The Ocean and National Magazine, 1931: Impressions of a Voyage to Australia (and New Zealand!)

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the fourth of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.

D1400-9-4-1 Cover

 

[Image: Cover, January 1931, D1400/9/4/1]

 

Alongside articles on the South Wales coalfield, the magazine also features other types of articles, including travel pieces. In 1931 and 1932 the magazine included a series of articles written by W.H. Becker, director of Messrs. Latch and Batchelor Ltd., Wire Rope Manufacturers, Birmingham, detailing his visit to Australia and New Zealand. The articles started in March 1931, and continued until August 1932.

D1400-9-4-3 page 89

[Image: The SS Empress of Scotland, leaving Miraflores Locks, D1400/9/4/3, p.89]

 

Becker starts his account with the voyage from Southampton to the Panama Canal. It had been Becker’s dream to visit the Panama Canal and through his detailed description of the seven hour journey across the canal, readers can see that he was not left disappointed. On completing the journey across the Panama Canal, the April 1931 edition continues with Becker’s journey across the Pacific Ocean, including the crossing of the Equator, where Becker describes the weather as being intensely cold. As his journey across the Pacific continued, Becker records meeting the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island and describes some of the wildlife that he saw on the journey.

D1400-9-4-4 page 121

[Image: A glimpse of Pitcairn Island and some if its male inhabitants, D1400/9/4/4, p.121]

 

After crossing the Pacific, Becker lands in Wellington, New Zealand. His article in the May 1931 edition sees Becker exploring Wellington, before crossing to the South Island of New Zealand and enjoying an exciting drive through undulating country, wooded valleys and two mountain ranges. He recalled the latter stage of the journey as not being very rapid, averaging eight miles an hour because of the bends in the road. He continued to explore the South Island in the June issue, visiting Nelson, the site of an earthquake that had struck in 1929.

D1400-9-4-5 page 162

[Image: A typical motoring road in New Zealand, D1400/9/4/5, p.162]

 

Still on the South Island, the July issue sees Becker visiting coal mines in Greymouth and timber mills in Hokitika. Numerous coal drifts were seen close to the road in the Greymouth area and the party stopped at one such drift to talk to a group of miners – discovering that some of the workers had come from Britain, including Evan Jones, a miner from south Wales!

D1400-9-4-7 page 231

[Image: A group of happy-looking coal miners, Greymouth, New Zealand, D1400/9/4/7, p.231]

 

The August and September issues see Becker climbing the Franz Joseph glacier, then taking the train to Christchurch. By the end of 1931 Becker is back in Wellington, where he visits the Houses of Parliament. Heading for Auckland, he describes Wairakei and the geysers within the national reserve.

D1400-9-4-11 page 398

[Image: Prince of Wales’ Feathers’ Geyser, D1400/9/4/11, p.398 ]

 

Although titled a ‘Voyage to Australia’, by the end of 1931 Becker’s account was still in New Zealand and it is not until the April 1932 edition that he gets to Australia, where he recounts having seen the Sydney Harbour Bridge nearing completion. The last article on the voyage appeared in the August 1932 edition.

 

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

 

Image: Cover, January 1931, D1400/9/4/1

Image: The SS Empress of Scotland, leaving Miraflores Locks, D1400/9/4/3, p.89

Image: A glimpse of Pitcairn Island and some if its male inhabitants, D1400/9/4/4, p.121

Image: A typical motoring road in New Zealand, D1400/9/4/5, p.162

Image: A group of happy-looking coal miners, Greymouth, New Zealand, D1400/9/4/7, p.231

Image: Prince of Wales’ Feathers’ Geyser, D1400/9/4/11, p.398

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