Burringbar woman tracks down missing English family
BURRINGBAR resident Sandra Guthrie will celebrate 50 years in Australia on Monday, despite crying every day of the first year in her adopted country.
At the age of 14, the Devonport-born girl was dragged onto a ship bound for Australia, forced to leave behind her life in the UK due to a series of sad events including her birth mother being jailed for cruelty to her children and being abandoned by her adoptive parents.
"Looking back I remember my first year here and crying every night ... wanting to go back to England," Sandra said.
"Now if someone asked me if I would prefer to live here or England - Australia would be my definite choice."
Sandra said the hardest thing about living in Australia had been the detachment from her family.
She said her older brother David was separated from her upon their adoption, with their younger brother Graham ending up in foster care.
Sandra said the British Government had not been helpful in her efforts to locate her siblings.
She said despite going through the proper procedures, they have still not released her adoption file.
The 64-year-old tracked down her brother Graham five years ago.
"Mum was five months pregnant with Graham and put in jail for her cruelty," she said.
Graham was adopted at six weeks but he only learnt this when she contacted him when he was 58 years of age.
Sandra was abandoned by her adoptive parents after just 12 months - leaving her with her adoptive grandparents for a decade before her relocation to Australia to be fostered out.
The three of them shared a one bedroom council flat.
"We had one meal a day, at lunchtime and that consisted of vegetables grandad grew in the garden.
"Saying that, I still had a lovely life - catching tadpoles, picking blackberries straight from the tree and eating them, playing hopscotch in the street at 8.00 at night - my only regret was not having a family as such."
In July 1963, her adopted grandparents broke the news that she would be sent to Sydney to live in foster care.
"I did not want to go. I was dragged onto The Fairsky at the docks in Southampton.
"The captain turned the microphone up playing Waltzing Matilda over the loud speaker.
"To this day when I hear that song I shed tears, remembering my grandad taking a hankie out of his pocket and wiping his eyes then waving the hankie to me."
Sandra spent 30 years living in Sydney where she worked as an interior decorator, before moving to Burringbar with husband Alan and daughter Melissa. After almost 21 years running the Poster Paradise shop in Murwillumbah, she has no regrets about moving to "the best place in Australia".
She has been back to England where she tracked down nine half sisters, and two full brothers.
"I'm still unfortunately searching for the only brother I remember - that is 'Billy Boy'," Sandra said.
"One day I hope to go back to England to meet my brother Graham."