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Charles Anderson’s wife, Rebecca Finlayson, was a Scots Highlander who migrated courtesy of Government sponsorship to New Zealand in 1872 with her parents, Finlay Finlayson and Catherine Gray, and seven siblings. Probably because of their remote location in the Highlands and the lack of economic opportunities that might leave a paper trail, I know very little about the Finlayson lives.

Life in the Highlands had always been for the brave, particularly in recent times. Subject to raids and invasions over the centuries, Scottish history

is a litany of power struggles between the country’s major clans, between ideologies, and with other countries’ claims to the territory. One of the last of these struggles was the Jacobite uprising when Bonnie Prince Charlie made his unsuccessful bid for first the Scottish then the English thrones. The Jacobite uprising finished in the short, brutal bloodbath at Culloden in 1746. As punishment for their support for a Scottish ruler who had claims on the English throne, the estates of the vanquished were seized by the victors. To further disenfranchise them in their own lands, the Highlanders were banned from bearing arms, and forbidden from wearing traditional clothing. While clan tartans were not necessarily traditional, they subsequently came into their own when English royalty was seduced by their romance. So much so that Queen Victoria and the German Prince Albert designed one each - the Victoria and the Balmoral tartans, respectively. Tradition clothing, if not their lands, was restored to the Scots.

The usurping landowners made plans for their estates that didn’t include the people already living there. Sheep were to graze where people had

lived and worked. The displaced were moved elsewhere, in some cases across the seas to the developing colonies. It may be that some of the migration I found, or the people whose stories are missing, were in these forced evacuations. In an episode of Michael Portillo’s train journeys, he spoke with an historian on Skye who described the conditions on these emigrant ships as being worse than the slave ships that brought Africans to the Americas. Those who remained in the Highlands battled on in subsistence conditions. Their misery intensified in the mid-nineteenth century when, as in Ireland, the Highlands were afflicted by the potato famine. These were indeed the times of the Clearances with the landscape drained of people who, voluntarily or involuntarily, had no choice but to go elsewhere to survive. In another cruel twist, the landowners’ adventure with sheep failed and the estates were turned into recreational destinations where the wealthy came to shoot the wildlife and to enjoy scenery that, in the twenty-first century, has been described as the most beautiful in the world. (New Zealanders may have something to say about that.)  

The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand says that the period 1853-1870 was marked by Scottish immigration. Most were Lowlanders recruited for their

shepherding skills. Scots were preferred migrants because “they were considered hard working, sober and reliable, and they were mostly Protestant”. Certainly, in the 1870s, only 10% of Scottish arrivals were from the Highlands attracted, along with migrants from Shetland, by the Central Otago and West Coast gold rushes reported in the Shetland Advertiser in 1862.






Our Finlaysons were from Contin, a large sparsely populated Highland parish in Ross-shire, west of Inverness. Josephine and I stopped for afternoon tea in Contin village’s restored railway station on a glorious summer day in 2018, exclaiming repeatedly about its beautiful surrounds.
    All up, the Clearances evicted 3340 Highlanders from Ross-shire in the C19th. Of those who remained, life was tough between birth and death. Most burials of Contin inhabitants were in Fodderty, then Garve, Achanalt and Strathconon. The lovely little Achanalt burial ground is comprised of mainly Finlaysons and other family names.


Our Finlaysons


I don’t know whether our Finlaysons were evicted from their home. In their

final census entry, Finlay is unemployed after a lifetime of working on the land. Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall and sought their own way out rather than wait for the inevitable.

It was from another descendent (Sue, in New Zealand) that I learned that

Finlay’s father was John Finlayson (ca1786-1824) and his mother Rebekah Matheson (ca1787-1866). Although Sue’s records have Finlay born circa 1816 at Lochalsh, his birthplace in all census records was Contin, in the county of Ross and Cromarty. ScotlandsPeople finally produced an entry from the Old Parish Registers reporting he was born on 20 April 1814 in Contin to John Finlayson and “his wife”. This is supported by Finlay’s firstborn son being named John (after his father’s father) and his second daughter (spelled Rebekah at birth, but Rebecca from the 1861 census onwards) after her father’s mother, both of which comply with Scottish naming patterns. I will confess here to having included information about people, places and their vital dates that I don’t have evidence for other than other people have said it is so. Most of the information I know to be correct but some is taken on trust after assessing whether it is likely to be accurate. Another Finlayson descendant, London-based Iain MacLean, has muddied the waters somewhat with records that a John Finlayson was born to Finlay Finlayson and Christy Matheson in the 1820s and is the John who married Jessie Elliot. It is all the murkier because his “John” began as a tailor (his father’s occupation) before becoming a gamekeeper (our Finlaysons’ occupation). All the iterations of “John”, “Finlay”, “Matheson” etc, make my head spin. The generations pose a challenge to keep them separate. Bowing to Sue’s authority, I will keep John and wife Jessie in our history, so here we go.

