The Tangiwai rail disaster of Christmas Eve 1953 touched the lives of
thousands of New Zealanders. Alan Loney was 13 years old at that time,
and the deaths of a schoolboy friend, Robert Hale, and his mother
Eileen Hale, have haunted the life and often the writing of the poet
for over 45 years.
In trying to understand why this connection was so strong, or what was
the real reason this event persisted in the poet’s memory,
Alan Loney took a journey into the lives of these two of the 151 who
were killed on that fateful night. The interrupted journey of the train
takes Alan Loney on a journey into his own unconfronted childhood, to
his home town where most of what he knew as a child has been destroyed
- the houses where he and Robert lived, the bridge that was a
passageway between them, and other places where a childhood with its
share of pain, violence and confusion was lived.
All journeys lead to their beginnings. And in searching for the graves
of those who have died the author discovers the way to how he has
lived, and to how he might live in the future. In standing by the site
of the disaster in the dark of night, he has been able to come to terms
with the darkness of his own life.
This is a poet’s memoir, written poetically, yet the
vividness of its detail is conjured up by a relentless prose that does
not flinch in the face of the hard truths that the author has had to
accept. It is a book full of extraordinary insight and compassion.