Migration Memories
Lightning Ridge perspectives


Frans Persson: ‘sea change’ migrations



Migrating for a sea change 1990 and 1956

Frans has two migration stories. He became involved in Migration Memories because his move to Lightning Ridge in 1990 was part of an increasing number of retirement lifestyle migrations to the area. In the process of developing this story for display it became clear that his much earlier migration from Sweden to Australia was also the result of a desire to move for a change, interest and adventure. 

frans with train model
Frans Persson is a model train enthusiast. It’s a hobby he brought with him from Sweden to Sydney to Lightning Ridge. Photograph: Jenni Brammall, 2007.
  View of Frans’ story on display at Lightning Ridge. Photograph: Ursula Frederick, 2006












Mapping the personal, the local and historical

The exhibition showed the wider context of Frans’ and his wife Betty’s retirement migration to Lightning Ridge through images, text and a map. As for many retirees, the cost of moving to a new place was an important factor.

map of frans' migration  
map of canley vale

Details from Frans Persson, panel two, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh.


The local

Frans display panel
Detail from Frans Persson, panel four, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh.  

Frans and Betty moved to Lightning Ridge for the interest and adventure of an opal- mining lifestyle. The exhibition highlighted their enjoyment of life camping out on their mining claim.












The personal in historical context

old photographs
Details from Frans Persson, panel four, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh

Frans stressed that while many people came to Australia from Europe after the Second World War out of necessity, he and Betty took up Australia’s interest in immigrants because they wanted something different - a challenge. It was the same motivation that took them to Lightning Ridge in retirement.

Detail from Frans Persson, panel four, Migration Memories: Lightning Ridge. Design: Iona Walsh.


Looking back on the project

old photo of Frans with model train
Frans working on a model train in his workshop at Canley Vale, Sydney, 1957. Courtesy: Frans Persson  

I’ve never been interviewed  before… I thought, well, why not?  [The process] wasn’t strange…  It’s planning.  I mean telling and then planning and putting it in a way that people can understand it, and least space to be taken to explain it… Well I suppose it’s a little bit of history, could be… I mean we’re all part and parcel of the whole aren’t we? Everybody has a little bit and someone might pass something on.



For me the challenge in developing Frans’s story was to find a personal item that expressed his migration experience. He’s not the sort of person who keeps many things. But he does make things – as a tool maker, in his hobby as a model train enthusiast and for his domestic use. I wondered if something he had made would be appropriate, but he’s such a great recycler that the things we thought of had become something else! I was delighted when he agreed to make a diorama of his opal mining claim showing the view that was so different from the city environment he had left.