John and Rebekah’s family



I have found no details of John's birth or death. Rebekah's death certificate gives his occuption as 'crofter': a tenant farmer of a small land holding. From an article in The Scotsman (13 May 2012):

Crofting was the outcome of the Highland Clearances when tens of thousands of people were evicted and moved to small plots

on difficult-to-cultivate land in return for an annual rent. Communal “townships” were formed, sharing grazing. However, life was harsh, with rent rises and evictions. A potato famine in the 1840s led to protests and demands for legal protection, resulting in the Crofters’ Act 1886, giving security of tenure. The crofting acts passed since then have provided measures including protection from being unfairly removed from the land, fair rents and compensation claims for improvements should a tenancy end. In 1976, tenants were given the right to buy their crofts.



Presumably because of the hardships associated with crofting, John's

headstone (right) was not installed until half a century after his premature death in 1824, aged not yet 40 years. Before it became so badly covered in whatever the biomatter is, it was possible to read that it had been erected by his son, Finlay, who by that time lived on the opposite side of the globe.

Rebekah lived another forty plus years, dying in Contin aged 81 after

suffering jaundice for two months. Her son, Murdo, was with her. C21st medicine understands jaundice to be a symptom of underlying disease located in the liver, pancreas, gallbladder or blood rather than a disease in its own right. John and Rebekah were parents of six children.

Mary F (ca1810-1880)

Mary married Duncan Maclean (c1793-1865) on 1 Feb 1828 in Lochcarron. I have found one son, John, born on 5 January 1829. A search of ScotlandsPeople between the years 1828-1850 found no more however the Finlaysons seem to have had a casual approach to registering births. This might have been because of their isolation from bureaucratic centres or they may have had a tradition of keeping personal or verbal records of their families.

John F (ca1817-1883)


John married Jessie Elliot (c1826-1905) on 28 June 1853 in Fodderty. They were parents to

John F (1854-1940) married Jane Macleay (1851-1905) in Lochbroom on 4 May

1876. Many years after Jane’s death, John, aged 66, married again, to widow Marjory (Maciver) Urquhart, in 1923 in Gairloch. John and Jane were parents of:


Kenneth John F (1877- )
Roderick F (1879- )

Jessie F (1883- )
Donald F (1887- )
Rebecca F (1890-1973) who married Murdo Maclean (1892-1972) in Lochbroom in 1920. The marriage produced at least two children: Thomas

John Maclean (1921-1970) and Jean Maclean (1922-2003).

James F (1856-88) was a gamekeeper, unmarried when he died of cervical spinal meningitis leading to paralysis in the days long before antibiotics could

deal with such a bacterial infection. His brother, John, was informant on the register. James is buried in the Achnault graveyard.

Robert F (1859-1916) was also a gamekeeper. It may be that he migrated to the United States although there are inconsistencies in the available

information. If so, when he died he was an innkeeper in Montana. He married Helen (Nellie) McRea in 1893 and they were parents of
Rebecca F (1895- )
James F (1897- )
Jessie Elliot F (1898-1970).

Christina F (1860-1930) married Roderick Mackenzie (1860-1937) in Garve, Ross-shire on 14 June 1892. The couple immediately emigrated to Canada

where their family grew.
Christina Rose McK (1895-1984)
John Finlayson McK (1893-1978)
Roderick McK (1898-1976)
Donald Edwin McK (1900-1943)

Kenneth F (1863-1871) died after suffering croup for three days.
Rebecca F (1865-1885) died of cerebral effusion, a rare complication of memingitis, after 10 weeks continued fever. Given her uncle James, above, also

died from complications of meningitis, it looks as though there was a very active strain of the disease in the Highlands at that time.


