Contributed by Seth & Flynn McMasters. This story is part of a collection of stories from the Skola Maltija’s Maltese Migration Projects From Malta to Australia.
Maria Guiseppe Pace, born 11.7.1928, Victoria ,Gozo.
Married name: Josephine Camilleri
She is the great-grandmother of Seth and Flynn McMasters
Transcript of video and audio interview. 7th September, 2011
Interpreted by Josephine’s daughter, Mary Rose Xuereb.
1. Where did you live in Malta? (Seth)
“I was born in Gozo, number 41, Dominic Street , Victoria, (When Josephine got married, she moved to Malta and lived there for 4 years before migrating).
2. When do you leave Malta? (Flynn)
In 1950, 22 years old. I had one baby and I was pregnant another baby, with Nunna.
3. How old were you when you left Malta? (Seth)
22 years old
4. Why did you migrate to Australia? (Flynn)
Because my husband he had a very hard job, we moved for a better life. He used to cart rocks on his back. We lived in Gozo, (when first married) then we moved to Hamrun in Malta. Twice he had accidents.
5. How did you travel here? (Seth)
It took us 42 days to get here, I was pregnant with my second baby, who was born on the ship.(SS Sontay) A good voyage. We arrived 14th September, and the baby was 3 days old.
6. What was your first job in Australia? (Flynn)
When I came to Australia, I had 2 babies. I had to look after them. I would be in the middle of the (market) garden and I didn’t know which way to come in or out. Is it this way or this way?
I lived with my brother in law (Mick) and I had to cook and clean for all of them. Mick would help and was nice. I didn’t know how to talk English. Then my other brother and law (John Camilleri ) and his son George came out- he was 5 years old. Then my younger brother (Tony) came. I had to wash for all of them (with no machine) I had to boil the water out the back….3 kids , 4 men, and I had to cook with no electricity.
And that was a better life?
It wasn’t a better life! How good is this? I used to cook 3 dishes and then another 2 friends would turn up. I would have cooked and these people would stay and eat and I wouldn’t have my share of the food and Nunnu would get cranky and say “you’ve cooked and you don’t eat?” 2 other people have turned up, what can I do with them? It would be for 7 people to feed. These other people were always there! I had to cook on an old fuel stove. I had to break the wood. I had a little griller to use when it was too hot to put the fuel oven on. I would go into the other room and cry. There were always other men there. Didn’t matter what I cooked, if I cooked a whole dish, John would just take it. Oh my God, John would just take a dish and go and eat, he wouldn’t say to himself- there are other people I should share. If John made an omelette, he would use a dozen eggs. We would get 4 dozen eggs. Mick would say what has happened to all the eggs. I’d tell him, you get up in the morning and watch John. If you have 4 dozen they will go in a hurry. I’d tell Mick, I don’t mind paying for my share, but John, he wants to eat and he doesn’t want to pay! Because we were a lot of us there, Mick didn’t have a receipt. We used to just pay our share of the groceries. But I still had to do all the cooking an d cleaning for everyone as well. I had nowhere else to go.
How long did that last for?
We were there for 16 months. I was always crying in side. I said either We get out of here. When we were here for 20 days in Australia, the milking cows were 20 pounds, which was very cheap for us. The wages at that time was 8 pounds that was at Ford. We used to use carnation milk before. I said to him, why don’t we buy a cow? And we bought a cow. I couldn’t milk it. Mick used to milk it sometime and Nunnu used to milk it sometimes. But Nunnu was working at Ford and he had to start early. Sometimes he would milk her at 4 o’clock in the morning. I used to make cheese and pies it was our life line. … It was not an easy life. But when we bought our place at Toongabbie, it was just a small shed but I was in heaven.
7. Is there anything else you would like to tell me? (Seth)
I was very young when I came here. It was hard for me because I couldn’t speak. But I was very happy. I don’t want to stay there( Malta) I’ve got 2 brothers there. I had a very hard life there.
When was the last time you went back?
Five years ago, I’ve got a sore back, it’s too long a trip for me now. Scared to go back and we have to Gozo from Malta. When you get to Malta you feel ok, then you catch the bus to catch the ferry …I’m not young anymore. Last time i went there it was 6 o’clock at night, it was so cold. I never dreamt that it would be so cold. There was nobody there to meet us. We couldn’t find a taxi, i just felt like crying. And then this car turned up, we asked for a ride. They said it would cost Five pounds to take us to Xhjria. We paid 13 pounds to go from the airport to the ferry, we paid 2 pounds on the ferry- nobody came for us- my brothers didn’t know that we had arrived, otherwise they would have come to pick us up. That Paul (Josephine nephew in law) he was supposed to pick us up where the boat come in. We had called him twice to let him know we would be arriving at Gozo. But nobody came. It was winter time it was cold and I’ve never known it to snow in Gozo. The weather here has changed in Malta.
It had snowed. Then this bloke came and i said “where are you going?” and he said he was going to Bullara. I said if i he could take us i would pay you. And he said the cars is not mine If you want to you can sit in the back. As long as you give us a ride. Then a another car, a small car came along and she said “if you give me 5 pounds i will take you.” It was so cold and i was so tired.
Its never been that cold there before.
Any more questions?
Why do you like Australia more than Malta? (Seth)
In Australia it’s not easy Life but Gozo / Malta was a harder life….
Nunna, he split his toe with an axe. They used to crack the stone with it from the quarry. He almost lost his big toe when the pick axe went through his boot and sliced his big toe in half. We went to the doctor…he tried to sew it up but the needle broke. So I used to just wash it every day…They wouldn’t give him time off work. Nunna would say “Can’t you see my hands and feet are all cut up?” When you’ve had an accident you have to kiss the cross to say that this is what has happened. Nunnu was very angry. That’s the main work. Dangerous job. He would get 6 pounds a week, but it was dangerous work. He could have got work in the dock yard but it was less money. Nunnu liked his drink and cigarettes, so he worked in the quarry for the extra money. We decided to come here cos he had 2 accidents… He and fallen off the building and when the foreman came over he said “You broke the ladder”. Nunna had had enough…. He wasn’t going to go there anymore.
Bit hard, cry, but not cos i’m not happy, cos i miss my country. There were 11 kids in the family…my mother was a good mother..mum would make cheese. Dad had lost his job. We didn’t have shoes. The younger ones did go to school even though they didn’t have shoes on . During the day i used to look after the babies. My older brother would look after the farm animals and Mum would look after the vegetable garden. We had everything in the vegetable garden. We always had cauliflower, potatoes, onion….every 3 days she would go and make 20 loaves of bread. She would go to the bakery and make the bread there. We used to eat it and we didn’t have butter. We had oil, sun dried tomato and some onion. And we were never sick! We had onions, potatoes, broad beans all year. We didn’t have a lot of meat. There was this man that was related to us and at 10 o’clock they would close the butcher shop and because nothing was refrigerated, he would say “come and take this.” He would say come and take some and we would bring him some cheese the next day. He was related to mum. There were 11 of us we were never hungry.
Clothes- we would just buy remnants, mum would sew them up … She was a good mother but i was always upset that i didn’t go to school. Us three older ones didn’t go to school ….I always feel sad that i never went to school…