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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 12th August, 1926

page 1

Dear Mummy,

If I escape the traffic of this damned
city I may survive to be killed in London. That however
is by the way. I have had to miss the Tahiti's mail
this morning direct to Wgton through being out with Jean
ever since I got here, but you oughtn't to get this very
much later per Auckland.

What Tasman wanted to go and discover such a sea
for beats me. Friday afternoon was very bright & charming, &
I patrolled the deck till I couldn't see the Tararuas and the
road to Gollan's Valley & Fitzroy Bay & the Karori Beach
any more, and then I went down to the Saloon & had a
good meal, on the principle of getting in hard & solid
while the going was good. This was just as well, because
I didn't get another good meal till breakfast on Monday.
The Straits were all right, but when we got out past what
I suppose was Cape Farewell the oscillating motion started.
So I thought I would anyhow work off a few arrears of
sleep; but when the steward politely intimated that dinner
was now on I decided that a little fruit diet would be
the best thing for me. I had a two-berth cabin, but had
it to myself, which was a great help to my self respect.
In the night the wobbling got worse — I not that I knew, being
asleep — so much so that it was only with considerable
difficulty I saved myself from being precipitated out of
the bath next morning at t each reverse roll. Then I
leant against the wall & felt very ill. Here I must
page 2 insert a tribute to the Union Co's baths — not very long, but
very deep they are & you get them almost full of hot salt water
& wallow. Lest you should soften into extreme hedonism, a
good thick heavy cold freshwater show [sic: shower] is also provided. So
however wonky I felt, I always turned up for my bath in
the morning. I forgot to mention the bath-steward, a polite
well-spoken young feller, who called me every morning
& presented me with a clean towel which I only used
once. I was the first to be called, which if it had
the disadvantage of get dragging me out of bed at ¼ to 7 every
morning, gave me first chance of making the bath-room
wet. I dare say that passed on my wet towels also
to the next blokes, but that didn't worry me. Such was
the loftiness & integrity of the my bath-steward's character
& general bearing, such the unfailing tact of his morn-
observations on the weather, that I felt impelled
to give him ½ crown on parting from him. But
of course what I spent on the roundabouts I saved
on the swings — I mean I didn't need to tip the
table-steward much.

To get back to the chronology of the trip — Satur-
was a ruinous day, & I lay stretched out in my
nice new dressing-gown on my bunk all day very
weak & pitiful to behold, still on a meagre fruit
diet. Sunday dawned finer & I got as far as putting on
my clothes as far as my waistcoat and reading a few light
frothy stories, and that just about finished me off again.
However Monday was perfect & I leapt up on deck with
alacrity and mood save with a firm head, dashed into
breakfast with vim, & demolished shell stewed pears, omelette,
bacon, toast, marmalade, scones & coffee with the ut-
ferocity. Then I spent the morning reading a girl's
thesis I didn't have time for before I left & making
page 3 sage notes on same; & then I dashed down to lunch & made
extensive ravages in that direction. They feed you well. Then
I read a bit; & then a shadow passed over the sun & the
wind rose, & the ship began to pitch & toss like one
of the unfortunate small boats in stories in the
Bible. Well, I decided I would stick it out, so I
strode up & down the bounding bank in the spray,
while first one end & then the other [gap — reason: unclear] kept falling,
falling, till the top deck was nearly under water.
W'd Lord Nelson have gone below?, I sternly asked
myself; then wherefore you? However it wasn't only
the up & downness of the boat, but the wind was cold &
cutting & the decks were wet; & the smoking room I
didn't fancy, & the music-room was so far in the bow
that it got the worst of the swings. So after following the
adventures of Felix the Cat in the Auckland Herald
there, so far as possible at considerable risk to my
stomach I decided there was nothing for it, & went below.
That was the finish. Up till then I had been squeam-
, but not in pain; but this night was dumb
misery. But in good time I slept, & Tuesday once
more dawned delightful & I breakfasted once more
with heartiness, amusing myself thereafter in common
with my fellow-travellers looking for Australia. The only
people I knew on board were that ghastly Castle gang,
who I discovered were also going Home on the Osterley. I
decided that a good deal of my time & effort wd hence-
be given up to avoiding them; but as it happened that
page 4 caused me no difficulty. Una is not so bad — I mean
she's bearable, if you can get past her face; though she does-
strike me apart from her special knack as having the
intelligence of an ox; but as for the elder one — my oath!
The blood congealed in my ven veins whenever I caught
sight of her. Luckily Sydney is big enough to lose them
in, & if I can get pally with a steward on board the
Osterley & avoid their table all may yet be well. I'm
not saying that they mayn't be a morally impeccable
family, you understand, or full of good intentions &
the milk of human kindness of a City Council standard
of purity, pasteurised & full cream, so you needn't come back
with any moral reflections; but it's their grin that knock
knocks me out.