Murdo F (ca1819-1873)


Murdo was another Finlayson gamekeeper. He and Elizabeth Macdonald (ca1834-1873) married at Coul House, Contin on 30 March 1856. Perhaps reports of Dunedin’s opportunities were sufficiently enticing for Murdoch and Elizabeth to follow Finlay and Catherine to New Zealand in 1873. It is heart-breaking to realise that they crossed the world to make a better life but both had been in Dunedin for only around four months when they died of colonial fever (typhoid). Murdoch and Elizabeth became parents of seven children.

John F (1858- ). I had found no trace of John until, in a letter home, Wallace Anderson mentioned that he had “passed Komati Port where John and Willie

Finlayson were for some time constructing the railway”. Wikipedia advises Komatipoort is in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. I am assuming John stayed in South Africa, or at least did not return to New Zealand. The South African newspaper archives have a John Finlayson as tramways manager in Natal in 1922 but I’ve found no more information about Finlaysons in South Africa to know whether this was our John. Neither John nor Willie appear in probate records.

Rachel F (1860-89) was aged 16 when she married farmer James Service (1843-1912) in 1876. The couple farmed at Shag Rock and were on the Moeraki

electoral roll. Rachel died aged 29 leaving three children (a fourth was born in 1880 but there is no further record for the child). The other Service children were:
James S (1878-1959) married Mary Ann McDonald (ca1878-1917) in 1912. He also farmed, in Palmerston. When he died, their son, Robert McKay

S (1913-81<), a garage proprietor in Palmerston, was made trustee of the estate to support his mother then inherited whatever remained. Some time between 1938-46, Robert married Ellen Munro; on the 1978 electoral roll he was a company director. In 1969, a Eion MacKay Service, mechanic, was living at the same address as Robert and Ellen.

Janet S (1882-1954) married farmer Thomas Templeton Rendall (1880-1930) in 1907. There is a charming report in the 19 February 1930 Otago

Daily Times of a farewell from the Inch Clutha Presbyterian Church, where she had played the organ, for Janet and her daughters after TTR died. Janet was presented “with a well-filled wallet” and “a beautiful brown suede handbag”. Daughter Hope had sung in the choir and received a pearl necklace. Janet and TTR had three daughters. Rachel Finlayson R (1908-32) died aged 24 and is buried in Christchurch’s Sydenham Cemetery;Vida Margaret Hope R (1913-35) was buried on 13 August in the Timaru Cemetery; Joy Templeton R (1919-1999) married Walter Bright Ashford (ca1914-2000) around 1940. Walter began manufacturing spinning wheels and today his Ashburton enterprise Ashford Wheels & Looms services a thriving international market.

Rachel Finlayson S (1885-1940) may have been the Rachel Service who won a badge for successfully answering a children’s riddle in the Otago

Witness in 1900. She married sheep farmer Thomas Erskine Stenhouse (1872-1945) in 1913. In 1915, he was appointed a JP for Hampden which was Rachel’s address on the electoral roll; his was Goodwood, Palmerston, which may have been the farm address. The couple had two children. Janet Erskine S (1914 - ) was living with her parents in 1938 in Timaru and on her own thereafter. Her final entry on the electoral roll gives her occupation as ‘domestic’. There is no mention of her in the Timaru cemeteries records; James Finlayson S (1915-84) married Catherine Ross McDonald (1913-81). James was a radio technician at Dunedin’s station 4YA. Their son, Walter Ross S (1947-93) was an electrician. A note on his cemetery record says “relationship to deceased - brother”, which is a bit confusing but does tell us at least two sons were born to the marriage.

Donald F (March-April 1862) died of diphtheria, aged 11 days.
Rebecca F (October 1862-1865): ScotlandsPeople has no record of Rebecca’s death for me to report its cause.

Margaret F (1865- ) was born 10 months after her sister’s death. Without any record of the family’s migration, or of her parents’ deaths other than

cemetery records, I don’t know whether Margaret also migrated to New Zealand. There are six marriages for Margaret Finlaysons in New Zealand between 1881 and 1920 but the online records give no clue as to where these might have taken place or the bride’s age. There is no Margaret in the family’s Northern Cemetery, Dunedin, plot.

Donald Alexander F (1868- 1869) died of inflammation of the lungs, aged around nine weeks.
Mary Ann Finlayson (1872-1949) remained independent all her life. She was living at 1068 George St, Dunedin when she died aged 76.

