showroom from my upstairs bedroom window and dream of owning a Honda. I asked my father to buy me one, but money was very short and we weren’t making any.

There was a Chinese restaurant next door called the Golden Dragon. They were the first Chinese peope I had ever seen. They were very polite and friendly but spoke very little English. Everyone joked about what kind of meat was in the food. Were they dogs or rats?

I was a poor student and homework wasn’t appealing to me, so the 12 month course took me two and a half years. There was elementary, intermediate and advanced and I took two attempts at each section.eventually passing my exam in 1964 much to the delight of my parents.

I was really keen to get to sea and see the world, but after applying for jobs at all the various shipping companies and radio organisations, I was put on the waiting list.

In the meantime, my father got me a job in a foundry where he worked. The company made nuts and bolts and my father was a fitter and turner and made the tools for the machines that made the nuts and bolts.

My job was working at the furnaces, putting  the long rods of steel into the fire and heating them until they were white hot, then putting them into the machines which moulded the heads and cut them at the required length. It didn’t pay very much but kept me in cigarettes and beer.

Study

I left school at 15 and enrolled in a technical college in Manchester training to be a Merchant Navy Radio Officer. My cousin David had already done the course and was traveling the world sending postcards from Egypt and South Africa so I decided to do the same.

The Derbyshire County Council paid for my tuition fees and travel expenses otherwise my parents would not have been able to afford it. Being the youngest in the college and in the same class as 50-60 year olds was pretty daunting.

I had minimum knowledge of algebra but this was full on algebra. I travelled on the electric train from Glossop to Piccadilly in Manchester every day, then a bus to The college at Brooks Bar.

It was very interesting but hard work as it was completely new to me and I still had to attain the frame of mind of a serious student. We were also learning Morse code which I found fairly easy and was soon sending and receiving quite fast.

It was the era of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the swinging ‘60’s. We would go to the pub at lunch time and play darts or snooker and have a couple of pints. There wouldn’t be much study happening in the afternoons as we were all half cut. I would get James Thompson, one of the other students to buy the drinks as I was only 16 and he was 18.

So unfortunately I failed on the first attempt at getting from Elementary to Intermediate and again from Intermediate to Advanced. By the time I passed my ticket I was 18.

 

James Redvers Hewitson

My father was an engineer, but he was also a writer, socialist, lover of classical music and dreamed of sailing around the world single handed like Sir Francis Chichester or Alex Rose.

My parents, and indeed all my aunts and uncles loved classical music and we had quite a collection of favourites including Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin as well Gilbert and Sullivan’s music. They had joined a music club and would get LP records sent once a month. We had a beautiful Grundig record player and the house would be filled with music. So I developed a liking for classical music but also liked rock and roll, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Beatles etc.

He was a political activist who had been a labour party shop steward at Metropolitan Vickers, one of the largest companies in Europe. He and my mother were members of the communist party until they realised that it was full of corruption and fundamentalism so they got out.

Being somewhat of a dreamer he wanted to write books, play music, sail round the world, open a pub in the country. Many spontaneous ideas came to him but he never realised his dreams although he did publish some short stories for a magazine which did get printed but his style was rather outdated.

The urge to sail around the world took one step further and to prepare himself for the intended circumnavigation of the globe, he went away for two weeks of sailing lessons in Devon. They learned navigation, using a sextant, steering a course, trimming the sails and all the tricks of sailing a yacht.

When he returned from Devon, he was excited and full of enthusiasm and could talk of nothing else but sailing round the world. Although the harsh reality was he didn’t have much money but managed to scrape enough together to buy a boat called “Spray”.

It was a heavy ex ship’s lifeboat, clinker built, and ketch rigged with two masts and a diesel engine. It was moored in the estuary at Colwyn Bay, North Wales.

He had arranged and paid for someone to look after the moorings as Colwyn Bay was about 100 miles away. This arrangement was doomed from the start as not long after, bad weather caused the boat to smash against the peer and broke a gaping hole in her bows.

We drove to Collwyn Bay to survey the damage which proved quite difficult to repair due to the overlapping planks of the clinker style. However my father bought all the wood and resin, screws etc required and we proceeded to attempt repairs.

After several trips to Colwyn Bay and back, the repairs had still not been completed and eventually Spray was sold for a song without even leaving the bay. He never again pursued his dream of sailing round the world and I believe my mother was secretly glad.

My father never got on well with the rest of the family especially his brother David. He had never got over an incident when he wanted to buy a second hand car and ask my uncle David to go guarantor on a loan. David refused and they never spoke to each other for about ten years.

When my sister and I were quite young, I remember one Sunday morning there was a discussion about uncle Bert and aunt Hilda who we had never seen. I said, where does aunt Hilda live? My dad wrote a phone number on a piece of paper and told me and Janet to go to the phone box and ring them up.

