Newsletter – Issue 3, January 2018

Happy New Year from the Wahine 50 Charitable Trust

Thank you to all of you have contacted the Trust over the past two years, sharing your connection to the Wahine, your stories, and your interest in the upcoming 50th Wahine Day commemorations.

We now have a programme for the 50th anniversary of Wahine Day – 10 April 2018. All events – developed in consultation with others – will take place in and around Wellington.  Most are open to the public, but some, including a reunion lunch are invitation only, for those with a particularly close connection to the Wahine disaster.

As well as a day to remember those who tragically lost their lives in or as a result of the disaster, the day will provide an opportunity for survivors to thank the many involved in their rescue and support, and a chance to emphasise to the wider community the need to be prepared for when disaster strikes again.

The commemorations for the 50th Wahine Day anniversary begin with a dawn service by the Wahine mast on Eastbourne’s foreshore


A flotilla of 50 to 60 boats will sail past the Wahine mast on Wellington’s waterfront at noon on 10 April 2018

Wahine Day Public Programme – 10 April 2018

Dawn Service at the Wahine mast memorial on Eastbourne’s foreshore

Hosted by the Mayor of Hutt City

From 8.30am
Eastbourne Remembers – a display of Wahine-related photographs, artefacts, and student art work at Muritai School in Eastbourne

Supported by
Hutt City Council
Muritai School
TG Macarthy Trust

10.00am – 5.00pm
Memories at the Museum – a public display at Wellington Museum on Wellington’s waterfront

Hosted by
Wellington Museum

11.30am – 4.30pm
The ‘Wahine 50 – P.S. Are You Prepared’ display in Shed 6 on Wellington’s waterfront – an opportunity to find out more from the experts about being prepared in times of emergency (over a cup of tea and commemoration biscuit)

Sponsored by
Supported by
Alexander Turnbull Library
Archives New Zealand
National Library
Ruth Pretty Catering
The Salvation Army
TG Macarthy Trust
Wellington City Council

11.30am – noon
New Zealand Remembers – a service with choral tribute by the Orpheus Choir at the Wahine mast memorial in Frank Kitts Park on Wellington’s waterfront

Noon – 12.30pm
The Flotilla Review – 50 to 60 boats (including several that took part in the 1968 rescue) will be offered a formal salute as they sail-past the the Wahine mast

3.30pm – 5.00pm
Seatoun Remembers – a Wahine-related display and afternoon tea at Seatoun School

Supported by
Seatoun School
TG Macarthy Trust


Q and A with documentary maker Anna Cottrell  

The Wahine 50 Charitable Trust commissioned documentary maker and oral historian, Anna Cottrell to film interviews with a small cross-section of those connected to the Wahine disaster. She has interviewed six people so far – a mix of survivors and rescuers.  We took the opportunity to ask Anna a few questions.

Where were you on 10 April 1968 – the day of the Wahine disaster?  
I was a student at Canterbury University and we gathered in little anxious groups in the rain-soaked quad. Everyone knew someone who was on the Wahine.

Did you know of anyone with a Wahine connection before you started these interviews?    
I only knew one chap who was on the Wahine. He said he was one of the lucky ones and came ashore at Seatoun quite early. I know another – but only recently discovered that he had been on the Wahine too.

What made the biggest impression on you during the filming/interview process?
I think in almost all cases in the past people haven’t enjoyed talking about their experiences … perhaps believing if they didn’t talk about it the anxiety and fear they experienced, it would dissipate. Fifty years on, it hasn’t. I think anniversaries and reunions bring a lot of the stress people suffered to the fore.

Did you get a sense that a lot of what you were hearing was being told for the first time?   
Some have never talked about it. Some wrote about it at the time as a way of ‘putting the horrors to bed’. Almost all said they were lucky. They saw drowned people. Having survived the drift across the harbour they saw people smashed on the rocks by the surf on the Pencarrow coast. They saw people tangled in ropes from the lifeboats as they flipped over in the surf… and were unable to help them. That was harrowing. One interviewee was angry that this could happen. 

Did these interviews have anything in common with the sorts of interviews you’ve carried out previously?
I do quite a lot of oral history recordings with people who traverse their lives. I find life stories absorbing and so interesting. Listening to people describe what happened on that fateful trip was quite shocking to me. Many thought they would drown.

Anything else?
I was surprised that some said the sea was warmer than being in a raft at the mercy of the wind.
I couldn’t imagine how I would cope floating about in a big sea with woollen garments, handbags etc.
I loved the occasional glimpses of humour and humanity.
It has been a real privilege to talk to these people.

Anna’s interviews will be screened during the Wahine 50 commemorations.
Anna Cottrell’s Great War Stories series 4 screened on TV3’s Newshub in April last year. She is working on series 5.


Rescuer gives a confronting account of the Wahine Disaster – Wanganui Chronicle, 27 July 2017

Former seaman John Hair thinks about the day the ferry Wahine was wrecked in Wellington Harbour all the time.

Now aged 73 and living in Upokongaro, Mr Hair spent his working life on ships. He was a 24-year-old able seaman working aboard the cement carrier Golden Bay, berthed in Wellington, on the stormy morning when the Wahine went aground on Barrett Reef. Read more…


Please pass on this newsletter to anyone with an interest in the Wahine and upcoming anniversary.

We look forward to meeting many of you in Wellington on 10 April 2018. In the interim, best wishes for a safe summer season.

Rhys Jones
Chair, The Wahine 50 Trust