Gloria A True Story

Gloria – Part 3

‘Bon Voyage’

Gloria’s upbringing was a very strict and traditional one. Her Mother Betty was born in 1906 and her father Percy in 1910, years when Great Britain was only just emerging from the Victorian Era. Her parents both grew up around the Ealing area of London. Percy was one was two children who spent much of his own childhood with his Grandparents in Derbyshire as his brother Peter had Down Syndrome and took up a lot of their parents time with his additional needs. Betty was one of 6 daughters who for the era had a reasonably affluent upbringing and from all accounts came from a fairly ‘well to do family’. Four of the six daughters all went on to have one child each. Dagmar had David, Edna had Pauline, Betty had Gloria and the youngest sister Anita had Edward.

Betty (centre) with two of her sisters, twins Dagmar and Mona

Percy had trained as a master piano tuner with Steinway Pianos and shortly after his marriage to Betty they made the move from London to Worthing where he had better prospects for work. It was here that Gloria was born in 1938.

Her parents retained their very Victorian outlook and Gloria was dressed only in pure white until the age 3.

She was just a year old when the Second World War broke out. Her father had some serious health problems so was not conscripted for full military service but he did serve in the home guard. Gloria started school at the age of 5 and was given private education, much of this funded by her grandparents. She knew she was privileged to receive private education during the war years but she also hated her school as she said she always felt like the poor relation. Most of her school friends having ponies whilst her own parents finances didn’t stretch to these finer luxuries. Gloria’s happiest times growing up were spent in St John’s Ambulance brigade and from a young age she longed to become a nurse.

Her parents had other ideas though, her mother ruled her and was raising her not to have a career but to follow the many generations who had gone before – to become a dutiful wife and mother who would stay at home and ‘obey’ her husband. She was told from a young age she would be marrying a doctor or a teacher.

This was a different era though and women WERE beginning to go out to work after the war. Gloria however was prohibited from following her dream to become a nurse and instead was forced to go and work in a bank. She did this for 3 years after leaving school and hated every second. By the age of 19 she was strong enough to know her own mind and to stand up to her parents, she WAS going to train as a nurse and did exactly that, completing her nursing training at Worthing Hospital and qualifying as a State Register Nurse (something which I am pleased to say her parents did become exceptionally proud of).

Gloria Bayliss S.R.N.

During her time nursing in Worthing, she met and formed a strong friendship with an Australian doctor by the name of Bill Straffon, he had sailed into the U.K. from Melbourne with his wife Pam and he was the one who triggered Gloria’s dream of seeing Australia for herself. When Dr Bill returned to Australia he helped to source a job for Gloria at a hospital in Melbourne, even writing her a glowing reference to help her secure the position.

Even with a £10 sailing ticket it was going to take time to save and to get all the relevant paperwork sorted out. Gloria had originally planned to travel to Australia with her best friend Ann who was also a nurse, but Ann fell in love and got engaged, changing her mind about the trip and backing out at fairly short notice.

Gloria was only 25, she desperately wanted to go but was understandably nervous about going alone, so she talked her older cousin Pauline into going with her instead. Gloria and Pauline were both only children, they had spent a lot of time together when growing up and were in many ways more like sisters. Their upbringings had been very similar, their mothers ruling them and raising them not to think or explore but just to follow the expectations of becoming housewives.

This was never going to be enough for Gloria nor Pauline though, and they set about applying for tickets, visas and suchlike.

Now it’s easy to forget in todays digital world that in 1963/64 there was no internet to Google pictures or reviews of where they were going, no travel agents on the High Street where they could pop in and pick up a glossy brochure. Certainly my Grandparents in 1963 didn’t even have a television set. No, when Gloria made the decision to travel to Australia, she and Pauline truly were sailing into the unknown and committing themselves to a minimum of two years there. This was the condition of the £10 ticket, they committed to two years work down under or if they didn’t then they had to pay the return fare home which from what I understand was around £300 a HUGE uplift from the £10 they were paying.

February 5th 1964 – The day finally came for Gloria and Pauline to depart. Their lives packed into two trucks each, they were bound for Southampton. Gloria’s parents didn’t drive so a taxi transported them all to the docks from Worthing. Emotional farewells were exchanged and tears were shed before the girls embarked the ship and found their cabin.

Their ship – The Castel Felice (Happy Castle) owned by the Italian Sitmar line. Between 1952 and 1970 this ship made 101 voyages between England and Australasia, transporting 100,000 immigrants to both Australia and New Zealand. She was a million miles away from the luxury cruise ships we know today, but this small ship was to be Gloria and Paulines home for the next few weeks.

Their sleeping accommodation was a tiny inside cabin with 4 bunks, no toilet, just a sink. Even married couples were to be separated on this voyage, Gloria and Pauline sharing with one said married woman whose husband was travelling in another such cabin in the mens quarters.

As their parents stood heartbroken on the docks, the Castel Felice sounded her horn and made her way down Southampton waters as her excited passengers cheered and waved their goodbyes. She made her way out to the open waters until she hung like a spec on the horizon. Gloria and Pauline were on their way to Australia , the adventure had begun.

Pauline (left), Gloria (2nd left) with some of the friends they made on board ship.


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