Pitcairn Island via the Panama Canal in the 1920s
By David Ransom
SS Remuera’s visits to the tiny Pacific Island

This book tells of life on a ship in the 1920s, from the wealthy to the poor, who were travelling to make a new home for themselves in New Zealand, or taking long and expensive touring holidays, as they experienced the steamship Remuera, the highs and lows, from excitement to boredom. From a baby, born to the Twin family, James Arthur Pitcairn Twin, named after both the ship’s Captain and Doctor, and the Island that the ship had recently visited, to the very sad accident which brought a sudden halt to the fun of a fancy dress party on board ship.

With over 100 rare photographs, large extracts from diaries written by holidaying passengers, and contemporary newspaper reports of voyages, it will be possible to imagine yourself on board the ship amongst this diverse collection of people from all walks of life. I have not edited their stories, so you may find that their language or point of view is not acceptable by today’s standards, but history needs to be shown as it was, and not sanitised, so that we can learn from it, and not let ourselves slip back into the old ways when white assumed they were better than black and the rich considered themselves superior to the poor. We still have a long way to go, but I think we are getting there, and the Black Lives Matter movement must surely help.

On each long voyage there were two major points of interest to break up the sometimes tediously long journey – the Panama Canal, and the short stop at Pitcairn Island, home of the descendants of the mutineers from HMAV Bounty. The Remuera had been the first New Zealand Shipping Company vessel to transit the Canal, back in 1916, and this amazing feat of engineering is well described by my two diarists in these pages, together with the many photographs taken by passengers and also the ship’s barber who printed up his images with postcard backs and sold them from his hairdressing saloon on the Remuera’s main deck.

David Ransom

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Pitcairn Island via the Panama Canal in the 1920s
NEW 2021 paperback edition, 172 pages, with over 100 rare black and white photographs. Available from Amazon. Price £8.95