Emily May Ross

In the 1820’s several churches in northern New Zealand attempt to convert Māori people to Christianity, but local tribespeople force them away. In Hokianga Harbour, Māori people see the Catholic rituals of French Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier and are attracted to them – he successfully starts a Catholic mission. Missionaries travel across the country on foot and on horseback to preach to Māori tribes.

During the musket wars in Hokianga, Missionaries become peacemakers. But European settlers bring deadly new diseases that quickly spread amongst Māori people. Many Māoris believe their own medicines are useless to fight the new diseases so they turn to Christianity for help. As Māori Chiefs convert, their whole tribes follow suit. During the wars, captured Māori slaves are converted and when they return to their tribes they spread news of Christianity – even before the Europeans arrive. Anyone able to read is seen as having great power and many Māori people are keen to learn. The New Testament is published in Māori and sales soar – church services, baptisms and communions increase rapidly. By 1840 the Anglican Church Mission Society has 30 missionaries working across New Zealand.

The New Zealand Company plans large scale colonisation, but the Missionaries are strongly opposed to it, being more in favour of British government intervention. To protect Māori land ownership, they promote the Treaty of Waitangi and help translate it into Māori. They collect signatures for it and Māori chiefs Hōne Heke and Tāmati Wāka Nene give their Christian faith as their reason to sign the Treaty.

Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

But the people become unsettled and racial tensions grow – political developments start to reduce the Missionaries’ influence. In 1845 mission-educated Māori people take up arms against the colonial government. European settlers increase and more Māori land is sold.

In 1847 Governor George Grey accuses the missionaries of encouraging disloyalty amongst Māori people. One missionary, Henry Williams, is accused of acquiring large areas of Māori land by dubious means. The damage to the Mission program is deep. Māori people steadily lose respect for the missionaries and within a decade the Church Missionary Society decides to phase out its funding for New Zealand missions. The Wesley Missions become the responsibility of the Australasian Methodist Church.

By 1860 almost all the mission schools are closed and many missions are deserted. Only Catholic missionary work continues, but on a smaller scale near Napier and along the Whanganui River, then in 1895 the Reverend Henry Fletcher begins a Presbyterian mission in Taupō.

The twentieth century brings a new British monarch and a sense of hope to British colonies across the globe. Although far from Britain, New Zealand celebrates the turn of the century with a strong economy. North Island cities of Auckland and Wellington grow quickly and Prime Minister Richard John Seddon promotes his government as champions of the ‘ordinary New Zealander’. The women’s suffrage movement has recently brought votes for women and social welfare measures are introduced to protect New Zealand’s most vulnerable. The Old-Age Pensions Act offers a small means-tested pension to destitute older people ‘of good character’, but Seddon excludes the ‘Chinese and other Asiatics’ as he – along with many in New Zealand’s mining community – considers the Chinese are not to be liked.

The nation must find a way to house its growing population and free up land for new settlements, so South Island landholders with large estates bear heavy taxes to encourage them to sell off parcels of their land. Māori land is obtained too – already Māori people hold less than 15% of the land they had in 1840. Māori people strongly resist this and in Taranaki, Māori leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi encourage their people to dislodge “European” survey pegs and destroy roads and fences on land they consider theirs. After peaceful resistance and some arrests, Te Whiti and Tohu are imprisoned and exiled in the South Island to serve out their prison sentences.

Edendale location, Southland, New Zealand

In the South Island’s dairy farming country of Otago, at the junction of railway lines to Invercargill and Dunedin, a little township of Edendale develops. By 1901, the dairy industry has attracted 180 residents to the newly established Edendale Co-Operative Dairy Factory. There’s a railway station, post office, grain store and a saw mill. The dairy factory is a national leader in the industry and its half-ton Cheddar shaped export cheese wins first prize at the Dunedin Show and a £500 government bonus. Settled primarily by Scottish immigrants with strong Presbyterian faith, the Church is a pivot point in Edendale. Most factory workers are Scots, as are Saddler Currie, Farmer Cranstoun, Estate keeper Macdonald, Farmer Marshall and Butcher Pattinson. They are soon joined by Irishman Sutherland (a sawmiller) and Kiwi storekeepers Shennan and Mclauchlan.

Further north, in Temuka, a town in the sheep and dairy region of Canterbury, farmer and inventor Richard Pearse potters about with machines that (although they are heavier than air) seem able to take flight. In fact, in March 1903, he manages to fly and land a powered machine. Some months later, big news crosses the world when in Kitty Hawk (North Carolina, USA) Orville and Wilbur Wright launch their own fixed wing aircraft and achieve a sustained controlled flight.

A day out at the Botanical Gardens, Dunedin – 1907

Back in Dunedin, in December 1904, in a private home in Port Chalmers, 27 year old James Ross marries 21 year old Ellen Jones. He is a baker and she is a housekeeper. Soon after they wed, they relocate to Edendale, where James runs the bakery. In September 1905, their son James Alexander is born in nearby Wyndham. Presbyterians have always had a commitment to education and during this year the Church is instrumental in the establishment of New Zealand’s first university – University of Otago and Turakina Māori Girls’ School in the Rangitikei.

On 20th April 1907 when falling leaves turn Edendale golden, James and Ellen’s daughter Emily May is born. She, like baby Jimmy, is dark haired with fair skin and deep brown eyes. One day in 1909, when Jimmy is 4 and Emily is 2, Ellen and James prepare their youngsters for a family photograph. But mischievous Jimmy gets an idea that Emily’s flowing dark locks are too long and that she would be far more beautiful with short hair, so he takes to her head with some scissors. With Ellen’s back turned, Emily’s hair falls from her head in tresses … Ellen shrieks when she sees the state of her daughter’s cropped head … and Jimmy reddens with shame. The family portrait is not quite as James and Ellen had first imagined.

Jim & Emily 1909
Emily and Jimmy, after the “haircut” in 1909

As the children grow, James and Ellen make the decision to move their family to Dunedin. It’s the most densely populated and fastest growing borough in New Zealand, so James will find work easily. They will also be nearer both James’ and Ellen’s broader family. James gets a position at Brown’s Bakery and the family find a house at Caversham.

In November 1909, their brother George arrives. Houses in this booming beachside suburb are small and close – settled mostly by British tradespeople. Known as “the Flat”, the area is dominated by industry – with Forbury, St Clair and Caversham quarries, a brickworks, a gas works, a tannery and a match factory. A new double-track railway tunnel connects Caversham with Green Island on the South Island Main Trunk line. The Presbyterian Church and political groups quickly establish, built on the immigrants’ strong work ethic and lifestyle founded on religion. As reward for their hours of labour, many locals enjoy the fare from the local brewery. The Ross family move to 22 Scott Street, St Kilda beach – a popular spot for Dunedin locals, who enjoy picnics along the shore and a swim at St Clair baths.

The following year, in May 1910, Emily is 3 when New Zealand hears news of the passing of King Edward VII in Britain – the second monarch to pass away within a decade. His son is to become King George V.

In early 1912, the progressing world sees the Republic of China proclaimed when Emperor Puyi abdicates and ends centuries of the Manchu Qing dynasty. In March, intrepid American Albert Berry makes the first parachute jump from a flying airplane. In April, the world is rocked again when the grand RMS Titanic, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, strikes an iceberg and sinks with the loss of 1500 souls. Closer to home near Wellington, ships crossing Cook Strait delight at sightings of their “pilot” … dolphin Pelorus Jack, who appears in front of vessels to guide them through the strong currents and narrow channels. Jack is last seen in April 1912.

In Dunedin, life is changing for five year old Emily too – she starts school at Caversham Primary, where Jimmy already attends. As a Pākehā (non- Māori) child, Emily is unaware that she receives privileges others don’t enjoy. In traditional Māori society, the Tohunga (tribe leader) prepares tribal children for life and they learn in groups, but only those with chiefly lineage have access to whare wānanga (houses of learning). Government supported missions set up European style schools that provide Māori children with religious instruction, industrial training and English classes. Often, attending students board at Mission schools, far from their tribe and pa (village). School is compulsory for Māori children and so is learning English – so when they lapse into their native Māori tongue they are harshly punished. Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay and Turakina Girls College lead the way to provide academic education for Māori students. But the schools are not well resourced, with untrained teachers and government encouragement that church schools focus on practical skills and hygiene. At Caversham School though, Emily is far more fortunate – her school is very well regarded and does well – she progresses on to Forbury School.

In July 1912, William Massey is sworn in as Prime Minister and in October the TSS Earnslaw makes her maiden voyage from Kingston to Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu.

Around Caversham, Jimmy, Emily and George have much open space. Emily gains a nickname from her older brother – he affectionately calls her “Sis”. After school, when homework and tasks are done, they build huts, play ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and run with the horses across the empty paddocks. The following year, Emily is just 6 when her sister Ellen Isabel is born – she will be known as Isobel. This is a happy and settled time for the family. Every Sunday they attend church together and all enjoy singing in the choir.

In 1913 the Presbyterian Māori Mission begins to expand into new areas and employs women for missionary work. In Nuhaka, 20 miles east of Wairoa, a Church Missionary Society Station had failed when most Māori people joined the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, but stoic Presbyterian Deaconess Sister Jessie Alexander restarts missionary work in the region. She lives two miles out of town and her kitchen provides the first church. In 1914, she is joined there by Sister Edith Walker.

The First World War strikes at the foundation of New Zealand society and Dunedin’s southern suburbs are hit hard with military enlistments. At only 7, Emily is scarcely aware of the war’s impact, except she knows things have changed. She watches her mother Ellen, talented at needlework and home-craft, as she sews, knits, embroiders and bakes for the troops. Emily’s father works to provide a supply of bread for the hard working community. New vehicles appear in Emily’s street – she already knows of horse-drawn vehicles and trams, but now people use individual transport as bicycles, motorbikes, cars and trucks take their place on the city’s dirt roads. Her father rides a bicycle to work daily – and he maintains it with meticulous care. He doesn’t want to waste a penny on its upkeep. Emily watches as he repairs punctures by hand and changes the tyres only when the last of the tread is used.

Three years later, in February 1916, her baby sister Winnifred Mabel arrives.

By 1917, sobriety is seen as a ‘patriotic duty’ and thousands petition government for shorter hotel opening hours. The government also hopes that if men get home earlier in the evenings, this will lead to improved workforce efficiency, so “6 o’clock closing” becomes a way of life.

In 1919, Emily starts Otago Girls’ High School – the first public girls’ high school in the Southern Hemisphere. It is formed after six years of determined lobbying by Miss Learmonth Whyte Dalrymple who wants an education system for girls that offers the same opportunities boys have. In her firm view, a girl deserves far more than embroidery lessons and singing tuition simply aimed at helping her attract a suitor. The Girls’ High School is set up in a block at Otago Boys’ High School – with a tall fence to keep the girls and boys hidden from each other. This is until a new school is built for the boys further up the hill in Arthur Street.

Third Form, Otago Girls High School – 1920

Emily’s high school days feature hours of study, but also unaccompanied madrigal choirs and Shakespeare plays. The school boasts an impressive alumni – Emily Siedeberg and Margaret Cruickshank (New Zealand’s first female medical graduates); Ethel Benjamin (first New Zealand woman to get a law degree) and Dame Silvia Cartwright (New Zealand’s first woman High Court judge and Governor General) along with several Olympians and others well known in the arts and entertainment.

In 1919, Sister May Gardiner arrives to start work at Nuhaka. A Bible Class is established and there is a popular weekly Social Club. After the 1918 influenza epidemic, Sister Jessie persuades the Māori Mission Committee to open a small cottage hospital in Nuhaka. Roads are atrocious across the region, with Nuhaka being totally cut off in winter. A journey to Waikaremoana is easier than one to Wairoa, so the Sisters make the 106 mile trek for supplies on horseback. In 1921, after Sister Jessie and Sister May accept an invitation from the Māori people to start missionary work there, a group of young women from John Knox Church in Rangiora (near Christchurch) raise the money to build a cottage in town. The Sisters begin work by the end of the year. On their first Sunday, 29 children attend Sunday School.  At first, the local Ringatu (Māori religious faith followers) are suspicious, but they soon relax when they see the Sisters start each visit their sick with a prayer – and they are impressed that the treatments are often successful.  Sister Jessie becomes a respected healer, but her own failing health leads her to resign in 1923 and Sister May becomes leader of the Mission.

Dunedin, 1920’s

Emily leaves high school in 1923 and attends Dunedin Teachers Training College. She is drawn to the guidance of others and finds teaching an ideal profession for her. She lives with her family in South Dunedin until (at 19) she gains a teaching post at Hawea Flat School and transfers 175 miles away to Wanaka, near Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

In 1929, in recognition of her work, Emily is made Honorary Assistant to the Māori Mission. The following year, the government decrees that free secondary education will be made available to all New Zealand children – but they acknowledge that few Māori children will have access to it. Māori Schools continue to operate and Emily is transferred to the government’s Whakaki Māori School near Wairoa, in Hawkes Bay.

In this warmer region of New Zealand, she discovers a new sense of contentment. Māori culture is far stronger here than in the South Island and Emily embraces the change wholeheartedly. She takes up residence at the Mission House and works hard. Emily learns a lot from her experienced mentor, Sister May, and she begins for form a close association with the Māori Mission.

In 1932, Emily travels to Wellington to attend her brother Jimmy’s wedding to Agnes Johnston (Nessie) Anderson. This is a happy day for Emily as it’s one of the rare occasions that her entire family are together. They celebrate the nuptials and the family reunion happily.

Emily (standing, second from right) in Wellington with her family for Jimmy’s wedding in 1932.  The family are (left to right) – Jimmy, James (father), Isobel, Winnie, Emily, Ellen (mother) and George.

In 1933, Emily becomes an Aunty when Jimmy and Nessie celebrate the birth of their baby daughter, Nancye Ellen Innes in Wellington. She is a dark-haired lassie, just like her father and Aunty. Emily is blessed with a second niece when Winnifred Leslie May arrives for Jimmy and Nessie in May 1934 – she too is to be known as Winnie.

By 1935 Emily finds she is devoting all her spare time to the Mission’s work and her friendship with Sister May strengthens. In 1941, she is 34 when she feels a strong call to devote herself entirely to the Mission. She returns to Dunedin where she trains as a Presbyterian Deaconess.

Location of Nuhaka, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

On her graduation, Emily takes an assignment at the Mission House in Nuhaka, where she attends to the wellbeing of girls in need and provides all the help she can across the area. Eight Marae serve the Nuhaka communities – it is the tribal centre of the Ngāti Rakaipaaka subtribe of Ngāti Kahungunu.

Although she has a warm heart, Emily is a firm teacher … a fact the Māori children quickly learn. They misbehave and try to get the better of Sister Ross, but she won’t have it – she doesn’t hesitate to use the “strap”. But her disciplined ways are balanced with other traits the children enjoy… she loves music and sings with the children – she often conducts the choir.

In 1939, the Ross family in Wellington is dealt a tragic blow when little Nancye takes ill with diphtheria and meningitis. She becomes gravely ill very quickly and dies within days. Emily’s heart breaks for her brother, Jimmy, and his family.

At Nuhaka Marae, Pine Taiapa views the Maori carvings – 1940’s

In 1943, Emily serves at the Nuhaka Language School then in March 1944 she is ordained as the Deaconess of Nuhaka-Whakaki. Emily develops a strong bond with the Māori iwi (community) and through her work a great respect develops for her amongst the area’s tribal leaders.

In Māori society, the connection to extended whanau (family) and iwi (society) is strongly emphasised. This gives tribal children a clear, known identity. Often, Māori families are of several generations and include those not “blood” related.

It is a rare honour for a Pākehā to be embraced into a Māori family – and Emily is afforded this honour. In fact, with great love and respect her whanau take a significant step – they offer her two tribal children. This is whangai – where tribal children are raised by close relatives in open contact with their birth parents. Emily is 38 when, in 1945 she is “gifted” 8 year old Ron Tuhaka and baby Gwen Lewis.

Gwen is the daughter of Ratu Lewis and his wife Kui. Ratu, born in Nuhaka, is very familiar with the Mission, having once been Mormon, but converting and attending the Presbyterian Mission when it was run by Sister May’s predecessor, Sister Jessie.  In fact, Ratu, now 43 and Kui (32), named their daughter Gwen Meyer Lewis – after Sister Gwendoline Meyer who was a strong influence in Ratu’s earlier life at the Mission.

In nearby Ōhope, things are developing positively. Emily attends the Māori Synod Ōhope marae where Reverend John (Hoani) Laughton visits and speaks in front of the whare. He has long wanted to establish a Presbyterian Marae here as a contact point between Māori and Pākehā. He achieves his dream when derelict stables become available in nearby Whakatāne, which he ships to Ōhope and rebuilds to become Te Maungarongo.

In 1944, Jimmy and Nessie celebrate the birth of another daughter – Carol Christina Innes, born in Wellington on New Year’s Eve.

In March 1949, Emily is 42 when she gets the tragic news that her mother Ellen has passed away during a visit to Gore – she is only 65. Emily takes the long trip south to Dunedin to pay her respects and mourn the loss of her mother. Emily then returns to the Bay of Plenty, to Ron and Gwen. She spends a year as Deaconness at Matahi near Whakatane.

Jimmy, Winnie and Carol see Emily and meet Gwen, Ron and Sister May Gardiner in 1951.

