"The Penniless Stowaways" ...
A story contributed by Louise Lazar-Wright, granddaughter of Lucy Lawrence.
In 1927 Lucy, her two children, and her sister Dorothy emigrated to Australia
aboard the ship HMS Balranald. She had secured employment by writing to a sheep farmer in South Australia and was nominated by him
and employed as a 'domestic'. Lucy's husband was to follow later which he did in 1928. Theirs was a hard life,
her husband often away looking for work.
It was hard going, the depression years had taken their toll on Lucy's health, her husband had left her and the children and she decided she would leave South Australia and go and stay with her sister Dolly in Fremantle Western Australia. One day feeling very homesick for England and concerned about her mother she took her children down to visit the ships sailing for England at the Fremantle docks just so she could have some contact with her mother and home.
The Jervis Bay was at harbour, Lucy and her children boarded the ship initially just to feel closer to what it would feel like to be 'going home'. She gained access by telling the steward they were just visiting, she made up a fictitious name for a 'friend' who was sailing on the Jervis Bay and then mingled with the passengers. It was a wet and rainy day, she and the children went to the far side of the ship and sat on the deck chairs she told her children stories about England and that one day they would board a ship just like this one and sail back to England to see grandma. But then 'the hooter went'. She saw her opportunity and with what one can only describe as a deep and profound presence of mind she gathered her children to the railings of the ship and she and her children waved 'ta ta' to the people on the wharf below and away they sailed.
On leaving the protection of the harbour they hit rough seas, Lucy became very sea sick and eventually declared herself to two stewards who were 'helping her locate her cabin', which of course did not exist. She said "I haven't got a cabin, I am not a passenger". The men jumped to attention and simultaneously declared "Good God, a stow-a-way!" She was taken to see the Captain. The men saluted him and said "A stow-a-way sir." "Stow-a-way! My God!". Lucy writes at this point "I collapsed onto a chair." The captain said "You will have to go back". Lucy responded "I'll jump over board if you send me back". The Captain ordered that a message be sent to inform the authorities about the stow-a-way situation. A message was tapped out by a white uniformed officer who was in the same room. And so it went.
The children were given warm baths and generous amounts of food and jelly. A cabin was located for them. As it turned out Lucy had timed her disclosure well, it was too late for them to be returned as the pilot boat had already returned to harbour.
People were very kind and generous. A collection was made on behalf of Lucy and her children just before they arrived in Columbo. The children had a wonderful time.
I am loath to write much more as I am still piecing together Lucy's memoirs. It has always been my intention to tell her story more fully. Lucy led a interesting and creative life. She always supported the under dog. She passed away in Darwin Hospital in the Northern Territory in 1987 aged 84.
On the 23 March 1988 her passing was commemorated at length in The Hansard 'In Parliament'. This is an excerpt from that article in closing it said;
"Mr Speaker I wish to pay tribute to a great Territorian... Aunty Lou was one of those remarkable characters that the Territory once used to attract... her fierce independence, her no-nonsense attitude to life and her heart of gold were all the more exceptional for a woman of her time... On behalf of this Assembly, I pay tribute to a true Territorian and offer our condolences to Lou's children... and her family. Having given so much of her life to others Auntie Lou will long be remembered for her strength and her indomitable spirit. The Territory is the poorer for her passing"
So you see she was a most amazing soul, not one to take charity but rather one who gave charity endlessly to others. Knowing this of her I can only say that her situation must have been intolerably desperate for her to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to her at that time which was to stow-a-way aboard the HMS Jervis Bay that day.
I have afforded you this additional information in trust, to give you insight into the nature of my grandmother for if you should add her story to your web page it would be reflective of her true nature, not merely as an opportunist but as a person of great courage and compassion. One who is to this day still missed by many.