The biographer Ann Thwaite’s ancestors on both sides emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s, lured by government promises of fertile land, a good climate, and the prospect of wealth from the goldfields. Passageways tells their stories. They were mostly respectable working class, many of them Scottish in origin. Among them were farm labourers, servants, railway workers and carpenters, who had often drifted to London in search of a better life and failed to find it – people with little to lose. All were hardy and adventurous, and in their new surroundings they gradually rose to become farmers, engineers and surveyors, teachers and academics.
First they had to survive the horrors of lengthy journeys in the sailing ships of the time. These overcrowded travelling slums, breeding grounds for pestilence, were typified by the ominously named Lancashire Witch, the ship that carried Thwaite’s paternal great-grandparents across the world in 1863. Fever broke out