Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

28 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 15.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

16th February

Having now crossed the Australian Bight we arrived at Port Melbourne at about 0800 on 15th. The quayside here is about the best designed we’ve seen so far. The gangways are brought out to the ship from the first floor and one enters a well laid out customs room straight from the ship.

We caught a single deck bus into Melbourne city. It travels through what must be quite an early part of Melbourne. The houses are covered in ornate carvings in the best? Victoriana style, some of them have corrugated iron roofs.

[I didn’t appreciate at that time that the ‘ornate carvings’ that decorated verandahs, fences, gates and railings were in fact cast iron mouldings, what post-colonial architects call ‘lace’. Some of those houses and others, similar, in places like Sydney’s Paddington became highly fashionable, valuable and sought after. I heard that the mouldings were carried out as ballast in ships from England.
The sight of corrugated iron roofs was, in time, to become unremarkable to us both in Australia and New Zealand. But at that time we had only ever seen them in England on inferior buildings like sheds and chicken coops. In Australasia they were and are still a practical material widely used even on the most prestigious of houses and other buildings.]

The roads into the city are awful and inclined to shake one’s internal organs into new and interesting positions! The city itself is laid out into right angled streets which are very wide and busy. Trams are evident everywhere, single-decked and rather dowdy looking. The whole place looks old fashioned and the streets are stained with rust from the tramlines.
[In the Botanical Gardens]

Melbourne has a nice atmosphere about it, however, and we rather liked it, the shops are well stocked and there is a very American feel about the tempo of life and the goods in the stores. It reminded me of films of the lesser parts of New York that one sees with Marlon Brando in. We took a trip to the Botanical Gardens where it is very quiet and peaceful. There are all sorts of temperate and tropical trees shrubs and plants there, and people are allowed to walk on the grass!

[What a telling observation that was. In England, in such a formal park as might rival the Melbourne Botanical Gardens there would have been little notices on every lawn warning ‘Keep Off The Grass’].

We had lunch in a restaurant in the gardens. It was a very well cooked steak with appropriate veg. and some tea.

We later took a bus into Melbourne city again past the Olympic Pool and the open air concert hall (rather like the Hollywood Bowl). The bus to the road along the side of the Yarra River which was very muddy due to the fact that there had been a lot of rain in the hills which had washed the mud down.

We walked past Flinders Street station and up Elizabeth Street to collect a light meter which I had left for repair (it cost £2:10!)  [I think the exclamation mark was intended to emphasize that I thought the charge outrageous].

Then visited the Regal cinema to see ‘On The Beach’, the film was bad but the cinema was good. No Smoking in Aussie cinemas - good thing. [I had lighted a cigarette and was told to put it out!].

We later returned to the ship tired but having enjoyed a good day.

[Wild farewell from Melbourne. Probably for Aussies going to Europe]

We sail today for Sydney where we’ll arrive in two days time and where we shall say goodbye to most of the friends we have met on the ship.

[Throughout my diary I neglected to mention a family who, one way or another, became important in our lives for many subsequent years. Richard and Judy Thomas were travelling with their three sons, Chris (16?) Michael (11?) and Patrick (8?). Richard was on his way to Melbourne to take up Managing Directorship of a wallpaper factory owned by the British Reed Group.

They were always friendly to us but we saw little of them socially on board ship simply because we had no money and therefore couldn’t shout at the bar and so repay their hospitality. Knowing them as we came to I have no doubt that Richard would have treated us any time and all the time but that would not have suited Pat and me. On one notable occasion we won the grand prize at Bingo (card stakes one guilder - about 20cents) and immediately rushed to the Neptune Tavern. One round broke us again!

The night before we docked at Melbourne, Judy took Pat on one side and told her that if things didn’t work out for us in New Zealand, Richard would find a job for me in Melbourne. We were deeply touched. Some years later Richard came to New Zealand as chief executive of Ashley Wallpapers Ltd. and we saw more of them because they lived in Lower Hutt and we close by in Lowry Bay, Wellington. Richard’s company eventually became a client of my company, Carlton-Carruthers du Chateau, and so we did business.

