Welcome to the web site for Stonehouse History Group
- promoting interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality.
Memories of Bridgend Hostel in Stonehouse
By Mira Farrugia
I was born Mira Pace on the 13th of November, 1944, in Egypt to European parents. My father died suddenly in 1952 and my mother was left to rear three girls aged 9, 7 and 5, with a baby on the way. With no help she was forced to put us girls in boarding school and gave the baby to my unmarried auntie to raise. To the majority of Europeans born in Egypt, life was ideal but not for everyone.
In November 1956 the Suez Crisis started. All Maltese, Cypriots, Jews and those who held British passports were given a limited time to flee the country. Everything personal we owned like furniture, jewellery, clothes etc. was quickly disposed of or sold. With one suitcase per person weighing no more than 20 kilos each, we were escorted to the airport and sent to a foreign land - England.
We arrived in London on the 14th of December and spent the night in a camp. After breakfast we were put on a bus and sent to an unknown place which we later found out was Bridgend Hostel in Stonehouse. We arrived at our destination one bus load after another. We were allocated to our rooms which were in blocks of eight with 2 toilets, a bathroom, and a kitchenette where you could make yourself a coffee or tea. There was one room for our mother and brother and one room for us girls with a bed each and a small wardrobe to share. After we had settled into our rooms, we ventured out and discovered there was a big dining room where three meals a day were provided for us. There was also a TV room with a real TV which we'd never seen before and a games room with table tennis. Within days we were like a big family, everyone knew each other and we quickly got used to it.
As a 12 year old, life had started to get exciting - flying in a plane for the first time and travelling by coach. We were now living with our mother and making new friends. The only downfall was the cold; within days it started to snow which was amazing - we were not prepared for this cold weather! The Red Cross even provided us with boots and warm clothes which were much appreciated.
Our first Christmas was amazing for us! I remember being taken to see Aladdin on stage. Children were taken to parties and the presents we were given were incredible. The British government was absolutely wonderful to us. December 1956 was a time to remember.
By January 1957 a lot of the men had got jobs and started working saving to buy homes. For us children it was time to go to school, which we found difficult because of the language barrier. Soon enough we got into the swing of it and before too long we learned the language. Some of the young people decided we needed some entertainment so on Saturday night, after dinner, we would help sweep the floors, rearrange the dining room tables and chairs, shake some talcum powder on the floors, gather everyone’s records, and that’s how Saturday night dancing started.
My first summer in England was something that will always be imprinted on my mind; it was short but spectacular. Coming from a big city with tall concrete buildings, crowded places and busy and noisy roads - this was so different. It was so lovely to walk in the fields, tall grass towering over me, picking wild flowers for my mum. Chasing butterflies, blackberry picking, hearing the blackbirds sing and seeing the apple orchards everywhere- this was nature at its best.
We lived in Bridgend Hostel from December 1956 until mid 1958 when we moved to a house in Brimscombe and by 1963 we migrated to Australia.
My best years were spent in England where I made some lifelong friends. I married someone whom I knew from the hostel and coincidently met here in Australia. In December this year it will be the 60 year anniversary of my arrival at Bridgend hostel. I have returned to visit the site twice and I still would love to visit one more time.
Mira Farrugia 2017
Photo shows Mira with her granddaughter