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About Downsunder

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    Registered User
  • Birthday January 24

Personal Information

  • Location
    Tasmania Australia
  • Interests
    Motor Bikes, Football, Drawing/Painting, Writing, Reading
  • Occupation

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  1. Little Ernie Harris was an operator in the crusher house, I never saw anyone else doing the job he did but I guess there must have been others. The crusher house at Orgreave was hell on earth. Coal arrived from the pit in wagons, the crushers reduced it to a coarse black gravel which was fed into the ovens to make coke for the blast furnaces. The huge grey concrete bunker had no door, just an opening where daylight stopped. Inside, everything was black; the motors, the crushers, the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the space between them all, even the air that filled the space was black. Lights shone from above like ships lanterns lost in a thick fog. The noise from the crushers made spoken conversation impossible. One tiny corner was sectioned off with glass panels barely big enough to fit in a table and two chairs. This was where little Ernie Harris had his snap, in his eight hour shift he left the crusher house only once to take the short walk to the toilet during his half hour break. Ernie never wore a mask, goggles, earplugs, gloves or a hat, just overalls which were once blue but now as black as his boots. The only thing which glowed white in the whole place were Ernie Harris' eyes. And his teeth, for you never saw Ernie without a smile.
  2. I worked as an electrician at Orgreave Coke Ovens from 1967 to 1972 when we emigrated to Australia. Loved your videos of Orgreave Hall. I'm pretty sure it was Rotherwood Hall that housed the Social Club for the Orgreave Plant. I remember a billiard table, dart board and table tennis. We had pie and pea nights with pop music and dancing with the girls from the offices. I wrote a memoir which included my time at Orgreave although I renamed the plant 'Burnside'. Details at aliasalbertrathbone@gmail.com
  3. One in particular, a tall swarthy man whose complexion suggested either Romany or ingrained coal dust. He was an introvert, a communist and a loner who spent most of the day muttering to himself. He always wore a Lenin-style peaked cap which had written on the white band in childish block letters : MACHINE NOT THE MAN - KARL MARKS. A mis-quote from the mis-spelt founder of modern socialism. One day, high in a dark concrete tower at Orgreave (sounds like a fairy tale) I came across a message written in chalk in large letters filling the entire wall. It wasn't a poem, more like a manifesto, strange words and phrases making little sense but having a profound impact on me. Today, fifty years later I can't recall a single word of what I read but I knew who wrote it and I only wish I had copied it down. I'm certain a tee shirt print would have outsold Che Guevara and made me a rich man.
  4. I collect bicycles, mainly ones discarded at our local tip, some you can literally ride away. The pride of my stable was a BSA tandem which I bought for next to nothing. It wasn't roadworthy so I made a ghost bike out of it, sprayed it all light grey apart from the letters BSA in the sprocket which I painted bright red. It must have looked pretty special because someone nicked it when we were out. Ironically, it's the second BSA I've had nicked, the first was a Rocket Gold Star from outside Bramall Lane in 1970. I'd love to have them both back.
  5. Ey up Clive, John and I were good mates when the family lived on Furnace Hill, we used to frequent the Shakespeare pub and knock around on motorbikes. We went to the 1970 Earls Court Motorbike Show together, he actually took Eunice's brother on the back of his bike and married Eunice later that year. Anita emigrated to Australia in the early 70's as did James (Jimmy), I think they are both still there. I lost contact with John when I emigrated forty something years ago, I heard he moved to France to live. If you send me a pm, I might be able to get some more information for you.
