Classic Australian Story

My wife and I migrated to Australia in 1965. We were lured here by the offer of the trip for ten pounds. At the time we were in a state of flux due to our local Council in England putting a Compulsory Purchase on our house which we owned. This meant that we could only sell our house to the Council. We were angry with the Government at this time as all loans for any purpose were not allowed. This meant we could not take out a mortgage and with the money from the sale of our house plus a mortgage we could have bought the house of our dreams.

We had two children a girl aged seven and a boy aged four. My wife and I were both keen to travel and felt quite well off after our house sale. We therefore came to Australia sponsored by the South Australian Housing Trust who guaranteed us a job if we bought a house from them. Our intention was to stop for five years and in this time see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible. We flew out on one of the last of the Comet 4s which was quite an experience. We stopped at Beirut: Karachi; Bombay; Singapore and then Darwin. We then went on to Melbourne and then on to South Australia where we bought a house.

After working for a year we had our first holiday. We had purchased a 1956 FJ Special and we borrowed camping gear and off we went.

Our first stop was the Grampians in Victoria where we hoped to see Australian Wildlife. It was summer and quite hot. In fact it was a fire risk day but we were a little unused to the dangers this posed.

Driving along the road I spotted a small path off to one side and thought it might be a good idea to travel down it a little way in the hope of seeing wildlife. After a short distance common sense suggested this was not a good idea so I stopped and engaged reverse with the intention of reversing back to the main road.

Reverse gear did not work. I quickly found first gear did not work either.

I then thought that if I drove down the hill then eventually I would find a flat section where I could turn around and with a bit of a run get enough momentum to drive up the hill.

We drove a long way down the hill before I saw a path of to the right with a section at the bottom where I could turn and then come back up the hill and then rejoin the main path

I positioned myself and then drove fast at the slope but stopped two feet from the top. I rolled back down the slope and tried again with to a longer run at the slope but with the same result. Getting desperate I tried a few more times and nearly burnt out the clutch before concluding that we had to walk out of this place.

We were not in a good situation as it was very hot and we could see a glint from the fire watch tower and knew it was on the Fire Wardens binoculars.

We had two young children and it was all uphill in dense bush with a high fire risk.

We all wished we would get out of this without further problems.

After trudging up the hill we eventually reached the road. We were all dirty hot and sweaty and so relieved when a car came along especially as it had S.A. number plates. We flagged them down and could not believe it when they just sailed past. This was in a time when people did not even lock their cars so they had no reason to fear a family in trouble. That is when we made another wish relating to them.

Along came a member of a road gang driving a water truck. He said he could not help but he would tell his Forman  who had a four wheel drive that may help.

After a short time this man appeared and we explained our problem. He picked us up and took us to the workers hut and suggested to my wife that she and the kids should have a shower and a cup of tea as the workers would not be back until later. Meanwhile he would go with me and try and recover the car.

We drove back down the hill and he commented that it was nearly five miles until we reached the car.

I had placed rocks under the back wheels as the FJ was notorious for not having a good handbrake. I also had a tow rope in the boot.

We attached the tow rope from the Four Wheel Drive to the FJ chassis.

O.K. he said just put the rocks under my wheels to stop me dragging back and take the brake off and put the car out of gear. I did this and he started to tow the car.

Suddenly the rope broke. The sharp chrome bumper had cut threw the rope.

The car started to roll backwards .I was behind it at the time and tried to stop it but soon realised I could not hope to hold a one tonne vehicle on a severe slope which was gathering speed. I ran out from behind the vehicle and tried to open a door so that I might jump in. I had the door open and was about to try to get in when the wheels hit a rock and the car swerved off the track into the bush.

I had had a pretty rough day so I wearily strode up the hill. The Foreman was waiting for me at the top of the hill and he was rolling a cigarette. He looked at me thoughtfully then licked the gummed edge then said " I really thought you was gone there". He then commenced to smoke. At this totally relaxed comment I realised what he must have seen and just burst out laughing.

I realised I really had just met the laconic Australian I had read about but seldom met.

We proceeded to tow the car back to the workers huts and I was now O.K. as I could drive the car in second gear easily on the flat road. I offered this Gentleman a reward but he refused but said if I found anyone else in trouble he would feel rewarded if we helped them as he had helped us.

We cannot remember this mans name but will never forget the way he helped us and we wish  he has had all the luck in his life he deserved.

Incidentally we did see all the local wildlife during our stay and we are still here fifty years later.

   - Brian McHaffie