Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seas, Ships and Sails


Across the Tasman Sea, Ships and Sails...

The Pamir

My father ran away to sea
at the age of sixteen

The Pamir,
a Finnish sailing ship
of the Gustaf Erikson company,
was seized in Wellington in 1941
by the New Zealand government
as a prize of war

My father
had a job in an office in Wellington
New Zealand's capital,
running requisition orders
between various government buildings.

on one of my Father's sorties
he bumped into a couple of his brother's mates
standing on a windy Wellington street corner
and they told him
they had just signed up to sail on the Pamir
The ship needed more hands
who weren't afraid of heights
and why didn't he apply...

He sailed on the Pamir
nicknamed 'Grease pot Jock'
for his task
of greasing and tarring the masts

At San Francisco
he jumped ship
and with some new American friends
joined the American Merchant Navy
When asked for his home address
he replied Massachusetts
but didn't know how to spell the state
on the application form

He spent the remainder of the war years
delivering supplies to troops
all over the globe

and eventually returned
to New Zealand
sporting a Pamir tattoo
and met my mother
at a dance hall in Sumner
just around the Port Hills
from Lyttelton

Flying out of Brisbane at sunset

A few days ago
my daughter,
who is visiting from Japan
and I took a short trip
across the Tasman Sea
to New Zealand
to visit my parents
her grandparents

My father
only recently moved
to a nursing home
after a series of minor strokes
has left his brain a little addled
and his mind wandering,
was asked where he would like to go
for a drive
and because of his love
for seas, ships and sails
and he chose Lyttelton
the port of Christchurch
my hometown

It was brisk and misty
with low hung fog
but the trip to the coast
and through the Tunnel
under the Port Hills
perked up his spirits
and he became talkative

a few brave and hardy cyclists
braved the drizzle and cold
to bike around the peninsula
to Sumner

The small town of Lyttelton
is perched on the steep hills
overlooking a drowned extinct volcano

The town grew on wool and wheat exports
from New Zealand.
It has many buildings of historic value
The Star Light theatre
built in the California style
with art nouveau details
was the early movie theatre

Lyttelton was put on the world map
as the staging post for Antarctic exploration
in the early 1900s
when many ships would anchor there
while ponies from Manchuria
and huskies from Siberia
were quarantined and trained
on nearby Quail Island

Lyttelton town 1866

In 1851 the First Four Ships
sailed into Lyttelton
from the United Kingdom
full of settlers ready for a new life

Pilgrims walking the Bridle Path

After months at sea
they were itching to see the promised land
and only one thing stood in the way
of their views of the Canterbury Plains

and that was the Port Hills

The immigration planning committee
had run out of funds to complete the road
around the peninsula to Sumner
and so a steep and winding path
was made up and over
the top of the hills

The Bridle Path leading from Lyttelton to Ferrymead

An energetic walk
that today would take three hours
could take two days
for delicate Victorian women
unused to exercise and
with restrictive corsets and crinolines

Lyttelton Docks 1900

A rail tunnel was dug through the hills
and opened in 1867
and almost 100 years later
a road tunnel was completed

My family
along with the majority
of the citizens of Christchurch
excitedly took the trip
through the tunnel
on opening day
with car horns blaring

After lunch at the nursing home
my daughter and I
drove into the city
and spied our first cherry blossom

At the outdoor Arts Centre markets
Daughter selected some jade -
'Greenstone' pendants
to take back to Japan

and chilled to the bone

we called into a warm and welcoming
for hot chocolates
and Hokey Pokey Cheesecake...

These pictures are especially for Julie
at Moments of Perfect Clarity
who collects Starbucks mugs
from around the world
I'm sorry Julocka that it is a mere photo
and not the real thing...

But Happy days



  1. I hope your dad is doing well, my dad passed away from a stroke 8 yars ago.

    I love hokey pokey cheesecake or even better hokey pokey ice cream :)

    PS: I made pumpkin soup inspire by your sweet potatoe and put coconut milk in it. It's so nice I'm going to make it that way all the time now.