The son Chris went to live in Bangkok but returned many years later married to Joanna, daughter of an ex-monarchist Greek general. Now middle-aged grand-parents, they live in Nelson. Michael, something of an eccentric by all accounts, became a highly qualified academic at Lincoln University. Patrick, sadly, committed suicide. By that time both Richard and Judy were dead, thank God.]


26 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 14.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

11th February

We had a fine party on 9th in the cabin of two [Australian] girls, Val and Margaret. Margaret disembarked at Fremantle so had a farewell party. Plenty of beer floating about with empty bottles being jettisoned into the sea at frequent intervals.

[Disgraceful pollution to us now with 21st century values, but we thought little of it, especially when, everyday, the ship’s rubbish was thrown overboard to leave a trail of slow sinking detritus across the Indian Ocean. I imagine it still happens but more covertly...]

Finished up at 2.00am but some saw Fremantle come into sight at 5.30am!

When we awoke on 10th we were already in Fremantle; we went down for breakfast but before we could start we had to go to immigration and have our passports scrutinized. The Aussie authorities won’t allow anybody to go ashore until everyone has been screened.

We went ashore at about 10.30am. And we caught the bus into Perth.
[Don King's Park, Perth]

Perth is a beautiful city built on sand. It is very clean and the streets are wide and well surfaced. The people seem to take life quite easily and there is no harsh hooting of motor horns all the time. We went to the Kings Park which gives a perfect panoramic view of Perth. As we entered the park we were struck by the heady scent of the gum trees. The grass is much coarser than in England and is rather like the grass one sees in shops as a display. We looked down on the bay and the city twinkling in the sunlight, and at the base of the hill we were standing on was the new Narrows Bridge of which the Perth people are very proud.

We had lunch in the restaurant at Kings Park. It was a very enjoyable steak and milk shakes and was quite cheap and very hygienically prepared and served.

Later we travelled back to Perth City, had a look around the shops and returned by train to Fremantle past the little suburban shops and beaches, finally over the Swan River back to the ship.
We sailed from Fremantle at 6 pm. We are now sailing around Cape Leeuwin and are gradually coming under the influence of the heavy swell of the Australian Bight. This makes the ship roll like hell.

[Perth was far more modern than I expected. A bright, white city, and as such, in contrast to Fremantle, which had an old-fashioned and scruffy look. I don’t know what I had expected from Perth, something old and colonial perhaps? Trying to converse with the bus driver was my first encounter of an English accent that was so far removed from the ones I was used to that I could hardly understand him. I asked him whether I should pay our fare to him. He replied, taciturnly I thought, ‘Theersaclicktron.’ He had to repeat it three times to me, each time slower than the one before, until I realized that he was saying ‘There’s a collector on.’ From which I gathered that the bus had a conductor on board.]


24 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 13.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

7th February

Still steaming into a heavy sea. The sun seems to have taken a holiday. Last night we went in for the fancy dress competition. Pat was Lysistrata and I poked my finger through a piece of cardboard and went as The Finger that Plugged the Hole in the Dyke. I was surprised to find that I had won the special first prize. It is a bridge set in a calf leather case, a very acceptable memento of our trip.

[My entry was disingenuous; the surprise was not that great; I deliberately picked a ‘fancy dress’ that would be understood by both the British passengers and the Dutch. On the strip of corrugated cardboard I had written the title in both languages, the Dutch being ‘Pieter van Dyke’s finger’ (I didn’t know ‘finger’ in Dutch!]

8th February

We spent the day sunbathing. In the evening there was a farewell dinner for all those people getting off at Australia and NZ. The captain gave a long speech in Dutch with a short translation. Then some unauthorized persons insisted on responding while our dinners got cold! The sweet course was served by the stewards in darkness. They paraded down the stairs with little toadstool lights on their trays then stood around the centre table and at a given signal they started to serve us. It was quite impressive to see the little toadstools all over the dining room.

[At which point it is appropriate to record ‘our’ waiter/steward, who looked after Ian, Ken, Pat and me throughout the voyage. His name was Walter Iten and he was Swiss. We developed a good relationship with him especially after we went into the big storm in the Gulf of Lions when steaming from Gibraltar to Genoa. At its height, when we four arrived into an empty dining saloon for lunch, there were not only no other passengers but also no other stewards, except for Walter who managed to serve all of our courses like an acrobat. The tablecloths were soaked in water so that no matter how canted the tables became in the rolling ship, the crockery and cutlery stayed in place. I also remember Ken describing the J v O as a ‘tender’ ship - she, he said, would have rolled in dry dock].