In 1951, Emily and the children take a holiday to Wellington to visit with Nessie, Jimmy and the girls. They stay in a Mission House provided especially for this purpose in Karori, where five year old Gwen and 14 year old Ron meet Winnie, now a young woman of 17 and Carol (age 7) for the first time. They spend happy time together as a larger family than any of them are used to. Being a close friend of Emily’s, Sister May is also on holidays in Karori.

Three years pass and by 1952 Emily is Deaconess-in-Charge at Opotiki. The times have settled for Emily and the children and two years pass. One day in 1955, news causes Emily to think back to when she listened to Reverend Hoani Laughton at Ōhope Marae – it is now constituted as a Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is named Te Aka Puaho.

In 1954, Ratu Lewis is ordained as an Elder and studies at Te Wananga (Maori Theological College) in Whakatane. In 1954 he is posted to Taupo and in 1957 he is ordained as a Presbyterian Minister.

On 20 January 1959, Emily is 51 when her father, James Ross, dies in Dunedin – he is 82. Emily takes the long trip south once again to pay her respects to her father. However, on her return to Opotiki she is unsettled and feels the need for a change. She takes up the role of Deaconess-in-Charge at Wairoa for a year; then moves again to be Deaconess-in-Charge at Hastings. As part of her role, Emily becomes Factory Chaplain at Wattie’s King Street manufacturing plant and she embraces this with gusto. She happily settles in Hastings.

Ron and Gwen are now young adults and move away from home – Gwen attends Turakina Girls College and the University of Otago. During her studies in Dunedin, Gwen boards at St Kilda Beach with Emily’s sister – her Aunty Isobel. She meets fisherman Garry Edward Neave and when they marry they settle in Stewart Island. Her “brother” Ron moves to the agricultural region of Rangitikei in the mid-North Island.

In February 1961, Gwen’s father Ratu Lewis is appointed Assistant Minister of Whakatane Maori Parish and Moderator of the Maori Synod.

In Hastings, Emily’s chaplaincy at Wattie’s is mightily challenged when in 1962, the factory is significantly damaged by fire. Although no one is seriously hurt, most of the factory is destroyed and the staff are left bewildered, not knowing what will become of them. Emily’s skills at counsel, care and comfort are front and centre throughout several months of factory reconstruction before the Hastings plant is back up and running again.

In mid-July the same year, Gwen’s father Ratu dies in Whakatane after a lengthy illness. Although she is delighted to see her daughter back in the area, when Gwen returns to mourn her father, Emily greets her with a heavy heart, knowing she will feel his loss deeply.

Ohope Marae, 1965

In 1965, Emily retires from the Deaconry and settles in a small home at her adored Ōhope Beach, near Whakatane. Although formally retired, she is still keen to be involved in the community and works keenly where she can. A year later, her brother George is skating on ice at Lake Alexandra in Otago when he falls through thin ice and drowns. He is 59. Once again, she heads to Dunedin for his funeral and to grieve with her brother and sisters.  Upon her return to the Bay of Plenty, Emily becomes active once again and works with Reverend Warren Foster in Rotorua.

She continues to live in Ohope and in 1971 she is delighted when the Ōhope marae – now too small for the community, becomes destined for expansion when a new whare whakairo is planned.

Four years later in 1975, Emily’s sister Isobel passes away in Dunedin, she is 68. Emily takes the long trip south once again … this time joined by Gwen who knows Isobel from her University boarding days. Not long after this, Emily’s youngest sister Winnie, now married to Les Walker and living in Invercargill, suffers a stroke. Emily is devastated at the news that her sister’s physical mobility is significantly impaired. She supports Winnie as much as she can. She is mystified when she discovers that, though physically unable to speak, her sister can readily form words and sing to communicate with others.

In July 1977, Emily’s dear brother Jimmy dies in Wellington after a brave battle with cancer. He is 72. Within weeks, her sister Winnie dies in Invercargill – she is 61. Once back in the Bay of Plenty, 71 year old Emily finds it hard to settle. Without her brothers and sisters and with her children far away in southern parts of New Zealand, she is noticing the solitude of her life. A year later, in 1979, the new whare whakairo, to be called Te Maungarongo, opens at Ohope.

Emily’s health starts to fail and she decides to move south to be with Ron, in Marton in the Rangitikei. Ron works as Nurse Aid at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital. Emily settles here with Ron, but within two years, in late June 1981 Emily passes away. She is 74.

On a beautiful June day, Emily’s funeral service is held at the Presbyterian Māori Synod Marae at Ōhope. At the tangi at Te Moungarongo, she is called onto the marae by her very close friends from her early mission days. The sad wails of the old folk float on the air as they call …. “Return to us in spirit, O mother of us all. Return to your marae, to your people”.

The Māori elders remember Emily with their words …

“You came to us a total stranger. You ought to understand my people, and they fed you from the basket of knowledge. You understood.”

“Sister Ross was a stranger to us – white but tattooed in the heart”

Two years later, in October 1983, a memorial hall named Sister Emily Ross Youth Hall is opened on the Ōhope marae.

Born in April 1907 and died in June 1981, Sister Emily May Ross is my maternal Great Aunt.

Photograph sources:


Ludwig Ehil Hamburger


Ludwig Hamburger, circa 1910

For more than a thousand years, Jewish communities have been in Poland. Most find shelter and settle here after being banished from other countries. In the 1700’s they make up a significant proportion of the population and they are stoic and brave. The Jewish village of Trzciel (or Tirschtiegel in German) in the western region of Lubuskie, is near the Polish/German border, 120 miles east of Berlin and 300 miles west of Warsaw.

The town is mainly inhabited by Protestants, so the Jewish villagers live in strictly designated streets and their rights are clearly defined. Through the early 1700’s during the Swedish Deluge, the Jewish villagers face violent attacks and murders by the army of Polish Nobleman Stefan Czarniecki. During one event Trzciel is burned to the ground. It slowly regenerates and Jews return, so in 1745 the town’s owner, Ludwik Szołdrsk, grants them specific rights. Land is purchased for a new Jewish cemetery and a wooden synagogue is built. To establish a poll tax, in 1765 a census of Jewish population is conducted. By now the town has 250 Jews per 1,458 inhabitants and they are mainly occupied in trade – understandable given the town’s key location on the route from Poznań to Frankfurt along the Obra River. Serfdom dominates the relationship between most Polish peasants and the Nobility. During the 1772 Partitions of Poland, the territory becomes Prussian. Then when Prussia is defeated in the Napoleonic Wars, it is attached to the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1815 during the Congress of Vienna, Prussia gains the western third of the Warsaw Duchy and the province is administered as the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen.

Polish peasants (serfs) usually work the land under the leadership and care of a Noble Lord, while free German settlers work for themselves and take care of themselves, but pay taxes to the Lord. Each Lord’s estate includes his manor and farm buildings, a nearby village to house Polish labourers and a settlement for Germans not far away. The Lord owns the village mill and distillery. Often, Dutch windmills dot the landscape, a legacy of early settlers, who started to turn unproductive river marshes into fields, which the German settlers continue for the Lord.

In 1833 a Jewish school is built in Trzciel and the following year 37 Jews are neutralized in the community. Nine are merchants and 17 are traders. In 1860, 15 year old Koppel Hamburger marries 17 year old Rosalie Sprinz and their son Rudolph is born. Three years later, on 3rd March 1863 they welcome their second son, Ludwig Ehil. The growing family is settled in Trzciel and their life continues. The flat, heavily forested region has a famous landmark – the Grand Oak Tree, at over 700 years, said to be the “the oldest tree in Poland”. The glacial land is threaded with streams and drained by two major rivers; the Noteć (Netze) and the Warta (Warthe). Agriculture produces rye, sugar, potatoes, grains, tobacco and hops. Not only do the forests produce lumber and firewood, but they are full of birds, bats, fallow deer, wild boar, hare, otters, elk, bison and wolves – all feeding on the abundant wild mushrooms. Farming yields sheep and geese. It’s a marvellous playground for young boys.

Map of western Poland (Prussia) and Germany, showing Posen

When Ludwig is 9, a new synagogue is constructed in Trzciel and two years later, in 1875, he is 11 when his brother Richard is born. The family moves 50 miles from Trzciel back to Koppel’s home town of Posen, where third son Herman is born when Ludwig is 18. The following year, Ludwig is ready to seek his fortune and he leaves the family home. He boards a ship and departs Germany, headed for a land called New Zealand. Ludwig’s closest brother Rudolph, two years his elder, has already settled in New Zealand and he intends to join him there. At only 20, Ludwig has his life and the world stretching out ahead of him.

He wonders where his adventures will lead him …

On 10th April 1883, Ship’s Master Gillett deftly glides the Garonne into Botany Bay in New South Wales. When they dock, Ludwig’s eyes eagerly scan the settlement – he can’t wait to get his feet on dry land. He spends several months in Sydney and it’s an exciting, booming place. Hopeful immigrants arrive into Botany Bay every week and the town progresses quickly. Within months, the NSW and Victorian rail systems are joined at the border town of Albury and a rail service starts between Sydney and the Victorian state capital, Melbourne. In October, the first boys public school in Australia, Sydney Boys High School, is founded. Then the following month the Australasian Inter-Colonial Conference is held in Sydney, to discuss federation and annexation to the Australian colonies of several surrounding islands – New Zealand and Fiji.

Sydney dockside, 1880’s

Ludwig keeps an eye on the news intently as this is where he is headed. Early the following year, as soon as he has earned enough for his passage, he boards a ship for Lyttleton, the closest port to where Rudolph has settled in Ashburton. After a seven day voyage, the ship arrives in Lyttleton. Ludwig immediately feels this has been a good decision, he gets a sense of “home” here, perhaps because Rudolph is not far away. In Ashburton, Rudolph works as a clerk at horse merchants, Friedlander Brothers. Later that year, on 21st November 1884, they are both naturalized as New Zealanders. Ludwig is 21 and Rudolph is 23.

Rudolph is ambitious, he and Ludwig attend to their work in Ashburton, but after a gold discovery at Dillmanstown, 20 miles south of Greymouth on the west coast, the nearby town of Kumara becomes a major gold mining centre. The tramline from Greymouth to Paroa extends to Kumara and the population booms to over 4,000. Rudolph and Ludwig see an opportunity – they have kept in touch with their mother Rosalie’s brother, Heinrich Sprinz and the potential of the gold town beckons. Kumara now has 50 pubs, a busy hospital and a volunteer Fire Brigade. Politics hasn’t passed by either – it is the home of Mayor Richard Seddon, a very capable and ambitious local politician.


Ellen Louisa Hamburger
Ellen Louisa Hamburger

In early 1887, 27 year old Rudolph and his Uncle Heinrich set up in partnership – “Sprinz & Hamburger – Drapers”. Ludwig invests in the business and follows his brother to Kumara to work in the Drapery. He settles in the town and meets Ellen Louisa Rogers. In June, Ludwig is 24 when he marries 21 year old Ellen and they settle in Kumara.

A month later “Sprinz & Hamburger” is declared bankrupt.

Luck doesn’t run smoothly for the partners. In August, Heinrich and Rudolph take a tramcar to Greymouth for their business affairs. They only travel a mile or so from Kumara when their tramcar derails. The driver is thrown from his seat and the partners get “a good shaking” – luckily they escape more serious injury.

Horse-drawn tramcar

They walk back into town and take a buggy to Greymouth.  But their day does not get better … that evening on their return journey, their buggy fords the Blackwater Creek, but the next ford at Greenstone Creek has flooded. The buggy, the horse and the passengers are all carried downstream under the Greenstone Bridge. The buggy is now in danger of overturning which will carry them away downstream. The horse flails about in the water, hooves searching for a foothold – then suddenly he regains his footing and the men are able to drive him up the steep riverbank to the road. Delighted to regain dry land again, they arrive safe and sound back in Kumara a little after ten o’clock.

The precarious journey to Greymouth proves fruitless, so in August the stock of drapery, clothing and boots is put up for sale. Even in a creditors’ sale, the money doesn’t flow – Ludwig gets desperate and in November he reluctantly files as a creditor to retrieve the 228 pounds owed to him by “Sprinz & Hamburger”.

With the discovery of gold in Australia some years earlier, British officers are offered free passage to the colony of New South Wales in return for three years’ service as Colonial Policemen. They are needed in the growing colony, particularly to deal with the rise of bushrangers. Australian Parliament legislates that all existing regional Police forces are to amalgamate into the NSW Police Force. With headquarters in Sydney, the entire colony is policed from New South Wales.

As soon as Ludwig receives his payout from the bankrupt Drapers, he sees another opportunity and boards a ship for Australia. Ellen, now close to giving birth to their first child, remains in Kumara until after her confinement. Once in Sydney, Ludwig follows his instincts and on 1st December 1887 he is appointed as a Probationary Constable in the NSW Police Force.

Two months later, in February 1888, Ellen gives birth to their daughter Rosalie Ruth in Kumara. She is named after Ludwig’s mother. As soon as she and Rosalie are strong enough to travel, Ellen is accompanied by Rudolph on their voyage to Sydney to join Ludwig.

A NSW Police Force squad in 1890

Ludwig’s probation goes well and at the end of 1888 he is appointed as an Ordinary Constable. His posting is to regional New South Wales, so he and Ellen move with Rosalie to Wagga Wagga – a town in the Riverina originally established during the gold rush and mined until only a few years ago, but more recently it has been settled by squatters for agriculture. The area now produces wool, but is notorious for its recent history involving bush ranger Ben Hall and his gang. The main Sydney to Melbourne railway line passes through the important state railway centre at nearby Junee. It hosts the Railway repair facilities, the Junee Roundhouse, local government and a newly completed Courthouse. As the local Police Constable Ludwig is conscientious – he arrests Thomas Kelly who is sent to prison for two months after he cruelly beat two of his horses to bleeding with a stick. He sends Michael Campbell to prison for three months when Campbell, drunk and disorderly, assaults him and resists his arrest on Baylis Street. Then James Parsons is arrested, drunk and disorderly, in Baylis Street, after he uses indecent language with Constable Hamburger and is sentenced to a £5 fine or three months in prison. This is a rugged town indeed.

Baylis Street, Wagga Wagga, 1890

Ludwig and Ellen’s second daughter, Alice Hilda, is born in nearby Junee. After his three years service, Constable Hamburger is discharged from the Police Force and the family moves again, to Melbourne. Their third daughter, Leah, is born in Brunswick in 1891. Meanwhile, in Sydney, Rudolph marries Lydia Meares and their daughter Rosalie Lydia is born in Leichhardt. She too is named after the brothers’ mother.

Australia is now in the strong grip of a severe depression, so by February 1894 with very little work in sight and three little girls to care for, the Hamburgers decide to depart Australia once again. Ludwig returns to Lyttleton in New Zealand on the “Mararoa” and Ellen brings the children a few weeks later on the “Wakatipu”.  They settle back in Ashburton where Ludwig finds work as a storeman at “Friedlander Brothers”. In April the following year, he is 32 when their daughter Marie Adele is born. The following year, Rudolph and Lydia welcome their second daughter Violet Matilda in Annandale, Sydney.

One Thursday evening in October 1896, when Ludwig is 33, he is finishing up for the evening. He leaves the store at about six o’clock with Mr Halswell, the gatekeeper, who locks it securely as usual. This week, Friday is a public holiday as it is Ashburton Show Day. So when Ludwig returns to open the store on Saturday morning, he notices that a paper parcel containing a lady’s cape, a dress body, a metal night lamp, some twine and a bridle are missing from the office. All told, the articles are worth about 35 shillings. He takes a look around and realises a burglar can easily get into the office through the unfastened window in the back of the store. He calls the police to report the burglary. A few days later, he discovers that Mrs Knight, the second-hand dealer, who opened her business on Show Day had a scruffy looking man come to her back door and offer her some goods for sale. She brought a bridle and some twine, and duly paid 2 shillings. She didn’t buy the lady’s cape or the metal night lamp he offered as the cape was filthy, and so was the man. Meanwhile, a Mr Whitburg has been making a nuisance of himself around Ashburton. He is arrested and charged with drunkenness and once his meagre possessions are searched, he is charged with the burglary at Friedlander Brothers too.

In 1897 the family departs NZ once again for Australia and takes residence in Jervois Street, then Inkerman Street in St Kilda, Melbourne. In recent years, gold has been discovered in Perth on Australia’s west coast and prospectors flood there to search out new goldfields. Fremantle becomes the gateway to Western Australia. Agriculture surges and the port sees many new businesses emerge. Waves of immigrants arrive ready to work. The Hamburgers move with the tide. Ludwig, Ellen and the girls arrive in Fremantle full of hopes for a change in fortune. Ludwig finds work with the Western Australia Railway Department as a labourer in the Fremantle goods yard. He earns 1 shilling per hour. They take lodgings in nearby Market Street.

As a wage earner, Ludwig can only provide basic living conditions for his family. Their small rented home is close to his work in Fremantle. Their leisure time is rare and hard to afford – even playing sport is an indulgence. In their area, poor housing conditions mean dangerous and highly contagious tuberculosis, whooping cough and diphtheria are common. With only basic medical care, the chance of a victim surviving such a disease is low. The family are happy to get away from the east coast, where the bubonic plague has claimed over 500 people due to its rapid spread by fleas on infected rats. There, any home with the plague is burnt to the ground, along with everything in it – to try to stop the epidemic.

