Generations of Australians: The Catleys

George and Margaret Young were as patient as could be with the fiddly nature of ZOOM as it took almost 10 minutes before they were able to hear and talk to their English based granddaughter, Steph Catley.

You could be excused for the time it took to get the call up and running with the 97-year-old couple having the assistance of Catley’s mum, Lesley, to ensure that the audio and video was functioning properly.

Like many migrants, George and Margaret took the plunge when they made the decision to depart England in 1964 to go in search of a new life in Australia.

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However, their journey down under was not fondly remembered with the six week trip taking its toll on the couple and their young family.

“I was sick every day, I used to try and go down for a meal but I’d get to the top of the stairs where you would go down and I could smell the food and that was enough to send me back to the cabin,” Margaret remembered.

There was however something quite historically significant about that journey which saw the young family pass through the Suez Canal.

 “The Suez Canal is really interesting because it was shut after that. So these two went through it while it was open so that is an interesting point, if I may speak,” Lesley added as she popped in on the video call.

The first port of call in Australia was Perth and it was the first time that Margaret and the family had the chance to stomach food on dry land.

“We got fish and chips and it was like nectar,” she exclaimed.

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The Young's time in Australia proved to be short lived on the first time out with a potential new job sending the family back to England after only a few years down under.

“We sold up everything and the job offer still hadn’t come through so George’s boss said, ‘Why don’t you take the family back to England?’, they [family] hadn’t been back and he said he’d get in touch with us there,” she said.

“When we got back, he [the boss] called to say that the deal had fallen through.”

George and Margaret Young
Margaret and George Young with Steph's Westfield Matildas' jersey

The Youngs were then desperate to return back to Australia but despite plenty of advertisements calling for people to make the move, their case was denied.

A rightly frustrated Margaret would not take ‘no’ as an answer and set out on a mission of her own to ensure that her family could return to their adopted home.

I wrote up to Government House, I wasn’t pushy but I was annoyed about it. The next thing, we were asked to come for an interview and that’s when they let us back a second time.”

Luckily for Margaret, it was a case of second time lucky as they arrived back in the country via plane opposed to the dreaded boat trip.

The family’s perseverance paid off and it is George who is ultimately relieved that this is where he and his family have ended up: “It’s a very good and safe country,” he said.

They have now called Australia home for almost 50 years and take great pride in watching their granddaughter wearing the green and gold jersey.

“She’s so natural with it, we love it,” Margaret said.

“It’s wonderful,” said George before Margaret added: “We’re very, very proud of her.”

The couple were quick to give a cheeky reminder of their age when asked about how they watch Steph who is currently plying her trade with George’s beloved Arsenal.

“Just on the television, we don’t get out very much. We’re 97,” Margaret reiterated.

I’d never thought I’d have a celebrity in the family.”

For George, there was an additional pride when Catley signed for the club he has supported his whole life.  

“Well I don’t think she’s played yet but I think it’s wonderful that she signed up for Arsenal.”

Married for over 75 years, the Youngs are Steph Catley's biggest supporters.  The pride in their granddaughter is evident every time they speak about her and affection when they speak with her. 

For Catley, the affection for her "favourite people in the world" is returned hundred fold as without them, her journey with the Westfield Matildas would not have been possible.