Chapter-2: From sojourners to settlers (Rashmere Bhatti)

Community Voices – Chapter 2

During 2000 and early 2001, I conducted a number of interviews with people living in the Woolgoolga-Coffs Harbour area and elsewhere about the Punjabis when they first came to this area. These are the responses I received:

Marjorie Hedges

The author met Marjorie Hedges on a train trip. Marjorie lives in Wyoming, NSW, but had family living in Atherton and remembered the Indians.

I spoke to my second cousin (Queenie), whose father ran the Holmans' store in Atherton. Queenie is 90 and could only tell me that the store traded with the Indians - meaning the store bought the crops, mainly maize or corn -and the Holrnans supplied goods in return. This was in 1935-40. She did say that the families came and worked and they'd go back to India for holidays. She remembers that some wore turbans and Indian dress, that they spoke very little English and kept to themselves. There weren't great numbers of them. They mainly lived on the farms where they worked. There were no women or children although some women joined the men in later years.

Queenie told me of one Indian by the name of Baga Singh who was a caretaker for a huge property, which belonged to a very wealthy jeweller in Cairns by the name of John McDonald. The property has since been developed because John died and Baga went up to the Tablelands - and from what I can gather, he too must have passed away ...

I also asked my sister if she could remember anything, as she is four years older than me. Dorothy told me that one Christmas Eve about 1935there were about six Indians killed in an accident. They were in the back of a truck at Tolga. Apparently all were cremated near the swimming pool in Herberton Road, Atherton.

Peter Newman

Peter is the son of Charles Newman, who provided work on his banana plantation for many of the first Punjabis in Woolgoolga.

My father, Charles Newman, had a dairy farm in Alstonville and then he decided to grow bananas. He was one of the first banana growers in that area, but in 1927-30 the disease "bunchy top" wiped out all the bananas. After that my father explored the option of growing bananas in Tully, Queensland.

My father always had Indian people working for him. There was Sher Singh (Tommy) who worked for him for years. He used to come up to the house and nurse my sister, Honour. Then there was Bhajan Singh, who worked for Earl Page, and Sheroo who used to work for Foreman Crawford. Sheroo was well educated and as not many Indians could read or write in those days, Sheroo used to pen all the letters. There was also Vir Singh (he could be Lal Singh's father), who used to sell fruit and vegetables around the Alstonville district and we used to follow him up the hills.

In 1920, nearly all of the farmers had Indian men working for them as there weren't many people around for work. Indians were fairly shrewd and cunning and would not work too cheaply. My father always paid them the average wage, which was about E3 ($6) a week. The Indians were referred to as Hindoos. They didn't have women with them and were always sending money home.

I remember asking Sher Singh for johnny cake with curry at lunchtime. He used to cook it for me on a flat tin. He and his friends used to tell me tales of how most of the early settlers came by boat via Singapore and of how they used to do their own cooking on the ship at the nose of the boat.

When the Indians were in the cane fields, during the Depression years when times were difficult, Gordon Winfield used to have a lot of collaboration with them. He used to help with rations, information about government organizations, licences and correspondence.

In 1930 my father planted bananas in Woolgoolga and other farmers such as Ken Foster also moved down. Then in 1932 my brother Harold and I moved to Woolgoolga.

Most of the Indian banana workers were cane workers before coming to Woolgoolga. The conditions in the cane fields were very hard and the money wasn't good so it was because of these hard conditions that the men came south. Bananas offered better conditions and it didn't take long to have your own plantation. Some of the Indian men came down during the war years.

Even as far back as then the Indians had knowledge about bananas. Sheroo worked on the bananas in Alstonville and he probably also knew some of the older Indians working on the cane in the Clarence area. Information about work opportunities was shared and the Indians could have quite possibly heard about Woolgoolga and the work on banana farms through these connections.

