We cleaned out the shed today. The funny thing is, not only do you find a whole lot of junk, but you occasionally find treasures, long thought lost. Such is Martin’s Place, the title of my Nana’s life story. Nana, my Mum’s Mum, wrote this a few years ago on a whim. As a narrative, it’s a rambling adventure of a life, yet a priceless addition to my family’s story. I look at my daughter, who has never lived in a time when computers weren’t handheld and touch activated, then I read this story.
The story is only nineteen pages long, and the below is the first page. I’ve altered the order of the sentences slightly where it makes more sense and only added perhaps a dozen words but below is the first chapter, that I’ll add to over the next year.
Please note: this story is copyright. It cannot be reproduced without express permission of my Nana.
My father, Jesse Martin, came to Australia from England three times. The first as a very young man, then the second just before the first World War, when he worked his way back to England on a sailing ship in order to join the army. He joined the Royal Engineers and served in France and was awarded a medal for bravery in bringing out the wounded under fire.
He was the eldest of seven children, with five brothers and a sister. Four of his brothers served with him in Armed Forces, and two were killed in action.
After the War was over, he married Edith Boyling. An only child, with both parents dead, she had no close family. In 1922 my sister, Margaret (Peggy) was born and around 1925 my father decided to return to Australia, for the third time, with his new family. However, Mum was pregnant with me and the family was not allowed to come until I was born.
I was due in February the next year, but mid-January, and during a severe snow storm my mother began to haemorrhage. The doctor managed to get through and after examining Mum, told Dad that he could save only one of us, that Dad had to chose either his wife or his baby. Dad chose his wife.
On January 19th 1926 I, Nola, was born and survived, although for the first couple of weeks my Mother thought I was dead. She was ill and everyone thought it best not to mention me or show me to her. I was cared for by a friend of the family. Problems were encountered with the baby formulas, as I could not tolerate most of them but finally I thrived on “Cow and Gate” baby food.
In August, when I was seven months old, the family boarded the ship the “Osterly”, finally on their way to Australia. Dad and Mum intended to come to Australia for about five years and then return to England but when the five years had passed circumstances – finance – kept them there. They could have gone home three years later but decided against it so Dad never saw any of his family again, as none ever came to Australia.
For the trip on the Osterly, my baby food for the journey was packed in a cabin trunk, which was mistakenly packed in another woman’s cabin. My parents reported it missing and the ship was searched but unfortunately, the women in whose cabin the trunk had been put was Italian and did not understand the questions. My parents were told it must have been put in the hold.
I was given milk carried by the ship’s company and promptly suffered from diarrhoea. I become so ill that the ship’s doctor told my parents that I would not live to arrive in Australia. All I was having was water and apparently I was very skinny. Then at Cape Town the Italian passenger left the ship and the trunk was found. I remained very ill for a time but eventually I began crawling around and picking up everything and trying to eat it. The doctor insisted that I should be on a liquid diet but my parents gave me Milk Arrowroot biscuits secretly and soon I was eating all the biscuits I could get. Apparently, many of the passengers and stewards saved their biscuits and gave them to my Mum and Dad for me, so by the time we reached Australia I was much improved, although thin. My parents never told the doctor they had ignored his advice.
I still have a tiny cup with the ship’s emblem on it, a small trophy, which I won in a baby competition held on board the Osterly. There were two babies in my age group. The ship arrived in Australia shortly before Christmas, and I celebrated my first birthday in Australia.
I plan to post each week another page or two of Martin’s Place.