Skip to main content

December 10th 1913 - Letter from Dolly Sladden to her cousin, May Sladden

10th December 1913
Correspondence From
Dolly Sladden, Petone, Wellington, New Zealand
Correspondence To
May Sladden
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter


Dec 10th 1913

My dear May

Here I am at home again and beginning to think I have never been away again, no not quite like that!  But we are getting settled, clothes washed and things put away etc.  It was rather sad to have a wet washing day on Monday, with all our voyage things, or rather all mine, Aunt Lizzie wouldn’t send hers.  However they dried yesterday and today Anne and I ironed away at blouses.  Just fancy our taking eight weeks to get here, I wrote to Uncle Julius from Sydney and I will go on from there and tell you of all our adventures.  We did not get off till the Thursday after all, so had a whole week in Sydney.  We had to get all our luggage out of the Manuela and sent out by tender to [?] to the Maheno, and ourselves likewise, and there we were all day wondering whether we should rally get off.  The officers from other Union Co’s boats and the clerks from the office were running the tenders and seeing to the luggage, and at the gates of the wharf was a great crowd of strikers.  We could not get off in the first tender about 10 o’clock and had to wait about the wharf, in the scorching sun, not daring to leave, there were a lot of others waiting too, and there was no second tender till about 2.30 although they told us it was coming back at once.  We had provided ourselves with some meat pies and fruit in case of emergencies and we were very glad of them.  One of the officers of the Willocra invited us up on the deck out of the hot sun, so we sat there and ate our pies out of a brown paper bag and drank lemonade out of the bottles, one of the men got them for us from the ship’s bar, how you would have laughed to see us!  Finally we got on to the Maheno and did get off about midnight.  The passengers signed on as stokers and trimmers and officers of other boats held up, came as able-bodies seamen and they got a lot of waiters as stewards and some women as stewardesses and off we went.  But alas the waiters hadn’t got their sea-legs at first and the stewardesses were not experienced and the amateur firemen ha tender hands and nearly all the passengers were sea-sick!  The first two days were rather awful, the boat absolutely packed, people sleeping in the passages and nobody to do anything.  Aunt Lizzie was a splendid sailor and couldn’t understand the misery of “Hackey” and me as we lay in our little bunks in a stuffy little 4-berth cabin!  There was no cargo on board and we were only going 7 knots an hour so the motion was weird.  However things soon cheered up, and the pace improved to 12 and 14 knots an hour and people appeared after a day or two.  It was quite cold part of the time and our hold-all full of rugs and coats had disappeared entirely, I think it was in the hold and nearly everybody’s cabin luggage had gone the same way, so we were rather destitute.  However, someone lent us coats.  We were really very “luggageless” for the last fortnight of our trip.  After we got our sea-legs, the ship rolled most terribly but we didn’t mind, it was a common sight to see chairs and people toboggan rapidly into the scuppers until the chairs were tethered, one woman was hurt, but no other casualties.  We had fun over the tea, a lot of the girls undertook it, and as there were well over 200 saloon passengers it was no joke washing up; but the stewards were very grateful for the help.  Two of the men used to take great cans of coffee down into the engine room at the middle of each watch night and day, altogether everybody turned to with a will and we certainly had a unique trip.  We were six nights over it, at first we feared it would be eight.  Then of course we arrived in Auckland instead of Wellington and didn’t think there was any chance of seeing a soul we knew, or even of letters, because we imagined no one knew where we were.  We had sent one cable from Sydney, from the Grosvenor, but couldn’t let them know when we actually started.  However they found out from the Union Co we were on board the Maheno and Arthur had his holiday and met us on his way up to Bernard.  Just imagine my joy when I heard a voice say “Hallo Doll” and there was Arthur, Aunt Lizzie said she was horrified to see me embracing a man, and Hacky said it was a thrilling moment.  Well it took us nearly all day getting our luggage and seeing about the Customs etc and then we had a tram ride to Onehunga and returned to the Central Hotel with Arthur for dinner.  Gwenned Vaughan came down from school and saw us off at the train, she was pleased to hear about her people at Lincoln.

