Australia was, is, and always will be a nation of immigrants. Most arrivals since 1788 came here as ‘guests of His Majesty’, as refugees, or as free settlers. Certainly, the two global conflicts of the twentieth century resulted in a diaspora of races, cultures and ethnicities from long established civilisations in Europe to the relatively modern nation of Australia.
Three of my four grandparents were English: Reg Chapman from Newcastle-on-Tyne and his wife Annie Kipling from Ferryhill in County Durham; and Sara Ongley from Brixton in London. Reg served with the British army and married Annie prior to being medically discharged at the end of the Great War. They remained in England for a further eight years before being declared as ‘Approved Immigrants’ to Australia.
Sara was the cousin of the deceased first wife of my sole Aussie grandparent, Bob Matchett, the Anzac who took a shine to the schoolteacher in Stockwell who was born and raised south of the River Thames. Despite being from a close and loving family, Sara chose to become a new Australian and was destined never to see any of her family again.
Old World…New World provides backgrounds to my grandparents’ formative years in northern and southern England and in Redfern, Sydney, their experiences during four years of world war, and their familial relationships and tragedies from the 1920s to Sara’s death in 1977.
By no means did Reg, Annie, Bob and Sara achieve fame or fortune throughout their lives in England or Australia. They did, however, leave their marks in ancestry and the genetic makeup of the later members of the family trees.
Many people are ambivalent about who came before them and records and recollections are unfortunately lost. Sociology and societies are facile concepts and realities that evolve over time and should not be ignored. I chose not to overlook the contributions of my grandparents and Old World … New World is the result of my perseverance.