Well, after a while Australia turned up, not at all
like what its photo on the map; so what use maps are I'm
damned if I see, & after a while we got into Sydney Harbour,
which I endeavoured to gaze at with intelligent apprecia-
. One side of the Heads is impressive, the other less so;
but as the whole place, except the Heads, is covered with
houses & flats & factories, its beauty struck me as a thing
which might possibly have to sink in. Anyway I was
partly engaged during the traverse of said harbour in
mopping up a scratch lunch; a meal which caused the
stewards considerable annoyance, as it stopped their getting
off in the afternoon, & was anyhow an unprecedented
thing. Such was the roughness of the trip, you understand,
that the boat was about 6 hours late. And then, for
some inscrutable reason, it may be because the captain
had had too much lunch, it stood in the middle of the
harbour & turned round in circles before it could make
up its mind to drag itself to a wharf. However we got
off at last & through the Customs (very free & easy birds —
page 5 What've you got in here? says one of them to me. Clothes, I
says. You haven't got any samples? says he. Now what wd
I be carrying samples for? says I. Right, says he, & scrawls
chalk all over my bags. I then found that I had nothing
but ½ crowns for tipping porters; so I gave one to one
bloke, who said he usually got about two bob. I cdn't
be bothered calling him a liar as I was weighed down with
my bag fast-clutched & tins of biscuits, camera, lemons,
coats etc, etc; but I got a taxi-driver to change ½ cr.
& gave the next bloke 6d- Then he stood round and wailed.
So as his wailing afflicted my ears, I gave him 3d more,
& he stood round & wailed still louder. So I gave
him 6d more & took back 3d & consigned him to blazes.
I was also diddled by the taxi driver. The taxis are all
run by companies, & I thought, well, it can't be far to the
YMCA., & this will get me there & be no more expensive
than a carrier, so of in I hops; but I couldn't make
out why the driver put my luggage in the front seat with
him, so that he had to leave the door open to the
imminent danger of all & sundry as he dashed through
the traffic (So far as transport & transit is concerned, the
whole of Sydney appears to be one vast murder gang — the cars
& lorries & taxis dash over the most crowded crossings at about
30 m.p.h. — you just [gap — reason: unclear] close your eyes murmur a prayer &
throw yourself into the seething tide.) However during the ride I
had a look at a little pamphlet that the taxi-car provided extolling
their virtues & the cardinal position they occupied in the
municipal economy of Sydney, & discovered that luggage
carried in the drivers seat cost 1/- extra. This though there
was room for about 2 tons in the seat with me. Apart
from this the taxis are cheap enough; same price for 1–5
persons; 1/3 for first third of mile & then so much a minute.
But it cost me 4/3 to the Y.M.C.A., which was pure waste
page 6 as it turned out. Keith is a bit of a [unclear: mutt]. Didn't he say
that the Y.M. was 27/6 a week bed & breakfast?
Either someone was pulling his leg, as usual, or if he
stayed here at that rate he was a pretty clever bloke.
I prefer the former alternative myself. 39 bob they
charge for bed and breakfast & neither bed nor breakfast is
anything to skite about. Upon my heart & soul; I got a
bit of a shock when the lad at the desk told me! Well, I
said, after considerable discussion of the point, & out of family
loyalty but not with much confidence & putting Keithles for-
as an authority, I'll leave my bags here if you don't
[gap — reason: unclear]mind & amble down town & see if I can't pick
up something better. I bought an evening paper which was
nothing but headlines & pictures & was consequently no help
at all, & tried a place to which an agent had given me a
card at the wharf at 30 bob, but they were full up, other
people without brilliant brothers having hopped in first.
So I rung up Jean to see if she knew of any place
or what the prices they charged were; & apparently they
are all sky high. So as it was getting late I bugged back
to the Y.M. & said I wd stay a night anyway at 6/6. They're
a rotten mean crowd — if you don't clear out by 10 next
morning they charge you for an another night; they give you two
measly rolls of butter for breakfast and the menu says,
More butter, 1d extra!!! & serviette 1d extra!!! My oath!
I thought the Australians were a generous race. I trotted back
to this other place next morning, as per instructions, the owner
of same saying that she cd do something for me then;
but all she had was ½ a room at 35/-. So I thought
after considering the matter for the rest of the day at inter-
that I would lose in shifting what I wd gain &
that anyhow I had a room to myself at the Y.M., with a key,
page 7 & that I cd lock the door; & that there was hot water all
day & night for baths & showers; so I think I will let things
go at that. I have a hot bath every morning to take it out
of them, anyhow; with a cold shower[gap — reason: unclear] lest I shd lost [sic: lose] my prist-
Spartan character. But Lor' love a duck! 1d extra for
more butter. I have a good mind to go and buy ½ lb of my
own & consume Auntie's excellent biscuits in the secrecy of
my own room. I shall probably do this at whatever
expense. Meals are very expensive here too — you can't get
fish & chips for less than 2/-; tea & toast 1/3 & so on. I
reckon its up to Keith to send me the difference between
27/6 & 39/- — 12/6. He can send it c/o Bank of N.Z.