About ten of us reserved seats in he train together and were very comfortable and slept off and on.  We left at about 9 pm and were delayed about midnight for an hour and a half, we seemed fated to be delayed all the way!  It was very pretty coming down, lovely bush and the three snowy peaks, Tongariro, Nyahahoe and Ruapehu, looked beautiful and we enjoyed the dawn too.  We didn’t arrive in Wyton till after 6, so we had about 21 hours in the train, and didn’t we feel grubby at the end of it!  Arthur saw us off at Auckland and went on up to Bernard.  Bernard and about 30 others had started down to Auckland with their horses, to act as special Constables, but the strike subsided a bit and these were not wanted.  Arthur and Hubert and Bob were enrolled in Upton, Bob was on duty on the wharf from 4 am to 8 the night I arrived so couldn’t come out with us, he had to be down a the barracks on the wharf at 8 o’clock and sleep there till his watch came.

Well we had various diversions in the way of meals in the train, and then at Martin, Percy and Mary came on as far as Palmerston with us.  The girls and Frank and Bob met us in Wyton and we soon caught a train to Petone and got there about 7 o’clock and found Mother waiting for us at home, and didn’t I just “scoot” home from the bus corner, got there some time before the others!  She is very well, but has grown older in the two years, it is just lovely to be at home again and see them all. Maidie has to be very careful, and mustn’t hurry over anything or machine or bicycle or garden or iron, or lift things at all, not even the babies!  However if she is careful she will get better in time, but it is very slow.  It is terribly disappointing for her and she finds it very irksome not being able to do things, and excitement and bustle tires her, just as it does Mother.  Still she looks well and goes over to report herself to Dr Ross every week.  Anne is very well indeed and has been very busy.  The maid was away for her holiday just before we got back and they had Jack staying here when the new baby appeared at Ngarma.  The house looks so nice, all spring-cleaned, and the garden is very bright, such beautiful sweet peas, very long stalks and 4 on a head, masses of them, and heaps of Iceland poppies and carnations and pansies and lots of other things.  Frank is very busy, this blessed strike makes so much work, he hardly ever goes out to dinner.  Arthur looked as if he wanted his holiday, so I hope he will look better when he gets back at the end of this week.  Bob is flourishing, he was out here on Saturday and Sunday.  He and Star are coming to us for a few days before Xmas and then going to her people in the Sounds.  I am glad I shall see her soon.

All the “Ngarmas” are well and jolly, the kiddies grown tremendously and the new baby is a fine little urchin, Lita is so well too.  Lita and Hubert and the baby came down on Saturday afternoon, the other children went to a party.  I had seen them all before that though.  The baby is a month old now and he is so good.  They just popped him in a dress basket in the bottom of the car and then deposited him on the hall table while we had tea in the verandah and “played about the garden”, he slept all the time.  I seem to have seen a lot of people already, Miss Barnicoat, Mrs Kirle Wallis and Mrs Harding, Mrs Jones and Pansy and Lady Hector and Marjory, and the Johnstone and Jenny Hector and Phil and Joyce, both grown tremendously, and I have had long yarns with other people through the telephone, it is awfully nice seeing them all again, such a lot I have to tell and hear.  My big case has not arrived yet, but everything else is unpacked.  Mother has her Norwegian slippers on at this moment and revels in them, the girls are delighted with their blouses and the silk stockings I bought them, and various other treasures, but we are longing for the case to come, it’s full of all sorts of things, including the carpet, all the Italian and Swiss things as well as others.  My room has a pretty cream paper with a narrow frieze of conventional roses about 2 feet from the ceiling and the ceiling paper comes down to it, it looks so nice, I am longing to see the carpet down.

Aunt Lizzie is well and jolly, and not sorry the journey is at an end.  Well, May, I don’t think I can write any more, I am getting so sleepy.  There were no select little flirtations to tell you about, the men were monstrosities!  We girls talks till all hours, hear the clock strike twelve, long after we have put Mother and Aunt Lizzie to bed and then we have to settle.  I am looking forward to English letters this week, I think some of the family are writing to Badsey this mail too.

Much love from

Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
2 sheets of notepaper
Location of Document
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service
Record Office Reference