In the early years Lal Singh and another Indian man worked for my father. (can remember Harjeet and Luke; they were in their late teens. There was also Ces and Darshan Singh – none of these young men wear turbans - none of the young ones did - and they could also speak English and we could understand them. Peter and Luke, Lal Singh and Labu all worked for us. This was for six to eight weeks at a time and when we required extra labour, such as at fertiliser time. They were not permanent employees and they still went cane cutting.

My mother used to talk for hours to Sammy's mother [Joginder Kaur(Gindo) Atwall. When was older, (used to take Mum and Sammy's mother for a drive.

Woolgoolga is certainly different from what it was 30 years ago. The Indians have not made much difference to me. The only complaint I have is that the women do not speak with us, but then again, they may only be following the custom. In the early years I remember Sammy's mother was always sitting, knitting and talking. Now the older women don't mix that much. But the Indian men are accustomed to the Western ways and have the same level of interaction as back in the early years. They mix more than the women. In the sixties (was involved in the Urban Committee for Woolgoolga and the Indians applied for a cremation area in the local cemetery. Narranjan Singh put forward the case, but it was not allowed to happen.

Peter's wife, Berril Newman

My father, Charlie Ford, was Billy Richards's cousin and when there was little work during the depression we moved down to Woolgoolga and he became foreman for Billy Richards.

In the 1920s, my Uncle Torn had a farm at Great Marlow-Southgate, which is downriver from Grafton, and he always had Indians working for him. Old Manga Sidhu worked for my Uncle Tom when I was five or six. We used to visit Uncle Tom and the other Indians there and they used to bring us over their johnny cakes and curry. We thought it was great and we used to enjoy them being there. However, they were not permanent and went from farm to farm looking for work.

Earl Richards

Earl, aged 75 at the time of interview, is the son of Billy Richards.

My father had three banana plantations and the Dinky Di general store on the corner of Hastings and River streets [Woolgoolga].

I first remember Labu. Labu came during the war in the early forties. It was before 1944, as I joined the air force that year and I remember him clearly working for my father in the bananas before then. Labu lived in a packing shed in Grays Road. He was a stooped old man with a beard and a turban. Labu would come into the store once a week and, although he couldn’t speak much English, he always smiled and shook hands. He used to cook on an open fire making johnny cakes and curry. Dad wasn't expecting him to do much but he set him up in the packing shed and he did chipping on the banana farm.

Labu came from the Grafton area. Dad was born and lived in Grafton before moving to Woolgoolga. He used to work for Gerard's grocery store. Dad probably knew some of the Indians in the Grafton area as he had a house there as well as one in Woolgoolga.

A few years later, about 1948, Booja arrived. He lived in a packing shed and my Dad set him up in Mullaway. When Booja's wife came out my Dad put an extension onto the packing shed and put Booja in a half share of bananas. Booja did the work and received a share of the profit.

My father helped by being kind and generous in whatever way he could. Dad was very generous to anyone who was struggling. My father would give them a loaf of bread to help them on their way. There were only a few cars in Woolgoolga and Dad had one so he used to help out with transport wherever he could.

About this time there were also some other Indians in Woolgoolga. Manga worked for my father and I remember Sammy, his son, as a baby. Manga's wife was here and I remember she wore English-style dresses. The few Indian women that were here only started wearing Indian clothes when there were more Indian women living in Woolgoolga. There was Pritim Singh, who back then was clean-shaven. I hardly recognise him now with his turban and beard. I remember Jagir Singh and Luke, who was only a young boy. Dad gave Luke a job in the store. He used to weigh the goods and could speak good English.

In the fifties and sixties gradually more Indians started coming.

Bananas offered a permanent job because work was available all year and you could make a good living from it. In the early years the Indians used to get extra work by going cane cutting to the Clarence and in Gordonvale in Queensland.

There were also Indians in Coffs Harbour and they used to visit the Indians in Woolgoolga. A common meeting place was the Seaview Tavern, which was opposite my father's store where I worked. My father started getting special items for the Indians, such as cumin seeds and ghee - things that he would not normally stock. He also sold flour in bulk because the Indians used a lot of flour.

