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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 8 (February 1, 1933)



Now and again some pessimistic person rises to complain in print of the want of romantic material for literature in New Zealand's history. Look at other countries, he says. Curious this ignorance of our own country's past. If ever there was a land with a stirring story compressed into a comparatively brief period, it is New Zealand with its history of say, 1820–1870. To restrict it even to this half-century, there is every possible element of adventure, endeavour, romance and heroic episode in the record of our Colonial life.

Such a man as the late Alexander Bell, of Taumarunui—to whom reference was made in past articles in the Railways Magazine while he was still in the land of the living—was in his day an answer in himself to those who questioned the lack of the stuff of which stories are made. This North of Ireland veteran, soldier, sailor, bushman, and trader, was the lone-hand white man in the heart of the island at Taumarunui during a period when all the pakehas were warned out of the Maori country on pain of death. His exemption from the tomahawk was because of his love-affair with and marriage to a handsome daughter of the head Chief on the Upper Wanganui. She and her family protected him through the darkest days of the old bush life. But quiet-spoken old Alec. Bell would never have claimed that there was any romance in his career. They never do see the romance, those who live it.