In the early-1950s Patricia Barrkman (born in 1933) had a job which took her around Victoria and New South Wales to train staff for the retail business G.J. Coles.
I went to work in Deniliquin and I met this young man, Des, who taught me to play golf. And that became a romance, a very serious romance. But he was Catholic and I was Protestant. But anyway, you’re in love and, you know, there’s nothing that can’t be solved, is there? So we were planning on getting engaged (laughs). And I shouldn’t laugh. His mother was a descendant of Ned Kelly, so they were very Irish. And everyone was keen for me to go and talk with the priest.
So we went to the priest in Deniliquin and had this very interesting conversation about me changing my religion and becoming a Catholic. I can’t recall lots of the conversation but—and I don’t know who said this, I think it might have been the priest or might have been a thought that popped into my own head—but somewhere along the line, there was something about, ‘if you can’t change your religion, put the ocean between you’. Now, I don’t know where this came from. But it gave me food for thought and I finally decided that I was brought into this world a Protestant and I was going to go out of this world a Protestant. So there was nothing, you know, I made that decision, that I would not change my religion. I decided that I’d put the ocean between us and that’s what I did. I got on a boat, on the Wanganella, and I went to New Zealand with my friend Lesley.
Credit: Patricia Barrkman interviewed by Hamish Sewell in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/16, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 22 October 2011 in Clayfield, Queensland.