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Knox Church, Dunedin


credit: James Dignan

(User: Grutness) Wikipedia





Dunedin may have had two attractions for our emigrant forbears.


First, the new town was the powerhouse of the new colony’s booming wool industry, coming into its own at much the same time as Halifax was monopolising the British woollen industry. The first two woollen mills in New Zealand were in Dunedin’s outer suburban Kaikorai and in Mosgiel, just over the hills from Dunedin on the Taieri Plains. Adjacent to Kaikorai is the suburb of Bradford, which Wikipedia tells me was named as homage to the Yorkshire textile industry.


Second, it was settled predominantly by Scots who recognised its geography and climate were quite similar to that of their homeland. Certainly, the topography of the Scottish Highlands seems quite familiar to me when I visit, the weather has its similarities and both Dunedin and Scotland enjoy the long, late evenings of summer (we’ll draw a veil over the cold darkness of winter). The Scottish influence on Dunedin’s settlement and evolution means the city is still known today as the Edinburgh of the South.


According to the Dunedin City Council, the Scots made three major contributions to Dunedin’s character:


• education: I was interested to see my secondary school, Otago Girls High School (funded as was Otago Boys High School by Central Otago's gold rush money), is one of the first state secondary schools for girls in the world. Dunedin continues to be New Zealand’s pre-eminent university town, home to the University of Otago since 1871; 


• religion: The Scots’ religious piety is manifest in the beauty of the churches they built and, the Council says, in principles of democracy and social justice that underpinned the settlement’s development. Dunedin was settled as a Free Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) town. Otago’s first cleric was the Reverend Thomas Burns, nephew of Scotland’s poet, Robert Burns;

• tone: That Presbyterian tone, says the Council, provided the impetus for its defiance by subsequent generations who made a selective embrace of cultural tradition (the swirl of bagpipes marks every occasion) and, in my case, provided a galvanising force to leave (although that may have been my own social environment rather than the generic tone as a whole).


The Andersons arrived shortly after the two mills were built and positioned themselves as merchant (William), fellmonger (Charles), and dyer (John), in the thriving market. At least two of them, probably all three, went into business as Mssrs Anderson Brothers Dye Works, Ravensbourne. The 31 July 1878 edition of the Otago Daily Times has a lengthy description of the business, which ‘reproduced’ (i.e., restored – I think) “soiled and faded articles of ladies’ and gentlemen’s wearing apparel”. Silks, velvets, woollens, cottons, and cotton/wool mix fabrics were cheaply cleaned, dyed and pressed or framed, supplying “a desideratum, the want of which has been long felt in this part of the Colony”. The company also made what sound like gorgeous sheepskin rugs and mats – they may have very well been in the thick of the ugg boot trade, had they been in operation many decades later. The final paragraph reads


   An important element in the success of an enterprise of

   this nature is the quality of dyes used. This point Messrs

   Anderson seem quite alive to. They inform us that they

   import direct from England all the most brilliant and

   recently discovered anilines and wood extracts


Halifax-based brother-in-law drysalter and analine dye maker, Donald Ramsey Edgar, may have been their source. Whatever happened next, around a decade later Charles had died and William had moved to Gore in Southland although he continued to be enrolled as an eligible voter in Dunedin. Until his death in 1914, John continued to be a dyer, and to live in Ravensbourne.

Dunedin 1902

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