23 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 12.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

3rd February

Although in the heat of the Indian Ocean, we have noticed a certain nip in the air at times today. There have been one or two rain showers going on around us and we have run into a couple. During the later part of the afternoon the sea became absolutely flat and leaden, this sort of state leaves the sea so that we can see whatever goes on on the surface. I missed a school of porpoises during the afternoon while I was having a shower, but hope to see some monsters yet!

6th February

Since the last entry there has not been anything out of the usual run happening.

[‘The usual run’ on the  J v O  as, I imagine, on any ocean liner, was the inevitable routine that develops in a small community completely locked within inescapable boundaries. The first week or so is a collage of new and often enchanting experiences. I expect prison is much the same but without the enchantments. Pat and I had an inside cabin so we never knew what the day was like until we had dressed and gone on deck. Often we were inappropriately dressed and had to return for a quick change. The daily round pivoted upon meal times - breakfast, lunch, dinner - which were, in effect, breaks in tedious days. There was always a queue of passengers waiting for the dining room to open.

A young group of travellers met on the afterdeck -  the poop - everyday. We played quoits or deck tennis, swam (rarely) in one of the pools, or generally chatted about life and experiences. Our crowd was comprised of two sorts : those emigrating from the United Kingdom to either Australia or New Zealand , or those returning home to both countries after having done work in or paid pleasure visits to the UK.

But there were others with whom we rarely came into touch. Most of the complement were Dutch people with their families travelling under low-cost government sponsored immigration arrangements to both countries. Nearly all of the children on board were Dutch; the manners of nearly all of  them were appalling. We tried to avoid them as much as  possible and (I’m ashamed to admit) resented their access to facilities for which we had paid full fare.

Pat and I - still, in truth, young lovers - had little time for anybody but ourselves but were amused to see shipboard romances develop, not only among our contemporaries but also the oldies - anyone over 30, I guess. One such fascinating romance took place between a very attractive Dutch blonde and a ship’s officer; they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I last saw her just after we’d arrived in Wellington, she was pushing a pram and accompanied by a man who certainly wasn’t the ship’s officer (who, by then, was on his way to Panama!)

Many of the passengers spent long hours in the bars - especially the fashionable ‘Neptune Tavern’. We avoided the bars because we had no money. The ship’s entertainments officers worked hard putting on dances, fancy dress events, sods’ operas and running bingo evenings. There was a ship’s library, hairdressing salon and shops, but in essence little diverted us from whiling the hours away from one meal-time to the next.]

We have been steaming into a very long and heavy swell which is coming from the south and seems to indicate a big storm away to the south. We passed under the sun yesterday and theoretically it should start getting cooler now.

We were invited to the Captain’s cabin for drinks last evening.

[This honour usually features as the highlight of a voyager’s trip but its importance clearly escaped us for it made little impression. No doubt every passenger (at least every paying passenger) had their turn. I felt sorry for the captain who would probably have been more fulfilled commanding a battleship or aircraft carrier than driving a schoolbus.]

They have been showing travelogues about New Zealand in the ship’s cinema. Today we are sailing in what could easily be the Atlantic type of sea, there is no blue in the water, it is quite grey and if it weren’t for the high temperature one would think it rather forbidding.


22 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 11.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

31st January

Being confined to my cabin has been very tiresome, the [air] temperature is very high. Pat went to the doctor and asked him if I could get up because of the heat and he agreed as long as I stayed inert and did not over-eat! So I am up and the weather is superb and this evening we cross the equator.

We saw a large turtle this morning, it was lazily wallowing in the deep, blue, inviting sea. It was all of 24 inches across [60cm] and a sandy colour. It didn’t give a damn about us.

1st February

Another uneventful day spent lazing about on deck. Saw a shark lolloping about in the water close by the side of the ship, not very large or impressive! Numerous flying fish which take off at the approach of the ship and fly away at right angles to our course. They are bluish in colour and very small.

