Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Castel Felice

I have just joined a Facebook group called Castel Felice Ship and found lots of photos and stories of their crossings to Australia from other members. There is no way I can learn who took all these photos so I cannot give credit to the photographers...

My parents, younger brother, Ian and I set sail from a snowy Southampton on December 10th 1967. I had my 11th birthday two days later, Mum and Dad gave me the presents from our family.
We had intended to fly to Perth but an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK meant we had to sail as a form of quarantine. The ships usually went through the Suez Canal but as the ongoing war/conflict between Egypt and Israel made it unsafe we had to take the long way around stopping at Los Palmas in the Canary Islands and Cape Town in South Africa.

We children were required to go "school" each morning to keep up our reading etc as the trip lasted 29 days in all. Being under the age of 12 yrs I had to eat with the younger children and the meals were more suited to very young children and so quite unpalatable for me...I made up at Afternoon Tea-time with extra cakes!
There were regular activities organised such as a fancy dress party and the most important crossing of the equator ceremony presided over by King Neptune...we were all given a certificate like this one...

Somewhere we have a photo of Mum dressed as a pirate doing the limbo dance!

Crossing the Bay of Biscay was rather rough and Mum was unwell for a day but once out into the open sea we all enjoyed the sailing. We went ashore in Los Palmas and saw markets selling typical Spanish dolls and sombrero hats etc. Later on we saw flying fish from the ship and it was soon warm enough to "swim" in this pool that was deeper than it was wide!

Arriving in Cape Town was memorable. The bright blue skies, Tabletop Mountain and porpoises swimming in the harbour made a big impression. It was Boxing Day and 96F and we went by bus to the park at the top of the mountain. I wore a pink long sleeved woollen dress from Marks and Spencers with long white socks and my black patent leather shoes for this outing lol!
Sadly we saw at first hand the shame of apartheid, park benches with "no blacks" etc written on them, separate toilets and segregation even on the buses. We also saw 3 young black women who had obviously been drinking try to board a bus ...the conductor would not let them on and swung his heavy ticket machine into the face of one girl. We were shocked and went back to the ship.

The crossing to Fremantle took 2 more weeks and we had to divert south to avoid a severe storm in the Indian Ocean. It was so rough that we children were able to slide on our bottoms from side to side across the Purser's Foyer as the ship rolled! It must have been frightening for the older people but I was invincible at that age. Ropes were strung across the larger rooms to hold on to and the dining rooms were almost empty as people stayed in their cabins.

When we finally arrived in Fremantle there were already 3 other liners in the port so we had to disembark at A Shed instead of the passenger terminal. Mum's Lancashire accent was soon picked up by a man working there and he and wife became our good friends, Frank and Gwen.
The bus ride to Point Walter Hostel was wonderful, everything was so bright and clean and green after the wintry weather we had left in Lancaster.

Castel Felice was first launched in 1930, named the "Kenya" and sailed between India and Africa, you can read more of her story here . Robert Brinkhuis has written a wonderful account of his family's crossing here and I can now see that some of the photos come from his story.
This ship was 150 metres long, the Voyager of The Seas is 311m long and Captain Cook's ship The Endeavor was a mere 32 metres! Castel Felice was scrapped in 1970 in Taiwan.

So that 'dear reader' is how we came to Australia!

Did any-one else sail here as a "ten pound pom"?


  1. Yes Sue, my husband is from Yorkshire and he was a 10 Pound Pom also. His Dad had a job in the Port Kembla steelworks in Woolongong, NSW. He has many stories of the ship as well as living in the hostels once they arrived. This was a lovely post and i will be sure to show my hubby.

  2. Wonderful post. It makes fascinating reading, right from the start. In fact, there is so much here that I'll be back to read it all again later... I'd love to see that photo of your mum doing the limbo dance, dressed as a pirate! Much more seriously, it was interesting to read about your glimpse of apartheid, shameful indeed.

  3. How interesting, the ship looks quite pleasant and comfortable. I was envious of you kids who got to come out "on the boats".

  4. Lovely pictures, Sue! As a child, my husband spent 6 weeks on The Orianna. He LOVED it. Those were some of his best memories of childhood :)

  5. Sue, I had a pen friend in England and she had decided to come out to Australia probably around 1966 when we were both 18 but she changed her mind just at the last minute. Just as well I guess as, looking back now, 18 is quite young to be moving to another country permanently.

  6. Bit late Sue am just catching up!
    I came out as a 10 pounder left Southampton December 1962 (just before Christmas to my mothers horror) & arrived in January 1962. I came on the Orion & stayed nearly 3years. I went home because one of my brothers had died & as the youngest & only girl mum needed me. I then did my nursing training & returned in 1970 to stay, this time paying my fare.
    A lot of memories!

  7. Hi Sue,

    Thank you for this Blog - its really helpful, do you remember the first moments of the Ship leaving Southampton, people saying good-bye to others left at the dock, the first night etc?

  8. I do remember leaving the dock because it was so exciting, there was snow on the ground and some ppl had loved ones come to wave them off so I think a few streamers were thrown from ship to shore. The excitement of sleeping in the cabin and discovering the ship, making friends and eating, eating, eating all added to what really was a wonderful holiday. xx

  9. Hi I left Southhampton on the Castel Felice on 10th December, 1967. With my parents and younger sister. I was two years old yet remember the colorful markets. We bought hats.

  10. What a coincidence! My parents left Southhampton on the 10 December, 1967 with my sister and I

    1. Hallo there, I wonder if we chatted to each other during that long journey? Small world at times isn't it?

  11. Hi, I have just read you blog re Castel Felice and it brought a smile to my face as I was one of the teachers on board. I was eighteen and had a really good time on board. Returned to uk next year as my sister was unwell