Janet (Jessie) F (ca1821-95)


Jessie married shepherd John Grant (1800-96) on 2 August 1844 in Contin. They were parents of six children.
Janet (Jessie) G (1845-1923) married Donald Macleannan (1829-1913) on 29 July 1869. The couple had at least one son, Alexander (1870-1923), who

married Ada Treadgold (1887-1967) and they became parents of Grace (1915-2005). Sue suggests that this is the Grace and her husband, Ewan Robertson (1907-86), who owned the Marine Hotel, Mallaig “ideally located next to the train station and Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal, which makes daily trips to the Isle of Skye and the Smaller Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna”. The station is at one end of the Hogwarts Express train line that crosses the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. Josephine has taken me to Mallaig several times, on one trip, we caught the ferry from Skye to Mallaig, which is a lovely little port town.

Originally a temperance hotel, the Robertsons reluctantly relinquished the Marine Hotel’s ‘dry’ status but guests were discouraged from

imbibing, instead being counselled to go for a brisk walk if they wanted to order an alcoholic drink. Putting temperance to one side, I certainly hope Grace is one of ours. The obituary describes the couple as being highly cultured and accomplished. They were also politically active, taking great exception to the activities of Highland landlords where these adversely affected the locals for whom they were “formidable allies”. On the other hand, Alexander and Ada married in Paddington, London, which does not mean our Alex wasn’t a travelling man but does introduce a note of caution around how definitive the above information might be.

John G (1847-1919), gamekeeper and crofter, married Lily Mackenzie (1857-1913). After having passed his three score years and ten, John died "some

days" after a cerebral hemorrhage in Inverness's District Asylum. The couple had three children.

John (1879-1957) married Catherine MacDonald (1883-1965): their children were Lily (1911-87); Catherine (1913-81); and John (1919-2000).

Mary (1881-1963) married wine and spirit merchant John Urquhart (1864-1933) and they became parents of bookkeeper Lily U (1908- ) married

to accountant Donald Hepburn; Annie Bain U (1910-66) married civil engineer David Bissett Bald (1901-70); Iain U (1912-82), I report this from, ScotlandsPeople has no record of this person's birth or death; and Jessie Grant U (1914-76). also offers Alec, born in 1900 when his mother would have been 19 and four years before his parents marriage. Possibly unsurprisingly, I have found no record of his birth or subsequent life.

Jessie 1886-1973) married Alexander Robertson (1887-1975) who was originally from Skye. They became parents to Ian R (1920-40) and

Margaret (Meta) R (1923-94).

According to hints from other ancestral trees, under gamekeeper Alexander G (1851-1942) married telephonist Annie Mackenzie (1855-1928) in 1889

and they became parents of John (1891- ); Christina (1892- ); Janet/Jessie (1893-1960); Katherine McKenzie (1894-1965; and Donald Duncan G (1896-1965). However, the hints list Alick, George, James, Johan, Robert and William being bon before John. Given Alexander and Annie were aged 38 and 34, respectively, when they married, earlier births for either of them were possible, although he was recorded as a bachelor and she a spinster on the marriage register. As well, only the children whose births were recorded are present in the household for the 1891 census.

Peter (1853- ).
Murdo (1857-58)
Murdo (1861-1901) died, a single man, in Lairg, following 10 days of paralysis of his intestinal muscles that obstructed his bowel.


There is a Rebecca Grant on the 1881 census, two years older than the second Murdo, but ScotlandsPeople have no record of her birth. According

to family hints from, Jessie and John were also parents to William (1852- ), James (1856- ), Rebecca (1859-1946), Duncan (1862- ), Ann (1867- ) and Jessie (1868- ). If these are indeed progeny of our couple, Jessie would have been aged around 47 when she had her last child. Because of the profusion of people born with these names but with a range of parental and marital possibilities, I gave up trying to confirm or track Jessie and John’s family.