In the 1950s the Indians used to go back regularly to India to visit their relatives. They would help their families by taking money back.

The Indians are mainly in agricultural occupations. The bananas are hard work but the Indians are prepared to work and work. They deserve to do well.

My father moved back to Grafton in 1956. As I live in Woolgoolga today, the Indians from the early years always speak of my father when I seethe.

Vivian Thomas Slater

Aged 84 when interviewed, Vivian was born and lived his whole life in the Woolgoolga area. During the late fifties through to 1980, he was a banana grower and bulldozer contractor.

When they first came I remember they seemed old and they wore turbans. This was during the war. They worked for Billy Richards. At night they slept in the storeroom along with the chaff and produce.

I used to live along where the highway is today. There was a water drain there and in the very early morning the Indians used to come down. I could hear them talk, although I couldn't understand a word they said. They used to sit there in the morning and they had a large long pipe and they used to smoke it. And then they used to walk over to Billy Richards’s plantation. They used to get a chicken for their curry from us. They were strange. People weren't used to seeing them, but they seemed all right to

First there were a few and then gradually more came. There was Manga and Booja and there were some young fellas - Peter and Luke. Lal Singh was also a young fella then. He moved down to West Korora. In the early years they were hard working, but taken to their drink - and did they drink!

They bought freehold bananas because they preferred to own their own land and they all got in and helped each other. There were no women at first but they used to go back at a later stage and bring their wives back

with them. I did a lot of work with them over the years - clearing land and putting roads through the plantations.

In the early years they didn't speak very good English but you could understand them sufficiently to do business. I sold my house and farm to them. Jack (Narranjan) bought my plantation. I used to go to Jack's to collect the installments. I used to have a cup of tea with them. The women used to bring in the tea and then go, but I knew that was their custom.

Nearly everyone had a cow tied up, and it was the women who milked the cows. In the early years I had a bullock team and Manga said to me,” The devil man won't come near you because you have the sacred animals".

Janice O'Connell

Janice is the 56-year-old daughter of Vivian Slater.

Luke was the first Indian boy at school that I remember, and he came after the war.

About 1959, after I left school, I worked in Clarke's grocery store. The Indian men used to come in and get food. There was Milka and Jagir. You could understand them, and I always used to serve them. You always knew what they wanted as they always bought the same things - butter, flour, curry powder, sugar, tea, potatoes and onions. They used to bring me mangoes and bananas to take home.

I knew the Indians had bananas - that was all they ever did. They were very good-looking young men. Nearly every week there would be a new one turning up. They used to say the women were in India and when they were settled they would bring out their wives. When I first saw Indian women they looked so beautiful in their costumes, but I thought they must be very hot in the Australian climate.

Harry Gale

Harry was a Coffs Harbour solicitor and resident, and was a close friend of Lal Singh and his family for more than 50 years.

Returning to Coffs Harbour I was introduced to Lal Singh, one of the first Punjabi settlers in this area. Mr. Singh told me he had come to Australia to work on the cane fields of North Queensland with his father, Bir Singh. They moved to the Tweed-Richmond area. His father remained in Lismore when Lal Singh moved to the cane fields on the Lower Clarence where he worked for some time before the war.

During the war, hearing that there was work on the banana farms, he moved to the Coffs Harbour area. Japan had entered the war and there was a certain amount of panic in the coastal areas and this was backed by the Government and as a result people started moving inland. This left some properties available at cheap rates. Mr. Singh bought property at Korora where his grandson still lives.

Life was difficult for Lal Singh as he had no schooling and so could not read or write. Although he could speak his own language, English was very difficult. It was necessary to depend on other people to help him. I helped straighten out his business affairs and so from then on was trusted to attend to all his financial matters.

