Halifax to Australia, New Zealand, England, and back on the SS "Ottawa Valley"
- Captain Fergus Cross - Master


This is an account from the journal of Jean Cross, wife of the Master, written during the voyage in 1947.

Halifax, Sunday September 28, 1947.
I worked like mad all day to get house finished so I could leave. Keith (Morrow) came over about 7 pm to collect trunk and suitcase. I had all the boys asleep early. Cynthia (Hunter-Smith) and I finished our coffee and did the dishes and then I cleaned the kitchen and put away the final odds and sods. All clean except floor. Got coffee and sandwiches ready as Keith is to call at 2 am for us. Got the boys and Cynthia up about 1:30 am. Didn't leave until 3 am as Keith overslept and was late. Ian and Duncan slept in the car. Angus and I tried to but were too excited.

Monday, September 29th.
Arrived in Mulgrave around 8 am. We found the wharf and had breakfast in the trainmen's sleeping and eating car. The ship arrived shortly after 9 am and the seaboat picked us up right at the jetty. Everything went fine and the day was perfect, hot, sunny and calm. The boys are all happy. Partly unpacked and settled. Ian and Angus have Spark's (radio operator) old cabin. Duncan is in his basket on the settee in Fergus' room. Lots of room. I can still hardly beleive I'm here. Duncan 20 days old. Ian 14 months. Angus 5 years. What a nerve we have starting off for Australia with them all. Angus is in his element and we're all happy to be leaving Halifax for the winter. Wonderful day but am I tired!

At sea, Tuesday, September 30th.
Cool and lovely sunny day. Calm and all well.

Wednesday, October 1st

Hot, rainy and windy - a real storm blowing up.Have to keep ports closed and so hot inside it's really suffocating. Nearly all unpacked and put away. Very rough and not very comfortable. Ian keeps falling but it doesn't bother Angus. I keep banging into the settee. Going pretty slow today.

Thursday, October 2nd.
Rain has stopped but still windy and ship rolling more than yesterday. Everything swinging and banging. We are all eating three meals a day and its just uncomfortable trying to stand up in one spot. Ian not falling so much. He's still jealous of Fergus and roars for me all the time. Duncan no bother except for his appetite and his pants.

Off Bermuda, Friday, October 3rd.
Passed Bermuda in the distance. Saw the lights and a plane or two. Getting warmer and calmer.

Sunday, October 5th.
Hot weather now. The kids in their summer clothes again and I'm hot in summer dresses. Passed Puerto Rico, really down south now. Should reach Curacao on Tuesday. Weather good. Rains nearly every night and getting hot and humid.

Curacao, Tuesday, October 7th.
Reached Curacao this morning about 10 am. Went to Carracas Bay first and waited, and then went right into Willemstad. Grand sight. All the signs are in Dutch. Millions of ships around and a smell of oil all over. Hot as Hades. Not much air at all. Boats of all descriptions full of black men putt-putting all around us. The crew put the boat over the side and it's running to the town every little while. Angus went in and out on it all afternoon and went ashore with the boys for a beer. They took Ian one trip too up to the best hotel for a lime squash. Fergus and I slept. too hot to go ashore til later. Nearly melted away. Went in about 4:30 and looked around. Amazing sights we saw. The banana boats, like Nova Scotia fishing schooners. They tie up along one side of the street and sell their wares from there. On the other side are the stores. all little shops about 4 feet wide piled with clothes, hats, shoes, material. the proprietors sitting in a chair by the door and the front of most stores open. All black people talking Dutch, in every kind of garb. Very picturesque place. White plaster buildings and red tile roof tops. No grass anywhere. Must have been an old volcano as everything around is old lava. I bought a sun hat, purse, and stockings. Had a couple of drinks at the big hotel. Walked over the bridge to the other side. The bridge swings across the river. It's built on floats. The government buildings are all beautiful and there is one wide main street but the streets with all the shops are only wide enough for one car. The streets where the people live are just narrow lanes. all paved between rows of high buildings. Some people wear shoes and some don't. All the storekeepers are black or nearly black. In fact we saw hardly any white people. Everyone has new cars though of the better makes. The white people must live outside the town as we didn't see any homes at all. Went back to the ship for supper. Put the boys to bed and then went ashore again for a couple of hours. Went to the hotel for a Collins, then walked around and stopped at a couple of open air lunch/drink places and passed through some of these horribly narrow alleys back to where the seaboat picked us up. It was late and a couple of the crew were missing. We went to the Merchant Seamans Club first. Saw the most peculiar looking long necked priest, or something. he wore a long white cowl necked outfit and flat black hat. Saw old ladies in long dresses and bare feet carrying melons on a dishcloth pad on their heads. Everyone carries a dishcloth to tie up your head and boy you really need it for it's really hot here. We were supposed to sail at 10 but were late as they waited for the 3rd. Engineer and a couple of others to get back. Very nice Dutch pilot came aboard. 35 years old, 4 children and one died during the war. Said everything was very expensive and Curracao like a prison. He hopes to go back to Holland. Got away finally and the heat descended. Awfully hot to Panama.

