Ellinis Mews

Pedestrian access to Ellinis Mews from Beacon Road, Photograph by David Thompson

Ellinis Mews is a short residential street in Beacon Cove but I’m not sure where the connection with stables is other than in the developers’ minds. To me it is a Court or what we would have called in Ireland a Close or, if we wanted to be fancy, a cul-de-sac. Although with the pedestrian access from Beacon Road (above) then perhaps these designations are incorrect also.

I do know a bit about the Ellinis though.

This week, 46 years ago, my family – parents, Frank and Audrey, my younger brother Allan and I – were waiting for a train at London’s Waterloo station. We had a few suitcases with us each bearing a sticker with the diagonal white cross of Chandris Lines and a capital ‘T’ for our surname. We were headed to Southampton to board the SS Ellinis for Voyage 51 Southbound to Australia.

Chandris Lines RHMS Ellinis. Thompson Family Collection

We left Southampton on the evening of 3 December 1974. Assisted migrants escaping ‘the Troubles’ of Northern Ireland for a new life in Melbourne. The voyage took almost a month stopping at Las Palmas, Cape Town and Fremantle before we disembarked at Port Melbourne.

There was lots to keep me and my brother occupied. We spent very little time with our parents. There was a big ship to explore and other children to meet. Children had separate meal times to adults and the entertainment was generally segregated as well with grown-up entertainment, slot machines and dancing or lounge music in the evening. There were free movies that changed every three days with kid’s matinee sessions. We played games on deck such as shuffleboard and quoits. At the stern of the ship there was a sundeck with a swimming pool.

Apparently there was a school on board. I do not remember a single thing about the sixteen days I am certified as attending the school. Surely we didn’t go to school on Christmas Day!

SS Ellinis “School on Board” attendance certificate. Thompson Family Collection

There were a few events that punctuate the journey. Stopping at each of the ports was very exciting as we got to leave the ship for the day. In Cape Town we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and while at Fremantle, our first steps in Australia, we went and had a look around Perth. There was also a ceremony with Neptune in attendance when we crossed the Equator on 11 December. We even celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Eve at sea.

The highlight of the dinners was the night they dimmed the lights and served bombe alaska. I assume it was Christmas day at what they called the Farewell Dinner as we were a few days out of Fremantle. Both the adult and children’s menu (below) has Ice Cream Olympic Flame for dessert. That must have been it!

Children’s Menu for Christmas Dinner and Farewell Dinner, SS Ellinis, Voyage 51 Southbound, 25 December 1974. Thompson Family Collection.

Passengers were kept abreast of the comings and goings on board the Ellinis through the Seascape newsletter which was published daily at sea. It listed our position, En route to Las Palmas for example, the activities that day and any important announcements such as arrival procedures for a new port or a reminder to set our clocks forward as we sailed through the various timezones.

SS Ellinis Seascape, 1 January 1975, At Melbourne. Thompson Family Collection.

This edition of Seascape (above) from Wednesday 1 January 1975 marks our arrival in Melbourne and our last day on board the Ellinis. On an inside page, it indicates we were expected to arrive at the Pilot Station at 9.00 am and it was usually four hours between arrival at the Pilot Station and our final docking which would be at Outer East Station Pier.

It is a nice feeling that the Ellinis has a street named in her honour in Port Melbourne, even if it is a mews!


The Ellinis started life as the luxury liner Lurline with the Matson Line on the San Francisco – Hawaii service. It was launched in July 1932. During WWII, having narrowly evaded the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour, it was requisitioned by the US Navy and converted into a troop ship. After the war, and an extensive two-year refit, the Lurline returned to its previous route between the west coast of the US and Hawaii. Later it included South Pacific cruises.

In 1963 the Lurline suffered a serious engine failure and was purchased by the Greek shipping company Chandris Lines who repaired the engine, renamed her the Ellinis and sent her for a refit at Smith’s Dock, North Shields, England. She left Piraeus, Greece for her first voyage to Australia on 30 December 1963. Subsequently she moved to the Southampton – Australia route and in the 1970s transported British Migrants to Australia. With many migrants choosing to fly rather than sail, the Ellinis made her last trip to Australia in 1977 and then spent six months offering cruises out of Sydney.

During her final decade of service, the Ellinis was back in Europe cruising the Mediterranean before finally being scrapped in Taiwan in 1987.


References

Churchward, M. (2016) RHMS Ellinis, Chandris Shipping Line, 1933-1987 in Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/articles/14861
Accessed December 3, 2020

Wikipedia contributors. Chandris Line. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. October 13, 2020, 22:18 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chandris_Line&oldid=983377524. Accessed December 3, 2020.

Comments

  1. Jim Holdsworth says

    Here’s a complementary story to David’s.

    Aged 18, with my parents, I boarded ‘Ellinis’ at Station Pier on 24 February 1965 to travel to the UK. We were farewelled by many friends and there were thousands of streamers – a tradition long gone. The ship had some Aussies on board who had joined (in Fremantle?) but was mostly full of Greek migrants who disembarked at our first stop in Sydney. We then sailed to Wellington, Tahiti, through the Panama Canal, to Curacao and to Southampton, then got on the boat train to London – a trip of about a month from Melbourne. A marvellous trip for an 18 year old as the start of a six-month adventure in Europe as what we now call a ‘gap year’ before starting university.

    David’s memories of quoits, suffleboard, celebratory dinners, ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremony with King Neptune and performances in the theatre mirror my own.

    ‘Ellinis’ I think means ‘Lady of Greece”. Chandris had a sister ship ‘Patris’ – father of Greece.

    • David Thompson says

      Thanks Jim. You are right about the meaning of Ellinis. The Seascape newsletter has her as ‘The Greek Lady’. David

    • Pat Grainger says

      They mirror mine, too, Jim, but we were on the Papa ship Patris with Lou 10 and Mary 7, headed for Piraeus for a year of camping round the world, our studio rented out. A great introduction to weeks of exploring Greek history. Pat

  2. Janet Bolitho says

    Great tales of your voyage David, and may we all take the example of how well your family has curated the precious ephemera associated with it.

  3. Van der Schouw, E. says

    Dear Mr. Thompson,

    How nice to read your story about your journey with the Ellinis.

    Forty-six years ago, my family and I were aboard the Ellinis on the same voyage.

    We boarded on December 1 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to visit our family in Melbourne.

    I recognize your story very well. From Neptune and later Santa Claus who came on board, the dinners with the enormous sculptures on the buffet and shuffleboard on the sports deck, to the floral splendor in Las Palmas and Table Mountain in Cape Town. Also the huge waves, the Promenade Deck shielded during a storm and of course the many flying fish.

    I was 11 years old at the time and I will never forget the trip with The Greek Lady and our stay in Melbourne and later in Queensland.

    At the beginning of February 1975 we returned to Holland. A flight that took 32 hours at the time.

    Sincerely,

    Eddy van der Schouw

  4. Margaret Volovinis says

    I loved the story, David! I was Children’s Hostess on board at the time but you sound like one of the more adventurous boys, happy to explore and entertain yourself , rather than be stuck in the Playroom for hours. Maybe you came for Bingo? The chocolate bar prizes were very popular! Thank you for the memories!
    Maggy Volovinis (Garrett at that time!)

    • David Thompson says

      Hi Maggy,
      Thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the story. I am starting to wonder what my brother and I did on the voyage. I don’t remember the bingo OR the chocolate bars … maybe I never won! I do remember we had a book where we had drawn the flags of many countries and took great pleasure in identifying the country of origin of any other ships we encountered. Anyway, whatever we did I don’t remember being bored. It was lovely to hear from you.
      David

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