Journey of a Lifetime

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Pat Scanlan

(Mashay Number Five)

Pat was born at Camperdown, Victoria, Australia in 1928. His parents were dairy farmers in the district of South Purrumbete in South West Victoria. He went to a small, one-room country primary school at Tandarook, then to Camperdown High School (riding a bicycle 6 miles each way to catch the school bus) and on to St Patricks College at Ballarat. When his father became ill, he had to give up school to help run the family farm, where he worked for the next 13 years.

When his younger brother Len returned from Canada for a holiday at the end of 1957, Pat decided to go with him when he returned and went to work in Melbourne for a few months to earn his fare. By means which do not bear too close a scrutiny, he obtained immigrant status for Canada and on June 10th 1958 sailed out of Sydney on the Orsova, bound for Vancouver.

He spent the next 3 years in Alberta, working as a truck driver in Calgary, or on-road construction jobs in the Rocky Mountains, driving trucks and operating road making machinery. When construction work ended for the winter he and an Australian friend, Al Wiseman, decided to try their luck in London. This venture, however, was hardly 'life in the bright lights'. He found himself driving an ancient truck for the Hammersmith Borough Council, going to work in the foggy dark, and returning in the foggy dark, to a small windowless room in Earls Court.

One evening in the Down Under Club, he saw a notice asking for a third person to join a New Zealander and an Englishman driving a VW Beetle to India and back. He joined these two and set off in mid January 1960. After many vicissitudes and adversities they did reach Calcutta and he returned to London totally broke about the end of May. Fortunately, he had set aside his return fare to Canada and was able to get a ship back in time to get work for the summer season.

He then returned to the family farm in Australia for a year, which, in his words "was a very long year".

In early January 1963 he received a letter from Colin Gardiner, the Englishman he'd travelled to India with. Colin had obtained work in Paddy Garrow-Fisher's office in Kingston-on-Thames and wrote to say that there was a vacancy coming up for a driver on the Indiaman buses. Brian Bird, the driver who was leaving to get married, was at that time at home in Melbourne on holiday and Colin advised that if he was interested he should make contact. Pat was on the next train to Melbourne!

Brian must have thought that he was suitable for the job and hasty plans were made for him to get a ship in time to catch up with the northbound tour at Bombay.

On his first trip he did very little driving but spent most of the time in the courier seat of Albert's bus, taking notes and acting as the general dog's body. On the next southbound tour he was set loose with a bus of his own. He clearly remembers Paddy's farewell at Calais. Pointing vaguely eastward, Paddy had said "India is that way - and don't bend that bloody bus".

Altogether he made six overland journeys with the Indiaman, plus one journey to bring two Travelall vans from Madras back to London in a hurry, plus half journey when he took a bus as far as Quetta, handed it over to Barry Pettengill and returned to Madras for another bus. During the northern summers, he made two double-header camping tours to Greece and Turkey (one with Albert and one with Alex), a double decker Moroccoman with Geoff Tassell and a Norseman to Scandinavia and Russia with Geoff.

On the Norseman tour he says he met the fate of all Indiaman drivers in the form of his future wife, Jenny, a New Zealander. Later that year he met her again in Bombay (she had travelled overland with Penn Tours) and persuaded her and her friend Kate Young to return to London with him and the two other drivers who were about to ferry two Travelalls practically non-stop back to London. After the southbound Indiaman in 1965 he had home leave in Australia and decided to slip over to New Zealand to see her again. "That was a fatal mistake", said Pat, "because before I knew what was really happening I was married".

They settled in Sydney for the next 15 years during which time children Bridget, Tim and Nick were born. During this time he worked on the city buses except for 3 years with security at the Sydney Opera House.

In 1981 they moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, to be near Jenny's family. For the first 9 months or so he did part time work driving a school bus and doing security patrols at night until he got a permanent job driving the city buses. This he did until he retired in early 1993.

Pat still still has itchy feet and has continued travelling, mostly to South East Asia and China. In 1995 he fulfilled a dream: a journey by local transport from Hong Kong to "far and fabled Kashgar" in Western China, over the Khunjerab Pass into Pakistan and across Northern India to Calcutta. A great journey but perhaps, as he says, "it showed that my aging body is probably better suited to the rigours of a more recent trip - mostly spent sitting in Irish pubs drinking Guinness"!

If you have any comments, suggestions or contributions regarding the Indiaman that you would like to add, please send an e-mail to:
 indiaman AT 101answers DOT com

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