January 20 - 1906 'Originals' say goodbye to England

After a final celebration the 1905/6 All Blacks leave London January 20 1906, then sail from Southampton. Billy Stead records their departure, and offers his modified thoughts on life in London.

From “Billy’s Trip Home” published 2005 by NZ Sports Hall of Fame p.65-66.

Very few of us got to bed at all that night, for our baggage had to leave the Manchester at 8 o’clock in the morning, and though each man had worked out for himself a fairly suitable plan of packing for his previous “flitting” movements, when you come to sort out and pack “wanted” or “not wanted” for the homeward voyage it was a rather exasperating task. We were at the Waterloo station by 9.45am, from which station we were to leave at 10 for our eighty mile run to Southampton, and we had great difficulty in forcing a passage through the dense crowd of well-wishers which thronged the platform. “Auld Lang Syne” brought tears to many eyes, and I’m sure I noted a yearning look in many on that platform for that far off colony to which they were wishing us a safe return. A party of about one hundred accompanied us to the port where we had an unexpected ovation from about 300 college boys and a numerous gathering of South of England people, who had not as yet “gazed on” the “All Black spectres.” After about two hours delay on the dock on account of the low water, the New York steamed out of Southampton at 3pm and as long as we could keep one another in view, “kerchief” salutations were exchanged between shore and boat. The suppressed excitement of departure over, the reaction left us all tired and weary, and we only stayed on deck long enough to view the Isle of Wight and the Needles as we passed into the Channel, and then all “turned in.”

Before finally taking leave of the Home Land I must modify an expression of disappointment of London which I expressed, earlier in the tour, in these columns. And yet, it was a true expression of my feelings on that occasion, as also on our two next visits. I often thought to myself, perhaps I had expected too much of London, and on expressing a dislike of the metropolis in the hearing of a Londoner he remarked, “Oh, but you’ve got to know London to like it.” To a certain extent I found that only too true, but it was not until four of us went into lodgings at Putney (5 miles from the centre) that I appreciated the extensive varieties of life and pleasure, or appreciated its structural and financial solidity, its magnificent municipal control of street, railway, and river traffic, and many other attributes which all tend to make London the “beau ideal” of every Englishman. Living out there in a favourite suburb, you breathe a different atmosphere, and one can go into the city just long enough to enjoy the thousand and one attractions it has to offer without being distracted by the hum and bustle of its never-ceasing traffic, or nauseated by its murky atmosphere. I am glad to be able to admit that my first opinions as expressed to you were not the correct index of what will always be our permanent memories of the City of London.

To get back once more to our Atlantic trip. When we had got clear of the Channel we all settled down to enjoy life on our good ship the New York, said to be the finest “bad weather” boat of all the Atlantic liners. She is certainly the prettiest modelled steamer I have yet seen, is 10,000 tons, and steamed regularly 460 miles a day. We had splendid sleeping accommodation in the first saloon, but had to take our meals in the second where we had two large tables specially reserved for us. Much of our spare time was spent in talking over incidents, etc., of our tour through Britain, and in comparing opinions of the various cities we had passed through.