Category Archives: History

Rangitata passenger list and the Bounty Bible

The latest passenger list to be added to this website is for the Rangitata‘s voyage to New Zealand on 24th February, 1950 (you can access this from the drop down “Passenger Lists” menu at the top of this page).

The photograph here shows Nursing Sister, Enid Jones, who made many voyages on the Rangitata from 1946 to 1957. I’m not sure who the man on her left is, but at a guess, he could be Surgeon, J. M. Pinkerton (note the stethoscope in his pocket).

One of the passengers on the 1950 voyage was Adrian Hobbs, assistant secretary to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. He was collected at Pitcairn Island following his month long visit after delivering the restored bible from HMS Bountyread more.

Historic SS Rimutaka voyage photographs

Michael Foot contacted me last year to let me know about his fantastic collection of photographs, most of which were probably taken on board the SS Rimutaka. The photographs shown here are very old, quite faded and marked, but he has managed to adjust them a little, and has given me permission to reproduce them. Michael said that the photographs were discovered when his grandmother passed away. He believes there is a family connection, but has not found it yet.

The Rimutaka (1900-1930) had a crew of 90. She could carry 40 first class passengers on the bridge deck, 50 second (upper deck), 80 third (upper deck), and 170 emigrants located in dormitories erected in the holds. Source: Merchant Fleets, New Zealand Shipping and Federal S.N. Co. by Duncan Haws.

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A mystery photograph

Mystery-ship-sun-bedsOn a recent visit to a local postcard fair, I managed to purchase this atmospheric real photo postcard taken on board a mystery ship. I love these photographs because they make me want to take a walk along the deck, maybe rest a while in a sun bed, or just watch the open sea. Where are the passengers? Perhaps all taking lunch, or maybe on a shore excursion?

There are very few clues, but what got me most interested was the back. I have a small collection of 1920s photographs by New Zealand Shipping Company barber/photographer Henry George Keyse. Some of his photographs feature the back style shown below, and this mystery photograph has the same back. Now I don’t even know if it is a New Zealand Shipping Company vessel, and it is my great hope that one of the readers of this blog will be able to help me out. I have reproduced the whole postcard which you can click to see a larger image, and also a selection of close up areas which I hope will act as little clues to, as Hercule Poirot would say, get your little grey cells working!

Please, if you can help in any way, give me your views in a comment.

This is the back of a Henry Keyse postcard from the 1920s. The postcard above has the same back style, including the sun logo, but without the publisher text on the left hand side.

This is the back of a Henry Keyse postcard from the 1920s. The postcard above has the same back style, including the sun logo, but without the publisher text on the left hand side.


Zeppelin Raids on London


What is the connection to this blog?

I’m sure you’ll agree that Zeppelin Raids on London is a rather strange heading for a post about the New Zealand Shipping Company. Let me explain.

11-9-15---EnvelopeMy interest in the Zeppelin raids on London was sparked by the letter which follows, written to Percy Norris in 1915. I purchased it to learn more about the New Zealand Shipping Company, but it turned out to be far more interesting to read what was happening to Percy’s sister back home in London.

The best way to find out what the First World War raids were really like is to speak to the people who lived through them. In a small way, we can still do this by reading their personal letters. I purchased more letters, all written by Londoners, which described in vivid detail their experiences. It was considered quite outrageous at the time, that civilians should be targeted in this way. For the British, wars had previously been fought well away from the United Kingdom, so this was a new, and very frightening experience. My collection of letters contain fascinating glimpses of everyday life, and show how the British sense of humour survived, even through great adversity.

Zeppelin LettersHow to buy my book

I have published the letters, together with a brief history of the Zeppelin attacks, as an illustrated eBook which is available from Amazon price £1.99 (UK), or equivalent outside the UK.

Clicking on the link above, or the image on the right, will take you to the page on Amazon for your country. A free sample of the book may be downloaded before purchasing.

Finding Maud Norris

Norris-familyThanks to records available online, I have been able to learn more about the Norris family. Percy was a Steward, working for the New Zealand Shipping Company during the First World War, on the SS Turakina. He had four brothers and four sisters. Two of his older brothers were listed as Stewards on the 1911 UK Census, his father and another brother were bakers.


SS Turakina (David James Aldersley postcard)

My research showed that, happily, Percy survived the war, and also the sinking of the Turakina on 13th August 1917, by the German submarine U-86.


Old postcard showing Selfridges store

Percy’s sister, Maud, who wrote this letter, was working as a Waitress in 1911, and I believe she may have been working in an office at Selfridges department store by 1915.

I have not been able to find any further information about the German spy masquerading as a doctor in Colchester. If true, it is an awful story.

Letter from Maud Norris

11th September 1915
Portman Square, London

It’s our flag
Fight for it

My Dear Percy

I am so sorry dear I did not see you before you left England you had only left the house 10 minutes when May and I arrived home. I sent a letter the same night to you but have had it returned, as you will see by the enclosed, it arrived just a little too late, anyway I hope I’ll have better luck next time, I do hope you will get this letter dear. Write to me as soon as you do. I hope you will have a safe journey both ways. I am always thinking of you and trust you will be kept safe.