2nd February

During the morning the ship slowed right down for about an hour. There was a certain amount of speculation about the reason why. The funniest idea I heard was that the doctor was performing an appendectomy! My appendix!!! The actual reason, we later heard, was that there was a fault in one of the engines and that the ship was put into slow ahead while the faulty engine was being serviced. This sounds much more reasonable.

[Over the following years the  appendix story became changed to another in which a woman, the ship’s gossip, had sat down beside us in a deck lounger and told us that ‘that poor boy who’d been ill had died and was being buried at sea’. I think I fancied that like Mark Twain upon reading his own obituary in the newspapers, I could claim that ‘reports of my death have been grossly exaggerated’.

While the ship was almost at a standstill all of the background noise, creaking and vibration that we had become used to ceased, and we rolled on a light swell in an eerie silence. Only then did the complete isolation of a ship at sea - especially where we were - dawn upon me.]


21 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 10.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

[Ian, Don and Ken, Aden]

28th January

We are now sailing down the Gulf of Aden and so on into the Indian Ocean. To the south of us is Somaliland, and during the afternoon we steamed past the last piece of land we shall see for another fortnight. This was the cape which is the southern edge of the Gulf of Aden.[Cape Guardafui] It had a lighthouse on top of it very high up the cliffs. We had been some 80 miles in passing the shore and the whole of it was composed of sandy cliffs and a beautiful beach.

I retired early this evening with an inflamed duodenum, haven’t had it for ages and this one caught me unawares.

[I can’t recall how I knew that it was my duodenum or who previously might have diagnosed it so. Over forty years later I think it might have been a stress manifestation - who knows?]

29th January

According to the ship’s doctor whom I visited this morning my inflamed duodenum is a chronic appendicitis and I am now confined to my cabin for three days with penicillin injections and fruit juice twice a day.

30th January

A visit from the doctor during which he said that I am the most important patient on the ship. This is due to the fact that he is not a surgeon but a physician and that we are in the middle of the Indian Ocean and therefore if my appendix gets really bad there will be a somewhat delicate situation arising...

However, I have had this trouble before on five occasions and each time it has righted itself, let’s hope that this will not be an exception!

[I never did find out what was wrong and it never occurred again. I’m amazed that I was not more concerned; I should have been terrified but I was only 27 and insouciant. Considering the number of passengers on board, and the large proportion of them being children, it was outrageous that the ‘ship’s surgeon’ was not, in fact, a surgeon. He suggested that in an emergency the ship might take me to the Maldive Islands (3.15 N, 73 E) where there was a Royal Air Force base with hospital! Perhaps, being ex-RAF, I might have qualified for free treatment?

Later, one of the young Australian  passengers, returning home from qualifying as a dentist in Britain, offered, with extraordinary confidence, to take my appendix out with a sharpened spoon if it flared up again. With equally extraordinary confidence I think I might have let him! I think my love of Australia and Australians started on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, their approach to life in those days was like a breath of spring air and only confirmed that shaking off the oppressive shackles of conservative, hide-bound England was the best thing we could have done.]


20 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 9.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

26th January

Another uneventful day. Australia Day; the menu at dinner was composed of dishes with Australian sounding names.

[They were probably the same dishes as every day with only the name being changed. We certainly didn’t have the kangaroo, crocodile or emu steaks that later became fashionable in haut cuisine. After the initial novelty of shipboard food menus became rather samey - although at our ages we were always hungry enough to eat what was offered.]

 [‘The Barren Rocks of Aden’]
27th January

Arrived at Aden at 0610. I was on deck to see the tugs come along and moor us. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Aden isn’t as barren as I have been led to believe. [Ken and Ian had constantly described ‘The Barren Rocks of Aden’].

We went ashore [With Ken and Ian - they knew their way around.] by launch at about 0900 and immediately went straight to the native quarter. The whole place seems to be full of smelly goats. The natives are not so insistent upon selling their goods - although there were a few bum-boats around the ship - as the ones in Port Said.
[The entrance to Crater City]

We got a taxi at the bus station to take us into Crater City. This is the main town of Aden, where one can buy goods - especially optical goods - very cheaply. We bought this £35 typewriter for £18.
 [The Aden Constabulary]

[£18 = NZ36.00. This refers to the typewriter upon which the daily notes were typed (the earlier handwritten ones up to this date being later transcribed). It was an Olympic portable typewriter in a pigskin case and we used it for many years after. I tried to get it for £16 until the shop owner, waving his hands around in frustration, went to his office, came back with his receipt files and showed me that he had paid £16 for it! At that, I had to borrow £2 from Ken because, to avoid temptation, we’d deliberately left the rest of our fortune on the ship.]