Here though, Ludwig and Ellen see a bright future and start to settle into their lives. But the following year, in March 1898, their 8 year old daughter, Alice, suddenly takes ill and dies. The family is crushed and their world is profoundly shaken. Distraught, Ludwig’s demeanour deteriorates. Seven months later, in October of that year, after he “used insulting language to them” he is charged with the assault of his neighbour, Margaret Bowen and her daughter Edith. However, but as he didn’t strike either of them, the charge is dismissed. The grief is showing.

Ludwig works as Night Watchman at the Railway’s No 3 Goods Shed. Once again, he has a position of great responsibility and trust. One Saturday night, at 6.30pm shift start he relieves Watchman Lightfoot. On this night, under his care is a particularly special item – a case of good Carnarvon Whiskey. When Lightfoot relieves Ludwig at 6am the case is still safe and sound. Ludwig heads home. But when he returns that evening, the case is missing and Lightfoot is outside the shed trying to put a bottle through the fly of his trousers. Ludwig calls the foreman who searches Lightfoot. He finds a bottle of whisky in his pocket alright and two more bottles down the legs of his trousers. He asks Lightfoot where he got it, and he replies “You know d—d well where I got it – from out of the shed”. They call the Water Police Constable who searches the premises and finds the missing case under the goods shed floor. Lightfoot is charged, with bail set at 250 pounds.

Fremantle port and railway yards 1900

Three months later, Ludwig is sitting in his watchman’s kitchen one evening when he hears a crash of breaking glass. He heads outside and in the bright moonlight he sees a man running away. Ludwig’s sure he recognises him, so gets his coat and hat and heads to the Police Station. The man is already there, with a constable – thanks to passers-by who saw the incident. The man challenges Ludwig ‘I smashed your window. I’ll give you cause to remember me.’ Nine windows are broken, with damage estimated £1 10s. The man – now four weeks unemployed after being discharged from a long-term Government job, is smarting at the injustice and has taken matters into his own hands. He is fined 10 shillings and 30 shillings damages.

At the turn of the century, several momentous occasions are marked around Australia – electric lighting comes to Adelaide streets, the federal Labour party is founded in Sydney, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (UK) is passed in July and in October natural gas is discovered at Roma in Queensland.

But since Alice’s death the year before, the world has been slow to make sense again for the Hamburgers – then fate cruelly strikes another blow in January 1901. At only 6 years old, their delicate little Marie Adele succumbs to a lethal illness and dies. Ellen, only 35 years old, can scarcely bear the heartbreak of losing both her youngest girls. Ludwig too, only 38, has never faced such despair – two precious daughters gone within two years. Desperate with grief and unable to function, he tries hard to piece life back together. At work, he is promoted to Porter in 1902 but things just aren’t right. Try as they might, the Hamburgers’ home life just will not settle. Their two eldest daughters, Rosalie (age 13) and Leah (age 10) must go to school and Ludwig tries to keep working. But by 1903, at a loss for what to do, he leaves Fremantle and returns to Sydney to his brother, Rudolph. Ellen, Rosalie and Leah are left behind.

In Annandale, Rudolph is now a merchant and he is well settled with his wife Lydia and their daughters – Rosalie is 12 and Matilda is 8. Ludwig stays in Sydney for a year, but then in June 1905 he sails from Sydney on the “Monowai” back to Lyttleton. Feeling disconnected from most things familiar to him, Ludwig gravitates towards the Jewish and German communities in Canterbury. Instead of returning to Ashburton though, he settles in Christchurch where he meets Annie Redman – a tall, slender young woman who although she was born in Otago, is of German heritage. Her parents, Franz and Elvenia, emigrated from Germany, just as Ludwig did, but a decade earlier. With a shared background, Ludwig and Annie feel an affinity and a strong friendship grows. By 1907, when Ludwig is 43, Annie becomes his partner and they move into a home together in Sydenham.

Rosalie Ruth Hamburger, Ludwig and Ellen’s daughter

Ludwig is a traveling salesman and Annie tends to their home. The following summer, in February 1908, Ludwig is 44 and Annie is 29 when their daughter Annie Eveline is born. A year later, in June 1909, Ludwig’s daughter Rosalie, now 21, marries Frances A Frings in Perth. In March 1910, Ludwig’s world blossoms when, after five daughters, his first son arrives … Annie gives birth to Eric Frank. Ludwig’s life is good – he is elated. He spends weeks proudly celebrating his son’s arrival, but a month later, his distraction is brought home to him when he is fined for driving a horse and cart across the intersection of Hereford, Colombo and High Streets in Christchurch at an excessive speed.

Colombo, Hereford and High Streets intersection.

With a new baby in the house, things do not go well at Cadogan Street and the following year, Ludwig moves 15 miles away to Williams Street, in Christchurch East. However, slowly their issues resolve and by the end of the year Ludwig moves back in with Annie and their second son, Albert Carl, is born in September 1912.

In August 1913, Ludwig’s wife, Ellen dies in Fremantle. These days though, she is known as Ellen Bateman. Their elder daughters, Rosalie and Leah attend Ellen’s large funeral in Perth along with her step-son Allan Bateman. Ellen’s brothers William and Edward also attend. She receives many floral tributes and is buried in the Anglican portion of Karrakatta Cemetery. She is 47.

Annie and Ludwig celebrate another birth when their daughter, Elma Ruth, arrives in December 1913.

In 1914, Britain goes to war with Germany, so as a member of the British Empire, New Zealand is involved. This brings mixed feelings for Ludwig. After three decades, he’s well and truly an antipodean, but the thought of war with his homeland tugs at his heartstrings. As a German immigrant, Ludwig is instantly viewed negatively. At best, this is pure suspicion, but it manifests into abuse and violence from some who fear his betrayal or sabotage. Anxiety in the community is exacerbated when the port of Lyttleton becomes a key strategic location and warships call in to stock up supplies and pick up troops to take into combat.

In 1915, street lights come to the suburbs and electricity is connected to the Hamburger’s home. In 1916, Annie and Ludwig’s third son, Herman Henry is born in February. At the same time, people across the community contribute all they can to the “war effort”. Motorcars appear on the streets and the city establishes its first movie theatre. Later that year, in Perth, Ludwig’s second eldest daughter, Leah (now 25), marries Arthur J Young.

At times, Ludwig’s thoughts go to his parents, still in Europe. Life will no doubt be difficult for them during this horrible war across the continent. Ludwig watches many from his adopted country board troop ships and head towards action in the places he knew as home. He marvels that for Koppel and Rosalie to face and survive the incessant political upheaval and change will take some fortitude indeed. He sometimes wonders how his parents have coped with it all, but at this distance, news travels very slowly. In November 1917, Ludwig receives news that his father, Koppel, has died in Austria. He is buried in a Jewish Cemetery in Vienna. He is 72.

Although Ludwig has never strongly practiced his Judaism, Annie is a staunch Lutheran and under her influence the children are raised well-grounded in her faith. Annie and Ludwig do agree on one thing though, strict discipline never hurts anyone –and the children learn this early. Ludwig provides for them in a range of commercial sales jobs and family life is ordered. The children attend Waltham School, a 15 minute walk from home. In Sydney, Rudolph’s younger daughter Matilda marries Walter Terence Joseph Harris.

In 1918, as the World War comes to an end, troops start to arrive back from the front. In April, Ludwig is 54 when his tenth child, Richard Frederick is born in Christchurch. The young Hamburger boys become better known by their nicknames – Eric and Albert are “Bo” and “Bub” with Herman and baby Richard being “Nig” and “Dick” – the girls retain their given names. Later that year, Ludwig and Rudolph’s younger brother, Herman, dies in Germany. He is only 36.

In 1920, radio and gramophones come to Christchurch and community activities are strongly influenced by American culture. Ludwig receives news that his mother Rosalie (aged 77), has died in Katowice in southern Poland, around 250 miles south of Trcziel. She is buried in Kozilska Street Cemetery. Ludwig’s thoughts go back to his homeland and he ponders his life decisions. He has seen such a lot of life since he left his home and family when he was only 20 to join Rudolph so many miles away.

Rudolph’s daughter Rosalie, now 29, marries Edward Patrick Considine in Sydney.

During the 1920’s, the Hamburgers’ life continues. Like their parents, as soon as each child completes their school years they head out into the world to make their living. Again, under the influence of Annie, their Sydenham home remains the foundation of the family. Ludwig works as a travelling salesman around the Canterbury area and all his children grow into fine young adults.

In March 1929, Ludwig gets the tragic news that his dear brother Rudolph, has died in Sydney, aged only 66. This is a heavy blow for Ludwig, losing his closest brother and companion over all these years, particularly during their early times together. Rudolph has seen a lot of life with Ludwig and his loss is felt deeply.

The Great Depression hits New Zealand and jobs become scarce. Luckily, Ludwig manages to stay in work. Their eldest daughter, Eveline, meets Daniel Richards Weir, a young wire weaver from Otago. Ludwig doesn’t approve of this red-haired young man, but in 1930 the couple decide to marry. The ceremony is held in the Hamburger’s family home, officiated by the Lutheran Pastor and Ludwig escorts his daughter down the aisle towards her husband-to-be.

LH & GRW (c 1935)
Granddad Ludwig and Graham, 1933

Soon after the wedding, employment becomes rarer in Christchurch so Dan and Eveline move 350 miles north to Wellington in the hope of finding better prospects there. A year later, they delight Annie and Ludwig with a grandchild – a son, Graham Ritches. He is a blonde haired, blue eyed boy – just as his Arian forefathers were. Annie and Ludwig become Grandma and Granddad. By now, the Depression is biting hard in Wellington but Dan at least has work. In 1933, Eveline returns to Christchurch, where Annie and Ludwig meet their grandson for the first time.

At eighteen months old, Graham is kept at close range by the Hamburgers and the family spend several relaxed days on the front verandah at Cadogan Street enjoying the autumn weather. Ludwig particularly enjoys having the young lad on his knee or nearby. In the evenings, they listen to the gramophone – Ludwig’s collection is treasured and enjoyed – particularly his favourite … “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night, sung in German). After a few weeks, Eveline and Graham return to Wellington. In 1935, Eveline is pregnant again and in the later stages of her pregnancy she returns to Christchurch to prepare for her confinement. 3 year old Graham is left in the care of neighbours in Wellington while Eveline is away. Annie and Ludwig’s grand-daughter, Lorna Eveline, is born on April 20th and Dan joins the young family in Christchurch for a short visit. They all return to Wellington a few weeks later. Granddad Ludwig is 72.

In 1937, when Ludwig is 73 and Annie is 57, they decide to marry. Despite living as husband and wife for over thirty years, their partnership has never been formalised into marriage. Sadly, their certified union is short – only a few months later, on 7 July, Ludwig suddenly dies (aged 74). Annie buries her husband in Sydenham Cemetery next to her brother Herman. She arranges for their headstone:


“In loving memory of
beloved husband of A. Hamburger
1864 – 1937
also Herman REDMAN, 1867-1935”

Born March 1863 and died July 1937, Ludwig is my paternal great grandfather.


Post scripts

  • In February 1942, one day after Eveline celebrates her 34th birthday in Wellington, Annie dies from a weak heart.
  • Only five months later, Rudolph’s wife, Lydia, dies in Sydney.
  • Ludwig and Annie’s children along with her cousin Albert continue to live at Cadogan Street. In August 1950, at age 81, Cousin Albert dies. He is buried in Sydenham Cemetery with Herman, Ludwig and Annie.


Annie Redman

In the 14th century, when medieval knights crusade across Europe and conquer central and western Germany, people start to settle in Pommerania and Gdańsk. This is Prussia – its flat land and rich soil is perfect for large-scale wheat farming and it quickly becomes the “bread basket of Western Europe”. The Kingdom of Prussia with its capital in Berlin is proclaimed in 1701, and its ruler Frederick the Great has significant influence over international affairs. In the early 1800’s, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck unites the German principalities to exclude the Austrian Empire. Then after Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, the Congress of Vienna redraws Europe and Prussia acquires much of northwest Germany, including the coal-rich Ruhr Valley. Mighty Prussia’s population reaches 20 million.

Lutheranism, based on Martin Luther’s teachings, is followed by many in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. But Napoleon’s invasion brings Rationalist thinking and many relinquish their religious beliefs to defer to evidence and knowledge. German Lutherans bravely stand up to this threat and to retain their theology, small groups of supporters rise against it. They spend hours in Bible study and at revival meetings. In 1817, after a decade of community unrest and to unify the German Protestant Churches, Prussia’s King Frederick William III forms the Evangelical Church of the Prussian Union. He appoints himself as Leader and gives the Prussian Government full control over Church affairs. Rather than unifying the community, this creates massive dissent amongst Lutherans. Their stalwarts, the “Old Lutherans”, refuse to join. Despite threat of imprisonment and military force, they start to break away from the state church – some form independent “free churches” and others leave Prussia altogether.

Prussia in the German Empire 1871-1918

The city of Gdansk (or Danzig in German) lies at the mouth of the Motlawa River on the Baltic Sea. The river supplies the area’s water, connects Gdansk with Warsaw and is an important sea port and shipbuilding centre. Here, in the midst of religious and political upheaval, Franz Ruedmann is born on 12th October 1840. When they welcome him to the world, his parents, Martin Ruedmann and Eliza Hardsey, wonder about their son’s future. He is baptised a mile north of Gdansk at the Sankt Albrecht Catholic Church.

The region’s rural areas prosper and the landowning aristocracy become powerful. Life gets difficult for farm labourers and many can’t live at the mercy of property owners, so they relinquish their rights to live on the land and leave their master’s service. For them, the only answer is to leave the country. At this time too, the “Old Lutherans” stream out of Germany – heading for the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In January 1843, only three years after the European settlers and the Maori tribes sign the Treaty of Waitangi, the first Lutheran missionaries arrive in New Zealand. The Wesleyan and Anglican Mission Societies are already well established in Otago, so after a month the Lutherans head east to the Chatham Islands. Four months later, in June, German migrants arrive in Nelson and settle at Upper Moutere.

A year later back in Prussia, in the village of Kielpin, 200 miles south of Gdańsk, the devout Lutheran Krull family celebrate the arrival of their baby daughter, Alviaand. In 1870, three years after Prussia becomes the core of the North German Confederation, 26 year old Alviaand, known as Elvenia, meets 30 year old Franz Ruedmann. They soon marry and settle west of Gdansk, nearer to Hamburg in the village of Drosedow. The following year, booming Prussia’s population is now 25 million – it becomes the heart of the German Empire.

After four years in Drosedow, Elvenia and Franz join the flow of people leaving Germany. In early April 1874 they board the “Prague” in Hamburg, bound for Leith in Scotland then onwards to New Zealand. They have their two young nephews with them – Gustav Herman (aged 6) and Albert Frederick (aged 3) – in the hope they too will find a better life on the other side of the world. A week later, the group arrives in Leith then travels 400 miles to the south coast of England, where they depart on the “Sussex” from Gravesend in Kent. Captain Strap will command the vessel while Dr Hamilton sees to the welfare of the passengers – he notes that of the 494 souls in his care, most are Scots, Irish and English, but there are 69 “foreigners” – Germans, Hungarians and Swiss.

sussex2 (1)
Clipper “Sussex”

The Sussex sails past the Isle of Wight through the English Channel then is battered for several days by heavy weather west of France and Spain. Then the strong trade winds carry her over the Equator and she rounds the Cape of Good Hope in mid-June. Amongst the passengers, eight children die of consumption during the voyage – and two infants are born. An intense hurricane thrashes her for days, but she boldly sails east. Then the welcome cry of “Land, O!” echoes around the ship – it is Bluff – they have reached New Zealand. 98 days after the Reudmann family left Germany, they disembark at Port Chalmers on 18th July 1874.

On arrival, Captain Strap notes “I have conveyed many emigrants to various places in my time, but a better class I never travelled with. The single women were well-behaved with not one bad character amongst them – they are good workers – several being farm girls, who can milk and make butter. The single men, too, have proven amenable to the discipline of the ship; the married people are respectable and likely to prove an acquisition to the population of the province”.

New Zealand receives many German immigrants – in the North Island most go to the Rangitikei and many Scandinavians head for Wairarapa, Manawatu and Hawkes Bay. In the South Island, Germans arrive to help construct the new railway and their settlements are at Allanton and Waihola in the Clutha district. Their numbers reach 10,000 across the country.

PaddleSteamer (1)
Paddle Steamer, 1880

Lake Waihola is a tidal freshwater lake in the low hills between Taieri and Tokomairiro, its wetlands host many species of wading birds. “Waihola” is the Maori term for “spreading waters” and being only 25 miles south of Dunedin, the Lake is a popular spot for city weekend visitors. Nestled against the Lake’s eastern edge, Waihola was important in the gold rush when the paddle steamer, Betsy Douglas, brought prospectors up the Taieri River and dropped them here to cross the hills and hike the 35 miles to Gabriel’s Gully. The extended Ruedmann family takes a liking to the area and makes Waihola their home. In July 1876, Franz and Elvenia’s son Franz Albert Carl arrives – he is known as “Carl”. Then in January 1879, they welcome a daughter – Anna. Elvenia age 35 and Franz age 38 now have their own two children and two nephews in tow, who range in age from baby Anna to 11 year old Herman. Over the next few years they attend Waihola School and in 1880 nine year old Albert receives an award for general excellence.