Although Lal Singh could not communicate in English I found that by careful attention I was able to understand and help, and we became very close friends. I knew a lot about other cultures from my time in military service overseas. I had many visits with the Singhs and we enjoyed both Indian and Australian meals. I found Lal Singh to be a very fine type of man- upright, honest and hard-working. For reasons of his own Lal Singh did not associate much with the few Indians who were now also moving to settle in Woolgoolga.

Under the existing laws it was very difficult for Asians to bring wives into Australia, and Lal Singh never brought his wife to this country. However in 1949 arrangements were made to bring his sons, Naranjan and Saraban,to Australia. Their wives were unable to come until the boys had been living here continually for two years. Eventually, Amar Kaur was able to join her husband, Naranjan, who was working in bananas although he had received a good education and could speak English quite well.

Unfortunately, disaster struck and Amar Kaur was left a widow with only the help of her father-in-law to work on the bananas and rear her children. With all due credit she did very well and as a result they received schooling and became fine upstanding Australian citizens. Mukhtiar (Nicky)Singh is still living at Korora with his wife and family. His mother, Amar Kaur, lives close by.

During this period, the 1950s, the Australian Government operated under the White Australia Policy and it was difficult for Asian people to settle. However, Lal Singh's family settled in very well, in spite of the fact that the early entrants were mainly men of the land. It was more difficult for the women as they had to attend to household chores and also to do the shopping in a country where the language and culture were completely different from that of their homeland.

Amar Kaur arrived in Australia under conditions made difficult through having no schooling, as education was neither compulsory, nor in many cases available, to ladies in India when she was a young woman. As there were few Indian ladies in this area, tribute must be given to ladies such as Mrs Singh who struggled against strange conditions and at the same time reared a young family alone.

Even today a lot of people do not understand multiculturalism. TheIndians have suffered discrimination. Earlier, when they came they were only accepted for the amount of work they could do and were forced by that attitude to stick together. However, now they are accepted as part and parcel of the landscape. They don't interfere with anyone. They live quietly and get on with their own lives. They are hardworking, decent and have a good standard of living. They don't try to force their culture on anyone.

Lal Singh passed away at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1966. After his death I continued on very friendly terms with the family. I can always feel proud to be able to say thanks to my God for giving me such friends.

Originally, Indians were wanted in Australia for work and that is why they came. The sugarcane farms in Queensland needed labour and the conditions were harsh and not suitable for white people to work in. TheIndians were not educated so could only do manual labouring work. They have continued in agricultural pursuits. Indians follow in the footsteps of their fathers because there is no alternative. They are limited by the opportunities available to them. They do the best according to the circumstances.

In regards to the Indians moving to become settlers, well, so many things all happened at the same time that had an effect upon the Indians settling in the area. There was the war and as men were away at war, work was available on the banana farms and property was available. The Indians took these opportunities. Also, in Australia after the war, there was the” populate or perish" policy. Australians could not very well say to the Indians that we don't want you now because the Sikhs fought beside Australian and British forces in Syria, Palestine and Egypt during World War II. I remember the Sikhs in Palestine and seeing the Sikh battalion going through the camp. They were tall, fine chaps with their turbans. They have played a part and we have to respect them.

Robert John Laugher

Robert has lived practically all of his 61 years in Woolgoolga.

In 1945 I was only a young boy but I remember Booja. Living in a small community, to see someone from another country, to see an Indian, tactually see a coloured person and a man with a turban was very different.

My father was the baker and Booja lived in the shed behind Billy Richards’s general store not 50 yards (about 46 metres) from our place. My mates and I were curious enough to stare at him. And all he ever did waxwork.

I had my own banana plantation in the late 40s and clearly remember Manga, Jagir, Gurbachan, Pritim and Charlie Husna, they were all young men and hardworking. They were good men and I liked them.

In the late 40s, I remember Luke at school. When he first came to the class, all the kids were curious. We all wanted to be his mate because it was so different having someone from a different race in the class. Luke and I have been friends ever since.

