|Country of Origin
|Ha Wang Chun, Wang Sui Heung, Toishan, China
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
|Peter Liu OAM
The remarkable stories of Lew Nam and his son Dr Eddie Liu OAM, OBE, Hon.D. Qld Univ. Part 5.
Eddie arrived back in Australia fully expecting to resume his studies. The late Lau She Wan, Lew Nam’s nephew, who migrated to San Francisco said, ‘Eddie was a hard working student with well above average grades and excelled at Chinese literature and mathematics. He always bent down to help up others less fortunate.’ Eddie was an A-grade champion table tennis player. These attributes were to positively impact on his life in Australia. Eddie met Elizabeth (Betty) Brown in a table tennis competition. Betty was a young, strikingly beautiful and talented woman with ancestry from Limerick and Dublin, Ireland and Dumfries, Scotland, and was a gifted tap and traditional Irish dancer.
They planned to get married except for a major complication. Elizabeth Brown was an Irish Protestant, which meant she would have to convert to the Roman Catholic faith before a Roman Catholic priest would marry them.
As most Australians had not travelled overseas and Television had not yet been invented, it was difficult to tell a Japanese from a Chinese. The Japanese aggression and Chinese labour competition in the gold fields were fertile crucibles for the fermentation of racial discrimination. It is said that every moon has a dark side! Arguably, there were reasons why Eddie’s proposed marriage to Elizabeth would not work. But it worked outstandingly well and only ended with Elizabeth’s sudden death from a massive heart attack on July 15th 2001. The marriage had endured for more than six decades.
A successful citizen is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him
As the Americans had been drawn into the war by the savage attack on Pearl Harbor, it was vital that the Allies did not outstrip their supply lines. Eddie was requested by the Australian Manpower Department to supervise a special project in Brisbane. This involved rapidly constructing landing barges for allied forces gallantly defending the islands north of Australia. Over 2,000 Chinese Seamen labouring on this crucial and time-sensitive project were allowed to stay in Australia until the war was over provided they continued working at The American Small Ships Division.
In July 1943, the entire membership of the Chinese Seamen’s Union in Melbourne was transferred to the Bulimba, Brisbane base which was supervised by Eddie. These hard-working men remain somewhat forgotten foreign militants.
The project of building landing barges for the American Small Ships Division was a stretching challenge for such a young and inexperienced supervisor. But Eddie got the job done through unrelenting effort.
In Toishan, the enemy occupied the village and on the first day of their unlawful occupation publicly beheaded 282 village elders to instil terror, fear and subservience into the defenceless Chinese farmers. His brother was in the Chinese army and Eddie wanted to see the enemy unconditionally surrender which Japan had never done before in their 2,600 years of history in warfare.
The Americans established the barge-making facility alongside Apollo Road. The land they selected had a large tea tree swamp in the centre that was filled-in using heavy earthmoving equipment.
Initially, the workforce comprised about 800 Chinese labourers who were housed in barracks built along Baldwin Street and terraced down the hill. The barges they were building were about sixty feet long by about 25 feet wide. They had a chisel bow at each end. The barges had one refrigeration cold room at each end with a self-contained plant room in the middle. One cold room was for frozen goods while the other was for perishables. The barges were designed for shipping as deck cargo to New Guinea and then towed by tugs to where they were needed.
As the barges were steel, the Chinese were taught to weld and worked three eight-hour shifts. At six o’clock every morning, the whole district would be awakened by loud Chinese music blasting over the speakers. The Chinese workers unintentionally caused quite a lot of friction with the local workers. The Americans paid them well and they always had sufficient money, relatively speaking.
As beer in those days was rationed and was only served in sessions, the Chinese who had worked all night would have a sleep and then stroll down to the Balmoral Pub when the session started. When the meat workers and the stockmen arrived after work they found the Chinese had downed most of the beer on tap. This led to several nasty brawls with the stockmen chasing them down Oxford Street on their horses and hitting them with palings that they had ripped off fences. Eddie had his hands full of problems in preventing breaches of the peace.
See Part 6.