  6. I’ve been gettiing up at 2am to watch the EPL live, last week was Man City v Bournemouth. I know they are top of the league, I know they haven’t lost yet, I know they’ll probably win the title but honestly, I hate their style of play, I think it’s abysmal to watch and I blame Guardiola. He wrecked Barcelona, he nearly wrecked Bayern but they got wise and moved him on and now he’s wrecking Man City. The crowds love the results and will keep turning up while ever they are winning but watching them is like watching a computer game that is programmed so it can’t lose. Football is losing the skills that made the game exciting: running at and beating defenders, crossing the ball into the penalty area, the bullet headers. Everything is sliderule now, nothing left to chance and when VAR is introduced that will be the death knell. The cameraman picked out Mike Summerbee in the crowd, to me, his face said it all: ‘This is not the game we played’. And he was a member of the greatest Man City team ever.
  7. No, The Classic Motor Cycle is an English mag, it's only the magazine that found its way to Oz not the Suzi.
  8. Just reading in the August issue of The Classic Motor Cycle, page 80, columnist Jerry Thurston bought a 1981 model Beamish Suzuki (doesn't say what year he bought it) and gives a great write-up. Maybe it was yours?
  9. I had to get out of the electrical game, I knew that. The union rep was right, in Sydney there was plenty of work. Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald advertised literally hundreds of jobs in the 70’s, from brain surgeons to unskilled laborers. It was a case of turn up, show your qualifications (if needed), show some enthusiasm (optional), negotiate wages and conditions (usually non-negotiable) and start the next day. And that’s what I did. ‘Motorcycle Assembler to work in small inner city workshop. Some mechanical experience preferred. Immediate start. What was I reading here? Was this for real? For someone who lived and breathed motorbikes since before I could walk, this was Nirvana. I had bought my first motorbike since arriving in Australia only two weeks before – a black 650 ex-police Triumph Saint. I hadn’t even learned to drive a car yet! I rang for the address and rocked up to the ‘small inner city workshop’ just as they were opening the doors. The black shiny Triumph was all I needed to convince them of my qualifications and enthusiasm and the next day I was assembling CZ’s, Jawa’s and BMW’s as if I had been there all my life. The bikes were 90% complete when they arrived, all I had to do was bolt on the petrol tank, crash bars and a few extras that came in the crate, clean off the grease, add fuel and oil, check the tyre pressures and fire them up. Now for the icing on the cake – I had to test drive every bike I assembled. Sydney was wonderful! Life was great! It seemed like you could do almost anything. In 1986 me, my wife and our two children moved to Tasmania to ‘get away from Sydney’. The searing heat of the outer western suburbs had finally worn us down. For the last three or four summers we had considered moving back to England after spending 13 years in one of the world’s greatest cities. But a short holiday in Tasmania changed our minds completely. This island of half a million people has been home for 32 years, but we will never forget our humble beginnings on Botany Bay. Or Sheffield, the city we turned our backs on so many years ago yet will always be in our hearts.
  10. I was brazing new copper contacts to the spare control arm for the overhead crane, I’d done a similar job at Orgreave Coke Ovens back in Sheffield where I served my time as an electrician, so I sort of knew what I was doing even though everything I did here I did with a kind of nervous trepidation. It was my third day at the foundry, my first job since arriving in Australia. Suddenly, there was Halim, an electrician from Egypt (or was it Lebanon?) who was employed on the same day as me. I was trying hard to understand his broken English and I was thrilled when he appeared to be striking up a conversation. “How long . . . you . . . be here?” “Oh, about a week” I said, doing a quick calculation of the days since we docked in Sydney. Halim let out a wookie-like cry followed by “Pomee *******!” before turning round and walking away. Well, how was I to know he was waiting to use the oxy torch? I thought it a bit odd that the foundry had set on six electricians on the same day. After two months four of us got the sack. “That’s how some companies operate” explained the union rep. “Nothing we can do. Just go and get another job, there’s plenty of work.” So I got another job. I joined Kilpatrick Green, a large electrical contractor doing a major overhaul of the Lindemans Wine factory at Lidcombe, a suburb in Sydney’s inner west. There were three huge aluminium wine vats with ladders and handrails. One lunchtime I took my flask and sandwiches and climbed to the top for a look around. The feeling was surreal, a warm wind ruffled my hair, the whole city was spread out before me, in the distance I could just make out the harbour bridge. It felt like the day I left school, I had the world at my feet again. This was my second chance and I was determined to make the best of it. Six weeks later I was out of work again. The job had finished, the foreman called us together and handed us each a bottle of claret, compliments of Lindeman’s Wines. “There’s a job starting up next week at Tennant Creek for completion by Christmas, fill out your details in the ledger if you’re going. Everyone here is eligible.” “Where’s Tennant Creek?” I asked, hoping it was nearer home so I wouldn’t have such a long trip to work but everyone had already filed out leaving just one sparky to sign the ledger. The foreman looked across at me. “It’s half way between Alice Springs and Darwin, give or take a hundred miles or so.” “Is there a bus?” I asked, feeling a bit dejected. When I got home my wife cooked spaghetti bolognese topped with parmesan cheese and we polished off the bottle of claret that same night. Life for us in Australia just got better and better!
