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Letter from John Cawte Beaglehole to his Mother, 30th August, 1926

page 1
With love to all & sundry, hoping Auntie is in the
pink, & trusting to write to her someday
Yr dutiful & affect son,


Dear Mummy

I'm afraid this is only going to be a note un-
we get to Fremantle late; as in the effort to finish
my letters of thanks triumphantly I seem hardly to have left
time to write to you properly before lunch & we are due to
arrive at port just after lunch, when I shall feel it
my duty to explore Western Australia to the best of my
ability — we are only there for about 6 hours. And I'm
sure you wouldn't like me to omit my lunch. Such is
the ravenous humger that has come over me that I have
found it vitally necessary to insert beef-tea in the
morning & afternoon tea about 4pm — you see there is
six hours between the incidence of lunch & dinner. And
this is too much to entertain unsupported.

Anyhow not a great deal has happened since I posted my
Melbourne letter to you, or rather got Maie Ross to post it for me.
After writing same I went into town for lunch & then ambled
out to the University where they have a new & palatial arts
building, but the real attraction of the place, apart from the
Library, which I couldn't see as it was locked for the vacation,
was a Newman College, a place run by the Micks, designed after
a very peculiar style by a bird whose name I forget, the Yank
who designed the layout of Canberra. It is in a sort of an
L with arms an equal length, not very high but two stories, a
sort of cloisters all round the middle looking out on a big lawn
& garden with a big circular dining-hall in the angle of the L
with a wonderful domed ceiling & a curious kind of multiple
spire on top. There is a cunning use of colour to get all sorts of
effects inside; upstairs they have an attractive looking library, but that
also was locked. All the furniture is designed by this same bloke,
page 2 very plain & strong, but handsome looking; & there are bath-rooms on
both floors with sunk-in baths. They let you wander round as
you like. A caretaker at the University told me with consid-
emotion that when the Oxford debaters were out here
little Ramsay MacDonald stayed there & said it was the best-
appointed joint he had ever had the privelege of striking in
his travels. My word, the Micks do themselves proud all right.
And there they are in Sydney, putting enormous additions on to
their Cathedral & making it about the biggest place in the
Southern hemisphere. Well, it only just shows, as you might say.

Excitement grows out on the deck; we are sailing down very
close to the shore, so that we can see the beaches and what
are either people or large stones standing & gazing at us with

Maie Ross got a couple of hours off from work & came
down to the pier to see me off; which was very nice of
her, but thank heaven that's the last farewell I'll have this
trip. But one is quite enough really, in my opinion. We left
at 3 in the afternoon; the rest of the day was very nice &
sunny & quiet & calm; and then the wind got up & the sea
likewise, & we had Friday, Saturday & Sunday rough, even in
the technical nautical sense ; which gave the officer lad
who sits at our table, Wingfield by name, considerable joy, as
it enhanced his reputation as a prophet. But it didn't
worry our table-full, which turned up with regularity & as
much punctuality as you can expect from 1st-class passengers
for every meal. It was as bad yesterday as it was on the
Tasman, with swells & cross-swells & counter-swells,
but I never batted an eyelid from start to finish, with the
exception of a few hiccups the first night, which I can only
put down to the ginger in the pudding.

We stayed at Adelaide about six hours, not long enough to
impress me. The train takes about an hour to get from the
outer harbour to Adelaide itself; & a rotten dirty trip it is
page 3 most of it. Sydney seems to be the only place in Australia with a
harbour; I speak of course without having seen Fremantle, which
they say is only ½ hr from Perth. So I may have to apologise
later. But gosh! all these colonial towns, as towns, are the same,
after all; & apart from one or two pictures, none of them are
worth more than a damn. The Adelaide pla picture gallery has a
glorious big tapestry about 10ft by 6 of the coming of the Magi by
Burne-Jones & Morris & one or two other things, but is nothing like the
the [sic: delete] Melbourne place. They have good gardens there though.

I went out to see old Hale & found him in bed doing
his best to look pale & interesting in between two bouts of judging
competitions or something. He said he had a frightful cold but
I couldn't detect much evidence of it; but I never could in
any of his colds. He told me all about his church & the [gap — reason: unclear]
its Club & so on. Apparently the things he has most difficulty
in contending with is the excessive wealth of his parishioners. I
wonder old Heathecote couldn't stand the place. Mrs. Hale is
much the same, in a terrible hurry; I didn't see any of the
kids bar [unclear: Una], who called for water in an imperious tone
in the middle of her sausages & was immediately supplied by
agitated maternity. [unclear: Channing] seems to be the star member of
the family; I gathered that he was more than a lad & a half,
a real boy, in fact, to quote his ma.

Since leaving Adelaide we have been crossing the Bight
& had it pretty rough up till this morning when there was
nothing but a pretty solid swell. "Rolled to starboard, rolled
to larboard, when the something was or is swinging free,"
as the poet said; but even in the thickest of the storm I
never batted an eyelid. Our table full turned up with almost
monotonous persistency to every meal, walked the decks, even
attempted quoits as usual; so you can see that I am getting to
be a pretty hardened sailor. I think the Tasman must have
broken me in pretty well; for we got it as bad yesterday.
page 4 We do a good deal of arguing; so much so that the place
has rather the atmosphere of a miniature V.U.C. The Sydney
lads are right willing controversialists. One of them McGrath is
very interesting in other ways; I don't know if I told you before
that he had an architectural scholarship; we got yapping
about books and things, and he turned out to be a very remarkable
artist as well, & writes good prose & less good verse. I
knew his stuff before from seeing it in the Sydney Univ.
; but he showed a book of wonderful woodcuts he
had done; some of them the best illustrations of W de la
's poetry that I have ever seen. He has been corresp-
with de la M. a bit & is going to see him when he
gets Home. He also has a mss book written by himself
of his own prose & verse & pictures & some illustrations by
his sister, who sculps [sic: sculpts], bound by another Australian,
one Walter Taylor, most beautifully. His handwriting is
beautiful & he writes his letters with a margin on each
side just like a small book. Truly a remarkable
young feller — I showed him some of my stuff, which
he likes, & we talk a good deal about this & that. I
should say that if [gap — reason: unclear] keeps on doing better work he will be a
good deal heard of as a woodcut artist some / day if not
as an architect. He has very sound ideas anyhow.

Well, we appear to be getting close to something like
wharves now — I write after lunch. There isn't much
else to say; it seems to be pretty hard to read on board,
although you would think it easy to do nothing else.
But I have started The Golden Bough & read 37 pages out of
718, so things aren't going badly. I hope you are con-
to improve; & go don't go & do any barmy thing
to drop you back again or you will be getting a good solid
piece of my mind.

I suppose the next letter I post will
be from Colombo in about 10 days — I hope this will ge catch
the next mail from Sydney.