Panama Canal, Friday, October 10th.
Reached canal about 10 am and got through to the Pacific side by about 5 pm. Very interesting going through the locks but the heat and humidty simply awful. Angus thought the engines that pull the ship were fascinating and watched everything. Ian was used to the black people and didn't stare like in Curacao where even the agent is black. Got a letter from Mother, none from Cynthia. Fergus got some, but no more news for a month now. Mr. Yosh, someone from Norton Lilly's came down and took us ashore about 9 pm. Drove us all over Bilboa and into Panama. Looked beautiful at night. The homes were grand. Huge - spacious, white all frame. some of course weren't so hot but it's so different and the huge palm trees and white buildings look grand. He dropped us at the International Hotel, but there were not any people dancing, just gambling, so we went across to Kelly's - a nightclub affair and had some collins and saw the floor show. Some of it good - some awful. I'd never seen strip tease before but I certainly did there. The Chief Steward and Sparks came along and sat with us. John Bostock and another engineer showed up there too. The girls aren't fussy. The old dame Kelly even had two over with some Chinese- better looking than some of the white men around - motto must be All welcome. We left there and went to El Rancho but were late and the crowd had left as it had rained and the dancefloor was roofless. Had a few dances to the organ and then back to the International. still nobody there but danced anyway. coolest place since we left Canada. Really air-conditioned. Tried to go in the game rooms but the Steward and Sparks didn't have jackets so we weren't allowed. Fellow with a gun sitting at the door. Went to the El Rancho but most of the crowd was gone. Had a couple of drinks and dances on the wet floor and got a cab back to the ship. Fergus and I stopped at the ship "Northumberland", Fergus' old training ship. Captain Fred Lougheed made us very welcome and two of his passengers, Mr. Dickson, and Mr. Wellbrook came in too. They couldn't get over my being their with a new baby and 2 others as well. Called the three A.I.D. to remember them, and thought it marvellous. They were a funny old pair going home to New Zealand. The Captain very nice. We didn't get back until after 3 but the kids were all asleep and fine and Holmes asleep on the settee. Had a grand night and was bursting of course, all over my new dress on one side. Boy did I feel awful next day. Guess I forgot I just had a baby and with the heat, drink, dancing, and late hour, I felt like dying. Gradually recovered though I felt like someone sitting on my head all day. The heat is still terrific. I can hardly move. Chippie is going to make a swimming pool for the kids out on deck here so perhaps we can all cool off in it.

At sea.
Coldest day yet. The day we crossed the equator. Fergus sends daily messages to "Northumberland" comparing speeds. We are doing about the same as they are.

Tuesday, October 20th.
Duncan 6 weeks old today. Weighed him on the cook's scale 12.25 pounds before his breakfast. He looks lovely now, smiles at us all the time and so big and fat and nice looking. His hair is growing and he has a sunbath every day now.Fergus wants to take him in the big bath with all the others. Angus has been back aft all afternoon. Ian and Duncan and I sat out in front, then Ian and I spent an hour in the pool. Horribly hot but nice breeze. Angus presented Chief Officer with his 2 hours overtime sheet. He got a big kick out of it. Later played crib with Sparks, Chippie, Beave. We won but not my playing that did it. I'll learn eventually. Fergus looked after the kids as the all woke up. Chief came up for a drink before bed. Talked of his experience in lifeboat during the war. Bed about 11:30

Wednesday, October 21st.
Beautiful day. Very hot and humid these days. Chippie finished Angus' dory and he has it in the water. Ian and he playing in pool. Duncan asleep here, just going to sunbathe and then a dip to cool off. Fergus still working on car. Sat out here with kids all morning. This is a wonderful change. Really enjoying the sun, rest and most of all being all together.

