Cyril Burgess and his Travels









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Cyril sent a number of postcards and letters back to his relations while travelling to Australia to visit his son. He didn't always date the cards and the postmarks are often unclear. But as far as I can tell the following selection of extracts covers all his journeys even if the exact timing of each might be in doubt.

Mosque Suleymaniye

The Mosque Süleymaniye, Istanbul

Dated 12 July 1973, the card shown above was posted after Cyril had left Turkey.

He wrote "Just crossing from Iran (Persia) into Afghanistan. Our route has been Belgium, Germany, Austria, Jugoslavia (thro' Dubrovnik and the Adriatic coast) to Greece, and Turkey. Then across the Bosphorus and Turkey in Asia and on to Afghanistan. Hard going as the Landrovers are overloaded and very slow, so long days of travel and short nights as we make very early starts to avoid heat of the day. Even so it's a fantastic journey and enjoying every moment of it. Sleep out under the stars every night and I'm quite used to lying on the hard hard ground. Temps. in the 90s so it's not difficult to sleep out. Love, Cyril"

He was approaching 64 years old when he undertook this first jaunt with a group of perfect strangers.

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, Argentina

There are two postcards from South America with one unclear postmark between them. "15 ENE" is readable so it was January in Argentina and he mentions spending Christmas in Brasilia and New Year's Day in a camp on a beach near Sao Paulo, Brazil. The year is debatable but the few remaining fragments of digits and the January timing point to it being 1975. Cyril wrote that he had flown London - Paris - Lisbon - Rio de Janeiro in a DC10 and joined a group of "5 Aussies, 4 English" travelling in a Bedford truck. They had driven through Paraguay into Argentina and were about to cross the Andes into Chile. He posted one of the cards from Mar del Plata - "the Argentina Blackpool, awful" but preferred Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro now he had seen both.

Perhaps inevitably, other observations were about the weather and the food: "Very varied weather, tremendous downpours, hot sunshine, wind and cold nights, but all part of the game. Food is good and between us we have managed a varied diet." He finished the second card with "People have been very friendly and especially to the English speaking. I think they see very few of us tourists here. It's much more civilised than I expected but we have a long way to go yet". I don't know where they were off to after Chile but apparently the journey was far from over.

Cyril's next postcard, postmarked 15 Oct 1976, is a view of the Golden Gate bridge, looking towards San Francisco and he commented that it was "much more civilised trip to what I am used to". He had travelled north from Los Angeles up the Pacific coast in a group comprising "8 Aussies, one British, one Yank, one Malawi and me". They were on their way to the Grand Canyon next.

In 1978 Cyril joined a group driving south through much of Africa and we have two cards he sent relatively early on. One is dated 12 January 1978 from Timbuktu in Mali, but the other was unfortunately not postmarked.

Agades Tamanrasset

The party was a mix of nationalities once again: "US, Australian, Canadian, Iran and UK". Cyril commented on the dusty sand and rough driving in the Hoggar Mountains although he was a little generous with his estimate of their height. Countries visited so far included Algeria, Niger, Mali, Nigeria and Benin, with Upper Volta, Ivory Coast and Ghana to come; although the order is a little unclear. He reported that he was "tired but happy": A good thing too as there was a long way to go before he could fly to Australia.


Two years later Cyril sent a postcard from Hawaii and for once indicated how he would complete the journey to Australia. After five weeks in Central America he travelled up through California to San Francisco and then flew to Hawaii en route to New Zealand and finally Australia.

The twelve-strong party was even more international this time with seven nationalities mentioned.

The date appears to be 21 April 1980.


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This was the last of his rough overland tours but he continued to visit Australia every few years and enlivened his long holidays there with side trips to sheep farms, the Great Barrier Reef and even contrived to join a cultural visit to China. His hurriedly written postcards became lengthy letters describing how he was spending his time and what he had seen.

A letter dated 20 Feb 1982 and added to much later. Cyril had already been in Australia for several weeks, initially in Perth, before flying to Sydney. He compared the two cities, writing that Perth was smaller and much more sedate and conservative in dress, manners and way of living. This was brought home to him at a reception he attended in Sydney, given by a Canadian company. He wore a blue blazer as many of the men were in dinner jackets but the "ladies can seem to get away with anything. Knickerbockers or the latest adaptation are the go at the moment or trousers, tight round the ankles like the Turks wear, are popular, in some most outrageous colours."

He watched the start of the Sydney/Hobart sailing race on Boxing Day, camped by the Pacific coast until driven out of his leaking tent by an electrical storm, heard Joan Sutherland leading an outdoor performance of "La Traviata", and was entranced by the ballet, "The Merry Widow", featuring two Russian dancers, Kozlov and Kozlova, who had defected to the USA the previous year.

Cyril explained that his son Steve worked on TV commercials on a free lance basis as production manager and his friend Mary was a make-up artist also for TV. That might explain how she came to have ballet dancer friends who, according to Cyril, outdanced the Russians in supporting roles.

After a break of 14 days Cyril resumed his letter, writing that he had visited Adelaide and Melbourne and had a week on a 1600 acre sheep farm with Jim whom he had met on his Central American trip. Jim's grandfather had left Germany with many others in the 1840s to escape persecution as they were Lutherans. Cyril watched Jim shearing sheep and tried pulling a sheep out of the pen to be sheared but "it was as much as I could do to move him."

Jim took Cyril into local pubs where he had to explain that "Pommies" don't like hot beer, merely cellar temperature beer. Cyril was introduced as Lord Burgess from London and I am sure he was only too happy to play up to the subsequent leg pulling.

The letter restarted yet again, this time on April 12th, and I have provided a transcription on a separate page as it is rather different from his other accounts, describing as it does a visit to China with a group of Australians from the Australia/China Friendship Society. How he managed that he doesn't explain but it was probably child's play for someone who could blag his way into the RAF during the war.

Cyril made further visits to Australia in 1985/86, 1990/91 and 1991/92, each time spending Christmas with Stephen and not returning to England until well into the New Year. His side-trips included a week on a boat on the Hawkesbury River (over Christmas), two weeks on Jim's sheep farm (twice) and two weeks on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

On his final trip to Australia he was accompanied by Stephen who had flown to England in June 1991 when Cyril "had a bit of a setback" and spent a week in hospital. He convalesced at home with Stephen looking after him (and redecorating most of the house it seems) before they flew back to Sydney together in September, taking in a couple of days in Bangkok on the way. In November they rented a bungalow on Bribie Island in Queensland and spent Christmas there. Cyril's letter describes encounters with a python in the shrubbery and a 5 foot goanna on the lawn, as well as apologising for enclosing an unfinished letter from the previous visit which he had never posted. He hoped it would still be interesting.

Cyril's visit to China

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