The Ruedmanns settle in to life and Franz finds work as a labourer in Waihola. In October 1893 he is 52 when he and Herman (now 25 and a fellow labourer) are naturalized as New Zealanders. They now have the right to reside and to vote in Parliamentary elections. The two new Kiwis work hard around the area and as the family adopts their antipodean way of life, their names become anglicised – the arriving Ruedmann’s gradually become the Radmann’s and now the name they finally settle on – the Redman’s. Franz becomes Frank and Anna, now 14, starts to be known as Annie.

Being right on the Lake, water sports have a strong following amongst Waihola residents. In 1895, when he is 24, cousin Albert joins the popular Waihola Rowing Club and is regularly active in their Regattas.

Waihola_panorama (1)
Lake Waihola

The following year, Annie is 17 when she leaves her family and takes domestic work 30 miles from Waihola in Tuapeka. Her employers are Archibald and Anna Anderson – they have six daughters and three sons – John, Archibald and Neil, all farmers. Archibald Senior is a well-known local figure. He arrived after relocating his sheep and cattle from Port Nicholson in the 1840’s. From Scotland, he purchased some land in Wellington and when he arrived to farm it he discovered the dense bush around the harbour had yet to be cleared. He set up a short-lived retail store, but then bought stock to farm at Cape Terawhiti. He found the Maori inhabitants to be “inhospitable” so he moved everything to prime grazing land in Otago. Now he holds 2,000 acres (most rented to other farmers) with his own block at Inchclutha. In public affairs, he represented Molyneux on the first Provincial Council and his eldest son, John, represents Bruce electorate in the national Parliament. Although she is slight of frame and not physically strong, Annie dutifully takes her place and works hard in the household of this prominent family.

In October 1898, she is barely 19 when her father, Franz, dies. At only 58, he is buried in Waihola Cemetery. Less than 2 years later – on a day in 1900, Elvenia suffers a sudden brain bleed and dies the same day. Aged only 56, she is buried in Waihola Cemetery alongside her dear Franz. Now, after losing her father so recently, 21 year old Annie faces life without her mother too. She forges strong bonds with her cousins and her life in domestic service continues – but she yearns for companionship.

Annie moves to Edinburgh Street in Riccarton, part of the prospering city of Christchurch – things here are so much busier than in Waihola and even Tuapeka! Thanks to strong wool exports and a thriving manufacturing industry, factories appear everywhere, particularly around Riccarton. An extravagant exhibition brings many visitors with money and new hotels spring up in town. A statue of Queen Victoria is unveiled and the streets soon have electric trams. But, like most homes in her area, Annie’s cottage is yet to benefit from such progress – the plumbing is rudimentary at best and the dirt roads need constant work.

Annie spends two busy years in Riccarton. Although she’s distant from her family – cousin Albert is a labourer in Waihola and Herman is 35 miles away in Clydevale working as a ploughman – she spends time with the close knit German community in Christchurch. She is still strongly aligned with her Lutheran Church too. With the booming economy, the city population grows – new babies are born daily, most at home or in local two-room unlicensed maternity clinics run by nurses or midwives. In March 1902, Annie is 23 when she gives birth to her son – she names him Herbert Francis Anderson – his middle name to honour her dear father. The youngster will be known as “Bert”.

Riccarton Road, Christchurch in 1905
Riccarton Road, Christchurch in 1905

One day in 1905, Annie meets a tall, dark, charming, well-groomed and devilishly handsome man – Ludwig Hamburger. He’s a little older than Annie – she is 26 and he is 42 – and he’s had a varied life. He currently works in commercial retail – to Annie he is worldly-wise and fascinating. A strong affection grows and soon they move into a house in Cadogan Street, Sydenham – only 2 miles away.

Three years pass, then in February 1908, Annie is 29 when she and Ludwig celebrate the arrival of their daughter, Annie Eveline. Born in a small clinic only blocks away from Cadogan Street, Annie wants her to be known as Eveline, for her mother. Annie’s care for the baby is a challenge – she already struggles to keep well – having diabetes, Annie suffers chronic lethargy, skin problems and blurred vision. This is hard enough in a house lit with oil lamps, with a wood-fired range for cooking and no running water. Add a tiny baby to this setting and work becomes even harder. Thankfully later in the year, basic plumbing improves when a high-pressure water supply is connected across the city.

Two years later, in 1910, Annie and Ludwig’s son Eric Frank is born – he too is named to honour her father. Their second son, Albert Carl, arrives in September 1912 and their second daughter, Elma Ruth, comes along in December 1913.

In 1914, Britain goes to war with Germany and New Zealand is involved as a member of the British Empire. Things get very difficult for Annie and Ludwig – although she was born in Otago, Annie is “near enough” a German immigrant and like many of their compatriots, both she and Ludwig are instantly viewed with suspicion. Even at their distant location in Waihola, Albert and Herman aren’t immune to suspicion either. Many in the community fear the Germans in their midst will become traitors or commit acts of sabotage. With its port at nearby Lyttleton, Christchurch becomes a key strategic location when warships call in to stock up supplies and pick up troops to take into combat.

1914 News Photo:Historic Collection of The Press Photos from a collection of glass plate negatives found in The Press archives from 1914 showing the First World War effort in New Zealand. New Zealanders for the Front. Scenes at the departure of the Canterbury Contingent at Lyttelton on Wednesday September 23 1914, mounted regiment troops going aboard the troop transport ships published in the Weekly Press 30 September 1914 page 32

The negative feeling towards the German community continues throughout the war. But Annie and Ludwig face it stoically and continue on with their life – stories of political unrest are common in their community, particularly from those who emigrated from Europe, and they raise their family in the face of it all.

In 1915, street lights come to the suburbs and electricity is connected to the family’s home. In 1916, to “do her bit for the war effort”, Annie rolls bandages, knits soldiers’ socks or balaclavas and packs ‘trench comfort’ parcels for men fighting overseas. Motorcars appear on the streets and the city establishes its first movie theatre. Christchurch prospers – and the Hamburger family grows too. In February 1916, Annie, now 37, gives birth to their third son, Herman Henry and a year later fourth son Richard Frederick arrives.

By 1918, Annie and Ludwig have six children under 10 years old. Annie brings them up well grounded in family with strict ways and unfaltering Lutheran faith. Ludwig provides for them in a range of commercial sales jobs. Family life is ordered and a strong discipline is instilled in the children. As they grow, the boys become better known by their nicknames – Eric and Albert are “Bo” and “Bub” with Herman and Richard being “Nig” and “Dick” – the girls escape nicknames. They all attend Waltham School, a 15 minute walk from home. As soon as each completes their school years they head out into the world to make their living, but their Sydenham home remains the foundation of the family.

In 1918, as the World War comes to an end, troops arrive back from the front – and so does the world’s worst influenza pandemic. The Spanish ‘flu spreads rapidly and victims die within days. To mark the November Armistice, Christchurch holds huge victory celebrations. But even though the pandemic kills over eight hundred people across the city, the family are mercifully spared. Annie and Ludwig’s life in Sydenham begins to settle in 1919, and Herman, now 53 and still a ploughman, moves to Temuka.

Radio and gramophones come to Christchurch in the 1920’s. Community activities are strongly influenced by American culture – jazz music arrives, silent and later “talkie” movies play and there’s a new exciting dance – the “Charleston”. Annie’s eldest son Bert becomes a bootmaker. He meets and marries Vera Rose Timms, and in late 1923 Annie becomes “Grandma” when Bert and Rose’s daughter, Elvinia Florence Anderson, is born. She too is named after Annie’s mother.

Fashion is influenced by the glamorous ‘flapper’ look and young women are agape when the Governor-General’s wife wears a short, bobbed hairstyle and a sleeveless low-waisted dress. The women’s beauty industry flourishes and the first Miss New Zealand contests draw big crowds.

In February 1925, Annie proudly watches Albert (now 54) become a naturalised New Zealander. Although his political status changes, he continues his settled life in Waihola. In Christchurch, the Hamburgers continue their strong faith and 17 year old Eveline is the organist at the Christchurch Lutheran Church. In 1927, Bert and Rose have a son – Frank. Cousin Herman continues to move around with his work and in 1928, he’s 62 and is 50 miles away in Haywarden. Annie likes that he’s closer to her now. In fact, none of her children has moved away from home – and even Bert and Rose are only a mile away in Addington.

The Great Depression hits New Zealand and jobs become scarce. Luckily, Annie and Ludwig’s eldest daughter, Eveline, has work in a smart haberdashery store in the city. One day she meets Daniel Richards Weir, a young wire weaver who has moved here from Otago to find work. Ever protective of his daughter, Ludwig doesn’t approve of Daniel, but in 1930 the couple decide to marry. The ceremony is held in the Hamburger’s family home in Cadogan Street, officiated by the Lutheran Pastor. Annie watches her daughter approach the Pastor on her father’s arm … she does look radiant with Ludwig.

But wait …Annie’s failing eyes widen … her daughter is in a bottle green suit! Annie’s heart lurches and she lets out a small gasp – Eveline is careful about her appearance and always wants to look well-groomed, but this is just “not done” – is this what she has learned from the stylish people she works with?

As if the marriage and the outfit weren’t enough, soon after the wedding, employment becomes rarer so Daniel and Eveline move 350 miles away to Wellington in the hope of finding better prospects there. A year later, Dan and Eveline delight Annie and Ludwig with a grandchild – a son, Graham Ritches. He is a snowy haired, blue eyed boy – and he reflects the Arian features of his forefathers. Annie and Ludwig become Grandma and Granddad.

By now, the Depression is biting hard in Wellington but Dan at least has work. In 1933, Eveline returns to Christchurch, where Annie and Ludwig meet their eighteen month old grandson for the first time.

Annie, Graham R, Herman Henry (Nig)
Annie, Herman (Nig) and Graham on the verandah at Cadogan Street.

They spend several relaxed days at Cadogan Street, on the front verandah when the autumn weather allows it. Eveline and Graham return to Wellington after a pleasant family visit. In 1935, Eveline is pregnant again and in the later stages of her pregnancy she returns to Christchurch to prepare for her confinement. Annie and Ludwig’s grand-daughter, Lorna Eveline, is born on April 20th and Dan joins the young family in Christchurch for a short visit. They all return to Wellington a few weeks later. Grandma Annie is 56.

Dan is very pleased that Eveline’s Uncle Bert is a bootmaker – during his visit to Christchurch, Dan has learned some valuable tips from Bert about how to maintain his family’s expensive shoes. Each pair does have a hard life, on the feet of a hard-working parent, or a busy Weir child – but Dan will now be able to repair them to give them a much longer life.  Now, when the sole of a shoe has worn through, Dan will replace it with hard-wearing “Greenhide” leather that has been stretched and treated with salt to make it tougher – he will use his bradawl to make holes around the edge of the new sole and hand-stitch it onto the existing shoe with extra strong waterproof yarn made from waxed cotton.

Later that year, cousin Herman moves even closer to Annie – he’s now in Darfield, only 35 miles away. Within a year though, Herman dies. With no other family and leaving no Will, Annie and Ludwig see to Herman’s burial. He rests in Sydenham Cemetery, only a mile or so from their home. He is 69.

Two years later, in 1937, when Annie is 57 and Ludwig is 73, they decide to marry. Although they have lived as husband and wife for over thirty years, their marriage has never been formalised. But the legalised union is cut short when only a few months later, Ludwig dies. Annie buries her husband in Sydenham Cemetery next to Herman. She arranges for their headstone:

In loving memory of
beloved husband of A. Hamburger
1864 – 1937
Herman Redman
1867 – 1935

Eveline returns to Sydenham for her father’s funeral, where she collects mementos of him, including a collection of gramophone records. Annie notes that one is his particular favourite “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night, sung in German).

Annie’s son Bub (Albert Carl) is a bicycle mechanic. He meets and marries Edna.

A few weeks after the formalities end, Annie, Edna and Bub travel to Wellington for the first time to visit with Eveline and the Weir family at their home. Annie can do with some time away from Cadogan Street – and she is glad to help Eveline with the two youngsters for a while.

Annie, Edna and Bub visit the Weirs in Wellington – with Lorna (in Bub’s arms), Edna (Bub’s wife) and Graham (on bicycle)

Following this visit, each Christmas Eveline, Dan, Graham and Lorna return to Cadogan Street to visit Annie. But Ludwig’s death takes its toll on her already frail body and her health declines. These days her diabetes is difficult and her time is spent either in bed in her dark room or sitting in her chair by the coal range with a rug over her knees. She seldom ventures far from Cadogan Street and has most of her adult children close – in fact Bo, Bub, Elma, Nig and Dick all still live at home with her.

E A Weir 1942
Eveline and Dan in Wellington, 1942

In 1939 a World War comes to New Zealand again and Annie’s German heritage brings anxious times, particularly when others of similar background are formally detained, while NZ authorities check their activities and associates. In the early months of the War, Annie has weekly visits from the local police – “just to say hello”. Cousin Albert, now in his 70’s and retired, moves in to Cadogan Street with Annie and the family.

Three years later, in February 1942, one day after Eveline celebrates her 34th birthday in Wellington, Annie is so ravaged by diabetes and a weak heart, her body finally gives out.

She dies aged only 63.

Once again, Eveline joins her siblings in Christchurch and grieves for her mother. Annie is buried next to Ludwig and Herman in Sydenham Cemetery.

Born January 1879 and died February 1942, Annie is my paternal great grandmother.


Post script – Annie’s children and cousin Albert continue to live at Cadogan Street. In August 1950, at age 81, Albert dies. He is buried in Sydenham Cemetery with Herman, Ludwig and Annie.


Photograph sources:


Christina Thomson Innes

The natural peninsula of Fife in Scotland is bounded by two narrow arms of the sea, known as Firths – to the north is the Firth of Tay and to the south the Firth of Forth. Until the 15th century, Fife hosts the Royal Palace at Falkland and as a Principal peer of the Scottish realm, the Earl can crown the nation’s monarchs.

Fife coastal village
Fife coastal village

The Earldom of Rothes is created for the first Lord Leslie and through the centuries the Earls take government positions such as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Chancellor of Scotland. In 1567, King James VI of Scotland describes Fife as a “beggar’s mantle fringed wi gowd”, with its golden fringe of coast and chain of thriving fishing ports trading with the Low Countries of Europe. As well as fish, Fife trades in wool, linen, coal and salt – all produced locally.

In the 1660’s, as a reward for his support of the restored Stewart monarchy, the 7th Earl is given a role in the Royal Court. But his behaviour becomes so disreputable that he is retired from all offices. He decides to take up a ‘life of pleasure’ and by 1667 he has built a grand country estate in Fife – Leslie House (sometimes known as the ‘Palace of Rothes’). Luxuriously decorated, with an entire floor dedicated to a gallery of full length portraits, the House has a central courtyard with extensive, meticulously landscaped grounds. There’s a stream, a water feature, broad avenues of trees and peaceful walkways inside a walled garden. The Rothes Family settle in. A century later, in 1763, after a fire virtually destroys the House, the 11th Earl demolishes most of it, leaving only the West Wing standing.

Leslie House
Leslie House

In 1815, the boggy low lying area of Fife is drained for farming by prisoners from the Napoleonic wars. As the local flax is in abundance, the spinning and bleaching industries become established here and in 1851 the population reaches 3,000. On the main route from Stirling to St Andrews is the village of Auchtermuchty – several areas here are used to set out the linen to bleach in the sun and up to 1,000 linen looms are in operation across the county.

In 1858, 30 year old Agnes Goodall gives birth to a son in Auchtermuchty, she names him James. Her liaison has been with John Innes, a 22 year old Auchtermuchty labourer. Agnes’ sister, Jane – two years her elder – takes baby James into her care. He is known by the family as “John’s son” … and soon the nickname sticks. He becomes “Johnston”.

The following year the Fettykil Paper Mill is established in Leslie and the village becomes a main centre for papermaking. A year later, in 1860, John Innes marries Isabella Cuthbert and the couple relocate 2 year old Johnston to their home to raise him.

Scotland and Fife County
Scotland and Fife County

Towards the coast, the farming area of Windygates in Markinch is an important staging post for coaches between north and central Fife. The Pettycur Ferry crosses the Firth of Forth here and the Cameron Bridge Distillery, founded by the Haig family, has recently been established. In June 1862, Robert Johnston and his wife Christina (both in their early 30’s) are delighted with the arrival of their fifth child, Agnes. Agnes spends her childhood in Windygates, where her family is settled and her father has always lived. He is a farm labourer.

In Auchtermuchty, young Johnston Innes is joined in his family by Margaret, Helen, Isabella, Agnes, Mary and Joan. By the time he is 11, Johnston has six half-sisters. In 1871, when he turns 13, Johnston leaves the family to work as a farm servant. He lives in a bothy (a labourer’s hut), seven miles away at Pitkevy in Leslie.

At Windygates, in October 1875, Agnes Johnston is only 13 and her parents have been married 17 years when, at only 46, her mother, Christina, dies of cancer. Her father is left to raise teenage Agnes and her five siblings on his own.

When Johnston is 22, he meets Agnes. They marry in January 1880 in The Manse at Leslie, when Agnes is 17. The wedding is small but families attend – Agnes’ father Robert gives his young daughter away and Johnston’s parents, John and Isabella watch proudly, along with the dear friends who share their Dysart home – the Abercrombie family.

