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Whyalla proud for 52 years

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WHYALLA FAMILY: Irene Campbell, front, with son-in-law David Bull, grandson Matthew Bull, great grandson Daniel Bull and daughter Jeannette Bull at last week's ceremony.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Fifty two years after packing the family up and boarding a ship for Australia, Irene Campbell has become an official Australian.

Irene was one of 20 people who took the Australian citizenship pledge last week at the City of Whyalla’s new group ceremony celebration.

While Irene is still rightfully proud of her Cockney origins, having been born in London and raised in Tottenham, she’s happy to be an Aussie and has proudly called Whyalla home for the past five decades.

But don’t ask her if she barracks for Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League.

“No, no, no … we were always Arsenal,” Irene quickly said of herself and her late husband John.

“John’s wish when he was ill was to get back to England to see Arsenal’s new ground but we couldn’t make it so he’d joke we’d have to take him home and throw his ashes on the pitch.”

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PROUD MOMENT: Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin presents Irene Campbell with her Australian citizenship.

Australian citizenship was another thing Irene and John never got around to after being told when they left England they didn’t need to be naturalised. Irene and John, and their three daughters, travelled out to Australia in late 1966, crammed into one cabin on the “overcrowded” ship Aurelia, and passed through the Suez Canal just before it was shut due to local unrest.

“We could hear the guns going off and could see the soldiers when we went through,” Irene said.

Landing in Fremantle, it was then another ship to Melbourne before a “cattle train” to Adelaide and then up to Whyalla where John had a job waiting for him with BHP at the Whyalla shipyards. While Irene no longer has John, she has their three daughters, their partners, six grandchildren and one great grandchild to celebrate her new citizenship with.

“We loved it here (in Whyalla), wouldn’t go anywhere else,” Irene said.

“I always said I wouldn’t become an Australian citizen without John, we didn’t think we needed to  but here I am now, 52 years later, and it’s done,” Irene laughed.

The City of Whyalla will be running regular group ceremonies for residents to read the Australian citizenship pledge. Last week’s event was enjoyed by nearly 100 people with the ceremony, a light supper and plenty of time for people to mingle in the Council chamber.

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