  2. Thank you Delwyn I really enjoyed this post. I have fond childhood memories of Chch and have a keen interest in NZ history. Now, I didn't know there was hokey pokey cheesecake, this is just too much to bear...I had given up ice-cream and cheesecake but if I ever find this combination I may have to try it.

  3. So interesting as always. Do you have a daughter living in Japan?

    And how brave was your Dad, so young, sailing off like that!

  4. What a wonderful story, complete with great photos! I am just imagining those poor Victorian ladies.

    I absolutely loved your previous post. Just amazing, thank you! I needed a bit of inspiration and found some there..

  5. Hi Liss

    I am sorry that your Dad had passed away. Mine is frail and meandering...he was such a robust, energetic man...

    Yes the hokey pokey cheesecake was a real surprise and I think the nicest cheesecake I have ever eaten...

    I am so glad you used the coconut milk idea and had success...

    Happy days

  6. Delwyn:

    What a nice tour and history. So interesting to try and imagine what earlier settlers went through trying to carve out a new home for themselves half way around the world. Incredible courage.

    And what an adventurer your father was! Hope he has retained his memories of those times - they might help sustain him as his life winds down. My father dreamed of travelling the seas as your father did - but only managed to do so with books about sea adventures.

    Loved seeing the pictures, old and new, of New Zealand. Thank you.

  7. Hello Gleaner

    Are you a NZer by birth? like me...

    It is probably a good thing that we may not find the hokey pokey cheesecake here...
    Thanks for dropping in Gleaner...

    I had an email out of the blue yesterday from a man researching Beloved's Grandfather - a great tramper in NZ. It appears the writer's Dad a was a student of Grandfather at Victoria Uni and together they were the first Europeans to climb a certain Mt in NZ...

    Isn't it amazing that history keeps popping up in strange places...and amazing too that he found my blog through researching Grandfather!

    Happy days

  8. Hi Sarah

    Yes My daughter #1 has taught on and off over the last 5 years in Japan but has now settled with her Japanese partner in Tokyo for a few years. She teaches English in a small private school.

    My Dad was too young to sign up in the armed forces like his brother, who was lost in the Pacific War on his first flight, aged only twenty.
    My poor grandparents seeing them both go off like that...

    Good to see you Sarah...

    Happy days

  9. Hi Karen

    and what's more they were dressed in winter European clothing and they landed in NZ mid summer...imagine their discomfort...

    I am glad you found something in the transformative moment was such a great idea of Stevens...

    Happy days

  10. Hi Bonnie

    yes my Dad remembers things from long past very well...He was relating the Pamir story the other day very lucidly.

    I think he found it very difficult settling down after the war and his adventures on the high seas. He has maintained his US friendships to the present day...

    I hope that you are feeling ok today Bonnie. Rest and recover my friend...

    Happy days

  11. Hi Delwyn... your Dad has such a colorful romantic history...running off to sea like that. Hope his health improves.

    The interesting history of Christchurch, your home town, is somewhat like Jamestown here in the U.S....or when our early settlers made their journey west over the mountains.

    Enjoyed reading of your roots and your daughter's visit Delwyn.


  12. hello delwyn, i'd read about the port of lyttelton several times because i had a long fascination with antarctic exploration. one of my heroes has always been scott of the antarctic. i'm so glad to learn more and on a more personal level through this gorgeous post that has so many layers to it. thankyou delwyn. steven

  13. Delwyn, I love trips to "childhood" remembrances and if it sparked something in your dad what a blessing it truly was! I just loved hearing a bit of your family's history this way. I loved seeing the theater! And I totally see why your daughter would buy some jade necklaces, those were beautiful.

    What a delightful read, thanks Delwyn :) BTW would love to hear about the origin of your name!

  14. I am a genealogy researcher and just eat up stories like this. I always look at the old photos and imagine who walked those streets or who built that barn. Did his neighbors come to help? Looking at churches you know that the ancestor in questions has been there probably many times.
    How lucky you are to have these stories from him. I think he knew you would tell it beautifully.

  15. Delwyn, I love how you weave a story and the history in this post is wonderful...I love to learn about places I've never been.

