McMillan family reunites to mark epic arrival

WHEN John McMillan arrived at Essendon airport from Glasgow as a boy with his family 50 years ago they made the television news.

There were eight children with mum and dad — the largest family group to arrive under a sponsored immigration scheme arrangement with the UK.

It was a big step for the former docker William McMillan, his wife Mary and most of their children to leave the familiarity of Scotland to move to the small south-west Victorian city of Warrnambool seeking a better future.

Today, John is the only one of the clan left in their adopted city, but he drew several of them back for a special anniversary last weekend to mark five decades since they migrated Down Under.

Thursday was exactly 50 years since the family landed at Essendon in a BOAC plane, unlike most of their UK counterparts who travelled by ship.

“Mum kicked up a fuss when she found out we would be separated at different ends of the ship, so the department arranged for us to fly out,” John recalled.

“There was a Channel 7 camera crew there to meet us because we were the largest family to fly into Melbourne under the scheme.

“We were sponsored by the former Allansford Presbyterian Minister, Mr Shrader, and settled in Warrnambool.

“I was aged 12 at the time and went to the old North Tech annexe school.

“In was in the era of the Beatles and the school made me a Beatles jacket — I’ve still got it.”

John wrote a poem summarising the family’s journey which in part reads “I would never see that rag man again or hear the coal man’s voice, ‘cos the family was off to Australia and we had no choice ... now we’re here and we are all a lot older, but at least we are not in Glasgow where it would be a lot colder”.

One of his special guests at the 50-year reunion was his former teacher Heather Tuck (Chard) who also caught up with some of John’s siblings.

Mayor Michael Neoh was also on the guest list and presented a McMillan clan emblem to the group. 

Cr Neoh was one of hundred of young players to learn soccer skills from John, who has been a backbone of the sport in the city for decades.

“When we arrived there was no soccer played in Warrnambool and I started the local competition — now there are two clubs,” John said.

“I had been travelling to Mount Gambier to play and a friend in Warrnambool asked me to coach his child.”

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