Jack and Mary Dyer
|First name||Jack and Mary|
|Country of Origin||Burma Myanmar|
|Date of Birth||26/10/1913 10/7/1919|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||31/12/47|
|Submitted by||Roberta Dyer Thomson|
JACK AND MARY DYER from Burma (Myanmar) to Australia
Reasons for leaving the homeland:
Jack and Mary Dyer, and daughters, Colleen and Patricia departed Rangoon, Burma and arrived on the first Cathay Pacific flight to Australia (Darwin) on 31st December 1947. The military led by the generals were nationalising the country and Jack could see immense problems after independence. He decided it was no place to bring up a young family. Jack\’s wisdom and foresight ensured his family had access to the fundamental human rights he so valued and they grew and prospered in this most egalitarian of countries, Australia. For that, his family are most grateful.
Arrival and settlement:
The Cathay Pacific plane was a converted troop carrier with seats along the length of the fuselage. On arrival in Darwin it seemed hellishly hot. Jack wore his good suit and Colleen remembers that Patsy vomited on him as she cried for their Nanny and rice and curry. The family overnighted at the Darwin Hotel. Here Mary witnessed vegemite sandwiches moving across a plate propelled by the largest cockroaches she had ever seen. The family travelled on to Sydney and some years later located to Goondiwindi, Queensland where Jack bought a sawmilling business. Third daughter, Roberta, was born there.
Jack was the youngest of three brothers. Eldest brother Ralph joined Jack and Mary in Australia but Freddie died in Burma. Mary was an only child. Both Jack and Mary were orphaned at an early age. There is no immediate family in Myanmar today as far as the family is aware.
Experiences & events of importance:
Jack and Mary trekked from Burma to India with Colleen to escape the Japanese at the outbreak of World War 2. It was an extremely dangerous journey and Patricia is documenting Jack and Mary\’s lives including this event. They returned to Burma at the end of the war.
Colleen remembers very clearly that Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Bogyoke Aung San was assassinated on July 19th, 1947 and I asked the jeep driver who drove me to school to take me to the hall where the bodies of the victims were lying and he did. The sight of the body surrounded by marigolds remains a vivid memory.
There are memories of “Chinatown” visited occasionally in rickshaws where meals (usually rice and curry) were consumed from a plank covered in banana leaves placed in the rickshaw. Patsy and Colleen were actually allowed to eat with their fingers – a real experience as it was cutlery at home NOT fingers!
The water festivals were just that – everything was saturated with water. If you drove past an open truck you were drenched with buckets of water. The gutters were awash, which cleaned them of bright red beetlenut spittle, the result of what seemed to be a national pastime.
Colleen remembers a curfew and the timber company compound’s large gates being locked and guarded at night. On some occasions sounds like gunfire during the night could be heard.
Main problems and successes:
Jack and Mary were fluent English speakers and Protestants. They mixed well within the community but did meet with some prejudiced views from those who thought new arrivals, particularly of Asian extraction, did not belong here. They responded well to changed circumstances. For Mary, domestic chores, normally done by servants, proved the biggest hurdle. It was a steep learning curve and she eventually excelled at cooking, sewing and flower arranging winning prizes at district shows. Jack had to transfer his accumulated knowledge of the timber industry from one country’s hardwood to another’s. However, it was completely different when Jack bought Hunter\’s Sawmill at Goondiwindi which processed cypress pine – a softwood. Fortunately Jack, being a man of great common sense and acumen, met the challenge and made a great success of his time in Goondiwindi where he also founded a company that built the first motel there and at Caloundra in the 1960s.
Jack passed away on 1/2/2007; Mary passed away on 27/2/2011. In 1973 Jack flew over Rangoon. The captain of the British Airways flight, dipped the wing and Jack saw the Shwedagon Pagoda glimmering below. Upon landing at Bangkok, he contacted his company, Duncan\’s Holdings, and requested they facilitate a visa to visit Burma. Canberra advised against this. There was a high risk that Jack and Mary\’s emigration would be seen as traitorous behaviour towards the military government of the day. Canberra could not guarantee diplomatic protection should the military junta arrest Jack. Jack and Mary never returned to Burma but in December 2011, Patricia and husband Timothy, accompanied by their children, Penelope and Nathaniel, journeyed to Myanmar and arranged for a special scattering of their ashes.