  11. You could search for Letter from Australia #4 which happens 2 years later when we were still living in Botany but yes, I will fill in the blanks in later posts. Thanks for reading.
  12. Thanks for all of your encouraging replies, it really was just like that. Australia has been good to us, this part of Australia (Tasmania) has surpassed our expectations. Hope you can get here one day thorphanger.
  13. Two hundred and three years after the first Yorkshireman sailed into Botany Bay another one made a less spectacular appearance at the most famous stretch of water in all of Australasia. Our approach was not sailing through the heads in a 30 ton bark of the Royal Navy but rather, walking from the bus stop on Botany Road. We were about to raise the flag in an unfurnished rental on the end of Livingstone Avenue, a street which, if not for a wire-mesh fence would have run straight into the clear waters of the bay. It was our first week in Australia and this was to be our first address. We had no car, neither of us could even drive, no luggage except the two suitcases we were carrying and about £30 in the bank. From our accommodation in the block of flats a narrow, well worn track lead down to a small beach which disappeared at high tide when the water lapped against the grassy bank. Our bedroom window looked out across the bay and that first sunset is one I’ll never forget. The sun glinted on the water and turned the horizon into a fiery orange. Somewhere close by, another lost soul was playing a Tarantella on the accordion (we soon discovered that our block of flats was the United Nations of immigrants). I can’t remember what we slept on that night but I know we held each other tight and dreamed of the wonderful future we had before us. I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture of Botany Bay, when we arrived early in 1973, the northern shore closest to the city had already lost most of its charm. Botany the suburb was sandwiched between Sydney airport and the oil refinery at Banksmeadow and it had a dubious reputation for petty crime, extortion and wanna-be gangsters. The local pub told the story well, named after Cook’s botanist on the Endeavour, the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel was once a venue for Sydney’s well-to-do who came dressed in their finest attire to stroll around the grounds and take lunch in the park overlooking the bay. Now it’s just another watering hole for heavy drinkers who spill out into the street on sunny days with their schooners of Tooheys, smoking, swearing and spitting. But even so, in the midst of all this, a young, newly married childless couple with the world at their feet could find a ‘Bella Notte’ romance in any situation. Today, Botany Bay is a mass of refineries, wharfs, container terminals and airport runways. The little path which we walked is long gone, a 4-lane freeway has somehow appeared on reclaimed land where Captain Cook once dropped anchor and from our vantage point at the end of Livingstone Avenue the bay is now almost out of sight. We’ve moved on and our time there is a distant memory but we don’t regret the years we spent living on the bay, transportation today is not what it used to be.
  14. I love reading people's experiences on the forum but I can't contribute because of lack of local knowledge - we left the UK in 1972. So I just write about what I know and what interests me. I'm well connected with my family and friends but none of them are on the forum. Anyway, thanks for reading.
  15. Hi Pat, They're not really stories more like snapshots from the past. Too long and people wouldn't read them, I think I'm stretching the limit now!
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