Our taxi driver was a dirty, unshaved looking character with a bright orange turban on. He wanted to take us everywhere but where we wanted to go. However we finally got to the crater. It is an extinct volcanic crater and most of the natives live there. It is incredibly hot and dusty. It is mid-winter there at the moment and yet the temperature was nearly 90F. The entrance to the crater is a cleft in its side where the main road goes through. Aden has very little flora growing. The civil engineering achievements are quite something and are a tribute to British enterprise.
[Local freight carrier.]
When we returned to the quay we hired a little boy who could not have been more than 7 to carry our parcels for us. His name was Mohammed [Of course!] and he was very loyal to us while he was in our pay. There were many British servicemen in Aden. We met two service wives. They seemed cheerful enough but it must be a lousy posting for them. We finally sailed at about 1600 after the ship had taken on fuel and water to take us the next 5 or 6000 miles to Fremantle in Australia.


19 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 8.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

23rd January

Awoke at 0700 and went on deck. Just arrived at the Great Bitter Lakes where we dropped anchor to let the north bound convoy pass. We are in company with about 15 other ships. We waited until 1600 before weighing anchor and setting off down the final stretch of the canal in darkness, and as we have now passed into the Gulf of Suez we haven’t seen the canal proper at all - disappointing.

[Although one impression stayed in my mind; that of a lone fisherman in a small boat on the lakes, casting a net through the air, silhouetted against the gold glow of the setting sun.]

24 January

Now in the Red Sea. Very hot. A little sunbathing (20 mins. each side!) Passed Daedalus Reef at sundown. It is called so because a RN ship of that name went aground there, it now has a light on it.

25th January

Still in the Red Sea. We saw our first flying fish today, they are about 8” [20cm] long and bluish in colour; also saw a porpoise. Sun very hot, otherwise day was uneventful.

[This bald entry belies our delight at seeing the flying fish. They flew away from the ship’s side at right angles and would flap and glide close to the surface for quite long distances - perhaps up to ten metres. It also fails to mention another Dutch royal birthday for which we received, inter alia, a complimentary bottle of red wine served at Red Sea room temperature; there are times when it’s quite legitimate to cool red wines!]


17 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 7.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

 [Pontoon and Bum boats at Port Said]
22nd January

Noticeable increase in the tempo of life as the ship neared Port Said. Colour of the sea changed from ultramarine to olive green as we came nearer to the entrance to the Suez Canal. One or two ships waiting for the south bound convoy outside the port included a British MGB [Motor Gun Boat] towed by an admiralty tug. Also an incredibly rusty Yankee tramp. We moored at 1300 and after a long-winded business with the Egyptian authorities we finally got ashore.

Every inch of the waterfront crowded with noisy, leech-like vendors selling everything imaginable - camel hide cases, pouffes, purses, leather camels, Spanish fly!, dirty books,and postcards, and little sisters. We barged our way through these colourful crooks without buying anything (an achievement) and walked around the town. Filthy but very interesting - the children are attractive with beautiful black, curly hair and big brown, bovine eyes. They are mostly bare-footed and wear the filthiest pyjama-type clothes. They seem unduly happy and they come and pose for our photographs with big, white-toothed grins and arms akimbo.

One or two women wear veils and sombre black clothes but this is largely dying out now and it only seemed evident in the folk who were older. Many of the men call themselves by western names such as ‘Jim Happy’ and ‘Jock McGregor’ and they will not leave one alone; however, they do not spit and swear if one does not buy which is very encouraging. They will gaily accept any currency offered to them and they know the exchange rates as well as any banker.

