What was it like for a child in the 1950s to be part of an adventurous immigrant family in rustic Queensland, Australia? A bit like Swiss Family Robinson meets The Darling Buds of May – with Scottish accents.
Mister Townsend’s Lion ~ A Baby Boomer’s Tale tells, from a child’s point of view, of being transplanted from the relative comfort of charming Hampshire in England to a primitive place, not marked on a map, in rural Queensland, Australia. Born into a world recovering from the devastations of World War II, P. Robinson Dunn was one of the first baby boomers. Her father is a Scottish ex-Navy man. He is exuberant, philosophical, ready for fun and adventure, “a nomadic dancing man” suffering malarial nightmares of his war-time experiences. Her Shetlander mother is gorgeous, a practical nurse, a good cook and a fabulous baker – “a lightly-floured woman” with a penchant for inventions and old-fashioned gadgetry. They have a global outlook. They also have a bunch of children. And they’re hoping for an even dozen. This is the story of a happy family, as seen through the eyes of their daughter growing up in the 1950s.
Packing their trunks as well as their sense of adventure, cheerfulness and enthusiasm for a new life in a new country - far from the reminders of World War II in crumbling post-War Britain - this cosmopolitan couple and their children, a young family of Ten Pound Poms, climb aboard the S.S. Orion heading for Australia. Leaving behind the horrors of the 1940s and embracing the tremendous global changes of the 1950s, they make the best of things in the Queensland bush, which holds more than a few challenges for them… Creepy-crawlies and colloquial language bring bewilderment. Droughts and bushfires bring despair, hardship and sorrow.
They have also worriedly observed their wee daughter’s silence. She has been mute since leaving Great Britain aboard the S.S. Orion, and for more than a year after arriving in sunny Queensland. Later, the child’s barefoot school days are coloured by a heart-warming family background which encourages excursions of questionable merit into the bush, friendship, Saturday matinées, the circus, visiting glass-blowers and jugglers, radio serials, pets and farm animals: it also tolerates post-War bush telephones, jitterbugs, taddies and yabbies. And worse. All of these are variously punctuated with hilarity, fun and learning, gratitude and moderation, mistrust and insecurity, joy and happiness, sadness and revelation.
Geraldine Cox, AM, Country Director and President, Sunrise Children’s Villages, Cambodia and author of Home Is Where the Heart Is had this to say: Mister Townsend’s Lion – A Baby Boomer’s Tale takes the worrying situation faced by a child of the 1940s who is moved from a safe and comfortable village life in country England to a tent address in rustic Queensland and brings it to life with humour and real joy. The story moves along quickly and faithfully paints a heart-warming picture of the daunting challenges faced, and the delights of someone growing up in the midst of a loving family in the 1950s. A steady personal growth is clear as the narrator gains years and experience in her new country. Challenges are met and gradually the alarming becomes the common-place. The book is beautifully written and a real treat to read. As someone who works with children and adolescents facing life in another country, I enjoyed it immensely.
However, we read that, long before Mister Townsend’s Lion was born, one of Patricia’s Primary School Teachers had a different view of her abilities, writing on her Report Card: Patricia’s imagination must be curbed at all costs.
Written with radiating warmth and vitality by one of the first baby boomers, Mister Townsend’s Lion is proof that P. Robinson Dunn’s imagination is alive and well. It is a story about being a toddler in Britain in the late 1940s and growing up in Australia in the 1950s.
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About the Author
Born just a few months after World War II, in beautiful and historical Hampshire in a little English village housing medieval Portchester Castle, P. Robinson Dunn was one of the first baby boomers. When she was a small child, she migrated to Australia with her family.
Patricia has lived and worked in England, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Jordan, France, Japan and Australia and has travelled the world extensively. She lives with her husband in Australia, planning her next trip.
The flour, nomadic and dancing genes live on!