Thursday evening, October 22nd.
Did I say rest? I played crib with Sparks, Holmes, and Pete Clark but we lost. Then Sparks showed me 45's again. Fergus read his book, "The Border Lord". I played 45's and asked questions. Know a bit more about it anyway. Had a couple of lemon gins and went to bed early. The clock goes back again tonight. About 3 am. just as I was trying to get back to sleep after being up with Duncan, Fergus woke up with a horrible pain and stomach ache. The stone in his kidney again he thought. He was horribly sick the rest of the night. Nothing seemed to help much and the pain was terrible. The kids all woke at 6:15 am. and Ian only slept about 3/4 of an hour today so we are all weary tonight. It's been a beast of a day too. The hottest since Panama and a scorcher. Fergie napped or tried to all dayin between drinking lemonade and bringing it up. I tried to keep Angus and Ian in one spot and as quiet as possible. Theyr'e all asleep now, thank goodness. Just finished the washing and hung some out, had a bath and trying to cool off. Am sure pounds melted off last night and today. The fierce pain has gone but Fergus still bringing up everything, trying Bovril now. Hope he sleeps tonight and that it's moved tomorrow. we'll see a Doctor as soon as we get to Sydney, as this wasn't funny.

Friday, October, 23rd.
Fergus still not so good but think it is improving. Passed two islands today, or one last night and one today. One inhabited by 150 people and the other not. Going to stop at Tahiti if Fergus isn't better. Should be there Sunday. I have rubbed him and put hot water bottles on continuously.

Saturday, October 24th.
Passed more islands. Fergus seems a bit better. Had a mustard bath which eemed to releive the pain some. Also started hot cloths which seem to be better than hot water bottles. Think it is getting better. Gave him more laudanum last night and he got a bit of rest. Started ordinary kidney pills which may help. He's very tired so should sleep tonight.

Sunday, October 25th.
Fergus feels much better. Thought he passed the stone today. Had a good sleep last night which helped him too. Got to Tahiti about middle of afternoon and were by it by dark. We were only 1/2 mile off so had a good look at it anyway. It's all hills and mountain peaks and passes - all wooded from this side. Supposed to be 18 miles - 4,000 inhabitants. Wish we could have stopped but very glad we didn't have to for Fergus. Couldn't see the town from here but it was good to see land again. Has been a hell of a day though. Thank goodness tomorrow will be a new day and a better one, I hope. I couldn't stand another like this.

Monday, October 26th.
Fergus better but stayed mostly in bed as it stormed all day. Rained buckets and the waves are getting bigger and rolling more all the time. Really running uphill all the while.

October 31st. Halloween
Angus and I had a Halloween Party. Dressed him in my old smock and straw-hat and purse, lipstick. He looked cute too. We made pumpkin faces for all the lights. Went and called on the Chief and John. Got a bunch of chocolate bars from each. It was raining and windy so we didn't go anywhere else. Came back and drank coke and played a few games. He was thrilled and we had fun. He misses his playmates.

Friday, November 1st.
Sewed most of the day. Still cool and cloudy most of the time. Angus was up on the bridge most of the day. Fergus finished putting the car back together so it looks like a car again. Hope it works when he tries to start it. We miss a day tomorrow, just isn't, and next day is Monday. Still just water all around. 88 million square miles of it the Chief said. We whip right along but it is such a long way from Panama. Has been good weather all the way though and we are nearly there now. Hope we can find someone to mind the boys so I can see Australia after all this. It's good to be missing the winter at home all alone. I'm thoroughly enjoying the trip and being with Fergus most of all. Can't imagine going to sea from choice, not on a run like this, just sitting here in the middle of nowhere with time and the world going by and having no part in it. All they do is play cards in any spare time, or a game of deck quoits.

