The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 9 (January 1, 1934)
“The hulk ‘White Wings,’ formerly well-known as an emigrant ship, was towed out to sea to-day and scuttled.”
Just a brief notice for the passing of a once important ship. It sets our imagination afire and we think of the tales those old emigrant ships might tell. Of hope and joy, disappointment and failure, of sickness and death. How many of us would be prepared to leave our native homes for a new life in a strange land—a land occupied, to our minds, by cannibals, a few sea-rovers and a handful of missionaries? Yet from 1840 onwards ships left the docks of England and after long, tedious journeys eventually anchored between gleaming verdant hills—Wellington. Down to the shore would stream the pakeha settlers and the Maoris, the former overjoyed at the thought of the new arrivals to swell their little band. The greetings, the laughter and the tears, then the menfolk fighting their way through bush, tramping over long miles of surveyors' track, over densely wooded ranges until they arrived at their destination. More emigrants in the winter, tramping the same path, through mist and rain and cold sleet. And at the end of the journey they must set to work and build their little huts before they could send for their womenfolk. Then followed the return of the disheartened ones, and the brave resolution of those who remained and fought and won.
We have no use for the old white-winged emigrant ships now, except perhaps as coal hulks, yet to many of us it is sad to think of them as forgotten ships—old coal carriers—when once they were the pride and hope of our early colonists.
If we pause for a moment we can almost visualise the life aboard the old ships; passengers up at 6.30, scrubbing the decks and tidying the ship; breakfast and to prayers; school work; midday dinner; little entertainments, games and tea; nightfall with singing and games, and then into their berths; the rolling and pitching of the old boats and the howling of the wind. We can hear the gay laughter and the singing on some boats; on others we hear the weeping that follows sickness and death of loved ones. But above it all we can imagine the cheerful, hopeful hearts as the emigrants lift up their voices:
“Oh God of Bethel, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed;”
Most of those brave souls have passed on now, and their ships are passing too, but may we keep the memory of such courage before us in our march of progress.