Rebekah F (ca 1824-82)


Rebekah married shepherd Alexander McRae (1815-82/) on 14 May 1847 in Contin. She died a week after her husband in 1882. They were parents of:

John McR (1849-1930) who married Jane McDonald (1853-97) on 11 January 1878 in Culross Twp, Ontario. Their children were:

Margaret (1879-90)
Annabella (1881-1909)
Janet (1883-1969)
Eva (1885-1962)
Emma (1887-1966)
John (Jack) Howard (1889-1948)
Alexander (1892-1957)
William Thomas (1895-1952)

The 1911 census has John married again, to 28 year old Janet (Jenny) Sutherland McKay (1881-1937) with whom he had at least two more children.

Ross (1907-73)

Kenneth (1909- )

Alexander McR (1851- ).
Murdoch McR (1853-1934) met Annie McRae (1853-1925)(no relation) on the Timaru during their migration to New Zealand in 1879, they married in

1881. The couple are Sue’s great-grandparents. They first lived at Otokia then moved to Central Hawkes Bay. According to NZ’s birth records, the couple had at least six children.
There’s a NR entry for a child born in 1883 to Annie and Murdoch McRae which may be them although all the other births are to Annie and Murdo,

which are also the names on their marriage record.

Rebecca Finlayson McR (1885-1965), named for her paternal grandmother, was a teacher, albeit, for the electoral roll purposes, a spinster when

she was living in Wellington in 1911. In 1919, she married farmer Phillip Craig (1890-1980) with whom she had four daughters: Anne Bruce C; Mary Rebecca C; Margret Ann C; and Helen Marjorie C. The family lived in the Waikato.

James (Jim) McR (1887) was visiting relatives in Scotland when he met Elizabeth Tait Montomery Reid (1894-1981) and they married there. He

returned to New Zealand where she joined him and began their family. Sue’s father was James Alexander (Lex) McR (1920-95) who married Sue’s mother, Margaret Evenly Fraser (1915-83) in 1946. Sue has not given me any more details about this generation of her family.

Hellen Ross McR (1889) was named for her maternal grandmother. She married Michael Davidson (1881-1954) and the couple lived in Hawkes

Bay. They had two children. June D (1915-80) married farmer Roy John Bickers (1906-82) and they, in turn, had two children unnamed by; Peter McRae D (1916-90) was also a farmer. He married Carol Mary who firmly put “wife/mother” as her occupations on the 1981 electoral roll. Their farm was Te Tohe, at Porangahau. On the 1978 roll at much the same address were two shepherds: Stuart John Davidson and Michael Hone Davidson but I have no identifying information.

Kenneth (1855 - ).
Rebecca (1858-1911) married Finlay Cambell in 1883, she died of a brain hemorrhage in November 1911. Between these events, the couple became

parents to:

Christina Rebecca (1885-1957)

Kenneth (1887- )

Catherine (Kate) (1889- )

Alexander (1891- )

Isabella (1893-1929) married Cuthbert Dinnie McCombie-Smith (1880-1957) in 1913. According to, there were three chldren, one of

whom was William McCombie Smith (1920-87). As an aside Cuthbert Dinnie Smith featured in a couple of court actions. This first, in 1907, was when he, a river watcher (which I think means someone who enforces fishing regulations) denied assaulting a flax dresser who also accused another river watcher of the same offence. He was convicted of a similar charge in 1908 although, to be fair, the magistrate said the offence was more technical than criminal in that Cuthbert was justified in chasing a suspect but not in tripping the potential poacher once he'd caught him.

Margaret (Maggie) (1896- ), according to, married Kenneth McLeod and they had at least one chlld, Alexander (1923-41).

Thomas (1899- ).

Catherine (1858- ) was twin to Rebecca.

Finlay (1814-1878)


Finlay was a man of the land, variously a gamekeeper, deerstalker and forester until the greed of Highland landowners forced him and many like him onto the workforce scrapheap. The pictures to the left are of the ruins of Corriefeol, where the family was living in 1861. By the 1871 census, Finlay’s occupation indicated that times were tough. On that census night, he was - finally - unemployed. He and Cathrine/Catherine Gray had married on 26 March 1853 in Contin. In 1872, the Finlaysons moved en masse, as Government Immigrants (sponsored) to Dunedin from the Highlands. Finlay and Catherine - with John (18),  Catherine (16), Rebecca (14), Christina (12), William (10), Murdoch (7), Jessie (5) and Mary (3) - were passengers on the Queen May (below), described as “a pretty little barque and very popular with the passengers”. A report of the voyage said it took 87 days from Gravesend. The passengers were “a healthy looking lot, and no illness has taken place amongst them”. I hope the Finlaysons enjoyed their trip despite strong gales stopping the voyage for a week in the Bay of Biscay, and some “heavy boisterous weather, accompanied by heavy showers of snow and hail” en route. It seems to me that their life in the Highlands had lost any promise. A sea cruise in a pretty little barque sounds like the first glimmer of hope they may have had for a while. 

