Visse Hopley

Reflections and ponderings

Now, in my retirement, I like to walk from home down to Birkenhead wharf, and ride on the ferry across to the city.​

I like to sit upstairs, outside, at the stern, and as I sit there and we draw away from Birkenhead wharf I invariably reflect and ponder over what and how my parents must have been thinking and feeling in October 1950, as they approached this wharf, ready to start a new life.

Kirsten at the window of “Jordbærhuset“
Birkenhead Wharf October 1950

What had compelled them to make that huge decision to travel to the other side of the world, where everything would be different – the language, the culture, the food, the traditions?

They had a contact in Fred Andersen [Strawberry Andersen as he was known], but otherwise knew no one in Auckland and didn’t speak the language.

Viggo at the loom

We started our life in New Zealand in “jordbaer huset” in Beach Rd [now Island Bay Rd] Birkdale. My parents, Viggo and Kirsten [Kis] Pedersen had brought with them from Denmark a large room-sized loom, and they set about making floor rugs and other woven furnishings. Dad got a job cleaning trams, a menial job for a professional musician, but as new immigrants do today, he started work, learnt English, and moved on with his life.

Birkenhead Wharf 2017

I started school in February at Birkenhead Primary School, where coincidentally I later taught for 22 years until I retired. There was another Danish family who had travelled with us from Denmark, and the son also started school there, so I had some company, and I imagine that I learnt English by listening, imitating and gradually learning the idiosyncrasies of the English language. There were no ESOL teachers to assist the learning in those days. My parents were resilient, creative, and hard-working folk, willing to give new things a go. They have passed those traits on to their children, and despite my reflections and ponderings as to why they made that huge move, I am very grateful that they did, and that we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live on the North Shore of Auckland.

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