It was the first time I had made a phone call, so I managed to dial the number, press button A, so the coins dropped and spoke to Uncle Bert. They were so surprised and invited us to come and visit. My mother later explained that they had fallen out with Hilda and Bert and had not spoken to them for years.

So Janet and I took a bus trip to Manchester to see Hilda and Bert. They couldn’t do enough for us as they had no children of their own. They bought a new watch for me and a large doll for Janet. We took a trip to Blackpool driving in their Ford Prefect and road the Ferris Wheel and the dodgems.

 

Teenage Years

At 11 years old, I went to West End Secondary Modern School because I had failed the 11 plus exam which decided whether you went to grammar school and on to university, or, if you failed, went to secondary school and learned trades.

The teachers were a lot better than the ones at primary school, except for the maths teacher, Mr Bowden. He was over weight with a red face and was constantly eying up the girls.

I was hanging around with Alan Skinner who was Scottish and quite a wild kid. We got mixed up in stealing things and were caught by the Police. We went to court and my father was highly embarrassed as I was fined 5 pounds.

We would go to Pete’s Cafe in Hadfield and play the pinball machines and listen to the jukebox. It was only 15 minutes by train or a 45 minute walk. Many’s the time we would miss the train home and have to walk at midnight and pass the cemetery. We had lots of laughs trying to scare each other by walking through the graveyard.

The bikies on Triumph Bonnevilles, Matchless, Nortons, BSA  and the mighty Vincent black shadow would roar up the street and park their bikes outside the cafe. We would all drool over those beautiful bikes and dream about owning one.

In the summer holidays we would get jobs ‘grouse beating’. The landlord gentry would arrive at Rowalls Farm in their sports cars and Land Rovers complete with crates of champagne and a retinue of helpers along with their guns. We kids from the neighbourhood, would walk for miles with our sticks and white flags beating the bracken to scare the grouse so they could be shot.

The dead grouse would be laid out in braces on a large canvas sheet  while the gentry chuckled approvingly sipping champagne and nibbling on cucumber sandwiches. After walking 20 miles we would be paid the princely sum of 20 shillings.

Our family, which included aunts, uncles cousins etc were all very politically active and all staunch socialist and labour supporters. After WWII my parents joined the communist party because at that time in Britain, there was so much support for the Russians after they had defeated the Germans and pushed them back to Berlin.

My father was a shop steward and gave many speeches and held stop work meetings. I was told he had been arrested a couple of times and been jailed but not for long periods.

My Uncle Bert Pollitt was probably the only one who was not politically motivated at all, but unfortunately he shared his surname with a very prominent British Communist Party leader, Harry Pollitt who was Stalinist. He and his wife, my aunt Hilda, wanted to travel to Canada and visit my aunt Jessie, Hilda’s sister, but the customs stopped them from leaving at the airport as they had checked his credentials on a watch list. They believed he posed an unacceptable risk, even though he was not related to Harry Pollitt and was not in the least bit politically motivated, and even though had a valid passport and visa, they refused his travel.

I had always wanted to join the Royal Navy and my father told me about a friend of his, whose son, Granville Morgan, was Yeoman of Signals in the RN and how he had served on an aircraft carrier. This really fueled my desire to join up and see the world so I applied for the entrance into the Royal Navy in communications.

The entrance exam, and medical was all fine so then I waited to get the letter telling me I had been accepted. It was some time before an official letter came bearing the government stamp, which I excitedly opened in front of my equally excited parents.

However on opening the letter, the words “we are unable to offer you employment in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces” knocked the wind out of me. Tears welled up and I could not understand the reason because none had been given.

My parents consoled me and my father said he knew the reason. It was because of their political affiliations and communist party history so I shouldn’t get upset. But upset I was and wasn’t sure what my future would hold, being all of 15.

 

 

 

Early Years

I was born in Manchester, England but my early memories were about life at Deep Clough, Derbyshire where I grew up. We lived in a semi-detached house in a valley about 7 miles outside Glossop Derbyshire, deep in the Pennine district.

The rolling peat moors, brown bracken and purple heather surrounded us and above us lay the twisting and winding, Snake Pass which was the main road to Sheffield through the mountains.

Below us was the railway line from Manchester to Sheffield where the steam trains would roar.  We had no running water except from a natural well and no electricity. We used Tilley lanterns and cooked on Primus stoves.

My parents listened to plays or classical music on the wireless or played records on an old gramophone. The wireless set had a large battery or accumulator as it was called then, with a transparent case so you could see the bubbles rising inside. My father would take it to Glossop to be charged every so often.

Our water was drawn out of a well which was crystal clear and icy cold. My father raved on about how pure the water was and told my mum to give me as much as possible. Then one day he came running in and said, “Stop, don’t drink the water!” He had found a dead sheep lying across the stream that fed the well. After that we had to boil every drop of water.