Finlay was a shepherd in Dunedin. It looks as though the family’s fortunes were on the

turn. Finlay is credited with providing a headstone for his father’s grave back in Achanalt, which implies discretionary spending was possible, over and above supporting a household. Achanalt is now described as a railway halt and is certainly a long way from the A832 that begins at the Black Isle, Cromarty, and ends at Braemore Junction, Wester Ross. The final stretch of the A832 apparently is known as Destitution Road because it was a sort of work-for-the-dole scheme (in this case, work-for-oatmeal-rations) for crofters whose only source of sustenance had been wiped out by the potato famine in the mid 1840s. Boy, those Highlanders put in some tough decades, mainly due to landowner greed.

Further evidence of his growing prosperity is found in Finlay’s will in which he bequeathed his

house at Clyde Terrace, Dunedin, to three trustees: Archibald Douglas (teacher), John Gillies (doctor) and John McCallum Jamieson (accountant). That is, from being unemployed in North Kessock, north of Inverness, in April 1871, Finlay was a propertied man seven years later in Dunedin. His trustees were charged with managing Finlay’s estate to support his daughters until they married. There was no mention of his wife, Catherine, or of his sons, William and Murdoch, in the will. The trustees were also appointed guardians of Finlay’s ‘infants’; that is, his children aged less than 21 years at the time of his death. These were Christina, William, Murdoch, Jessie and Mary. In 1881, an advertisement in the Evening Star announced that John Macullum Jamieson, a Devisee (someone to whom real estate has been bequeathed) of Finlay’s Clyde Terrace property, would be registered as its proprietor within a month unless there was any objection. A brief Google check found nothing untoward about John Macullum Jamieson who, at one point, was Dunedin’s City Treasurer. I assume the house had been vacated by Finlay’s daughters, or needed to be sold for the proceeds to be applied to their support. Finlay’s will had also instructed the trustees to pay his funeral and legal costs from his estate. That the house was not sold three years after his death implies that Finlay had other resources that could be used at least until then.

Although Finlay was aged 50 on the Queen May passenger list, he may have changed his age

for migration purposes or perhaps the records were in error. The cemetery records have him 63 years old when he died of general debility (weakness, loss of strength) in November 1878, shortly after his will was formalised. Interred in the family plot (Block 24, Plot 1, Northern Cemetery) with Finlay are Murdoch (48), Elizabeth (38), Mary Ann (76), John (19), Catherine (82) and John Arthur (30)(more on John, Catherine and John Arthur below).

Finlay and Catherine’s children


John F (1854-1875)


There is a John Finlayson in the family plot in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery. Cemetery records say he was aged 19 when he died in 1875, giving him a birth year ca1856 which makes it more likely that he is Finlay and Catharine’s son than Murdo and Elizabeth’s who was born in 1858. He was living in Leith Street, Dunedin, and was buried on 4 November. The Evening Star reports the death of John Finlayson, 22 (birth year ca1853), engineer, on 3 November at his residence in Leith Street, Dunedin. This age and profession are recorded on his death certificate, there are no entries to the fields for parents’ names and place of birth. The cause of his death was “Phthisis terminated by diarrhea” - phthisis is defined as a wasting disease, commonly tuberculosis of the lungs. It sounds a miserable way to go.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.47.21 PM.png

Catherine F (1855- )


Catherine has left no trace, other than when she was a legatee in Rebecca’s will in 1936, when she was aged 81. She and her sister, Mary Finlayson, were to share £100. Yet she does not appear on the electoral rolls, her name is not found in NZ’s death records up to 1960, nor on a search of Dunedin’s cemeteries up to 1969, and she is not in the family cemetery plot.