November 4th.
A beautiful day. Had a couple of rain showers but much warmer, just about right. We are near New Zealand now and should reach Sydney Saturday pm sometime. Helped Fergie with the car today, cleaning the upholstery. It didn't start today but likely will tomorrow. One of the cats had been in it and it smelled lovely, I don't think. Fergus has been playing cards and I just finished the washing. The kids are in bed and quiet , thank goodness. They keep going all day but I can stand their noise and bother with Fergus around too. At least it's not just looking after children. They're cute though in spite of their badness and they're not really bad anyway. We really whipped along today at 15 knots. You'd never know we were moving. Three big albatross are following the ship now. The boys are all busy painting the ship, looks nice and clean again. Angus has been helping ?? up on the bridge. Yelled "Good morning Sam" to someone this morning and when I asked who he meant he said it was "Beaver's Fodder" who works up in the wheelhouse. Tonight he said one of the boys who works there is named "Ketchup". I must get some letters written before we get to Sydney. Thought I'd get lots done but haven't written one. Just been enjoying myself doing lots of nothing and liking it. I'm so glad we could come. Duncan is thriving and Ian has grown a lot too. Still has his wheeze but if it warms up it should cure us all.

Saturday, November 8th.
Arrived Sydney at 2 pm. a beautiful hot, sunny day. Went out to Clifford and Syvia Kidd's that evening. His mother and father were there too. Had a nice evening. We went over and back on the ferry which we got at Circular Quay. They have a small apartment. The "john" outside, around the corner, but the rest very nice. Had "supper" about 10 pm and got the 12 o'clock ferry home.
Next day was very hot and we couldn't drive the car yet, so we took the ferry to Manley Beach. Left Duncan on board. Saw the sharks in the pool and the fenced in pool for swimming. Rode the ferris wheel and Angus went on the merry-go-round. Then went over to the sea promenade and beach where they surf. Looked marvellous and there were thousands there, a scorching day. Ian got something in his eye and looked awful. The ferry home ws so crowded we had to stand , then took turns at one seat. Went out to Tom and Merle McGrays next evening. Took Duncan along. Their little girl Joan, stayed up all evening and played.

Sydney - Melbourne - Sydney - then New Zealand
Napier - Christchurch - Palmerston North - Lower Hutt - Wellington
Entertained royally everywhere. Trade Commissioners, Board of Trade, Mayors, Police Commissioners, Doctors, Agents, Mission to Seamen - everyone so friendly and happy to have a Canadian ship and family to show around their beautiful countries. Have a long list of friends made in both Australia and New Zealand.
In New Zealand - Napier for Christmas.

Friday, January 23rd., 1948
Left Lyttelton, New Zealand at 6;40 pm for Panama and home. Had a busy time as it was a short stay here. Lovely day, cooler but sunny in the afternoon. Had lovely hot weather since we arrived in Lyttelton and had 2 good swims at Summer Beach. Windy and cold when we got out to sea, and rolling quite a bit.

Saturday, January 24th.
Sunny and cool, very windy and rolling a lot. The kids stayed in all day as it was to windy and tossing to much for out on deck. Milder tonight but still rolling away. No one bothers but it is hard walking. Had Duncan up in the baby-tender all afternoon and the other two played in the room with their ca-ca's (cars) while Fergus slept.
This was the 2nd. Saturday we could have done without. Cold & windy and rolling like mad. Everything flying all over and the kids don't like it much either and were pesty all day. Played with them all afternoon but certainly glad when they went to bed. Then Angus up at 12:30 am and Ian woke from the rolling. Fergus' hat fell on Duncan and wakened him at 2:30 am and then Angus was up again. I spent most of the night getting up to them all.

Saturday - week later
It's been windy and rough most of the week. Thursday and Friday weren't to bad and we sat out in the sun on deck in the afternoons. Fergus fixed the chair and made a couple of canvas covers and is going to make a hammock. Started to blow again in the night and although the sun is out occasionally it's rough again and very windy. The temperature isn't so cold though, thank goodness. Had a good thunderstorm last night. Sounded like some earthquake rumbling. Made a pair of mitts and trousers for Angus this week and nearly finished knitting a pair of pants for Ian. We cut Ian's hair yesterday which improved him a lot. He talks all the time now.

First part of week
Still cool and windy, not going very fast.

January 27th. to 31st.
Warming up a bit. Have the swimming pool going and sit out in the sun every afternoon and then have a swim. Fergus is making a hammock and fixing deck chairs.

