A Knight’s Tale (17: “The Young Girl Actually Accepted It!”)

Another of Evelyn’s letters reads:

‘I arrived in Brisbane on December 7th 1940 with a party of about 175 evacuees from the Baltic States Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. I came with 50 people from Estonia.

After a long and wearisome journey over Russia to Vladivostok we came by boat through Japanese waters down to Hong Kong. Here we were very glad to spend 2 days to visit the beautiful city with its fine scenery. From there we continued our journey past the Philippines down to Thursday Island. After spending some hours there we passed down the coast of Queensland to Cairns. We were very glad to have another break in our journey visiting the picturesque bright and clean-looking town. Everything looked very thriving and the shops most attractive. Many of us came back with delicious fruit – pineapples, pawpaws and in the town one could get very refreshingly cool drinks, which were much appreciated after the tepid water we had been having at table on board.

We all enjoyed seeing Cairns very much. The people were all so friendly. Just before leaving this town two Australians, a Mr Price of Queensland Tourist Board and another came on board to make enquiries about us all. This was a long business and took much time. Mr Price had arranged for accommodation for us at the various hotels in Brisbane, but it was no easy matter as he could not tell whether all the rooms would still be free on our arrival. We found him and his colleague Mr Buchanan of the Tourist Bureau most helpful and kind. We were granted an allowance of £2.10s a week and from that was subtracted the hotel bills. After spending two weeks at the hotel Astor I, with another of our evacuees, Miss Simpson, took a small furnished flat at 22/6 a week, which we shared. This was just a few days before Christmas and we ere fairly happy there for the next four weeks. After that Miss Simpson and I offered another of the evacuees, a Miss Halliday, a shakedown until she could find a job. Miss Simpson gave up her own bed – like the good-natured fool that she is – the young girl actually accepted it! After this, what with the heat and mosquitoes life in this rather shut in flat did not run so smoothly. The young girl seemed glad to economise by sharing our flat and putting us to inconvenience but did not exert herself much to get work.

Miss Simpson is a very nervous person and has the great disadvantage of being both deaf and lame. With these drawbacks it was very difficult for her to get work – she was worrying a great deal about not getting a reply from her brother whom she hoped to be able to join in Canada and make her home with him at least for the duration of the war.

During these two months we all received very much kindness from the Australians which I shall never forget. Invitations came in from many different quarters; we were invited to the St John’s Cathedral Christmas Party as well as the Y.W.C.A. The New Settlers League also invited us to a tea party. In fact, one of the secretaries of this league came to meet us at the Customs when we arrived in Brisbane and gave us her cards of invitation. At St John’s Christmas Evening Party we took part in a very large gathering at which the Dean and Bishop were present. The former addressed a few words of welcome to us saying that he hoped we should find employment but added that it might not be very easy. I called on the Dean later to ask him if he thought it possible for me to get teaching in one of the Church Schools. He kindly offered to say a word for me to the Mother Superior, which he did, but there was no vacancy just then. After this I called on Mr Fletcher of the Board of Education. He was very kind but said that all vacancies in schools would be filled up. ……….’

As we will see, in the second half of this letter, Evie’s efforts did not stop there.