Sammy Singh was aged about 10. He used to work for Billy after school and Billy used to call him Sambo. In those days Sammy's mother was the only Indian woman in the town. I remember her at the house, milking the cow. Whenever she saw me she would always call out, "Hello, Bobby".

I worked with Indians - Peter, Luke and Mulkeet. We had our gang. I worked for them as they had share farms from Korora to Woolgoolga. There was old Bultitude's place which the boys later bought, and Bultitude's "Bloodwood" at Mullaway and they were share farming with Vince Connelly at Ganderton Road.

Lal Singh was also in the area in West Korora. We boys (the gang) used to call in for cups of cha (tea) at his place when we were down that way. Lal Singh's sons, Naranjan and Saraban, used to play hockey for Coffs Harbour.

I was one of the boys; I would eat three meals a day with them, work all day with them, camp with them. We would be working on a place and camp overnight, instead of travelling back to Woolgoolga. On the different banana plantations we had a set-up - a shed, low seats made of banana-box pleats, a low table and our pithila (saucepan). Every meal was cooked on the spot. Often we would kill a chook, pluck it and it would soon be ready in a curry. I loved the Indian food and on the few occasions I didn't stay the night, I was always there first thing for breakfast. Locally I was known as Bobby "Singh".

They often used to speak in their lingo and also taught me to speak some of it. In the end, when they were having conversations, I could pickup what they were saying. (In later years, the young ones around Woolgoolga would get a shock when I could pick up their conversations.)

What did we do for recreation? There wasn't time; they were more interested in getting a living - us working together was socialising. We got together at whatever venue we finished work. We would eat and drink (rumand beer). The boys certainly taught me how to drink rum. We used to have old Land Rovers and an old Buick to get around in.

The banana industry was hard work; these guys knew hard work and were good at it. They'd lease a few acres of land, clear it and dig it by hand and plant bananas. Then they would work for an established place, make money and then plant another acre on their own place.

Back in 1952 and 1953 some of the biggest prices were paid for bananas. It offered a good living. Previously the Indians had been cutting cane, but in comparison the bananas offered an easy start as they did not require a large amount of money to set up and most of the work could be managed by one.

During the fifties the boys would go back and forth between India and Australia, and I used to look after their places and the animals.

In 1958, Peter's wife, Joginder, came. She taught me how to cook curry and johnny cakes. We made the johnny cakes in a handmade clay oven. It was a hard life for a woman. She would wait and wait until the boys were ready to eat. I wasn't used to women sitting and waiting for the men teat. It was a lonely existence for her. She was always at the hut, and she cooked the meals. Women endure a lot; they are stronger. In the Indian community the men get away with a lot, because in the culture, they are superior to women, but the women have to do a hell of a lot.

In the early sixties I remember Freddy (Dara). He was working for the Bultitudes. He was very strong and athletic. A group of them [Indians] used to be on the beach some afternoons and they used to play games - some sort of tag.

The Indians were new to the country, there wasn't much money and times were hard and sometimes people resented the Indians because they thought they were getting away with a lot. There were some men who had been prisoners of war and they had it in for the Japs and, in some cases, they had had Indian guards, so naturally there were bad feelings about the Indians.

Robert went away from Woolgoolga during the sixties and returned later in the decade.

It is good to see Woolgoolga as it is today. The Indians were tenacious and they "had a go". They, along with other races, made this country what it is today - multicultural.

I worked on the Snowy Mountains Project, where there were 20different races. It was this workforce that made the project possible. During those years it was as if I had travelled around the world, living and working with the Irish, the Germans, the Yugoslays. They would back you to the hilt if you showed kindness and they appreciated it. And that is what has happened with the Indians here. Some whites - me, the Unwins, Richards, Newmans, Bultitudes, Grays - got together and helped; you admired the Indians for being so good at their job. Old Stan Bultitude got in and helped(and Noel did the same) because they were mates. These established families gave them a start with wages and treated them as part of their families.