Well, to get away from material things. (By the way you
can see what a nuisance it is being a man of means, having to
consider keeping expensive rugs & cameras & dinner-suits &
biscuits & dressing gowns & so forth under lock & key. The
curse of great possessions has settled down on me. If my
Lord called me now to follow him, what sort of answer cd
I make?) Jean had been expecting me to ring her all
day, as she was on duty; & as she was off at night she met
me after tea; and we said simultaneously "Well, what do you
want to do let's go [gap — reason: unclear]to Chaliapin!" So we went. Well, by
gum, he's worth crossing the Tasman Sea for. Wonderful,
marvellous — about 7 ft high, broad in proportion, & with
a voice to suit. But Lord, what a voice & how he uses it!
He sang twelve tunes, all sorts of songs, comic, tragic, folk-
, Schubert, Schumann, operatic, everything.
Enough to make you rave with rapture. We got in for 3 bob,
and then moved down to 5 bob seats half-way — they let you
do that here, if the 5 bob seats aren't full. But there weren't
many seats to waste. He's a great man. We then adjourned to
page 8 Sydney's most exclusive ice-cream joint & had the most astonishing
confections — Golden Gate sundaes they call 'em, about 6
different kinds of ice-cream, whipped cream, marshmallow
sauce, a cherry, lots of pineapple, enough to turn your brain
if at all weak. Followed by a deep goblet of lemonade to
quench our thirst. After that we parted in mutual rapture.

Next day being yesterday was Jean's day off; so after
investigating a small portion of Angus & Robertson's (a
good shop it is too, but prices the same as Whitcombes) I met
her & she took for a walk around portion of the harbour,
Govt House, the Conservatorium, Art Gallery, etc (I mean
we went round the outside of these); hence we adjourned
to Manly where we bought an immense lunch & consumed
same on the beach. Manly is pleasant on the ocean side,
but ghastly on the harbour side & wd be awful in the
summer. Nothing but flats, shops, horrible, horrible, as the boosters
will make Lyall Bay & Eastbourne pretty soon. Coming back
from the harbour was beautiful, we saw Cobham
descend from the skies, we parted for a wash and brush-up,
we met again for a drink, we adjourned to the theatre, &
saw — Quality Street! And jolly well done too. There is a
Barrie Season on, produced by Dion Boucicault; three
weeks to a play. They are just finishing up on Quality Street,
& are doing What Every Woman Knows next, with the Admirable
Chr Crichton
to follow. About six in all I think. My word,
Q.S. created enthusiasm too — there was one bird behind us
roaring in great paroxysms of laughter. But the Sydney-
are rude — heavens alive; a long string of them
came strolling down the aisle for about ten minutes after
the thing had started, as nonchalant as you please — we
were in the back stalls, as every seat in the Gods for
a matinée & evening had been sold out by 11 in the
page 9 morning. A good thing Daddy wasn't there for I felt
like murder myself. Trams tearing up & down outside all
the while too & if anyone walked down on the other side
of the theatre wall their voices crashed into the theatre.
So that a good many of the most delicate bits were lost. The
beginning wholly so. Then half-way though an interval
a girl next to us wd get up & go & chat to a friend of
hers farther down the aisle & overlap about five minutes
into the next act; not merely whispering, talking loudly. I
kicked her ankles the first time & tripped her up the second.
If there had been a third, I would probably have bashed
her over the jaw.

