In 1965 and 1966, while in the 6th Form, I studied North America as the specialty for my “A” level GCE in Geography. I had no choice: our teacher, “Jessie” Whitehead, was passionate about North America, particularly Canada. She had never visited the USA or Canada, and would not until she retired a few years later and took an assignment as the personal assistant for a business man traveling North America. She died shortly afterward.
Because of Miss Whitehead, I became fascinated with Canada. It seemed such a large, open, free and adventurous place. Within a few months of taking a job at Cerebos Foods in late 1966, I had arranged a job in Burnaby with Cerebos’ branch office in British Columbia. I applied for a Canadian Immigration visa and was accepted. The visa and the Assisted Passage Warrant (a free ticket) arrived in March 1967. But my mother died the same week. I put my emigration plans aside, since my three younger brothers and my sister, ranging between 7 and 16, were placed in foster homes and I wanted to make sure they were OK before I left.
By the time I applied again to emigrate, it was late 1968. I had to persuade the immigration officer at Canada House in London that I would go this time. That I had not left when granted the visa in 1967 was a strike against me. I had no job arranged this time and the Canadian Government no longer paid the passages for people emigrating from the UK. I had very little money. The young man interviewing me asked me how I was going to get to Canada and how would I support myself. I told him that I planned to work my way on a ship and that I would find a job. My naiveté amused him I suppose, because he laughed and told me that I had the spirit that Canadians appreciated. I was approved to go and my visa arrived about January 1969. I left for Canada a few weeks later working my passage on the M/S Lundefjell, a Norwegian cargo ship