[One ‘gully-gully man’ - a native conjuror - managed to get Ian Park to part briefly with a florin (a two shilling piece similar to a 20 cent coin) which by fast legerdemain he made disappear into thin air. He obviously expected to be rewarded for his dexterity by being allowed to keep the florin but Ian insisted upon it being returned. ‘But I’m Jock McGregor’ protested the Arab. ‘No!’ said Ian, with a threatening Caledonian emphasis, ‘I’m Jock McGregor, and  I... want... my... coin!’ He got it.]

The houses are square with flat tops and the streets are wide with one or two palm trees dotted about here and there. The place does not smell as high as one would expect but this is mid-winter, and relatively cool. We saw no camels but pony carts called garries [sic] and a lot of American taxis.

Coming back to the ship we again ran the gauntlet of vendors and finally on the ship itself we bought a small souvenir, a statuette of Queen Nefertite on an alabaster base. The chap asked 18/- for it and we finally got it for 12/-.

[Now $NZ 1.80 - $1.20. Which was probably twenty times the price we should have paid!]

Watching the north bound ships coming up to the mouth of the canal at twilight is fascinating. I have never seen such a collection of shipping before. [Hardly surprising for a  London boy who’d never been to sea before] All around our ship are the bum-boats. These are full of merchants who bring all their wares out to the ship as soon as it docks and they lay all their merchandise out on the decks to sell. They throw lines up to the ship and haul their goods up to the passengers on them, at the same time shouting the prices and trying to attract attention; they really are very amusing and tenacious and were still around the ship after dark.

Their boats are specially designed with a small cockpit for the man to stand up in and a large, flat deck to display their goods upon. Under the deck are lockers in which they keep their reserve stocks.

That’s about all I can say about Port Said; the people are poor but very good humoured; there seems to be a lot of soldiers about, all armed with .303s. There are large posters of Nasser everywhere. The streets are wide and the buildings large. We saw the plinth on which stood de Lesseps’s statue before the Egyptians pulled it down. Finally we went to bed exhausted but very pleased at having had a good look at Port Said.

 [Port Said waterfront]

[The Suez Canal is 200 kilometres long, the longest canal in the world without locks. It can hold ships with a draft of 18m.

It has been built and rebuilt many times. The first man to have the idea of connecting the Red and Mediterranean Seas was the Pharaoh Necho in 6th century BC. He didn’t complete it. During the Persian Invasion of Egypt (also 6th century), King Darius I ordered it to be completed. The canal consisted of two parts. One part linked the Red Sea to the Great Bitter Lakes, and a second linked the lakes with one of the Nile branches in the Delta. The canal served as a shortcut between Europe and India until the Ptolemaic Era (367-47 BC) but then fell to disrepair. It was re-dug during the rule of the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD), and later re-dug by the Arab ruler Amr Ibn-Al-Aas (around 700 AD).

It was completely abandoned after the trade route around Africa was discovered by the Europeans. Around 1800, Napoleon's engineers revived the idea of the canal. However, the measurement the French engineers made determined that there was a difference in 10 metres in the altitudes of the seas - Mediterranean and Red Sea - and a large area would be flooded if the construction was carried out. Later, the calculations were proved to be wrong, and Ferdinand de Lesseps undertook the construction. He was granted a decree by the Khedive Said of Egypt to run the canal for 99 years after it was completed. The canal's construction began in 1854, completed around 1867 and  inaugurated on November 17, 1869.

De Lesseps is known as the father of the Suez Canal because of his work. Between its completion and today, there have many changes in ownership of the canal. Ferdinand de Lesseps was its sole controller but he sold shares to many French gentry, and the Khedive also held quite a proportion. The sum of these shares was the Suez Canal Company. In 1874, Benjamin Disraeli took office as British prime minister; he was interested in buying part of the Suez for Britain, but so were several other countries. The Khedive had spent the country's surplus money and needed cash fast. He decided that if someone were to make an offer, he would sell his 177.2 shares of the Suez Canal Company. The French, who would have liked to have owned the canal, took too long raising money; they also didn’t know that Disraeli was a friend to the world's largest banker at the time, Baron Lionel de Rothschild. Rothschild knew of the Khedive's financial state and when Disraeli asked about it, he told him. Disraeli then also asked if he could get a loan for £4 million to buy the shares, and Rothschild agreed.