    As for your father, seems like the sea was and still is in his blood (my uncle ran away to join the navy during the war, here in Toronto, and traveled through Minsk on a corsair looking for submarines and then settled in Halifax to be near the sea)...and even with the stroke, the past is still very present for him.

    I love the photograph of you and your daughter in the window and the gorgeous Starbucks hot chocolate. But I must ask..what is hokey pokey cheesecake?!?! That's one I've never heard of before!

  16. You always amaze me with your informative, historical travelogues. And your father, bless him, has had such a rich and interesting life. I'm so sorry he's in decline! The jade pendants are gorgeous. And I didn't know that Julie collected Starbucks mugs. Hmmmm...

  17. Warm greetings, Delwyn!

    Thank you for choosing the path of time for today's walk. Very, very interesting. Loved how you weaved your family history (or quite literally, His-Story) into the tale. Lovely.

    You are seeing cherry blossoms while we are starting to see the leaves change ever so slightly even though the thermometer still says summer. Funny how it always seems to sneak up on us like that even though it is well expected.

    So glad you were able to enjoy your Dad's company (and memories) in the winter season of his life ~ and that he still sees and breathes the spring.

    Happy Days, indeed.

  18. i love those stories of people who ran away to sea....even my husband's mother did it! sadly, you simply cannot do that anymore. it's a bit sad to think there won't be such stories anymore. they're somehow so romantic, tho' it was undoubtedly a difficult life.

    and thank you for the SB mug pic, it's the next best thing. :-)


  19. Loved the stories about your father's sea adventures, the town's history and pictures, and the Starbucks coffee mugs unlike any I've seen.

  20. Hi Delwyn,
    So enjoyed your family and NZ history - Christchurch is one of our favorite cities - so beautiful with flowers. (Plus, we rated the chowder there at the Aqueduct Restaurant the best in both N & S Islands. Believe me, my husband was a diligent taster!) Glad you had time to visit with your daughter and parents.

  21. When asked to go for a drive, I'm not surprised your Dad choose the port, after his adventures at sea. The history and old pictures of the ships and and town are just great. Hope your Dad is keeping well.

  22. I enjoyed that story, Delwyn with some of New Zealand's history. Your father certainly has had an interesting life, particularly in his younger days. That lovely day out he'll recall many times in the days ahead.

    My Great-Grandfather and his brother 'jumped ship' from the French Navy in Queensland and settled in Gympie, I believe. That's just one of the family stories! True or not, I'll never know!

  23. Good Morning Wanda

    Thanks for coming by today and hearing a little of my home town. Settlers to the new colonies must have been a hardy lot...just to survive that long sea voyage would be enough for me...I have no sea legs...didn't inherit the sea faring genes from my father at all...

    Happy days Wanda

  24. I'm playing catch up with some of my blog reading. I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading yours, it's always so interesting.
    Have a great day.
    Sunny :)

  25. Your father has led quite an exciting life. I enjoyed his adventures and also the story of your hometown.

  26. Good morning masterful Steven

    Christchurch museum has a good Antarctic exhibit I remember...
    When I was growing up there was an airforce base not far away and many US planes who were connected with Antarctic research used the facilities there.

    Have a restful day after your mammoth efforts...Have you thought of another meme for the future...

    Happy days

  27. Nice nostalgic post Delwyn.
    The Pamir came to at tragic end as you may know. She was hit by a 'white squall' in the middle of the night and with all her sails up and capsized taking all but three young sail training seamen with her. It was a huge tradgedy.

    Nice to see some photos of Christchurch, Lyttelton and the Port Hills - not a lot has changed, but everything has changed.

  28. Hello Vicky

    I think, actually I am sure my father enjoyed the outing. He thinks of the nursing home as a form of imprisonment and has made a number of escapes of which he is very proud...What he cannot realise is that one day the home may refuse him residency on these grounds...and a dementia home is soul destroying...

    I must dig out my greenstone Koru necklace...

    My Mother heard my name once in Timaru, my Dad's home town in the South Island. It appears to be of Welsh origin, and I think means God's messenger...