The following year, Agnes and Johnston’s daughter Christina Thomson is born. She is named after Agnes’ mother. It is January 1881 – Agnes is 18 and Johnston is 23. They live at the North Lodge in the grounds of Leslie House, where Johnston works as a Groom and takes care of the 19th Earl’s stable and horses. Two years later, when Christina is 2, her sister Margaret is born.

Through Christina’s early years, life becomes fraught for the young Innes family. Work is hard to find and Johnston and Agnes only struggle through. By August 1888, Christina is 7 when her parents reach a “rocky patch”. She hears them argue regularly – Johnston accuses Agnes of unfaithfulness. She calls him “the family’s black sheep” and he takes to her with his hands. She accuses him of assault. As his work is out of Leslie these days, he starts to stay elsewhere during the week and returns home only at weekends. Agnes finds things very difficult and regularly gets into debt in the village. On hearing this, Johnston becomes ashamed to come back to Leslie at all, knowing his wife owes such a lot. Try as he might, he can’t seem to reform her, so he decides to stay away altogether.

A typical Scottish Poorhouse of 1890
A typical Scottish Poorhouse of 1890

Now only 26, Agnes, having no way to provide food and shelter for her daughters, is moved to the Dysart Poorhouse. They live there for a year until the police locate Johnston after a local woman informs them of his whereabouts and receives the £1 reward. The Leslie Parochial Board meets and hears the Fife Inspector of the Poor charge Johnston with deserting his family. He argues that as he works for a small wage, if his children are returned to him he will be able to support and educate them – but he will not take back Agnes, as he believes a child has resulted from her unfaithfulness. Agnes would be just as content to remain in the Poor House, but the Board advises her she must move with the children back to Johnston’s home. Johnston faces a fine of £2 or 20 days imprisonment. He requests some time to pay, but the Prosecutor insists it be paid immediately – perhaps the Inspector could meet the debt on his behalf? … but the Inspector refuses. Johnston’s prison sentence means he loses his job.

Agnes and Johnston have now been married 10 years, but things get no better when the females return to the Innes home. The following year in August 1890, Agnes develops a heart condition then contracts tuberculosis. After five months of illness, she dies – she is only 28. Johnston, now 32, is unprepared to care for his daughters – Christina is nine and Margaret only 7 – Agnes’ father, Robert – a widower for the past 15 years, takes the girls into his care and they move to his home. They live at Greenside in Leslie. Johnston finds work as a general labourer in Kennoway, 7 miles away.

Christina settles into life with her Grandfather. Being the eldest female in the home, as she grows and becomes a teenager, she keeps the home organised, quickly learns to cook and cares for Robert, now in his 70’s and her sister, Mag.

In 1901, Christina now 20, works at one of Leslie’s Paper Mills and she is settled with her grandfather in High Street. Her father, Johnston (now 43), works as a domestic groom and lodges 25 miles away on the north side of Edinburgh. His relationship with his family has vanished, his step-mother, Isabella, has recently died of tuberculosis and his contact with his daughters is gone. In Leslie, Christina attends church and enjoys singing in the choir, she potters in their small High Street garden and she has become a skilled seamstress, particularly in fine embroidery.

One day, an adventurous young New Zealander, Allan Anderson, arrives in Leslie. He finds lodgings in High Street and starts a job on the railways. He settles in and gets to know his host family and the Johnston’s next door. In fact, Allan grows particularly fond of Christina.

In January 1903, a tramp labourer of no fixed residence stands in the Dysart Court charged with stealing an overcoat from a locked farm shed. It is Johnstone Innes – he pleads not guilty to the charge, but his appeals to the Sherriff for clemency go unheard. His bail is fixed at £2.

Christina Innes, on the occasion of her engagement in 1904
Christina Innes, on the occasion of her engagement in 1904

In Leslie, Christina and Allan announce their intention to be married. Christina is 22.

On one chilly night the following year, three homeless tramps find their way into the Isabella Colliery at Waymiss to sleep overnight. Discovered the next morning and unable to pay for their stay, they are labelled as “Fife Nuisances” and charged with lodging without leave. The unfortunates are two labourers Frederick Davidson and Joseph Johnstone and a pedlar, Johnston Innes. The labourers both have previous convictions, so each gets a fine of £2 or 21 days imprisonment. But Johnston Innes’ record is not quite so bad, so when he pleads not guilty the charge against him is withdrawn.

In Leslie, age starts to take its toll on Robert, Christina’s grandfather. He becomes more dependent on her for his daily needs and she cares for him as well as going to her work. He declines until he is bed ridden , with Christina seeing to his every need. Her days are exhausting, exacerbated further when Robert’s friends call to visit him unexpectedly. In February 1904, Christina is 23 when formal banns announce her impending marriage to Allan. There being no concerns in the community, they are married three days later in the Parish Church at Leslie. Christina’s bridal gown features her own beautifully delicate embroidery. After the wedding, the couple settle in Leslie and their son, Peter Robert, is born later that year.

Christina and Allan have been married barely a year when, on 12 February 1905, her grandfather Robert, suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. He dies two days later, he is 75. The tragedy throws Christina’s world upside down. A week later, she, Allan at Peter board the Turakina in London and sail for Wellington in New Zealand. The voyage of seventy days via Cape Town is arduous for the young family and little Peter doesn’t travel well. Allan and Christina pray that he survives the journey and as they draw nearer to New Zealand, his condition stabilises. They arrive at Port Nicholson safe and sound.

Back in Leslie, Christina’s sister Mag is 20; she lives a mile along High Street at Prinlaws and she works in the Flax Mill. She meets 24 year old Robert Scott, a coal miner from Ballingry in Fife and on 2nd June they marry at the Leslie Parish Church. Later that same year, Christina and Mag’s paternal grandfather, John Innes, is now destitute and very weak. He is admitted to the Fife and Kinross Asylum, with thickened arteries and failing strength. He is diagnosed with “mania” and spends a week in the institution before he breathes his final breath on 20th October 1905. He is 69.

In New Zealand, Christina’s life now focusses on her husband and family. Allan joins the Railways and takes a position a few hours north of Wellington in Dannevirke. The growing new town is at the mid-point of a major railway line under construction to link Wellington with the port of Napier in Hawkes Bay. The family moves into Denmark Street, where Allan and Christina’s second son, Allan (“Larl”) McRae is born in 1906, then their daughter Agnes Johnston – named after Christina’s mother, arrives in June 1908.

The following year, the family follows Allan’s employment south to Upper Hutt, a growing rural farming and forestry community just north of Wellington. After some temporary housing, they settle into their newly built family home on a large property in Seddon Street, Wallaceville. Here the family have space for a garden, vegetable patch, a chicken run and some grazing.

Although he has returned to his native land, Allan does not reconnect with his family, who live in other parts of the country. In 1911, his mother, Anne, passes away in Taihape, in the central North Island. At the same time, in Scotland, Christina’s father, Johnston is working as a labourer on a farm in Kinross, only a mile from his own father’s resting place. He lives alone, but at least he has a roof over his head.

Always a great gardener, Christina revels in the broad space around her new home. She develops a grand spread, with flower beds, bushes and shrubs. Allan, too, enjoys the garden and he tends to the fruit trees and vegetable patch – the output of these, along with eggs from the chickens and milk from the cow, provides enough produce to handsomely feed the family.

Christina and Allan regularly attend St David’s Church in Wallaceville, only 20 minutes’ walk from home. Christina joins the Church Ladies’ Guild, an important adjunct to Church life as it coordinates the refreshments after church services and on other special occasions. Christina enjoys getting to know her fellow parishioners over their regular cups of tea. She is also active in the Presbyterian Women’s Mission Union, to support missionaries and their work across the world. She participates in fairs and cake stalls, she makes crafts to be sold and she collects used stamps for sale to dealers. The funds enable their missions to provide hospitals and schools, particularly for needy children.

Being such avid gardeners, Allan and Christina join the active Upper Hutt Horticultural Society and in 1914, Christina wins the Grand Prize – a silver vase, presented to the person with the highest points in the Annual Show. She proudly sits with her prize and the range of show entries for the Society’s Show photograph.

Christina's Red Cross Medals - awarded for her proficiency in Nursing, First Aid and Hospital Volunteer Work
Christina’s Red Cross Medals – awarded for her proficiency in Nursing, First Aid and Hospital Volunteer Work

A few months later, New Zealand (and other members of the British Empire) is involved in a major conflict alongside Britain in the World War with Germany. In 1916, although he’s now 36, Allan is commissioned into the “part time” New Zealand Army Reserve, which supports military operations and civil defence when needed. Christina becomes active in the community and joins the Red Cross, where she wins medals for several First Aid Courses. Allan works at the railways through the week and in the weekends attends the Army. Peter, Larl and Nessie attend Upper Hutt Primary School where Allan is a member of the School Committee. Like most of their school friends, the children climb trees, catch cockabullies in the river and steal apples from surrounding orchards.

The war comes to an end in 1918 and life begins to settle. Christina joins the Upper Hutt Women’s Institute, a newly established organisation that fosters fellowship among women in rural communities and country towns. This provides a range of community-based activities and Christina enjoys singing in their choir, where their repertoire of Scottish songs takes her back to her heritage. She hasn’t completely left this behind – the children listen curiously when their mother uses her Scots phrases around the house. To her, the children are “bairns”, instead of going inside she goes “ben the hoose” and she spends “bawbees”, rather than money.

Her scones and sponges are particular favourites amongst the members of the Institute and she is often the winner of their Baking Competitions. Her neighbours benefit from her kindly ways too – she shares her baking and keeps an eye on their welfare – many comment that she is a “good neighbour”.

Around 1920, Christina’s nieces – Betty and Jean arrive in New Zealand from Scotland. Barely 20, both girls have left their parents, Mag and Robert, to find a new life in New Zealand. On behalf of her sister, Christina, a caring Aunt, keeps a close eye on the two young women.

By 1924, Peter, Larl and Nessie have all grow into active teenagers and they start to expand their horizons. The same year Allan’s father, Robert, dies in Ashburton.

Nessie and Christina at their Wallaceville home (c. 1928)
Nessie and Christina at their Wallaceville home (c. 1928)

Christina notices she can’t see quite as well as she used to. Her close embroidery work is becoming impossible and when she is outdoors she must shield her eyes from the bright sunlight, so she starts to wear a wide brimmed hat and dark glasses when she goes out. She discovers she has developed a chronic eye condition and she must continue to wear hats outdoors and use spectacles to keep the brightness from both outdoor and indoor light from damaging her eyes further. She wonders whether the hours she spent in the dim light working on her embroidery as a young woman may have contributed to this situation.

1930 brings the Great Depression to New Zealand and mixed fortunes for the Anderson family. They celebrate their son Larl’s marriage to Ellen Margaret O’Brien, but within a year, she is taken severely ill and dies. This deep shock rocks the family for some time.

Back in Scotland, the years have not passed easily for Johnston Innes. After decades of patchy employment and paucity, he faces an empty life. By 1931, his health is deteriorating – his weight is low and he’s constantly exhausted. Aged 73, on 3rd March 1931 he dies in Markinch from cirrhosis of the liver.

In April 1932, Christina and Allan’s eldest son Peter marries Ina Mabel at St Mark’s Church in Carterton, then Nessie marries James Alexander Ross at St David’s Church nearby. This is a happy time. The following year, Peter and Ina welcome their first born son Alan Martin and Nessie and Jim are delighted when Nancye Ellen Innes arrives. In 1934, Winnifred Leslie May joins Nessie’s family, then in 1938 Peter and Ina have Peter Robert Leslie – the brood of grandchildren grows. Christina becomes “Nana”, but the little tongues find it hard to pronounce Granddad, so Allan is known as “Didoo”.

Larl meets and marries his second wife, Ethel.

By 1938, Christina has been Nana to her granddaughters, Nancye and Winnie for five years. As Winnie is unwell, she spends long periods in hospital and at home which keeps Nessie busy, so to help out, Christina and Allan take school-age Nancye and care for her at their home. But Nancye develops an illness and Christina, fearing she has contracted deadly diphtheria, consults the doctor. Nothing is noted but Nancye is then unable to breathe or swallow. As Christina had feared, six year old Nancye has contracted diphtheria and meningitis – she dies within hours. It is a deeply distressing time. Allan invests in a family plot at the Church Cemetery in Wallaceville, where he lays his granddaughter to rest in peace.

Christina now takes regular trips to Wellington to have her eyes “silvered” by an Ophthalmologist. The treatment, for eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, redness and blurred vision, involves Christina receiving drops of colloidal silver to her eyes to relieve her condition. She continues with her crafts and the fund-raising sweet stalls do a roaring trade in the bouquets she creates with sweets wired together to resemble flowers, then wrapped in brightly coloured cellophane.

Winnie wonders about her Nana – why does Nana create such brightly coloured crafts, but dress herself in such plain colours – either navy blue, lavender or grey? To see her Nana in a bright print or gay colour is an unusual sight indeed. Her jewellery is understated too – perhaps a brooch, a string of pearls or some beads. But her one nod to frivolity is her headware – she displays her colourful side in her wide range of decorated hats. Winnie’s grandfather, however, is a different matter entirely – her Didoo is not quite so demure, in fact she thinks he must have a particular favourite – he’s often seen in his boating blazer of thick black and white stripes.

NZ Centennial Exhibition site at Rongotai, Wellington (1940).
NZ Centennial Exhibition site at Rongotai, Wellington (1940).

To the west of Wellington airport at Rongotai, the year-long New Zealand Centennial Exhibition opens in November 1939. It covers 55 acres with a central fair and enormous sculptures of a pioneer man and woman. The fair celebrates New Zealand’s progress with dramatic use of electricity, neon lights and indoor displays of modern technology. It has miniature transport and cities with a model of the Waitomo Caves to display ‘beautiful New Zealand’. There’s a walking, talking robot doctor from the Department of Health and displays from the Departments of Agriculture, Industries, Commerce and Defence. As the first Commonwealth nation to grant women the vote, there is a special women’s section with displays of furniture and household knickknacks. Women’s arts and crafts are on display and Christina’s needlework is included – her hand-made dolls with heads of papier-mâché and clothes she has sewn herself, are proudly on display.

Another World War comes to New Zealand. Young men are called to become ‘soldier citizens’ again and the media encourages women to “do their bit” for the war effort. They’re now needed in the labour force and women’s work, both in the home and in the paid workforce is described as being of “national importance”. As her own children are now adults, Christina focusses on what she can do in the community and through the Church.

A few months later, Allan develops a serious heart condition, so he immediately takes early retirement. His workmates present Christina with a magnificent china cabinet, which is proudly inscribed:

“Presented to Mrs H.A.M Anderson by her husband’s workmates on his retirement from Upper Hutt Railways”

Life continues for Christina and Allan, but they are careful and mindful of Allan’s weakened health.  They celebrate 40 years of marriage in 1944.

Allan and Christina share a moment in their garden - to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary (c. 1944)
Allan and Christina share a moment in their garden – to celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary (c. 1944)

Nessie and Jim live in a railway settlement at Kaiwarra near Wellington, so to see her mother regularly, Nessie enrols Winnie in the Wallaceville “Brownie” Troop. Each Saturday morning they travel out to Wallaceville by train, Nessie visits with her parents and after Brownies, Winnie finds her way to Nana and Didoo’s where they have lunch together. At one stage, when Nessie is taken ill with tonsillitis, Winnie is happy enough to stay at her Nana and Didoo’s once again while her mother recovers. At barely 9 years old, already independent Winnie gets herself to Kaiwarra to school and back every day on the train. She even finds time to call in to the library on her way.

More grandchildren arrive … Peter and Ina have Gordon Johnson, Keren Christina, Joyce Marie and John Stuart then Nessie and Jim welcome Carol Christina Innes – she is named after her Nana Christina. By 1944, Nana and Didoo are the grandparents of eight.

Later that year, the Upper Hutt Scottish Society forms and Christina becomes a Foundation Member, with Allan as Society Patron. Christina and Allan enjoy regular social evenings with Nessie and Jim at the Society’s Hall. A typical social evening involves Highland bagpipers, Scottish songs, Highland dances and refreshments of oatcakes, shortbread and … of course … a haggis.

Years pass and by the 1950’s both Allan and Christina experience health difficulties. Allan’s health is fragile and Christina suffers a stroke. Although her mobility is not affected, Christina is weakened by the episode. Allan remains Patron of the Scottish Society and in 1952, when the Society celebrates its 8th anniversary, the Upper Hutt Newspaper notes his (and Christina’s) attendance, along with several other dignitaries at the function.

After fifty years apart, Christina (left) and her sister Mag (right) are reunited in 1954
After fifty years apart, Christina (left) and her sister Mag (right) are reunited in 1954

In 1954, Christina is 73 when her sister Mag and husband Bob make the long journey to New Zealand to see their daughters and celebrate Christina and Allan’s Golden Wedding. Not only is it fifty years of marriage for the Andersons, but it is half a century since the sisters have seen each other. It is a joyous occasion indeed. Allan and Christina are surrounded by family and friends. Their Caledonian anniversary celebration is splendid and the array of gifts they receive clearly reflects the regard held for them across the district. Soon after this, Mag and Bob decide to emigrate to New Zealand – to be nearer their daughters, now both married and settled with families in Auckland and, of course, to see more of Christina and her family.