So, Disraeli, having bought the Khedive's shares, convinced the Queen and Parliament to pay off his debt to Rothschild, and Britain controlled the Suez Canal for the next eighty-four years .

In June 1956, President Gamal Abdul Nasser  - a former army colonel - asked for and was denied money from the United States and Great Britain to build his Aswan High Dam on the Nile. This and the fact that  he believed that ‘Egypt's own canal’ did not belong to them led to Nasser nationalizing the Suez. This took the world by surprise, especially the British and French stockholders who owned the Suez Canal Company. Although Nasser promised that the company would be compensated for its loss, Britain, France, and Israel began plotting to take back the canal and overthrow Nasser as well. Britain, France and Israel united in secret in what was to become known as the tripartite collusion  (something that they denied publicly for many years). Israel opted to participate in the plans against Egypt in order to gain favour in the sight of western nations because the small developing nation was in constant fear of being over-run by Arab nations.

These reactions caused the ‘Suez Crisis’. The tripartite collusion attacked Egypt, with Israeli troops leading the way. Egypt responded by sinking the 40 ships that were in the canal at the time. The U.S. and the Soviet Union both disagreed with the collusion's actions. The Cold War was still going strong so the interference could have determined who had control of the Middle East: the US or the Soviet Union. The United Nations, United States, and Soviet Union all intervened and stopped the Crisis. The collusion was forced to pay reparations to Egypt for the damage, and the canal was reopened under Egyptian control after the sunken ships were cleared out.

In 1960 there were still sunken ships along the canal, and strong anti-British feeling in Egypt. Fortunately we were on a Dutch ship and we didn’t make too much of our English nationality. As we left Port Said I saw, painted along the wharf near the tumbled de Lesseps’s statute, the anti-British slogan ‘Your king is not a king, your king is a woman!’]


16 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 6.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

20th January 1960

My 27th birthday. Opened gifts at 0200! We are off southern Italy and heading for Port Said. The water in the lido was 76o F today. Weather very mild. Should get quite hot soon. Our table was decorated at dinner tonight for my birthday. Our table companions bought me a rubber Pluto.

21st January

First day sunbathing on deck. [For most of my young life I hated sunbathing!] Played tennis, quoits. Film in evening ‘Tiger Bay’. Bought some tickets in the Dutch flood relief fund.

[This is a surprising entry because we had almost no money to spend, having spent virtually everything on buying one ticket. We borrowed the money for the other ticket from our NZ employers-to-be, Goldberg Advertising, Wellington, and paid the sum back to them over the following two years]
 [Ian, Ken, Pat, 'Pompey and Mrs Stillwell, Don]

Port Said tomorrow. Evening very warm outside with very calm sea. Had interesting conversation with Mr. Stillwell [‘Pompey’, travelling with his wife] who has had a lung removed and thrombosis and is doing the round trip [i.e. Southampton to Southampton via Suez and Panama Canals] for his health. He looks well enough but must have been through an awful lot of suffering.


15 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 5.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days)

 [Washing Day, Genoa]
18th January

Docked in Genoa at 0600. Went ashore at 0930. Very attractive city but whiffs a bit! Composed of a few fast traffic roads and very narrow and intriguing alleys. The whole city is pink in colour (due to local stone?) and built on hills the highest of which are snow-capped and overlook the harbour which faces south.

We had a spaghetti and red vino (cost 2/3d) in a small café in an alley.

[Ken and Ian joined us in what we realized later was a local workman’s trattoria. The hand-written menu was such a work of art that we decided to steal it as a memento; but we noticed, after Pat had slipped it into her basket, that the waiter, a tall, thin, black-curly-haired man with a sad expression was doing a sort of Greek dance, slow, balletic, graceful strophe and antistrophe, searching for it, looking under and around the gingham-clothed tables. As he turned his back we dropped the menu on the floor. He spotted it, gave us an odd look, but said nothing...]
 [Pat, Genoa]

Back aboard at 1500. Now sailing down west coast of Italy, can see lights of shore towns.

19th January

Steaming down the west coast. It is occasionally in sight. Passed a mysterious looking pair of islands, probably uninhabited, but there was a lighthouse on one of them. [I. Pianosa? I. di Montecristo?] Sea very calm and weather gentle.