Contemporary postcard showing the raid described by Maud Norris

I am suffering from an attack of nerves again, I am positively terrified, we had the rotten German Zeppelins over the City and West-end on Wednesday night at 10.45 Sept 8th 1915. They dropped a lot of bombs, 12 I think in all several big fires were started down the city.

I was out at Hyde Park Corner when the first bomb was dropped. I was absolutely paralysed and thought my time had come. Over 150 casualties it passed right over our house.

I have not had any sleep for 2 whole nights in fact on Wednesday night I was out with Jessie all night too frightened to go in. We went down the city to see the fires. They did not get them under control until 6 o/c in the morning. Banks and warehouses were utterly gutted, there is not one window left in any house outside Liverpool St Station it is all barracaded up and train services has been seriously affected, in Holborn a lot of damage was done. 3 little children being killed in one street. I was out investigating last night, it made my heart ache to see the dreadful damage done. The fires lit all London up. I have been so frightened ever since.

They were expected last night 13 in all. It came through the tape at Selfridges but 150 of our airmen went up and drove them back (thank God). You cannot realise how terrible it all is unless you saw the damage done.

A motor bus was struck outside Liverpool St and everybody killed in fact the driver has not yet been found. 3 or 4 buses in all were destroyed. I only hope they won’t come again.

I saw it quite plainly and our guns from Hyde Pk Corner were firing on it the noise was terrific. I stood and watched it for 1/2 an hour and could see the shells bursting all around it.

At Colchester 150 poor young fellows have had to have their arms amputated owing to a poisonous injection by a German Spy the doctor he has of course been shot the devil. And one of my friends has lost her boy through it, she is nearly broken hearted.

Willie expects to go to the front soon he is on his last training, but mother does not know yet, so do not mention this if you write, but of course Percy we have all got to suffer one way or another, and I do not think that our brothers and sisters in America realise our position we are not safe even in London.

We have all got to do our bit in one way or another if its only just cheering somebody else up. I was at St Marks College Hospital last Sunday afternoon with May to see Jack’s father but he had gone out for a drink so we did not see him so we left our card and a nice box of chocolate for him he is getting on nicely now.

A poor lonely Canadian boy stopped us as we were leaving, and said he had no one to visit him. I felt so sorry for him, so we have promised to go and see him again and take him some apples as he said he had such a longing for some. He gave me a little scented sachet he was so grateful to us, for speaking to him, and we shall certainly go and see him again.

Donate-SailingShipMrs Foster came up to see me yesterday to see if I was safe after the air raid. I went out to lunch and tea with her. She asked after you, and sends her best regards also.

Percy expects to go to France soon. She has given me a nice photo of Percy I tell you he is “some Officer” now. He is coming up this week end, so no doubt they will run up and take me out to lunch again, “more swank”.

I am going down home now, so will have to close as I shall not be home very early as it is, but I felt I must write and give you all the news, for I know you will appreciate it all. By the way dear, I have bought a swell rain coat thank you very much dear, 25/11. I know you will like it, all the girls in my office send their love to you and are just dying for an introduction so you had better hurry up and come home again, it seems so funny at home now. I missed you awfully the first Sunday I was home.

I have had a Post Card from my Prisoner of war today, poor boy he is so sick of it all, he says, we are all longing to see London “Oh so much” and begs me to write as the time is so long and he feels so lonely. Well dear boy Good bye and God bless you trusting you are well with tons of love and kisses from your loving sister Maud xxxxxxx

P.S. Don’t forget to keep your life-belt handy. I do hope you get this letter soon, ta ta “thumbs up” for home. Keep smiling

Below, a David James Aldersley postcard comprising images of Hobart, Wellington (from four of his postcards), and the Turakina. The back shows that the card was written on 3rd December, 1912 and posted to the UK.

TurakinaChristmasAldersley TurakinaChristmasAldersley-back


Remuera brings Pitcairners to London (1923)

The following very interesting newspaper story was published in the UK in 1923. I would love to know more about the Chinese shop opened on the island about that time!

Western Daily Press, Bristol, Wednesday August 22, 1923



RemueraTwo of the natives of lonely Pitcairn, in the middle of the Pacific, have just arrived in London on board the s.s. Remuera on what is proving the greatest adventure of their lives. They are Elliott Christian and Skelly Warren, who have taken advantage of an invitation given by Captain Cameron of the Remuera, to go on a voyage into the outside world.

Christian, who is a big man standing over 6ft., is a great-great-grandson of Fletcher Christian, who founded the community.

“You must not think that Pitcairn Island is an undesirable place,” an interviewer was told by the two travellers yesterday. “It is not true that because there is no drink and no tobacco smoking that the island is a dreary place in which to live.

“Just listen to this: Breakfast consists of porridge, which in Pitcairn slang is a ‘mush,’ yams and pancakes made of yams and grated bananas.