I guess the boys learnt a lot of Western ways from me. They used to ask, and I used to tell them, the right and wrong way of things. They had Noel, Stan and me to learn from.

Luke and Peter helped me with business dealings. They would say,” Seeing that you are one of us ..." and advise me, because they didn’t want to see me lose out.

Even back in the fifties, Luke used to talk about having an Indian restaurant, because he knew Australians liked Indian food, and in 1979 he opened the first Indian restaurant in the district.

And even in the sixties and seventies this closeness and respect continued. When my wife and I visited the Indian families we knew, the hospitality was great; it was part of the culture.

After returning to Woolgoolga in the late 1960s, I was in the carrier business for 30-odd years. I used to go to the plantations and pick up the packed bananas. The Indians continued to work and work. They were freer and they had set up. It only takes a few years of good returns in the bananas and you can set up. They had made it.

There were a lot more women around, helping on the bananas. I used to deliver onions, flour and potatoes in bulk from Grafton to their homes and go into the kitchens with the goods. The women were friendly. I was part of the scene, and it was okay for me to be there. I was part of their lives, and they knew me. I had their trust.

Frederick George (Dood) Unwin

Dood was aged 84 when interviewed.

We had a farm on Micklo Island in the Clarence, but Dad also used to cut cane and did net fishing to make a living, as the farm did not offer much.

When we were kids I remember Indians working to strip cane. They fascinated us. We thought they were old. We had no trouble with them. Some were the grandfathers of the present blokes in Woolgoolga.

There was also another Indian family up that way and their boy who was aged about 20 stayed with us for many years. But he wasn't like the Woolgoolga Indians because he had renounced all Indian religion and was just like us. But it gave me knowledge of people from a different race.

We came to live in Woolgoolga in 1932 and bought a banana plantation. My first memory of Indians in Woolgoolga is of Charlie Husna. He had his own plantation but also worked for us. I thought a lot of Husna. He used to live alone in a hut on the bananas. We'd often go out and have a curry with him and he used to show us how to make his johnny cakes. Charlie used to have a gramophone and play his own music.

Charlie only spoke broken English but could read and write Indian. He went to school in Tyndale (south of Maclearq. He used to tell me that 3 kids pulled his turban off, and after that he never went back to school. He always regretted that, not getting an education.

Other Indians used to work for us, such as Manga and his son JohnnyGurmit. They also used to cut cane. Earlier Manga worked for Anderson's on Harwood Island.

In those days, the Indians didn't have women or children with them.

They would work and send money to India. Often Charlie used to ask me to write letters to the Australian High Commission to try to get his wife out,

but she never came and Charlie used to say, "I always bugger up".

didn't know much about the Indian culture and religion, but they were good workers. They got a good reputation for work. I never thought of them as different. I just accepted them for who they were.

There is one thing I find hard to understand. Indian women don't wanton mix. Even when Iris and I went to dinner at an Indian's house, the wife just served, she never came out of the kitchen. That's a complaint that I have: Indian men don't treat women properly. An Indian once said to me, "If they are good wives in this life, then they will become masters in the next."

I went to the opening of the First Sikh Temple and the one on the hill. I joined in and thought if that is what they believe in let them get on with it.

Iris Unwin (Dood's wife)

Iris lived in South Grafton before moving to Woolgoolga in 1947.

I remember in 1936 an Indian, Moti, used to come around in a horse and cart and sell watermelons. He had a small boy with a turban with him and used to say "Any watermelon today, lady?".

We went to see a movie called Suba and to us, the small boy (Husna)was Suba. I always identified that movie with Husna. I have good memories of Husna from those days.

Jean Robinson

Jean was a teacher at Woolgoolga Central School from 1954 to 1975. She was 88 at the time of interview.