Christina and Allan's happy celebration of their Golden Wedding in 1954
Christina and Allan’s happy celebration of their Golden Wedding in 1954

In 1955, Christina’s health suffers a blow when she has another stroke – she is now bed ridden, so she must rely on Allan and her daughter, Nessie, for assistance. Allan himself is of poor health, so every day, Nessie cycles from Upper Hutt the mile and a half to be at her mother’s bedside and care for both her parents.

The following year, on 26th August 1956, Christina Thomson Innes Anderson dies at her home in Wallaceville, she is 75 years old. Allan’s public notice of her passing is testament to his deep affection for her:

“I lost my life’s companion,
A life linked with my own,
Only God knows how I will miss her,
As I walk through life alone”

Christina is laid to rest next to her granddaughter Nancye, at Wallaceville Cemetery.

Born 3rd January 1881 and died 26th August 1956, Christina Thompson Innes Anderson is my maternal great grandmother.

—– // —-


Elizabeth Ellen Kynaston

Bomere Heath is a tiny Shropshire village, four miles northwest of Shrewsbury and only ten miles from the Welsh border. The land is open and low but rough, with hard soil that can be fertile if it’s worked well. Founded around 800 AD, Shrewsbury’s turbulent history reflects Anglo-Saxon control, Welsh invasion, defence by William the Conqueror and rule by Roger de Montgomery, who built Shrewsbury Castle and founded Shrewsbury Abbey in 1094. Its importance in commerce peaked in the Middle Ages with wool trading, then after he formed the Church of England, King Henry VIII intended to make it a Cathedral City, but he reconsidered after strong protests from Shrewsbury citizens. The 16th and 17th centuries saw it thrive again when its location enabled strategic control of the Welsh wool trade. By the 18th century it was an important market town and stop off point for stagecoaches when travellers for Ireland would break their journey between London and Holyhead here, which led to several coaching inns being established.

In 1829, Charles Kynaston is a carpenter in Bomere Heath village. At 31, he and his wife Jane, aged 32, have just had their second son, Randal, a brother for two year old John. The area continues its interesting times – after Napoleon’s 1815 surrender at Waterloo, the Shropshire Regiment was sent to guard him in exile on St Helena and they were presented with a trinket and a lock of his hair in gratitude. It is proudly displayed in the town museum. The region’s notable Naturalist and Geologist, Charles Darwin, is currently here working on his “Theory of Evolution”.

Shrewsbury 1880
Shrewsbury 1880

Family and village life goes on in Shropshire, where Charles and Jane raise their boys. John becomes a carpenter and moves to Widnes St Mary (near Liverpool), while Randal becomes a shoemaker. In 1857, he is 23 when he relocates to Wolverhampton (near Birmingham) and meets Jane Newnes. The following year they marry at St. Mary’s and soon welcome daughter, Elizabeth. The family return to Leaton, nearer Shrewsbury where their son, John, is born in October 1856.

In Widnes St Mary, Randal’s brother John marries Mary Jane Atkinson and their son Thomas is born in 1865. Within two years, though, Randal’s brother dies and he takes his young nephew, Thomas, into his care. By 1871, Randal and the extended family live in Llanbedr, in Snowdonia, Wales where Randal is a Gamekeeper. John is now 15 and Thomas is 7. Randal manages his employer’s estate to make sure there’s enough game for shooting and looks after the wildlife on the land. He controls the weasels and keeps the human poachers out. In this vast green landscape, the family thrives and little Thomas settles in well with his step-family.

Randal and Jane’s daughter Elizabeth grows up and marries John Cockayne Wright, a ‘letter carrier’. They settle in Warwickshire. Now in his early fifties, Randal becomes the Publican of Shrewsbury’s Carpenter’s Arms Inn. John, now grown into a man of 25, with fiery red hair and a temperament to match, spends a lot of time in the area of his father’s Inn. He meets Elizabeth Ellen Richards, the 16 year old daughter of Shrewsbury railway worker William Richards. John and Elizabeth soon marry at Preston Gubbals Parish Church and settle at Bomere Heath, where their daughter, Sarah Jane (named after Elizabeth’s mother), is born in January 1882, she is to be known as “Sally”. She is followed in April 1883 by Alfred (known as “Fred”), then Elizabeth Ellen in 1886 – she will be “Nellie”.

John and Elizabeth marry at Preston Gubbals Parish Church
John and Elizabeth marry at Preston Gubbals Parish Church

While John and Elizabeth’s home life changes with their expanding family, the country is being transformed too. Many jobs done by hand are now to be done with machines, chemicals and iron are being produced and trains and ships are powered by water or steam, fuelled by coal instead of wood. Almost every aspect of daily life is changing. With three young children to care for, John and Elizabeth decide to give up their rural life and head for more secure employment in a town set up to support Lancashire’s new industries. They see this move can only bring improvement to their lives – work for John, better living standards for the family, school for the children and a local physician for Elizabeth, as she suffers from diabetes. As a child, when she first learned of her chronic condition, medical advice was to get lots of exercise, ideally horse-back riding, to relieve her symptoms. More recently she has been directed to eat only the fat and meat from animals and to try and consume large amounts of sugar – but of course, as her family is not well off, she manages what she can and mostly just tolerates the symptoms of her condition without assistance.

John joins his father-in-law, William, on the railways and they settle in Bewsey, a suburb of Warrington. He is a platelayer then a pointsman. The Kynaston’s home is typical of the developing town – a practical ‘two up-two down’ terraced house, alongside hundreds of others in the grimy, grey streets. Here the family expands with another son, John (to be known as “Jack”), then a daughter, Clara. By 1887 the little Bewsey house is crowded – Nellie, now 2, has three brothers and two sisters. The following year, her Grandmother Jane dies (aged 61), leaving her Grandfather Randal in deep sorrow. Within a year, upon the arrival of another son, Randal Junior, John and Elizabeth need to care for their children, but they also worry for still grieving Randal Senior and his young nephew, Thomas, who has just lost his step-mother. Elizabeth’s own health is an ongoing concern too. They stare at their brood of six – only seven years between them – they want something better in life for everyone – away from this grubby built-up area.

A typical row of
A typical row of “two up, two down” Lancashire workers’ houses.

In late 1889, Nellie is four years old when the extended Kynaston family – John, Elizabeth, Sally, Fred, Nellie, Jack, Clara and baby Randal, with 62 year old Randal Snr and cousin Thomas (now 26) – depart London on the “Ionic” bound for New Zealand. After a 43 day voyage via the Cape of Good Hope, the ship arrives at the port of Bluff, on New Zealand’s southern coast. The Kynastons disembark and are rowed ashore at Orepuki Beach. A branch railway from here gives them direct transport to Invercargill.

John immediately applies for a farm. He is granted a property at Hedgehope, 20 miles inland from Invercargill. As land is allocated by ballot, John has no choice about the property he gets, so he hopes for something workable. The family settles and John starts to develop the farm, with his hard-working cousin Thomas.

Orepuki Beach - the Kynaston family's first view of New Zealand
Orepuki Beach – the Kynaston family’s first view of New Zealand

First priorities are to build a house for the family and prepare the land. Randal Snr returns to his early trade as a bootmaker. Life in Hedgehope is hard, but John has a strong community interest and he is elected to the School Committee. On their first Arbour Day in the new land, John is one of only a few local residents to participate in the community tree planting activity. This season, heavy floods come to Hedgehope and many crops are lost, with only grass and turnips to survive in the district. Many farmers get into arrears on their rent and must forfeit their leases. The Southland Land Board becomes very busy indeed.

The following year, Nellie’s grandfather, Randal Snr dies in Invercargill. He is buried in December 1893 at Eastern Cemetery. The next year, John and Elizabeth’s seventh child, Minnie is born. Nellie’s father finds working on the land particularly hard – the infertile soil needs lots of nurturing and fertiliser and this, coupled with seasons of inhospitable weather, causes farms’ output to be well below their potential. In 1896, when Nellie is 10, John sees an alternative opportunity for himself and Thomas and the family relocate 50 miles west to Merrivale.

In the 1830’s, rabbits were brought to New Zealand and released for food and sport, but the settlers hadn’t expected their population to increase – which has now reached plague proportions. It’s particularly critical in the coastal sand hills between Invercargill and Riverton where a population of rabbits has established itself and is moving along the river banks onto the inland plains. John and Thomas become Rabbiters – with a team of dogs to track their scent, they dig into each rabbit warren and force ferrets into the hole to flush the rabbits out or kill them. They are kept very busy.

A Rabbiter in the 1890's with his horse and team of dogs
A Rabbiter in the 1890’s with his horse and team of dogs

Sally, Fred, Nellie and Jack attend Feldwick School, the only school in the district, in nearby Orawia. In 1897, Nellie gets another sister with the arrival of Annie Maud. With the proceeds of his rabbit hunting and still wanting a life outdoors, John applies for two pieces of land at the head of Fenham Creek in Waiau. He is refused, so he takes ownership of a general store on the main Otautau-Clifden Road. He’s happy with this location – the family can live on site and the store is at a strategic junction where the Otautau-Clifden Road (to Clifden and Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, a growing tourist area) crosses the Feldwick Road (the only direct access from Orawia to the Nightcaps coalmining district). The store has regular trade from Feldwick-Eastern Bush and benefits from the travellers passing through on the main roads.

In early 1900, Nellie’s aunt, John’s sister Elizabeth, arrives from England with her husband John and their children. John makes an offer on a cottage for them at Clifden Ferry, five miles away. In December that year, when Nellie is 14, the family is rocked by a frightening incident. One night, her father goes to bed as usual at around 11.30pm – but on this night he wakes again at 1.30am to find their kitchen fully engulfed in flames. He fights vainly to extinguish the fire, but nearly all their belongings and the contents of the store are destroyed, with only the business books and a few articles saved. Although the house and shop are insured, the blow is devastating.

The family stoically remain in the store and rebuild their lives. The following year, Fred is 18 when he is granted a lease in perpetuity over an acre block at Feldwick, about a mile from the store. He will set up a hut for himself here, as many young single men of the area are doing. At the end of the year, Nellie’s mother, Elizabeth gets a grazing licence for a block near Fred’s, where she can graze her house cow. Roads in the area are rough and the Wallace County Council is inundated with requests from ratepayers for the dirt roads to be gravelled, particularly from Kynaston’s store to Feldwick.

Southland - the Kynaston's areaIn 1902, when Nellie is 16, her father puts a Manager into the store and is granted 172 acres of farming land half a mile along on the Otautau-Clifden Road. She watches as her father works hard on the land and works the children hard too. He must keep the rabbits at bay and on most mornings he wakes his young sons at 4am for them to go and empty all the rabbit traps before they head off to school.

When her father’s lease is suddenly cancelled, Nellie listens to his protests at being unfairly compensated for the work he has done to improve the property. To her dismay, he is so exasperated at his treatment by the Southland Land Board and the Minister for Lands that he writes an epistle to the Editor of the Southland Times, which is published under the title “A Settler’s Grievance”. At home, Nellie reads her father’s published words – his frustration clear at his being short-changed by 19 shillings.

“I am a working man with eight of a family … as soon as I got the land I set about making a home for myself on it …
spent most of my time in the bush getting posts and stakes; and during the last six months in going to and from Invercargill for tools and supplies …
I asked for an opportunity to defend myself at a hearing … but have been described as an ‘unsatisfactory tenant’…
my labour to carve out a home for myself has been in vain, over 12 months of my life has been wasted  …
I have worked hard all my life and this is how poor unfortunate beings are encouraged to settle on the land as State tenants.
God help them, I say, under such administrative methods …. And this is a free country, boasting a democracy! …”

For the family, the shortfall is significant and Nellie is pleased when the matter reaches the Minister of Land and is heard in Parliament, in the country’s distant capital, Wellington. The topic arises several times, but to her father’s regret and her own unease, the Southland Land Board is unmoved and he is left out of pocket by his 19 shillings – more than a third of his overall investment.

Much of the Orawia district is covered in bush and farmland is in high demand, so work is underway across the area to clear the land for farms and settlements. The town swells with the ongoing arrival of workmen skilled at bush craft.

A summer picnic (1900)
A summer picnic (1900)

Not surprisingly, with the negative outcomes of her father’s lengthy property dispute, Nellie’s home life is fraught. She looks elsewhere for pleasant activities and happier surroundings. She regularly attends social gatherings in the district – the Orawia Annual Picnic and the Clifden Footballers’ Ball are particularly enjoyable. She chooses either her formal dress in black velvet trimmed with white lace or her lighter dress in white muslin. Her brother, Fred, a talented singer, is commonly requested to attend occasions and sing items throughout the evening. His entertainment is thoroughly appreciated and always enjoyed. At only 16, Nellie silently appreciates her older brother’s presence as he can chaperone her attendance.

Nellie’s father runs out of patience on his ill-fated property and he buys two adjoining farming blocks at Feldwick. The family move there and live in a tent on the property while John, Nellie’s brothers, and their cousin Thomas construct the homestead.

In 1904, cousin Thomas, now 37, is granted access to a farming block in Waiau. Nellie’s older sister Sally, now 22, leaves the district and takes up work in Invercargill as a live-in domestic for one of the town’s “society”. Nellie maintains her own social activities and jealously eyes her sister’s independence. At one outing, she meets a strapping young bushman with bright blue eyes who’s been in the area for several months – he is Daniel Weir. In 1905, Nellie is 19 when yet another sister, Veronica Esther (to be known as Vera) is born. Home in Feldwick means lots of people and lots of work, so Nellie starts looking for a calmer alternative – surely there’s something for me other than cooking for my family, seeing to the farm and looking after my new baby sister?

Daniel Weir courts Nellie and in December 1905, she is the first of John and Elizabeth’s children to marry.

Daniel and Nellie on their wedding day, 1905
Daniel and Nellie on their wedding day, 1905

Nellie and Daniel follow his work around the district and by 1906 they are 75 miles away in the Nokomai Valley. This rugged area has been settled primarily for high-country sheep farming and it is here that Nellie gives birth to their son, Daniel Richards (named Daniel for his father and Richards after Nellie’s mother). He has blue eyes like his father and bright red hair like is grandfather, John. After some months, Daniel’s birth date is officially noted in Invercargill as 18th March 1906. His very early years are spent moving around with his parents as they follow the work.

A few months later, cousin Thomas petitions the Land Board for compensation for forfeiture of his lease. Then in 1907, Nellie’s brother, Fred, now 24 and always one to see a business opportunity, advertises his regular coach service for passengers between Otautau and Orawia to connect with Invercargill trains. At the end of that year, Nellie and her family watch her brother Randal play in the Christmas Day Cricket Match between Nightcaps and Mount Linton – as last man, he makes one run.

Fred Kynaston's 1907 enterprise
Fred Kynaston’s 1907 enterprise

By 1908, having made lots of contacts through his singing engagements, 25 year old Fred is an active businessman in the region and he joins the Waiau IOOF Lodge. He is elected Secretary and his first task is to advertise tickets to the Lodge Annual Ball – they sell quickly at five shillings each. The Lodge soon has enough local members so their Orawia District opens, with Fred, being highly regarded in the area, elected as the Lodge “Right Supporter of Noble Grand”. In this important role, he supports the Noble Grand to keep order, carry out commands, open and close the lodge correctly, ensure signs are given correctly and deputise in the Chair if the Noble Grand temporarily vacates it during lodge hours.

Nellie and Daniel are in Otautau, when their second son John Ronald arrives, but his life is tragically short and he dies after only 12 days. Happier news comes later in 1908 when Nellie’s sister Clara marries James Monteath, a shepherd from the local area; then again later that year, when Nellie and Daniel’s baby daughter, Elizabeth Ellen arrives. Named after Nellie, she will be known as Bessie. Now a mother of two healthy children, 22 year old Nellie settles into her family life and sees to her husband and children.

Nellie’s father is granted a grazing licence on an 8 acre block in Feldwick then Thomas takes ownership of 6 acres nearby. Later that year, on a visit to O’Brien’s Crown Hotel, her father is outside the bar when he is approached by John Curran, who asks him for money. When John says he has none to lend, Curran suddenly kicks him in the mouth. John is nastily injured and Curran, whilst deeply regretful of his impulsive act, is found guilty of assault in the Otautau Magistrates Court and fined 20 shillings (plus costs) for his trouble.

The area is very active with social and sporting events  – in early 1910, the area thrills when “O’Neill’s Buckjumpers Hippodrome and Circus” visits Otauatu for one night only, offering a one pound prize for anyone who can ride a buckjumper for a minute – or 20 pounds for anyone who can “produce a horse to unseat Champion Buckjumper Ernie O’Brien”. In July, Fred promotes a new pastime taking on across the district – skating. Every Wednesday and Saturday night the local Hall is filled with enthusiasts and Fred cashes in soundly.

Nellie’s father sells the store. In 1910, he applies for a patent for his “improved means for fixing rabbit traps to the ground” then in 1911 he is approved to acquire 11 more acres in Feldwick. Now John controls a lot of land (nearly 400 acres), but his luck is variable – two thirds of his land is alluvial river flats with excellent potential for dairying, but the rest is peat bog – impossible to farm. The neighbouring farm is occupied by Farmer Scott, who hasn’t hit it off well with Nellie’s father. John and Mr Scott have several visits to the Council and the Land Board for disputes over their boundary fence, shared waterways and various claims for damages brought by one or other of the parties. It seems these neighbours are destined never to have a peaceful life.