February 1st.
Duncan got his first tooth or I just noticed it today. It's very up and another is nearly through. The wind slowed us up so we passed Pitcairn Island at night so we couldn't stop. All disappointed but it couldn't be helped.

February 2nd. to 7th.
Sat out in the sun and swam later. Getting a tan again. The sun is hot but a cool wind all the time which nearly blows us out of the pool. Duncan loves it too. He goes in everyday and just cried the first day. Kicks and grins and floats around.

February 9th.
Duncan 5 months today. Is nearly to big for his basket. His feet are at the end and he can almost get right out by pushing his feet on the side. Afraid he will upset it anyday now. Got a burn today in the sun. The hammock is very comfy.

February 10th.
Almost finished Fergus' typing so will have to get back to my sewing. Been carving men out of chunks of wood for Angus. He likes them. Good weather. Still blowing but nice temperature. Wish it were like this when we get to Halifax.

February 11th.
Duncan has another tooth. He had a lovely swim today. He practically floats on his own. Ian and Angus are both half fish. Made more little wooden men for the kids. Finished the typing then sat and talked and drank port half the night. Didn't have a game of checkers today. First we have missed for ages. Didn't have a walk either.

February 12th.
A hell of a day from start to finish. Felt like the dickens all day and everything went wrong. The Chief came up for a drink at night. A fiasco of a day. Better not to have been and please God there won't be any more.

Friday, February 13th.
Good weather. All had a good swim today. Nice and hot, but a breeze. Getting warmer and muggier now.

February 14th.
HOT! "Friend" arrived, and how! Can hardly move and couldn't have a swim. Fergus took the kids all in and they had a good time. I went to bed from noon until 2. Helped a little. The Chief was up in the evening.

Sunday
Really getting hot and humid. Rained on and off. The boys all went swimming. Really felt sick all day. Should be better tomorrow. The Chief was in for drinks and stayed til 1:15 am. All getting tans now. Rained like mad in the evening and so hot. Engine stopped during evening.

Monday, February 16th.
Hot and still and not a breath of air and sea is calm as a pond. Stopped at noon to fix engine. Angus fished but no luck. Saw lots of flying fish and dolphins this afternoon and evening. A lovely day. All had a good swim and the boys had a "pash-pash" before bed tonight. Duncan really loves it now and squeals, laughs and kicks. He's getting huge. Moved his basket to the floor as he tips over now. He's getting a bit browner now too. Gave him a swing before bed again. He loves it.
Panama
Arrived at 5 pm at dock and left at 2am. Fergus and I went up to Mr. Yost's house for a couple of hours. Had a nice evening. She gave me a table cloth and a hankie. Both very nice and a grand change after so much sea. Winter now so weather just about right.

Sunday, Curacao
Got a car and went ashore in the afternoon. Took our bathing suits and the driver took us to big hotel and bathing beach. Left Duncan on board and we all had a good swim in the ocean. The car came back for us at 4 pm. Had the dearest bottle of beer at the bar, all the way from Holland. Drove all over the island. Saw the planes leaving from airport. Never saw so many goats before in all my life. A dry barren looking island, mostly cactus and negro huts. Left about dark. Had the same nice pilot.
Had good weather all next week. Sat out in shorts until Saturday when it began to get colder and blowy.
Sunday rough and cold.

Monday, March 1st.
Arrived New York city. Temperature around 32 degrees (F) Snowed later in day but changed to rain. Called Harvey and Louise (Glover) but he was at union meetings. I couldn't go ashore as I didn't have an up to date passport, so have to go on to Saint John on ship. Called Mom & Dad from end of dock. Called Howard (Glover) next night to meet us in Saint John. He has been transferred to Halifax office (HFC- Household Finance). Told him to phone Cynthia.

Wednesday, March 3rd.
Left for Saint John. Should arrive Saturday am. Cold as Greenland, 15 degrees below F. Hope it warms up a bit. To much of a change in such a short time.

Saturday, March 6th.
Strike on in Canada. Advised to delay arrival. Wired Howard to wait until he heard from us, may go on to Halifax. Steaming around Bay of Fundy all morning waiting. Finally got word to go straight to London. So guess we have a chance to see England whether we want to or not.