    Happy days

  29. Hello Lori

    well this would appeal to you...and I have more... my Mother showed me a sheaf of documents and photos that she had just come in to possession of and there is a good story there... I am working on keep watching this space!

    When I was in Israel I could not help running my hands over the stones of King David's palace in Jerusalem and King Herod's mighty edifice on the top of Masada at the Dead Sea, thinking similar thoughts...all of the thousands of people who touched these stones over thousands of years...from the builders, to the fleeing Jews, to the conquering Romans, to the early Christians...who had all been here before me...

    great thoughts Lori...

    Happy days

  30. Hi Sherry

    isn't that the beauty of this medium, we are carried around the world and into other people's homes and families and history in such a personal way...

    You don't know about Hokey of New Zealand's proudest achievements...???

    If you read my post of Jan 30 you will find out all about it.

    Hokey Pokey cheesecake was a novelty for me though...and wonderful...

    Happy days

  31. Hi Meri

    It makes history interesting when you add the personal connections doesn't it...

    My mother is in the same home for respite after breaking her ankle, can you believe it...and my poor dad thinks she is there to stay...Mum is far from needing to reside there permanently, but is loving the attention and the wonderful care. However
    my father visits her constantly - even through the night...

    Yes I picked up that little piece of info from one of her posts...

    Happy days

  32. Hello there Cyndy

    before we arrived in NZ there had been a few warm days and I think spring was tricked into a false start...
    There is a beautiful camellia bush outside my father's window and another outside my mother's. The rest home is very warm and has nice grounds.

    Happy days

  33. Hi Julie

    No you can't get anywhere without a passport today, finger prints, iris photos....they can't have needed any immigration papers at that time...

    I was in the South Island hence the ski mug...

    Happy days

  34. Hello Rosaria

    thanks for dropping in and adding your thoughts...
    I didn't know that SB had a range of mugs either...

    Happy days

  35. Hi Barb

    Where is the Aqueduct restaurant?
    I never ate chowder in NZ in all my years of growing up...strange... It is an American soup I suppose, maybe developed for the tourist industry. But my Beloved caught and bashed and cooked Paua soup - thats and gooey looking...

    I am preparing a post on the Botanical Gardens and early spring...

    Happy days

  36. Hi Ann

    We had two perfectly lucid days with him so had a lovely time...He is getting a lot stronger. He went on a bit of a hunger strike after the stroke and when he was taken to the home, but now thinks if he gets stronger he will be returning home...But that is not likely...

    Thanks for your concern...

    Happy days

  37. Hi Alaine

    your story would not be too hard to trace would it...

    There is always a little exaggeration or embellishment in family stories possible... I liked that TV show 'Who Do You Think You Are' for revealing and often proving people's claims to upper class pasts as false...

    Happy days

  38. Well Sunny

    I always enjoy having your bright comments here on your visits...

    Happy days

  39. Hi Janie

    My father did start adult life with adventure...I think maybe that was hard to follow with domestic responsibilities and three boys to go off adventuring with...we learned to grease cars, fix bikes, shovel coal and stack fire wood, garden and repair and paint- all of which I am grateful for...

    Happy days

  40. Oh, Delwyn, the story you shared with Meri about your parents being together now, and your dad visiting, was wonderful! So funny how you found out! Sounds like another wonderful story ~ this time a love story...

  41. Hi Alden

    Yes I did know of the sad end to the Pamir.

    I thought of you a number of times when in CHCH, firstly when I saw the little sail boats in the harbour and remembered how you told us of sailing around the peninsula, and then at the Port Hills I wondered if you did the walk over the top when at Teachers' College as I did...and later when I showed P where my school was (Girls' High) and the old Teachers' College was...

    Ahhhhh ...lots of memories of times long passed....good times and good friends...

    Happy days

  42. Hi Delwyn,

    I hope your dad is doing well.

    You may be interested in the following page on the Pamir at Lyttleton :

    This is an extract of the Pamir Memorial, a non for profit site dedicated to the moving history of this ship.

    Philippe Bellamit

  43. thank you Phillippe for that link

    my Dad has now sailed away into the wild blue yonder.

    Happy days


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