IN the peak period in the city, approaching 5pm, buildings were being emptied of their occupants and buses in the busy street were filling rapidly and gliding away.
There were, in quick succession, mostly double-deckers bound for the immediate suburbs, with single-deckers now and again bound for the more distant towns of Northumberland.
I noted the indicators as I stood on the pavement - Jesmond. Heaton, Wallsend, Gateshead and so on.
The Gateshead bus stopped nearby to take on several passengers. My home was in Gateshead, but this bus could not take me home.
I walked down the street to the railway station The portico was crowded with commuters entering and leaving.
There were timetables on the wall near the entrance and I stood and scanned the destinations. Trains for Hexham, Allendale, Rothbury and Belford, Pelaw Main and Hebburn. Windermere, Morpeth and Killingworth were all indicated.
This no doubt all sounds commonplace to the reader; trains and buses for the suburbs. But to me it was all utterly fantastic. You see, I was not in Newcastle upon Tyne at all, I was in the county of Northumberland all right, but it was Australia.
I was in Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW).
Earlier I had spoken to a local man about these suburban towns being named similarly to that of Newcastle upon Tyne. He assured me that was nothing.
"If you catch the bus for Kurri Kurri, you will find a lot of the miners from the nearby Pelaw Main and Hebburn collieries talk Geordie."
I was immensely interested and in a bookshop, I found what I wanted, a road map of Newcastle and its suburbs, and also a history of Newcastle NSW. I sat in the sun near the bus station and studied the map.
It was of Newcastle and its coalfield towns. It was incredible! There was Blackhill colliery, Bloomfield, Lambton and New Lambton. Hebburn and Northumberland collieries: Pelaw Main, Pelton and Rising Sun collieries: Rothbury, Ryhope and Seaham collieries.
Then there were Abermain Colliery and Aberdare Colliery. There was Cardiff Colliery, and yes, there was the Rhonda.
My history book told me that coal was discovered in New South Wales about September 1798 by Lieutenant Shortland, RN, who was looking for escaped convicts.
Convicts from Britain worked the mines for many years and in about 1820 the government, handed the mines over to private enterprise. Convicts were not able to cope with the increasing coal industry, and in 1840 miners were brought out from Northumberland, Durham and South Wales.
They certainly perpetuated the names of the collieries and villages in their homeland. Brass bands and male voice choirs are numerous in New South Wales, and had their origin in the miners, as in their homeland, Britain, all collieries had brass bands.
In the depression days of the 1920s and 30s, many more miners left Northumberland and Durham and South Wales for Australia.
Mines in Britain were closed down by the mine owners, and the miners were in a plight of hunger and want.
Even King Edward VIII had to say to his Baldwin government: "Something must be done."
A trades van went by. It was from Alnwick. I looked at my map. Sure enough there was Alnwick and its main street was Percy Street. I noticed a Gosforth too; it boasted a Northumberland and a Cumberland Street. Oh, Geordies, where are thou? Truly, the Geordies of yesterday are the Aussies of today. I was saddened: I knew not why. Perhaps it was because I ought to have had an affinity with these people.
I thought of making a bus tour of the colliery towns. It was Saturday and I was free from duty. But as I sat the idea faded. I felt that perhaps I would be frustrated: I would be searching for something that did not exist. …