This poem was written when I did a creative writing course through Massey University in 2003. It is based on the voyage of one of my great-great grandparents, Henry and Mary Jones and children, to New Zealand in 1842, on the ship London. It was published in the New Zealand magazine Memories, Aug/Sept 2003. I got the age wrong, she was 16 months old, not four (poetic license?). Jenny Robin Jones wrote a book about this voyage: No Simple Passage: The Journey of the ‘London’ to New Zealand, 1842, Random House, 2011.
The editor chose to illustrate the poem with this image from the Turnbull Library collection.
Mary Jones died on 18 April 1842.
‘Marasmus’ recorded the surgeon in his log.
Age, four months.
Mary wasted away on a five month voyage from
Gravesend to Wellington.
Listed in a log with the fourteen other deceased.
The ocean no grave, no headstone to mark this child.
Her father, at the same age, was removed
by the Overseers of the Poor for Wappenham.
Returned, with his parents, to his father’s village.
Christian charity began, and ended, at home.
No relief for this family in Wappenham.
Mary’s parents, on arrival in Wellington,
added their four pence to another
family’s four pence for a fresh loaf of bread.
Enticed here by Missionary notices:
‘New Zealand only wants the hand of cultivation’.
Her father made a wheel-barrow and carried fire wood for sale,
he carried supplies for survey parties.
They lived on two meals a day (fish and potatoes).
No fruit is borne from the labour of their cultivation
Till many years later in the Wairarapa.
But the next year another child is born.
And she is christened Mary.