My earliest memories are of living in Romsey, however when I was eight my father took the family – pregnant wife, five sons and yours truly to Ireland. He had dreams of buying a farm and settling there. My brother, Michael was born in Dublin shortly after we arrived. My parents rented part of a castle on the outskirts of Bansha, a village in County Tipperary. The owner occupied one half. We lived in the top part of the other half, whilst another family of three girls were in the remainder. The castle was set in acres and was a working farm, providing us with space to roam while still being within walking distance of the village.
Those of us of school age attended the local National Primary school and apart from the inclusion of Gaelic in the syllabus was not unlike the school we had attended in country Victoria. I imagine we must have been a source of interest to the locals, but I can't remember ever feeling an outsider. Here I learned to ride a bike and spent hours riding with brothers or friends around the local area. In the summer, the days were long. The school holidays seemed to stretch endlessly. Of course, in winter the days were very short, and we often went to and from school in the gloom.
During the summer we started playing tennis at the local courts. Every so often there would be social tournaments which would end up with entertainment provided by the players. I have a vivid memory of myself and my tennis partner singing “The Gypsy Rover” as our offering!!
Another extra-curricular occupation of mine was Irish dancing. The occasional competition was held in which we danced on a wooden platform which could have been the cart the farmers used to transport hay ricks from the fields to the barns. I have the feeling we were awarded medals just for performing as I don't believe I won mine on merit.
A highlight of the year was the local pantomime in which at least one of my brothers and I took part - we have a photo as proof.
Also, during late summer and autumn we used to pick blackberries. One of my brothers, a budding businessman, bought our blackberries and then on sold them at a profit to the locals.
On completing primary school, I started secondary school in Tipperary town, about five miles from Bansha. A group of us rode our bikes and rain or bad weather was no deterrent. However, one snowy day we were stopped halfway by the local priest who directed us to return home as the weather was expected to worsen. That is the only day I can remember us taking the day off because of the weather.
During this time, my father was forced to work in Britain and Europe to provide for us, which meant my mother was on her own with seven children for long periods of time. For this reason, in June 1956, we returned to Australia for the next chapter in our lives.