All I have done today so far is to write to you. I
am going out to a place called Lane Cove to some friends
of Jean's tommorrow on Saturday afternoon for some music & so on; &
on Sunday I have the choice of listening to the orators in the
Domain or to the City Organist in the Town Hall, so you see there
is plenty of amusement. Lord knows what else there isn't to

The place generally speaking is dirty & noisy. The
trams don't seem to have been painted since the year 1; They
are of that type banished from Wgton donkeys' years ago
as dangerous, where the conductor walks along the outside
to take the fares. The newsboys leap on while they are
tearing along the street full tilt, but I have only seen one
bloke knocked out in the traffic so far. Some of the
shops, furniture & drapers, are wonderful; but Lor' bless
you what's all this to me bound to Europe on a first
page 10 class free pass? I just gaze & sniff superciliously. If you
want any pictures you can get the Medici prints at Anthony
at the English price, but I have yet to inspect

By the way: FINANCIAL & BusinessYou under The
advantage of leaving in a hurry is that you certainly
have no time to be merely melancholy, but I'm afraid
I left rather a mess for you to clean up. I'd like all the
papers with writing on to go into a box or drawer some-
; the others if any can go into the fire.

I forgot to give Keith the £ 1 for that camera;
I enclose same.

Wd somebody mind paying this dentist's bill which
I forgot; cash enclosed.

The baggage insurance policy Daddy got me struck me
as being rather a wash-out — it doesn't insure the stuff against
rough usage or from loss or damage caused by capture of
the vessel, except by piracy, nor from any consequences of
riots, civil commotions, hostilities, and warlike operations. What's
the good of that to a man? About the only way I can get
any money out of them is to sink or burn the vessel, in-
I suppose myself or to arrange a collision. And
I daresay they'd put all that down as rough usage when
it came to the point. However I enclose the cash, hoping
that something will happen — 25 bob.

Cash enclosed therefore:
Camera £ 1 -- 0 -- 0
Dentist 5 -- 0
Insurance 1 -- 5 -- 0
£ 2 -- 10 -- 0
page 11

If you come across anything else that needs
paying you might let me know; though I suppose you
will have to write Home for it. I shall make my
address in London for the time being either c/o the Bank
of NZ
or c/o Sir Christopher Parr K.C.M.G.

I will call here at (a) Bank of NZ (b) G.P.O.
(c) Y.M.C.A. for mail; if you have sent it elsewhere let
me know.

If any cash comes to me (probably to College) from
the NZ Times please sign the receipt & send cash the to the
Bank of NZ London or get the Times to do so if it
costs you anything.

Jean bagged one of my photographs (by the way
she is leaving the hospital at the end of this month to avoid
the next summer & taking up private nursing) & I prom-
Mrs Hooper one; I may ask one or two more
people if they want one to ring you up — will you
allow a decent interval to elapse, say a fortnight from
today & then order the necessary number if any & distribute same?
I will pay for them. As it was Daddy's fault I had
the thing taken I don't think I shall pay for the last three
I took.

I shall probably write to you again before I leave
this place but I doubt if at this length. Meanwhile please,
give my love to everybody including Peter, hoping he is
finding his way around the house better now, & that this
page 12 finds you as it leaves me, in the best of health & very
much in love with you.

Yr affect. son

J.C. Ulysses Beaglehole

P.S. You might tell yourself, Auntie & Christine, that
I have struck nobody yet with so swish a dressing-
as mine.
I had now better get on to some other letters
of thanks, greeting, business, etc.


P.P.S. You might send me the date of Auntie [unclear: Sis']
birthday. I hope Auntie's had a fitting celebration.


P.P.P.S. I have been writing all the morning & it is now
¼ to 1. If you pass the letter round it will save
much exhaustion to my dexter hand.

Yrs finally penultimately,


P.P.P.P.S. I am sending NZ notes instead of Australian,
thus saving recievers exchange, who I hope are duly grateful

Yrs finally