Christina F (1859-1936)


Christina married John Porteous (1853-1881) on 6 September 1878 in Dunedin. There may well be an interesting story Christina could tell. At the beginning of John’s will, he describes himself as “formerly a law clerk now out of business”. In Christina’s affidavit, she writes that he had been a law clerk in Dunedin but had lived in Oamaru for the last five months of his life. PapersPast offers nothing untoward about him such as bankruptcy. The only family in his death notice is his late father, John Porteous of Glenholm, Peebleshire. He is buried in Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery, joined by an Isabella Harrison in 1931. Isabella was aged 46, having been born in 1884, three years after John’s death, to Ellen Blanche and Robert Stewart Harrison. I have not found any connection between John and the Harrison family but there has to be something. During their brief marriage, Christina and John had a daughter.


Olive Finlayson Gillies P (1879-1951). I haven’t found an explanation of the ‘Gillies’ in Olive's name. She was a music teacher, offering lessons from the

house she and her mother shared at 19 Lothian Street, Maori Hill. When Christina died intestate, her estate was granted to Olive. Christina and Olive’s ashes were interred at the Andersons Bay Cemetery, along with those of a Thomas McKinlay (1872-1948)(gardener) who was born in Scotland. Olive left her estate to her executor, Arnold Russell Warrington McKinlay (taxi driver), son of Thomas. The only Arnold McKinlay (aged 34 in 1942) offered by PapersPast was imprisoned for a month for failing to enrol in the first division of the General Reserve. He may have been a conscientious objector because he said he was fully prepared to do his duty in NZ’s war effort, just not overseas.


William F (1861-bef.1899)

After having found nothing at all about William, I was reading the letters in the Nelson Evening Mail written by Wallace Anderson describing his experiences in South Africa when I came upon “I passed Komati Port where John and Willie Finlayson were for some time constructing the railway and where I think it was that Willie Finlayson took the fever that ended his life” (13 February 1899). According to Wikipedia, Komatiport is one of the hottest towns in South Africa. In the 1890s, it was “a wild and uproarious construction camp” for the railway being built from Lourenco Marques. Conditions weren’t the best with the area gripped by a malaria epidemic; it was in the zone called ‘fever country’. It now is a Kruger Park and Mozambique border town.    


Scottish birth records have a Janet born to Finlay and Catherine on the same day as William. There is no Janet on the May Queen passenger list and no death for the baby born in 1861 which may just mean the baby died but the death wasn’t registered.


Murdo F (1864-)

I have been just as unsuccessful finding information about Murdo. Nobody

of that name comes up in the marriage and deaths records, nor in the

Archives, nor in cemeteries records. I did, however, find an advertisement

in Lost & Found column of Dunedin’s Evening Star (21 March 1882) about

a missing grey and white cat. “Finder rewarded on restoring it to Murdo

Finlayson, Clyde avenue” which was the address of his late father’s house.

There is a photo in one of WD’s albums, too dark to copy, captioned “Aunt

Kate, Dovi and Murdo” undated but possibly from the first decade of the

1900s although, if WD took the picture, it would have to have been taken

after the mid 1910s. Perhaps “Aunt Kate” is the elusive Cathrine Finlayson.


Jessie Flora F (1868-1909)

Jessie married John Arthur Smith (ca1870-1954). a offers a

possible birth of John Arthur Smith in January 1871, in Itchington,

Warwickshire. The father of this JA Smith was a farmer, and our man was

a sheep farmer in Hawkes Bay but that is a tenuous link to a definitive

identification. Two years after Jessie's death, John married again, to

Irishwoman Ellen Satherley (1966-1956) neé Marson. In 1907, Ellen had

'deserted' John Satherley who had unsuccessfully sued his estranged wife

for restoration of conjugal rights (Nelson Evening Mail, 18 September 1907).

The folowing year, the aggrieved spouse had married someone else.

Jessie and John had two sons.


Arthur Milward S (1901-1975), sheep and cattle farmer, Tutira.

Leonard Kimber S (1908-1979/Napier) was a farmer at Waitere in 1946 electoral roll. His father's headstone was erected by Leonard. Both Leonard and

Arthur were cremated, with no details reference to spouses or other relatives.

Elsie May S (1911- ) was 14 when she inherited her great-aunt's estate. I hope to find more about her to report.


Mary F (1869- )

Mary is as invisible as her sister, Catherine, other than for regular listing on the electoral rolls until 1938 and being a legatee in Rebecca’s will. Perhaps she is the “Dovie” in the picture featuring Murdo. A Mary Finlayson of the right age (90 years) died in 1959 but she was a widow.