In summer 1911, during a bout of illness, one day Nellie’s parents keep Vera home from school. Although John had advised the School Committee of this, he is requested to attend Otautau Court for “failing to send a child to school”. He pleads Not Guilty and the Magistrate dismisses the case. But he reminds John he must “ensure an exemption certificate is obtained in cases of illness necessitating an absence from school”.

Nellie, Daniel and the children move to Eastern Bush, only 7 miles from Orawia, where Daniel continues to work as a bushman. John and Elizabeth are pleased to have them much closer now as they are able to see more of their two grandchildren, Daniel and Bessie. In early 1911, the family is delighted with the news that Nellie is to give birth once again. John and Elizabeth look forward to the coming springtime with happiness.

October arrives and Nellie gives birth to her second daughter, Minnie Hannah. Although she is only 25, after her confinement Nellie’s health becomes frail and the family have great concern for her wellbeing. They watch as their dear Nellie gradually loses her strength … within weeks she dies. She is buried in Eastern Bush Cemetery and her children post tender words for her on her headstone:

wife of D WEIR
died 16 Dec. 1911 aged 25 years
from Dan, Minnie and Bessie

Born March 1886 and died 16th December 1911, Elizabeth Ellen Kynaston Weir is my paternal great grandmother.


Nellie's mother, Elizabeth, in 1918
Nellie’s mother, Elizabeth, in 1918

Post scripts:

  • In 1914, three years after her death, Nellie’s husband Daniel marries Henrietta Agnes Berland in Balclutha.
  • In 1917, Nellie’s father John, dies aged 59. He is buried at Otautau Hodgkinson Cemetery.
  • In 1919, Nellie’s husband Daniel dies in Owaka and is buried in Owaka Cemetery. The children are cared for by Agnes.
  • In 1922, the Kynaston farm is sold to wind up Nellie’s father John’s estate. Nellie’s mother, Elizabeth, moves with Annie Maud and Vera to Invercargill.
  • In 1930, Nellie’s mother Elizabeth dies from effects of diabetes, she is 65. She is buried at Otautau Hodgkinson Cemetery
  • In 1934, Nellie’s cousin Thomas dies aged 70, he has never married.

Photo credits:

George Ross

Aberdeenshire, Scotland’s most northeast county, is bound by the sea on two coasts. At its easternmost point on the Buchan coast 32 miles from Aberdeen, a headland extends round a rocky bay.

Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

This is Peterhead – its name is abbreviated from ‘St Peter’s headland’, after the twelfth century church on the shores of the bay. This small village is home to fishermen who wear blue worsted stockings to keep out the bitter cold – so they become known as people from the “Blue Toon” or “Bloo Tooners”.

In 1587 Peterhead becomes a burgh of barony and a harbour is built, then six years later – despite its population being less than 100 – it is elevated to Royal burgh status. The fish curing industry grows and the town earns a reputation as leading exporter of cured fish, with strong trade links to Holland. To meet its potential as a fishing port, the new South Harbour is developed in the 1770’s, followed by the North Harbour in 1822.

A small textile industry starts, but white fishing, herring fishing and whaling are the principal sources of Peterhead’s prosperity.

Peterhead Harbour 1850's
Peterhead Harbour 1850’s

A Peterhead resident is 23 year old sailor Hugh Ross from Aberdeen. He makes his living on the ships that trade through Peterhead and in 1827 he marries 18 year old Elizabeth Cardno, from the village of Ellon, 15 miles away. They have son William Rennie in 1828 and John in 1830. By 1831 the burgh’s population exceeds 5,000 and although he’s young, Hugh becomes a Ship’s Master.

In 1832, Hugh and Elizabeth have son James, then on 17th November 1834 they welcome their fourth son – George.  Although the parish church built in 1808 can hold a congregation of 2,000, a second Church of Scotland is opened.

By now, the growing town has a brewery, brickworks, dyeworks, gas works and spinning mill. Sea-kelp is gathered for farm manure and cattle-feed. Shipbuilding and rope-making support the fishing and whaling industries and Peterhead becomes an important port and market town for the surrounding area. Strong exports of fish, whale meat, seal meat, oil, pork, butter, cheese, eggs, grain and granite continue and the “Blue Tooners” benefit from the imports of timber, salt, flour, lime, wool, iron and groceries.

Life continues and the boys grow. They attend Peterhead’s parish school in a room in the three storey town house. The school is on the first floor, with the ground floor holding shops and the second with civic offices.

By 1838, George is six years old and his father, Hugh has died. His widowed mother, Elizabeth, returns to Ellon and soon marries Alexander Bowman.  Elizabeth and Alexander have daughter Elizabeth, then four more sons – Charles, Alexander, Peter and another George – then finally, in 1853 their second daughter, Jessie. Elizabeth, now 44, has ten children. Peterhead is Britain’s premier whaling port and the area flourishes.

The town supports five banks, several Merchant and Trades Societies, twelve schools, several libraries, a public reading room and a news room. The Peterhead Association for Science, Literature and the Arts has its own museum that also gives community lectures. There’s a Gardeners’ Society, Farmers’ Society, Masonic Lodge, a public billiard-room and a set of hot and cold Public Baths.

Now 19 years old, George develops a strong interest in making things … he so enjoys working rough pieces of rock into shaped stones which he arranges and fixes and settles into structures with mortar, that he becomes a stone mason. He finds work in Peterhead’s important granite industry using the output from large quarries at Stirlinghill, Salthousehead and Blackhill. He works for five years around Peterhead.

On 4th December 1858, 24 year old George sails from Liverpool on the “Ocean Chief” bound for Melbourne, Australia. He makes friends with fellow travellers, David and James Weipers (Weepers). The brothers – David (23 yrs) and James (26 yrs) – are carpenters from Pathead in Dysart, Fifeshire – themselves heading for new opportunities in a new land. In February 1859, the trio arrive in Melbourne, where George settles and finds work in Stone Masonry. The Melbourne Football Club is founded and Queen Victoria decrees the colony of Queensland. The passenger steamship SS Admella shipwrecks on a reef near Mount Gambier with the loss of 89 lives; then immigrant Thomas Austin releases his 24 rabbits into rural Australia as game. They multiply exponentially.

“Mistress of the Seas”

For George and the Weipers brothers, news of the Otago goldrush in New Zealand reaches them and the lure becomes too strong to resist. In September 1862, they sail from Melbourne on the “Mistress of the Seas”. Bound for Callao in Peru, the ship’s first call is to Port Chalmers in Otago. The “Mistress” is a magnificent new clipper, sent to Melbourne by its owners the White Star Line, to supply a growing population to the British colonies in the antipodes. The daily newspaper notes that she “is built especially for the Australian passenger trade … and fitted with every modern appliance for the health, comfort and safety of passengers.”

The men are three of the 700 passengers to take her first Australian voyage – all bound for the New Zealand goldfields. On 3 October 1862, the ship sails into Port Chalmers.

George drifts through the Central Otago goldfields and tries his luck with sporadic success. He reaches the Shotover Diggings on Arthurs Point in the hills north east of Queenstown. Gold has recently been discovered here and the Shotover River is said to be “the world’s richest gold-bearing river”. Ever the toiler, George works at his claim from dawn to dusk six days a week. Many of his fellow prospectors are immigrants – European, American, Australian and Chinese – and most are men. Some women accompany their husbands, brothers or friends, but the “rough and ready” tent dwellings are a difficult place for anyone to live. Along with the daily search for gold, every man sees to their own washing, cooking and wood chopping. Some women offer a laundry service to busy prospectors and others keep hens and goats so the few children around can get better food. Some stores are run by women too and someone runs a school, but only until the teacher’s prospector husband moves on, then the class waits until another teacher arrives … sometime.

Gabriel's Gully gold fields, Central Otago (1861)
Gabriel’s Gully gold fields, Central Otago (1861)

Occasionally, George finds time at the end of the day and on Sundays, for relaxation. Some men set up a makeshift boxing saloon and hold weekly bouts. Hotels are not allowed on the diggings, but the occasional sly “grog tent” or “shanty” springs up – disguised as a coffee shop. Run by women, these are particularly popular on a Saturday night.

George enjoys a reasonable return from his claim at the Shotover diggings then travels to the South Island’s West Coast to prospect further. He saves his earnings carefully and in 1868 he returns to the more familiar East Coast. Now 34, after his years of work in dusty stone masonry and on the gold fields, George develops asthma – a common disease that inflames his airways. He suffers chronic wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Gold Prospector 1860
Gold Prospector 1860

For the good of his health, George uses his gold profits to secure 170 acres of Crown Land at Portobello on Otago Peninsula to establish a farm. Halfway along Otago Peninsula, Portobello is named after a locality in Edinburgh, Scotland. A winding track runs along the edge of the harbour to connect the settlement with Dunedin. Many residents enjoy boating here and a ferry service provides a regular transport link to Dunedin too.

During these years, George keeps contact with his friends David and James Weipers. Pining for their family and Scottish heritage, the have brothers endlessly urged their parents, Peter and Margaret, to leave Scotland and travel to Otago to enjoy a new life. The senior Weipers finally accept their sons’ encouragement and in 1868 they arrive in Port Chalmers with their 24 year old daughter Eliza. George meets Eliza soon after they arrive and they form an affectionate connection. Within a year, in 1869, they marry and settle on George’s property at Portobello.

A year after their wedding, George and Eliza welcome their son George Weipers, followed by Peter Weipers in 1871, William Rennie in 1873 and their first daughter, Janet Braid in 1875.

Although George has worked hard to establish his farm, he becomes unhappy about his rights of access to the property, so he decides the best course of action is to subdivide the farm and sell up. With the proceeds, he purchases land across the harbour at Sawyers Bay in the county of Waikouaiti.

Seven miles by rail from Dunedin and within a mile of Port Chalmers, the name “Sawyers Bay” is derived from the sawyers who worked in the bush to provide timber for Dunedin and Port Chalmers and who set up the area’s sawmill. The township is dominated by a large tannery of Michaelis, Hallenstein and Farquhar along with a post and telegraph office, railway station and the Sawyers’ Bay Public School. Although the town is only a mile from Port Chalmers, the school is sorely needed here to provide the district’s children with primary education – on average over ninety children attend every day.

George Ross
George Ross

The family relocates to Sawyers Bay and life settles. As good citizens, George and Eliza are accustomed to taking part in the regular New Zealand Census, held since 1851 when the British Government ordered a count of people in all of its colonies. At first, only Europeans were counted, but then in 1874 a separate Māori census is conducted in the same year as the European census. Each of New Zealand’s six provinces is responsible for censuses in its own boundaries. Unlike the European census, not all dwellings are visited in the Māori census and several of the early Collectors note some Māori residents are suspicious and unwilling to participate. The European census uses a Dwelling Form for each household but the Māori census has handwritten lists prepared by each Collector, so information from the early Māori censuses is limited.

George establishes and works the successful sheep farm until 1876, but the tough manual work takes its toll on his health and he reluctantly retires from the farm aged only 42. But he maintains a relatively active life in the outdoors when he secures a position with the Borough of Port Chalmers as a “Collector of Statistics” in the Waikouaiti District. He enjoys this work and his interactions with many people of the area. Between 1876 and 1879, three more sons – John Thornton, James and David – are born, followed by daughters Jane Dickenson in 1881 and Eliza in 1883. Now with nine children, George becomes an active member of the Sawyers Bay School Committee. At the same time, the government requires that a common national census be held every five years from 1881.

Several years pass – George and Eliza watch their nine children grow. In April 1898, their son Peter Weipers Ross marries 20 year old Bessie May Hawes in Port Chalmers and they settle nearby. Bessie was born in Port Chalmers and happily settles in the familiar area. On Christmas Eve the same year, David marries 25 year old Sophia Maude Burt, a North Islander from Waitotara in Taranaki and they settle in Pahiatua in the North Island’s Wairarapa region. Two years later in 1900, their eldest daughter Janet Braid marries Gibson Pearce Martin from Tokomariro near Milton and they settle near George and Eliza in Sawyers Bay.

Only a year after this, on 17th October 1901, George suffers a severe asthma attack and dies. He is buried in Port Chalmers Cemetery, aged only 67. His family adorn his death notice with gerbera flowers and the gentle words:

“Worthy of true respect was he
from those he left behind.
A better husband could not be,
a father more true and kind.
Beloved in life, regretted gone,
remembered in the grave.”

  • Born 17th November 1834 and died 17th October 1901 – George Ross is my maternal great x2 grandfather.


Post scripts:

  1. Three years later, in 1904, George and Eliza’s son, James – now 27, meets and marries 21 year old housekeeper, Ellen Jones, in Port Chalmers. James, now a baker, relocates with Ellen to Edendale, then Dunedin, where they raise five children – James Alexander, Emily, George, Isobel and Winnifred.
  2. Eliza continues to live in the home she shared with George until 1910, when she relocates to Palmerston North in the North Island. She lives in Worcester Street in until her death on 4 June 1926 when she is 81. She is buried in Pahiatua Cemetery.

Source of photos:

Daniel Weir

It’s 1919. In the coastal saw-milling town of Owaka in the rugged Catlins area of Southland in New Zealand, 14 year old Daniel Richards Weir sits in the kitchen of his home. He thinks about his father, Daniel, who has recently passed away after falling victim to the global ‘flu epidemic now sweeping the country.

What type of man was he?  … what made him the man he was? … what does it mean about the man I might become? …

Daniel’s mind wanders as he contemplates his family’s path up to this point … back to last century …
The early 1800’s – Edinburgh is a turbulent place. Poet Robert Burns visits, the city gets a daily fresh water supply and the Bank of Scotland builds its head office. The White Hart Inn hosts a visit by William and Dorothy Wordsworth and Commissioners oversee the city’s policing, cleaning and lighting. The Nelson Monument is erected, Royal Edinburgh Hospital opens and the first issue of ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper hits the busy streets. Princes Street is lit by gas instead of oil lamps and five coaches a day run the 12 hour, 40 mile (64 km) journey between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Edinburgh around 1800 (by Alexander Naysmyth)
Edinburgh around 1800 (by Alexander Naysmyth)

Established on a bedrock of sandstone, Edinburgh has long been dominated by several quarries, with their output used on Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh University. Today hundreds of workers produce cartloads of sandstone daily for the construction of Edinburgh’s ambitious “New Town”. The massive project leads to a surge in demand for sandstone and people flock to Edinburgh to get work. Suburbs grow quickly along the River Leith and several parishes boom, including St Cuthbert’s on the edge of town.

In 1820, Cochrane and Sarah Weir with their 3 year old daughter Elizabeth arrive from Ireland. Cochrane is a quarry labourer, so he finds work quickly. They settle at Water of Leith in St Cuthbert’s. As a quarryman, Cochrane’s work is hard – the physical labour is one thing, but he constantly breathes the damaging sandstone powder and sulphur. In fact, a doctor recommends that the “Craigleith quarrymen” grow beards and moustaches to act as respirators. In 1821, as Edinburgh’s population reaches 140,000, Cochrane and Sarah’s son Daniel is born, followed by James later the same year.

King George IV visits in 1822 – he delights the city when he wears a kilt. Daniel’s brother Hugh is born in 1824 then the “Great Fire” devastates much of Edinburgh, so Britain’s first municipal fire brigade is established in the city. Between 1825 and 1829, Daniel has sisters Mary, Nancy and Agnes, then another brother Robert. At the end of the decade, in honour of the royal visit, the George IV Bridge is constructed. Prisoner William Hare gives incriminating evidence against his partner William Burke, who is hanged for Edinburgh’s “West Port Murders”. In these heinous crimes, corpses of 16 victims are sold to Dr Robert Knox who dissects them during his anatomy lectures. By 1831, Edinburgh’s population reaches 160,000 and an outbreak of cholera hits the city.

In 1833, after such huge development, Edinburgh goes bankrupt. Daniel has another brother, Joseph, and to escape the unpleasant city centre, Cochrane and Sarah relocate the family a mile away to the village of Bells Mills. Andrew is born here and Daniel, now a teenager, becomes a labourer. He meets Catherine Graham from nearby Hawthorn Bank and in December 1840 they marry at St Cuthbert’s Church. In May 1841, when Daniel and Catherine are both 20, their son Cochrane is born.

The Edinburgh to Glasgow railway opens in 1842 and after 5 years on the throne, young Queen Victoria makes her first visit to Scotland. In 1843, Daniel and Catherine welcome their second son, John, and in 1844 the Sir Walter Scott Monument is built. By 1847, Edinburgh is overcrowded – the “Old Town” is mostly slums and many live in poverty. The leader of the Church of Scotland, Thomas Chalmers, dies and half of Edinburgh’s population attends his funeral.

In the Highlands, income from kelp and cattle declines so the landlords evict most of the farmers to create grazing land for sheep. The luckless farmers must find food and jobs elsewhere. Life for the Lowlanders is tough too – poor wages, dismal housing and high unemployment means many seek better living standards. Emigration starts to look like a very attractive option.

Captain William Cargill and Reverend Thomas Burns start the ‘Free Church of Scotland’ and want to create a ‘New Edinburgh’. They choose Otago in New Zealand as the ideal site and in 1847 two ships are the first to set sail for Otago. The “John Wickliffe” and the “Philip Laing” carry 350 Scottish farmers, labourers, doctors, merchants and craftsmen towards a new life on the other side of the world.