A  huge fireplace in our living room was where we burnt coal dropped to us by passing trains. The stokers on the trains would throw off huge cobs of coal as the train roared past.  It would be a race to see who could grab the largest chunks. There would be my dad, Walter Smith and one of the Hully brothers running down the embankment with empty sacks to fill with coal.

The four Hully brothers lived next door. They were always tinkering with a motorbike or an old bomb of a car. I would love to watch them and played around with the parts lying everywhere. Three of them would go to work in a red van but the eldest stayed home.

I was about 4 years old at the time and once I filled the petrol tank on their motorbike with sand. They didn’t really appreciate that and I was banned for a couple of weeks. Another time I broke one of their best fishing rods. I brought it home, next door and said, “look, it’s unbreakable!” while bending it almost double until it snapped with a crack.

While at their house I would become quite dizzy with all the cigarette smoke because they all smoked constantly.

My Aunt Flo and Uncle David lived in another set of semi-detached houses close by and  the “odd couple”; Walter and Louise Smith lived next door. Walter was sort of a rag and bone man, who came home with masses of junk. Their  house was over-flowing with an amazing collection of old furniture, military uniforms, old radios, watches, paintings on the wall, china mugs, and nick knacks of every conceivable kind. I would spend hours rummaging and playing with all these treasures.

We had about five acres of land which we rented and my father grew tomatoes in a greenhouse and tended a large vegetable garden. We also had some pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, goats and an old donkey called Billy.

I had a make-believe friend called John. I think I always wanted a brother so I made one up. I would have lots of conversations with John. My parents would say, “What did you do today?” I would say, “Oh, I went to play with John.”

My father was an engineer’s toolmaker by trade and would ride to work in Glossop on an old BSA Army motor bike and sidecar. My mother would look after all the animals, cook and look after me. She was a dressmaker by profession and had made wedding dresses in the fashion houses in Manchester before getting married. She used to make shirts for my father which were better than the bought ones.

We children in the area would be driven to school each day in a large black taxi provided by the Derbyshire County Council. It had nice smelling leather seats and large running boards down the sides. The taxi would pick us up again after school and bring us home.

The winters were quite severe and I remember being snowed in and not being able to get to school. The kids in the area would get their sleds out and we would have great fun sledging up and down the slopes.

Aunty Alice, Uncle Arthur, and my cousins Audrey and David who (I found out much later) were adopted because Arthur had congenital syphilis and they couldn’t have children, lived in Hadfield in a large rambling house near the railway station. There was a real bathroom and a large recreation room where we would play table tennis with my cousin David.

David was more like a brother to me and maybe I looked up to him as the brother I never had. He would tease me terribly but I would put up with it, just to be with him. We would all go on holiday trips to Blackpool and Morecombe on the motorbike and sidecar.  I would ride on the pillion, with my mother and sister in the sidecar. What a blast! It’s a wonder I never fell off because many a time I would fall asleep and wake up when we stopped.

We’d have Morecombe rock, welks and walk about on the beach with our wellington boots on. That one day out would be our annual holidays.

One time we holidayed at George Proudman’s mobile home which was a converted single decker bus. It was close to the sea at Morecombe and we spent a lovely week there, swimming, exploring all the crabs and small animals in the sea and getting sunburnt.

At the time, we were pretty much self-sufficient with goats, pigs, hens, ducks, a garden full of vegetables. My mother would make butter and cheese from goat’s milk and we always had eggs and fresh vegetables from the garden.

I had a little pet kid goat which I would play with for hours. One day when some delivery men came while I was at school, my mother tied up the little goat because it was being a nuisance while she spoke to the men. When I came home from school, I ran calling the little goat, but then my mum sat me down and told me quietly that unfortunately the little kid goat had gone to heaven and I wouldn’t be able to see it again. The knot she tied round the goats neck was a slip knot and the poor thing got strangled. I was inconsolable for days.

My little sister Janet came into the world when I was 6 years old. She was a premmie baby and I remember my father and I waiting outside the hospital on the motorbike and sidecar because in those day, fathers weren’t allowed in to see their children being born. It was drizzling rain and we ate some egg and lettuce sandwiches and drank tea out of a thermos while we waited.

It was a little while before mum and the baby came home, but the decision was made to move away from the bleak remoteness of Deep Clough to Smedley Place, Old Glossop and Civilisation.

It was a tiny 2-up, 2-down cottage in a row of 4 with no bathroom or toilet. There were two outside toilets shared by the whole row of four houses. If anyone wanted a bath, you had to drag out the old galvanised tin bath which was hanging on the wall, boil up some water and make sure nobody came in the back door or the kitchen door while you were bathing.

Later on, I used to walk 5 miles to Aunty Alice’s because she had a real bathroom but before I had my bath, Aunt Alice, who was a French teacher, would teach me French. Then afterwards, we and uncle Arthur would have dinner and watch Inspector Maigre on the television.