Thursday, March 18th.
Had some good weather and some pretty rough. Arrived London about 7 pm. Mr. Cross waiting on dock. Very pleased to see the kids. Before Customs and all the men had left Mrs. Cross sent message in from gate. What a mix up. She came down and sat in one room, then I put the kids to bed and she sat in bedroom and Fergus and Dad in living room. Wouldn't speak to him at all. A heck of a mess. She finally left about 10:30 Fergus walked to bus with her. I made sandwiches the rest of the evening and Mr.Cross stayed all night. Moved Ian to our room and Angus to Ian's bed, but he slept with Grandpa anyway.

Friday, March 19th.
Fergus in City all day. Got back to ship about 6 pm. Had kids ready and got taxi out to Loughton. Arrived 8 pm Bill & Mrs.C at hospital so put kids to bed and they got home about 10:30 pm. We all had Mrs.C's room and she slept in the living room.

Saturday, March 20th.
Fergus to get car at Brown's. Left early for ship and hoped to be back early. Waited all afternoon for Bill and finally got home at 5 without him. Piled kids in car and went for a drive around. Were on a hill from which you can see 7 counties. Stopped at old inn where Dickens wrote some of his works. Saw his insurance policy 1812. Inn built around maypole. Very old and lovely. Got home and put kids to bed and got something to eat. Bill got home while we were eating. Wanted to look for Timpsons but Fergus didn't feel like going out so we sat and talked but it ended in a horrible argument. Wished we had gone out. Got to bed at 4;30 am. Plan to get up and drive to Folkestone on Sunday and see Angus on Monday as we leave on Tuesday. Got away at 1 pm. Arrived Aunt Jean's at 4:30 She was home and I guess glad to see us all. Rational at times if kept talking about outside things. Place a mess. Never saw so many locks on doors before. Left shortly after 6 and stopped at parents of old friend of Fergus. Very nice old couple and very thrilled and pleased to see us and the children. Had a good drive home. Beautiful countryside and got to Loughton at 9:30

Tuesday, March 23rd.
Left for Canada and home to Halifax. An experience to remember. Dad Cross on pier waving goodbye. Really sad.

April 8th., 1948
Met by irate company officials on arrival in Halifax. Fergus had already sent in his resignation so they couldn't fire him, but we all got to Australia and New Zealand without management consent and approval and loved it, but boy were they mad! Always regretted not bringing Mr. Cross home with us. He wanted so badly to come. Don't know how we would have managed, but would have found a way I am sure.
And now back to real life.
Jean Cross, April 9th., 1948.

Sydney paper

Cutting from Sydney newspaper

Post Script by Angus
Quite the voyage for a little guy, just turned 5 years of age, on departure. I remember a few things from the trip.
  • The donkey engines that pulled the ship through the locks of the Panama Canal.
  • The swimming pool the crew made for us. It was about 12' x 10', and located one deck down from the bridge on the starboard side.
  • Seeing the sharks in the shark pool in Sydney, Australia.
  • The fag/fig story.... Mom smoked and called cigarettes "fags". One day, while we were touring in the Blue Mountains of Australia, she got me to go into a shop to get her some "fags". The Aussies din't know what I was talking about and gave me a package of figs. It was a big joke.
  • The clean the heads story..... The old man ran a clean ship and always had the crew cleaning and polishing. One day he decided that the heads in one of the cabins needed a good clean. The crew unbolted the head and brought it out on deck so it could be washed with a steam hose. In my capacity as "junior bosun" I kept calling the Chief Engineer and demanding more pressure on the hose. Finally he had enough and maxed the pressure whereby the head broke into a bunch of pieces. I can't remember if the old man thought it was funny but myself and the crew thought it was a big joke.
  • I remember the dory that "Chips" made for me. Also when I we left the ship in Halifax he gave me a tank that he had made for me. It was green and had wheels and a turret that I could climb into and drive the tank. I was the envy of my friends on Vernon Street.
  • I guess the most memorable part of the whole thing was that I had spent so much time with the crew that I had picked up quite a remarkable vocabulary. When I went to Grade 1 at LeMarchant School that year my teacher's punishment for being bad was that you would have to sit behind the piano. I spent a lot of time behind the piano my first year of school for uttering bad words.
    Angus Cross, August 10th., 2000.


    Ottawa Valley

    SS Ottawa Valley Home Port - Montreal, Canada, Owners - MANZ Line ( Montreal Australia New Zealand Shipping Company )

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