Went for a swim in the indoor pool, water warm.

[We were always nervous of swimming in the ship’s pools because there were about 200 small children on board! It’s possible that they were prohibited from this particular pool so it might have been relatively piddle-free].

Today is Princess Maigrette of the Netherlands' birthday and ship’s officers wear full dress and there is a special dinner.
We passed through the Messina Straits [Between Sicily and Italy] tonight at 2300, it was a very pretty sight with the lights of shore on both sides twinkling in the night as the ship slipped past.


14 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 4.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

 [Pat having lifeboat drill.]

16th January

Now well into Med. [Mediterranean Sea] Very strong head winds causing much pitching but very little roll. Passed Ibiza to starboard at midday. Majorca at 2200. Seagulls with the ship since the 12th. they keep station with us but never land on the ship.

[Hardly likely to have been the same seagulls since Southampton!]

17th January

Woke at 0400. Ship is pitching violently, sat up in bed eating an apple and reading. [Neither of us ever suffered from sea sickness]. Force 9 gale when we arrived on deck with heavy seas on port beam. Church services cancelled. Later moderated a great deal and we had a concert on records - Beethoven’s 1st. Tchaikowsky’s violin concerto by David Oistrach.

Dead calm at 2300. Genoa at 0600 tomorrow. Now off C.Ferrat and C.d’Antibes.


13 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 3.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

[Every day we joined a bunch of young people on the after deck. Many of them were returning to Australia after a year or so in Britain]

15th January

Spent morning playing deck tennis and quoits, some benefit from the exercise. Noticeable increase in the amount of shipping probably due to the convergence of shipping lanes as we approach the entrance to the Med. Spanish coast appeared at midday in haze, later much clearer. Hilly with trees and sandy patches. Africa (Morocco) appeared later and then Gib.

Everybody excited at seeing Gib. Very impressive. Took photographs of western side. Lloyds signalled for identity and destination. The east face of Gib. is covered in a layer of concrete to catch the condensation to supplement water supplies.

Now running up towards Genoa. Saw some porpoises jumping earlier.

[The narrative gives little impression of the almost childish wonder and excitement of two young people who had never stepped out of England before and were now embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime!]


12 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 2.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

13th January

Up 0700, saw Ushant light over port quarter so we are now in Biscay. Met two ex-M.N. sailors bound for NZ, Ian Park - a Scot, and Ken Dugdale, ship’s engineer and ship’s radio officer respectively. Spent day drinking, reading and watching ships pass - we are on a busy shipping lane. Played lie dice in evening. Should be off Portugal tomorrow. Golf clubs turned up!

14th January
Spent lousy night, cabin very hot and stuffy.

[It was an inside cabin for two, with no porthole, so small that only one could dress at a time. Single bunks, one above the other.]

Now off Portuguese coast but it was not in sight at 1000. Overcast sky. Stomach a little upset, but improved with food. Lights of Portugal in sight tonight. Gib. [Gibraltar] tomorrow. Weather milder.


11 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 1.

 This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

Don (that's me) and Pat Donovan, aged 26 and 25, emigrated from England to New Zealand on 
12 January 1960. I made daily notes of the voyage. Reading them in 2012, after 52 years, they are clumsy and naive. I have left them virtually unedited. But I’ve taken the liberty of adding comments (in red) with the wisdom of hindsight. The photographs, a few in colour, date from 1960: please excuse their technical shortcomings.

A large family contingent including Pat’s mother, Paddy; step-sisters, Shirley, Valerie and Christine Istance; half sister, Barbara Istance, and friends saw us off from Waterloo Station for the train journey to Southampton. My parents, Fred and Ruby Donovan, both aged 53, travelled with us and came aboard the ship for a last farewell...

[Fred and Ruby Donovan with Pat on Johan van Oldenbarnevelt ]

12th January 1960

Sailed from Southampton 1605 down the Solent in darkness, watched shore lights go by and flames of Fawley Refinery. Turned in at 2215. Golf clubs missing! We have a peculiar light-headed feeling, not yet used to the motion of the boat.

[The ship was the m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt of the 
Nederland Line, Royal Dutch Mail.]



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By Don Donovan