“The second and most important meal of the day can only be described as a glorious repast. A typical menu is chicken, boiled or roasted, vegetables, and three varieties of native beans, salad fruit and baked sweet potatoes, fish and bread. There is nothing dull in that, is there?

“The population of Pitcairn at the last census taken by the ‘king’ of the island, who is nominated annually by popular vote and holds office for one year as resident magistrate, showed a total of 172 people, all of whom are admitted members of the Seventh Day Adventists, a creed which they adopted in 1888.

“Housing arrangements are very complete. There are 25 houses, all built of wood, but very commodious. Each house consists of a living room and a number of bedrooms. The dining room and kitchen are separate, and stand a little way apart from the main dwelling.

“There is also a school and a church. Education is on broad lines. English is taught, and all the islanders read and write well, and, indeed, take such a keen interest in the doings of the world as recorded in the newspapers they obtain from passing ships that not long ago they started a clothing fund on behalf of ‘starving Russia,’ but difficulties of transportation caused that project to be reluctantly abandoned.

“Trading with passing ships is an occasion of surpassing interest, but the verb ‘to profiteer’ is not in the vocabulary of the islander. About 200 oranges, 80 bananas, 20 lemons, and 10 limes can be obtained for 18s, but at the same time the Pitcairn Islander will not bargain. He sets his price, and you may take it or leave it.

“An enterprising Chinese who opened a shop on the island was given such a hostile reception that he very soon cleared out, and the Pitcairn people are not likely to permit of a repetition of the experiment.

“Our wives are spending all their money on finery and other trash,” they declared.

“Since the opening of the Panama Canal the island has been brought into closer touch with the world, and so up-to-date is it that a wireless receiving set has been installed. Unfortunately, however, at present no one knows how to work it and it will be necessary to impart some technical knowledge before broadcasting concerts will help to enliven the glorious evenings of the Pacific Sea.

“Everything in the way of food is grown on the island, the only things that it is necessary to import are cloth, soap, and kerosene, and in exchange for these things dried bananas, arrowroot, and a species of fungi beloved by the Chinese is exported.

“The only ‘foreigner’ on the island is an American, who, after being shipwrecked, settled down and lived such a happy life among the people that he is now determined to stay there until he dies.”

Free passage to New Zealand, 1875

In 1873, the year in which the New Zealand Shipping Company was founded, the mean population of New Zealand was reckoned to be 287,750, so there was plenty of space if you wanted to make a new start away from the comparatively crowded United Kingdom (c31 million in 1871).

ClipperShipToMotorLinerIt was possible to obtain a free passage, paid for by the Government. So what was the food like on the long journey? The following piece is taken from “Clipper Ship to Motor Liner, the story of the New Zealand Shipping Company 1873-1939” by Sydney D. Waters, published by the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1939:

In 1875 an improved dietary scale for immigrants was adopted and in a new contract entered into with the shipping companies the Government agreed to pay £16 passage money for each adult immigrant and £9 for each child. The number of immigrants carried in the sailing ships ranged from about two hundred to as high as five hundred odd, so that it can readily be believed that conditions were somewhat crowded for a passage of from eighty to one hundred days or more. Compared with the generous bill of fare provided in the New Zealand Shipping Company’s present-day liners, the food supplied in the immigrant ships of the seventies and eighties of last century was of Spartan simplicity.

The weekly scale of provisions for adults was as follows: Beef, eight ounces on Monday and Thursday; pork, eight ounces on Tuesday and Saturday; preserved meat, eight ounces on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday; suet, two ounces on Sunday and Saturday; butter, three ounces on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday; biscuit, four ounces every day; flour, twenty ounces on Sunday and twelve ounces all other days; rice or oatmeal, four ounces every day; peas, one quarter pint on Tuesday and Friday, fresh potatoes, one pound on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday; preserved potatoes, one quarter pound on the same days; carrots, four ounces on Monday and Thursday; onions, four ounces on Sunday and Wednesday; raisins, four ounces on Sunday; tea, one half-ounce on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday; coffee, one half-ounce on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; sugar, four ounces on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; molasses, four ounces on Monday and Friday; water, three quarts every day.


Montage of sketches depicting life on board an emigrant ship (1875). Click on image for a larger version. Making New Zealand: Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-0661-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

With respect to the issue of flour, it was the rule that eight ounces were given to the immigrants on Sundays for the purpose of making puddings. The remaining twelve ounces on Sundays and the whole of the allowance on other days were issued to the ship’s baker and made by him into bread.

Children up to twelve years of age received preserved meat instead of salt meat every day: and in addition to the provisions they were entitled to under the above scale, they were allowed one pint of preserved milk and three pints of water daily and, every alternate day, eight ounces of oatmeal and four ounces of preserved soup; and eight ounces of flour, four ounces of rice and ten ounces of sugar weekly. An additional quart of water was issued daily for the use of each person sick in the hospital, if the surgeon saw fit to order it.

From June 1, 1874, to May 31, 1875, a total of 31,785 immigrants arrived in New Zealand, of whom 11,450 were carried in thirty-three ships under the flag of the New Zealand Shipping Company.

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