I came to Woolgoolga in 1939 when I married Arthur (Robbo) Robinson, a banana grower. Arthur had his own plantation but he also worked for Billy Richards.

In the war years labour was impossible to get. In 1944-45 an old fellow, Labu, came up to our bananas asking for work. He had been working in Ulmarra and wanted a casual type of job, nothing too strenuous. He moved into our packing shed, as our bananas were not producing and Arthur worked them only on the weekends. Therefore, the packing shed was hardly used. There was also a nice spring nearby for water. Because men were away at war, Arthur was sometimes away helping out on plantations in Korora so he was glad to have someone who could be trusted to do jobs like chipping.

Arthur thought Labu could also help out by chopping firewood and milking our cow. It was a great shock to me when Labu came to the house with a billy can and indicated he wanted milk. I asked whether he had milked the cow and he indicated with horror that he wouldn't do that. I ended up milking the cow. I used to write letters for him to his family in India. He couldn't speak good English but we managed to communicate with gestures and goodwill.

I remember Booja working for us. He used to come up to the house in Nelson Street on Friday to collect his pay. He was a great favourite with my girls. They would lean on his knee and show him their dolls, and he used to smile. This was before Booja's wife came out. We never saw him much after that, which was a pity.

I guess it was hard for the women. They didn't speak English, they were taken from their homes and it was a new life. In the early years they wore European clothes and only when other Indian women came did they revert back to Indian clothes.

I started teaching at Woolgoolga Public School in 1954. My two eldest daughters were in the same group as Sammy Singh and they played tennis in a group on weekends. There was another Indian boy, Luke, at the school before then whom the girls talked about, and he worked for Billy Richards after school.

In the early years at the school I remember a teacher telling me about the Indian boy who jumped out of the window whenever the teacher's back was turned. It was Mon. However, Parlo fitted in nicely. She had a friendly attitude and no problems with the language.

At the high school the teachers thought very highly of Amarjit More. He was the go-between, especially with the Indian women. The Indian men, through their business dealings and interaction with the banana industry, were getting a good grasp of the English language. Not so the women. When a note had to go home, Indian women could not read it. The headmaster used to ask Amarjit More to write the note in Punjabi to ensure that the mothers got the message too.

Through my husband's work I got to know some of the Indian men slightly. Some would occasionally attend sports days.

Later, I got to know some of the women through Joan Cowling, who was trying to teach the Indian women English. She was employed as an instructor in the English language but no-one came to the classes. The women were probably shy and awkward from their way of life. I was disappointed with the Indian women not wanting to learn the language. It would have been good if they could join in so we could communicate.

I wondered what the Indian women did at home. Sometimes I was shown glorious fancywork so I knew that they did this. Later, I remember a woman as a guest speaker at a View club meeting and she showed a sari and fancywork. I remember she made a point in her speech "that Indian women did not go out, not because they weren't allowed to but because it was their preference". They liked to stay home and have friends over.

There was a slight curiosity and interest towards the Indians, but kids would sit together and play together. I remember one strange incident. There was a beautiful Indian boy crying during lunch break. I asked him what the trouble was, and he said he had no-one to play with. I walked with him down to a group of boys and asked if he could join in. He was welcomed but suddenly drew himself up like a king of the realm and said,” I don't play with white boys".

I think generally Indian children tend to do better at maths and science as compared with English, but speaking a different language could be responsible for this. Today things are going smoothly as far as the men and children are concerned. The white community is very proud of the local Indian tug-o-war team and many are very proud of Michael Singh winning the bowling award.

Harbhajan Kaur Bains.

Harbhajan, 57 years old at the time of interview, is the granddaughter of Baba Ram Singh.

My grandfather, Baba Ram Singh, came to Australia in 1898. He was in the Bangalow area and sold fruit and vegetables on a sulky and cart. Later, my father [Khatkar Singh] joined his father at the age of 13 in Australia and attended school in Bangalow.