Philip Laing sails into Port Chalmers
Philip Laing sails into Port Chalmers

In April 1848, the ships arrive in Port Chalmers. Women and children stay aboard while the men put up beach shelters and a jetty. They beach the cargo and weatherproof it with tarpaulins. Although it’s autumn, the Dunedin weather is kind to the settlers – one labourer notes: “If I had been in Scotland, I would’ve been dead. I lived several nights in the bush, but found no ill effects from it.” When the shelters are erected, the people start to establish their new town.

As the new colony takes its first steps, 27 year old Daniel and Catherine Weir and their two young sons depart Gravesend on the third ship “Blundell”. They leave everything – home, family and the familiar – and spend six months at sea in the small leaky wooden ship. It’s dangerous and living conditions are rough. Catherine’s experience is even more so – still several weeks from land she gives birth to their third son, James. The “Blundell” arrives in Port Chalmers in September 1848.

Daniel and Catherine, with 6 year old Cochrane, 1 year old John and 2 month old James set up house in Andersons Bay, a pretty bushland spot with scrub and flax growing right to the water’s edge. All around the Peninsula, birds are plentiful so kaka, pigeon, quail, woodhen and tui are hunted – they’re very good to eat.

Daniel works as a labourer in Dunedin and earns 4 shillings a day. He is keen to establish his family and after four years he buys five acres of bushland a quarter-mile from Andersons Bay. He names his property “Oceanview” and builds a fern-tree house. He clears some of the land and grows wheat and potatoes. He continues to work as a labourer around the town to earn some wages.

As soon as can he buys ten more acres at £3 per acre. The property is much admired – locals say it occupies “one of the pleasantest sites in a pleasant neighbourhood”. The boys’ brother William is born, then Daniel Junior in April 1852, followed by Robert in 1853. Life is settled and happy for the farming Weir family. When the kakas and parakeets get too numerous and eat too much of the grain, fruit and turnips planted, the boys entertain themselves by hunting them with a flax loop or stick slingshot. Their prowess with the stone missiles is highly regarded. They dive for shellfish from the rocks and fish for eels in the lagoon too.

In the new settlement of Dunedin, surveyor Charles Kettle plans an ‘Edinburgh of the South’ with beautiful views and a dramatic harbour. He creates an ‘Octagon’ at Moray Place and forms George and Princes Streets, named after the two main thoroughfares in Edinburgh. The population expands and Andersons Bay School is established in 1851.

In April 1856, 36 year old Alison Handyside Muir Bower boards the “Strathmore”in London with her daughter Christina. Recently widowed, Alison hopes for a new life in New Zealand. In Andersons Bay, the Road Board is formed to build the roads surveyed by Charles Kettle. Daniel buys more land – first a parcel of ten acres, then when he can afford it, another fifteen acres. His land now totals thirty acres – as much as he is allowed to own freehold.

But then Daniel Snr’s life is shattered when his Catherine suddenly dies – she is 35. After only eight years in New Zealand, the tragedy leaves him lost, with a farm to run and six young sons to raise. 14 year old Cochrane joins his father at work on the family farm.

A month later, the “Strathmore” brings Alison and Christina Bower into Port Chalmers. Alison meets Daniel Snr and the following April they marry. Daniel Snr enfolds young Christina into the family and as an upstanding citizen he registers for Jury duty. He describes his occupation as an “Agriculturalist”. As soon as they are able, Daniel Jnr and Robert start work alongside their father and Cochrane on the farm.

Daniel Weir Senior
Daniel Weir Senior

The settlement is slow to grow. But Daniel continues to expand his property.  He leases 24 acres and starts to breed, rear and buy cattle. Soon his farm holdings include milking cows, horses and pigs. In the rich soil he grows oats, potatoes, turnips, carrots and English grasses. He successfully sells all his crops, fresh butter and milk in Dunedin.

After 10 years, Dunedin remains a village of 2,000 mainly Scottish settlers. Alison and Daniel Snr do what they can to shore up the population and by 1860 Joseph, Alexander and Charles have arrived, giving them nine sons.

In early 1861, after gold deposits are found elsewhere in New Zealand, the Otago Provincial Council decides to encourage more people to the area to prospect for gold. Unsure whether Otago has any large deposits, they offer a reward of £1,000 to the first person to locate one. Gold is discovered at Tuapeka, south of Dunedin so the rush for more begins. Prospectors flood to the area and many people come to find business opportunities. Dunedin establishes manufacturing and importing industries to keep up with the growing demand for food, equipment and supplies. Within a year, Otago is transformed. Every week local businesses send food and supplies to thousands of prospectors at the goldfields. Daniel Snr spends nine weeks on the diggings at Gabriel’s Gully selling his produce, which makes him a handsome profit. The gold deposit is rich – twice a month armed and mounted men on the “Gold Escort” bring thousands of ounces of gold from the prospectors back to Dunedin to be kept in secure holdings in the bank.

Princes Street, Dunedin in 1861
Princes Street, Dunedin in 1861

In 1862, gold is discovered near the Clutha River at Dunstan, in the mountains 200 miles (300 km) away. Within days, two tent cities spring up on the riverbanks and Cochrane, now 18, leaves the Weir farm to head for the goldfields. After two weeks journey by horse-drawn dray he arrives and sets up his diggings. He has great success and plans a marvellous new life – then a massive flood of the Clutha carries away everything he has – his belongings, his savings and his dreams. With only horses to his name, he travels for seven weeks over the Southern Alps to goldfields on the West Coast. He partners with another prospector and they set up a successful storekeeping and packing business.

Back in Port Chalmers, “Lady Egidia” arrives from London. She’s the largest wooden vessel yet to enter the port and her stylish lines are admired as she approaches up the channel. Aboard are Robert Cowan, his wife Jane and their six children – son William and daughters Mary, Jane, Hannah, Marion and baby Janet. The Cowans settle in Andersons Bay and Robert finds labouring and road work. The Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church is built in 1863 and the town now has a bakery, butcher, blacksmith, draper, the Andersons Bay Hotel and a boot repair business.

Daniel Snr's wife, Alison Weir
Daniel Snr’s wife, Alison Weir

By 1866, Dunedin’s population reaches 15,000 and in Andersons Bay, Daniel Snr and Alison have sons Andrew, David and Edward. Robert Cowan purchases a farm at Sandymount in the Otago Peninsula hills. A prominent landform 2 miles (5km) south of Portobello, Sandymount rises to 1,000 feet (300 metres) above the Pacific Ocean and features some of largest high cliffs and chasms in New Zealand. It’s a successful settlement, ideal for dairy farming as the ocean breeze keeps the pasture green and lush. The area’s flax scutching mill prepares harvested flax for spinning and the quarry extracts limestone from the ground for transport to Dunedin in cement, mortar and lime-wash. It has a creamery, a school (educating several Cowan children), a post office, volunteer hall and a Presbyterian Church. The residents have a regular coach service to Dunedin.

Robert and Jane Cowan, parents of Hannah and Marion
Robert and Jane Cowan, parents of Hannah and Marion

Cochrane returns from his successful years on the West Coast and establishes his own farm at Sandymount. In late 1867 he marries 24 year old Alison Archibald, a housemaid from St Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh. Cochrane clears and cultivates eighty acres of his bushland and builds “a handsome residence and set of farm buildings in brick” for himself and Alison. He names the farm “Glenweir”.

By 1868, in Andersons Bay, Alison and Daniel Snr’s family of Christina and twelve sons celebrate the arrival of their second daughter Alison Barbara – but her life is short and she dies after 4 months.

In 1871, Daniel Jnr’s brother Robert turns 19 and leaves his father’s farm. He buys his own seventy acre block at Sandymount and establishes a dairy farm. Between 1874 and 1876 the railway to Andersons Bay, the “Peninsula and Ocean Beach Railway”, is established.

Three years later, Daniel Jnr is 21 and a farm labourer at Sandymount. He meets 18 year old Hannah Cowan and they marry at the Cowan family’s home. The couple settle here and the following year, their son Robert is born then Daniel III arrives in October 1876.

In 1878, the ‘Great Flood’ of the Clutha kills several people across Otago. Thousands of animals drown or starve to death, the new Balclutha Bridge “falls to pieces like a box of matches” and Inch Clutha Island is almost totally submerged. Floodwaters gouge a new outlet to the sea at Port Molyneux, leaving it half a mile (1 km) inland. Flood repairs cost Otago over £100,000. The following year, 37 men are killed at Kaitangata Coal Mine when a worker carries a candle into a disused mineshaft and undetectable but lethal methane fire damp explodes.

Cochrane Weir
Cochrane Weir

Horse trams become popular public transport so the Andersons Bay railway line closes. By 1883 Daniel and Hannah have David, Walter, Hugh and Jane. Daniel Jnr’s brother James marries Katherine (Kate) Delaney from Ireland and his brother William marries Janet King from Balclutha. To support its growing population, Dunedin invests in public works. Otago Museum, the University, Otago Boys’ High School, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Knox Presbyterian and Trinity Methodist Churches are all built by 1884. Daniel III attends Sandymount School with several of his siblings and he is awarded the Standard III Prize.

Now 44 years old, Cochrane is a well-known local figure – he’s on the Roads Board, the School Committee and the Peninsula Agricultural and Pastoral (A&P) Association. Daniel Jnr’s heart goes out to his brother when Cochrane’s life is struck a sudden blow – Alison, his wife of 18 years, dies suddenly. She is only 41. He continues his community work but Alison’s death leaves a gap in his life and the following year he marries 20 year old Allison Wilson McKay from Sandymount. They look forward to raising a family together.

Robert and Marion Weir
Robert and Marion Weir

Robert, now a successful dairy farmer at Sandymount, meets and marries Hannah’s younger sister, Marion Cowan. He becomes a member of the Sandymount School Committee, joins the Portobello Rifle Club and with Cochrane, is a founding member of the Peninsula A&P Association.

Towards the end of 1889, Daniel Jnr visits Dunedin and gets involved in a scuffle. Along with two other men he is charged with drunkenness. This is a common occurrence for the policemen of Dunedin when farmers come into town for some rest and recreation. After the inlet is dredged and the bridge is raised, the steamer ferry ‘Pioneer’ starts a regular service from Dunedin to the old Andersons Bay railway station. But the tides of the inlet regularly cause the ferry to wedge on the mudflats and passengers are late to work too often, so the business soon folds.

By 1892, Daniel Jnr and Hannah purchase their own farm at Tahatika, about 6 miles (11km) up the Owaka Valley. They are roundly congratulated by many in the district upon having secured a ‘really first class farm’. They establish their home, then welcome sons Cowan and John Roland and daughters Mary Geary and Catherine Graham – their tenth child. Catherine dies within 12 months. The children attend Tahatika School, where they are taught by Miss Flamank.

In 1893 Ethel Benjamin enrols at Law School – Otago becomes the first University in Australasia to permit women to take a law degree.

Daniel Weir Junior
Daniel Weir Junior

In Andersons Bay in January 1894, the family’s patriarch Daniel Weir Snr dies after a short illness. Many people from around the district attend his funeral and he is followed to his grave by 11 of his sons, several grandsons, old shipmates and many early residents. After his burial at Andersons Bay Cemetery the Otago Witness notes he is “one of the area’s old identities – an original settler who arrived in the district and never moved from it. The community has lost an honest, upright man.” He is 73.

The following year, several sections of land in the Catlins and Woodland districts go on the market for the first time. Timber mills have cleared the area of trees with the lumber sent to Dunedin and Christchurch for houses – the land is ready for farming. The Dunedin Crown Land Office holds a formal ballot and Daniel Jnr’s brother David successfully purchases a section at the cash price of 15 shillings per acre.

Owaka Dairy Factory opens in 1887
Owaka Dairy Factory opens in 1887

In July 1897, Ethel Benjamin graduates with her LLB, Robert Weir becomes Chairman of the Peninsula A&P Association and Andrew Weir marries Sarah Elizabeth Duckmanton.

In 1903, Daniel Jnr is elected onto the Owaka Valley School Committee where the youngest of his ten children attend classes. By 1904, several of his brothers are well established too – Robert is a dairy farmer, Andrew is a successful Ayrshire cattle breeder, Edward is a Government Surveyor Engineer in Taranaki and Cochrane is one of the most important farmers on the Otago Peninsula. “Glenweir” is one of the area’s largest farms, covering more than 220 acres. Cochrane and Alison raise thirteen children; Daniel and Hannah have ten; William and Janet have five; Robert and Marion have four; Andrew and Sarah have three; James and Kate have a son.

In December, 1904, Robert and Jane Cowan celebrate their Diamond Wedding anniversary then in 1905 Andersons Bay Hotel is dismantled and relocated to make way for a new tram line. Daniel III, now 29 and a farmer in Crookston, meets and marries Ellen Elizabeth Kynaston. Known as “Nellie”, she’s the daughter of Englishman John Kynaston, a Rabbiter from Lancashire who now lives in Merrivale, Southland. In 1906, Daniel III and Nellie live in the Nokomai Valley where their first son, Daniel Richards, is born.

Daniel III and Elizabeth Ellen (Nellie) on their wedding day
Daniel III and Elizabeth Ellen (Nellie) on their wedding day

In Andersons Bay in January 1907, Daniel III’s grandmother, Alison Weir, dies – she is 87. She is laid to rest alongside her husband of 37 years, Daniel Snr. Eight months later, Daniel Jnr dies suddenly at Tahatika – he is only 55. Grief-stricken, Hannah posts a heartfelt notice in the Clutha Leader:

Not dead to us – we love him dear; Not lost, but gone before;
He lives with us in memory still, and will for evermore.”

Although several of Daniel Jnr and Hannah’s children are now adults, the younger ones are still dependent – John Roland is only 13. The family’s notice at the death of their father echoes their mother’s deep words:

“So gentle and kind – how we miss his dear face; We know that on earth we can ne’er fill his place;
Though asleep in the Saviour, where grief is unknown, In sorrow and tears are his loved ones at home.”

The following year, Daniel III and Nellie’s second son John Ronald is born, but he dies after only 12 days. In 1909, Bessie (named Elizabeth Ellen after her mother) is born, then in late 1911 sister Minnie Hannah arrives. Tragically, Nellie takes ill during the birth and she dies within weeks.

Owaka School, 1910
Owaka School, 1910

Daniel III gazes forlornly at his children – 5 year old Daniel Richards, Bessie just 2 and tiny Minnie only 2 months are now left without their mother. He considers his options – his mother Hannah still grieves disconsolately for his father, she lives a few miles away in Tahatika but must see to her own young teenagers. Daniel III moves with his children to where he will find work – in Toiro, 20 miles from Owaka towards the Southland border. Farming continues to be a strength amongst the Weir family and they are delighted when in 1911, Daniel III’s brother Hugh wins “Best dray horse – Entire” in the Owaka Annual Show.

In 1914, Daniel III marries 22 year old Henrietta Agnes Berland in Balclutha and they move back to Owaka. In May 1915, young Daniel Richards and Bessie enrol at Owaka School then in November the same year their brother Edward Henry is born. Several of their Ayreshire cattle win prizes for James and Cochrane at the 1915 Otago Peninsula A&P Show and Daniel III takes up the popular pastime of pipe smoking. He is constantly seen with his lit pipe in hand and at home his tobacco cloud hangs in the air daily.

As a British dominion, New Zealand gets involved in the Great War in Europe. Although Daniel III is passed the age of enlistment, his younger brothers Cowan and John (both recently moved to start farming in the Rangitikei) and his cousins – James’ son Walter and Cochrane’s son William (both in Otago), sign up and head off to military service in Europe. Cowan, William and John join the General Forces while Walter enters the Rifle Brigade. At the end of their service, Cowan and John return to Rangitikei, Walter gets a severe leg wound and returns to Otago. William’s luck is not so good. In January 1917, he’s on active service in France when he receives a severe gunshot wound. He dies the same day. He is buried in Estaires Cemetery in France. Cochrane and Alison, at the Otago Peninsula Soldiers’ Memorial, read his name with desperate grief and deep pride. He is one of 51 men from the area to have fallen in the Great War. William is only 25. Five months later his father, Cochrane, dies – he is 76.

In 1918, the highly contagious Spanish Influenza arrives in New Zealand with troops who return from the WWI battlefields. The ‘flu spreads quickly around the country and Otago doesn’t escape. Daniel III must support his family, so he continues to work and risks exposure to others already infected. He is struck down and becomes very ill. By April 1918, too sick for Henrietta to care for him at home, Daniel III is moved to Balclutha Hospital, where he dies soon after. Only 41 years old, he is laid to rest in Owaka Cemetery.

Young Daniel Richards
Young Daniel Richards

Fourth in the line of Daniel Weirs, Daniel Richards at 14 years old considers his life and the three generations of Daniel Weirs who have gone before him. Each, through their courageous, stoic and determined lives has contributed to the character and personality of this young man who now faces his own future without them.

———- \\ ———–

  • Born 1821 and died 1894 – Daniel Weir Senior is my great x3 grandfather
  • Born 1852 and died 1907 – Daniel Weir Junior is my great x2 grandfather
  • Born 1876 and died 1919 – Daniel Weir III is my great grandfather
  • Born 1906 and died 1986 – Daniel Richards is my grandfather.

Post scripts

  • In July 1926, Daniel III’s mother, Hannah, dies in Seaward Downs, Southland – she is 70.
  • The following year, Hannah’s sister Marion dies – she is 69.


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