Old Glossop was a medieval town and the narrow winding streets and lanes looked quite grim. The Derbyshire dialect was sometimes unintelligible and anyone who was not a local was a foreigner. I was a foreigner because I was born in Manchester 16 miles away.

I started primary school at Duke of Norfolk School which was right next to All Saints church built over 1,000 years ago. I remember being introduced to the school as a new student by our teacher, and all the classes eyes on me.

The first couple of years were happy and I made many nice friends. One time our school had a visit by an African girl who had jet-black skin like velvet. She was the first black person I had ever seen and I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world and that night I dreamt about her. I could not keep my eyes off her but she was only visiting for a short while then she was gone.

Later when I got into the higher classes, the teacher abuse became unbearable. Headmaster Mr Colclough and his second in command Mr Handforth gave me years of bullying. Mr Handforth would rub my nose into the blackboard, paint my nose with chalk, lift me upside down by my legs till everything fell out of my pockets, turn me over on his knee and smack the hell out of my backside while the whole class was in uproar. Then I had to scramble around picking everything up with the jeers ringing in my ears.

When my mother found out, she went round to the school and tore strips off them both. She threatened to go to the County Education Dept, so they apologised. I was scared stiff of maths (which remains to this day) because of Handforth who used to yell, “Right, number down your page, one to ten, mental arithmetic!” I believe Handforth had instilled in me this fear and those teachers had no idea what they were doing to those frightened children.  Another teacher, Miss Downs would hit the backs of your legs with a ruler if you got anything wrong. It would sting for ages.

My friend Patricia Donlon and I would walk home from school together every day. The other kids thought we were lovers. We would have been 10 years old. Then one day a gang of kids gathered around calling us names. They made us kiss while they were all shouting and laughing at us which was very embarrassing.

Michael Bagshaw was depraved. When there was about a dozen kids looking on, he held Patricia down, pulled down her pants and showed everyone as they all stood around laughing as well as laughing at me. I couldn’t see because my view was blocked. Thank God!

Our next door neighbour, Ben Gee was a homo, as we called them in those days, and moved his gay lover in to live with him and his wife who promptly moved out as soon as she got somewhere to live. Ben Gee got me upstairs in his house one time on the pretext of helping him with some job. He Then rubbed himself against me and tried to have sex. I just pushed him away, because he was such a weedy pathetic individual.

Keith Tinsdale, Peter Bradshaw, George Peck and I would hang out together most of the time. Keith lived alone with his mother and grandmother. His grandmother, Mrs Greenwood, was part of a very wealthy family in the district and owned lots of property. They had a Real Estate office in Glossop.

Mrs Greenwood had a bad leg and walked with a stick and she didn’t seem to enjoy much of the wealth as they lived in a very untidy, small house on the hill. I didn’t like going there because of the bad smell which emanated from the place.

 

 

 

Daniel

On 18th July last year I lost my son Daniel after a 12 month battle with cancer. He was 4 days short of his 43rd birthday. I wasn’t able to see him before he passed away, because he and his wife Cherie lived in Tucson, Arizona and I live in Brisbane, Australia.

We had communicated via Skype a few times before he passed and I was shocked to see how gaunt and sickly looking he was. How different from the tough looking Maori rugby player-like figure we were used to seeing.

Daniel’s mother Tuhi and I met in Sydney, Australia in 1973 and after a short relationship, I was transferred to a position in Townsville, about 1800Km away to the north.

I received a phone call one morning from a nurse at a hospital in Sydney. She said something like, “I’m sitting here with Tuhi who is holding a baby boy in her arms and you are the father!”

In disbelief I stammered some weak reply, to which the nurse shot back, “so you’d better arrange for their  transport if you know what’s good for you.”

When Daniel arrived in Townsville he was a chubby little thing and I could see he would be quite tall when he grew up. I just accepted he was my son, but people started commenting that he wasn’t white enough. His skin was too dark. Tuhi just told them it was a throw-back, whatever that meant.

I had a suspicion that the real father was a man named Bill who was sharing our flat in Bondi. He was a full blood Maori so that would seem to fit in. Daniel’s birth certificate showed Tuhi’s surname but I had the idea that he would always feel out of place if he didn’t have my surname, so I changed it by deed poll.

We lived on The Strand in Townsville which is right on the foreshore close to the beach. We could just walk across the road onto the beach. Our neighbours were a young mixed white/black couple who could not have been more different. She was a skinny blonde and he was a jet black aborigine. We never got any comments from them about skin colour.

In 1975, the day before I was due to get transferred to Sydney, Tuhi and I decided to get married. Our neighbours and a couple of other friends in the block of flats where we lived were invited and we had the reception at a local hotel.

The next day we drove to Sydney.