Posted by: Janet | January 24, 2008

World Travels


The London McKee’s have just arrived at their new assignment in Hong Kong.  I am excited for them in their new surroundings and am remembering our experiences more than 35 years ago when we first travelled en famille to our new assignment overseas.      

 In 1972 Ian accepted a 2 year appointment as Town Planning Adviser on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.  This was to be our first overseas assignment as a family and our outbound trip to that idyllic island was the first of many memorable journeys – our preparations for departure set the pattern for many to be undertaken in the future.  Given that any pre-departure time spent in a hotel would not be paid for by our employer we usually stayed in our house until the day we left.  I always underestimated the number of last minute things that had to be done.  When I think back on it I’m not sure how I did it at all with the boys so small and having to leave the house clear for an unidentified but hoped for in-coming tenant.  Although we left the house furnished, we still had to leave the house bare of our more personal belongings and any food.  So of course there was always the problem of the last meal, the sheets used for the last night, etc. 

For the St. Lucia departure in early October, David was 4 months old, Andrew 2 yrs. 4 months, and James 3 yrs. 5 months.  James and Andrew were at a particularly lively stage.  David was a good sleeper.  Andrew was still in nappies and still liked to drink from a bottle.  James was more independent – a good easy child but he could be quite headstrong.  And Andrew could be just plain ornery.  I can remember the anticipation of the night before turning to sheer fatigue as the evening hours moved on and there were still tins of  food in the cupboards and the number of last minute boxes we were taking over to our neighbours  and the boxes we were putting in our carport store seemed endless.  This first time we went overseas we stored our things with friends who lived in Monkstown, a 15 minute drive from Dundrum.  For other assignments in subsequent years as our storage requirements grew, we used C.I.E. who stored our belongings at Broadstone Station. 

The items we selected to send to St. Lucia had been packed and sent  several weeks earlier.  The shipment included favorite toys, books, items for operating a household there – sheets, blankets, towels.  We also sent our blue Volkswagon  – I can’t remember at what point we relinquished the car for shipment from Dublin, but I certainly remember getting an unexpected sighting of it in the dock area in St. Lucia.

                What with needing things for the last minute in our house in Dublin and also wanting to provide as much as possible for our new house in whatever country we were going to, we somehow always seemed to end up with too much (or too little) of various items. 

                On the eve of the departure itself I don’t think we got to bed before midnight  and then we were up at about 5 a.m. to get ready to go to the airport for our early flight over to London.  I had to have many many bottles packed for feeding Andrew and David.  James and Andrew were excited.  David was good as gold and slept most of the time for the whole trip.  We had a bit of time before our flight to St. Lucia which was scheduled to leave London around 2 in the afternoon.  But then our flight was delayed and also we were very slow going through security.  It was at a time when hijacking was a real threat and security procedures were slow and laborious – I remember they even searched David’s nappy.

                At last we were on the plane ready for departure – the longest of British Airways flights.  I don’t know how many hours it was before we landed in Antigua – David had been so good sleeping most of the time – no trouble at all.  James had been grand but did require entertaining.  And Andrew had never stopped moving, squirming, wriggling, etc.  He only fell asleep just as we were about to touch down in Antigua.  At one point he spilled butter on Ian’s brand new shoe.  Ian was cross.  James had slept part of the way so he was ready to get off the plane with me in Antigua.  Ian stayed on the plane with Andrew and David.  I was weary.  James wanted some airport trinket, I didn’t have the energy to figure out how to pay for it and James howled for a long time in protest.  Back on to the plane for the further 2 hour (?) flight to St. Lucia. 

Finally we landed in Hewonara in St. Lucia at the southern end of the island.  It was nighttime, hot and steamy.  James said to Andrew, “come on Dandu, let’s have a look around” and those two little boys  tried to set off into the tropical night. 

                We still had the final leg of our journey to complete – a short flight in a small plane around the north end of the island to reach the capital Castries.  The flight was delayed, there was a thunderstorm, Andrew and James were throwing up.  The carry cot hadn’t appeared from the hold of the big aircraft so I had to hold David while we were waiting in the airport.  We were pretty weary!!!  Finally the flight was called.  Some kind woman offered to hold David but I declined her offer because the plane was so small that she would have been in the back and I would have been up front.  The flight was very scary as thunder rumbled and lightening flashed around us.  Finally, finally – I can’t tell you how tired we were – we arrived at Vigie Airport in Castries.  We were supposed to be met but the designated person was no where in sight.  Somehow we made our way to the Miramar Hotel which was only a mile or so away but it seemed like 100 miles.  After the usual check-in formalities we reached our room and flopped into our beds, absolutely exhausted.   What a lovely view awaited us when we opened our curtains in the morning – the ocean, palm trees, green grass, tropical flowers  – magical to the revived weary travellers.              


  1. Great memories… I should add that the shoes covered with butter were actually not only new,but suede!!! Not a great mix. I have never bought another pair.

  2. What a wonderful entry Janet. I have nothing but admiration for all your travels with the boys over the years. Now with two little ones of our own I have more of an inkling (and greater awe) for what you relate here. The last minute packing, happy little travelers, tears of disappointment, adventurous spirits, throwing up, the weariness of it all and the shoes…ah, the shoes…I love the thought of James wanting “Dandu” to head off into the dark tropics. An adventurous gene that I see daily expressed in his daughters 🙂 Sheer delight to read Janet. And the finale of the view. My eyes were dazzled by the restorative beauty. A lovely piece of writing!

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