I came in 1958 with my mother, aged about 13 years. To me Australia was a wonderful country. I helped my father with our banana plantation, as did all of the family. Most of the time we were occupied in work and had a Punjabi existence. Sometimes we would go into the town as an outing and then I wore Western dress. I then started living with my grandfather, Baba Ram Singh, and my grandmother to help them as they were elderly. We had a vegetable patch which I helped tend and my grandfather would milk the cow. I didn't know much English and picked up bits from the family.

My grandfather was a very religious man. We had a room in the house that was devoted to prayer and which housed the Guru Granth Sahib. Grandfather was the first to bring the Guru Granth Sahib to Australia. I remember he would pay homage and read the holy scriptures just before dawn, as is the custom.

Every year in January, Sikhs from all around the area and other places in Australia would come to our house to partake in kirtan and readings from the Guru Granth Sahib and share langar. The children, women and the elders would all come. On these occasions when I woke in the morning and saw all the vehicles (which were in the main Land Rovers) it seemed as if an army of people had arrived. It was so good to see so many people, as we had an isolated existence on the farm. I enjoyed those days very much. The guests always arrived about 6am, so that there was plenty of time for them to return on the same day.

People came from Woolgoolga - Narranjan Singh, Pritim Singh, Jagir Singh, the brothers William, Jimmy and Frederick Malhi, Booja Singh, Dharson and his wife, Gurmej Kaur, and the Arkan brothers Maluke anchoret (with his wife, Joginder, and children).

I used to visit Vgoolgoolga with my grandfather. This was because at anytime when an akhand path was celebrated they would invite my grandfather to take the holy Guru Granth Sahib to Woolgoolga as there was no official place of worship at this time.

There were only a few families in Woolgoolga in those years and they worked in the bananas. It was a simple life and the families were all very close. People in Woolgoolga were very friendly and warm; it was different to today. People were very interested in having a place of worship and were encouraged by my grandfather. When the First Sikh Temple was built, Baba Ram Singh attended the opening.

In 1969, when the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara site was acquired, Baba Ram Singh went to Woolgoolga and stayed during the time a marquee was erected on the site to celebrate a sahaj path. He was asked to lay the foundation stone for the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. On this occasion, Hemet Bhagat Singh Lath, who performed kirtan at the sahaj path. He was very taken with this Sikh and joyous at the religious kindred spirit. On his return home to Teven he said, "I have been to Amritsar", so highly did he think of Bhagat Singh's kirtan.

After this meeting my grandfather and Bhagat Singh Lath became firm friends. Bhagat Singh, who had been living in Queensland with his family, moved to Woolgoolga around this time. I became very good friends with his daughter, Sarjeet.

Then my grandfather arranged my marriage to the son of Bhagat Singh's sister, Perm Singh Bains, and we were married in 1971.

Initially, Prem and I went to Shepparton, where Prem worked seasonal fruit picking. Then Prem and I lived in Gladesville, Sydney, for eight years. I worked in a factory and Prem as a bus conductor and driver for the State buses in Sydney. We had a little daughter, Rani.

Those were good years. We had friends and every weekend we would go on outings, for picnics, boat tours, to the gurdwara and the Royal Easter Show. Prem was also a member in a bhangra (traditional Punjabi folk dance)group, who were often invited to perform at various functions. These outings were colourful and fun. Once Prem's group performed at the Sydney Opera House. The Sikhs in Sydney were more open and involved in organizations and groups. You don't have that in Woolgoolga.

During this time there were also two other girls from Woolgoolga livingin in Gladesville with their husbands and we kept up a close friendship.

Prem and I visited Woolgoolga sometimes. We liked Woolgoolga and could see that bananas offered a very good living, and the friendships and closeness of the families was good. In 1979 we moved to Woolgoolga and bought a banana plantation. My son, Harpal, was born.

My grandfather, Baba Ram Singh, died in 1983, aged 106 years.