Rebecca F (1858-1937)

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From a life in the Highlands amongst a huge extended family but in a household that subsisted at the whim of capricious landowners, the teenaged Rebecca crossed the world with her family for a life of promise. Dunedin indeed held opportunities for those willing to find them but conditions were basic and pitiless to the vulnerable.    It was into these conditions that the Finlayson families sailed and which killed first Rebecca’s aunt and uncle within months of their arriving in Dunedin in 1873 then her brother, John, in 1875. In 1878, her father, Finlay, died an exhausted man, his condition perhaps exacerbated by marital problems.

On 22 October the following year, aged 22, Rebecca married 40 year old Charles Anderson in Dunedin’s

Knox Church. Their family grew every couple of years to five sons until Charles’ death in 1890 shortly after the death of their most recent baby. That same year accidents killed one of her nephews and an uncle. Charles’ brother, William, seems to have been a tower of strength for Rebecca and her sons, bringing them to Gore for a few years before they moved back to Dunedin. The family relationship was close enough for Rebecca’s eldest son, Fin, to be with his uncle when William died in Riwaka, a long way from Dunedin, at the top of the South Island in 1902. Even so, it looks as though Rebecca raised her four boys in straitened financial circumstances if her inability to fund a high school education for WD is any indicator.    

There is a Rebecca Anderson, hatteress, in Dunedin’s electoral roll in 1896, and again in the 1905-06

electoral roll when her occupation was “widow”. Our Rebecca had been left £100 ($A17,262 in 2016 value) by Janet Anderson/Robertson, Charles’ aunt, in 1897. While this may not have been enough to buy a house (although

a four-bedroom house in Green Island, now an outer suburb of Dunedin, could be had for £55), the bequest must have eased conditions considerably for the family. I don’t know why I’m assuming Rebecca wasn’t a house-owner other than not finding Charles in any voting list when land ownership conferred eligibility for enrolment. The photograph of the family fellmongery business in North East Valley clearly has a little cottage at the front. It may be that the picture had been taken of the premises some years after the Anderson family had lived there because, at the time of Charles' death, they lived in West Harbour, not North East Valley.    

Rebecca married again, to 70-year-old English-born Oamaru-based drinks

manufacturer, Francis John Chase (1836-1910), at her 19 York Place address on 26 October 1906. On the marriage certificate, her father’s occupation is ‘builder’. In every other record, he was a landsman and his occupation at death was ‘shepherd’. This second marriage ended with Rebecca being widowed again after only four years. Mr Chase is buried with his first wife and his children, several of whom pre-deceased him. His mother is also in his family plot in Dunedin’s Southern Cemetery that overlooks Carisbrook towards the coast. After her second widowhood, Rebecca did not remarry.    

The marriage brought Rebecca financial stability if she didn’t already enjoy a reliable

income, which she may have done to be thought a source of £100 when son Stan travelled to South Africa in 1902. She was able to support her mother in Catherine’s later years. She built her house in Warrender Street from her own resources. In her will, decades later, she left valuable possessions including diamond and gold jewellery and company shares to family members. Amongst other things, she left WD a carriage clock (below with its case) that has descended through my mother to me and gets wound for the week each Sunday at 5.00 p.m.

Throughout her life, Rebecca was an active member of the Presbyterian congregation

and a thoughtful bible student. Her well-annotated bible is also with me and shows a learned approach to its teachings. In 1894, she and either her mother or her sister (both Catherine Finlayson), members of the Ladies’ Committee of City Church Hall (denomination not stipulated), were signatories to a farewell address presented to a Mr JF Floyd and his wife in appreciation of their work “in the interests of the gospel of Christ”.    

Rebecca’s final entry on the electoral roll is 1935 when she was living at 46

Warrender Street, Dunedin North, with metallugist son, Stan. She had financed the building of the house herself. She is buried with Charles and infant Ronald Vivian in the Northern Cemetery (Block 194, Plot 6). These first family settlers have recently been joined by later generations of our family.

Rebecca had migrated with seven siblings so there must have been an extended

family on the Finlayson side around Dunedin yet I never knew of any. Nor did I know of many of the other Anderson in-laws, the Brewsters.

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24.2 Contents sale, Evening Star, 28 Oct
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The Finlaysons in Dunedin ca 1873

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