a family story

John Roxborogh


Like his elder siblings, Roderick was born in troubled times. Historically conditions in Coigach had been poor for a long time. In the early 1840s they were deteriorating even further, and were soon exacerbated by the failure of the potato crop. In spite of this, not only did his parents manage to rear him but in due course to send him to school with John and Donald. Despite the hardship this must have entailed Roderick continued as a scholar long enough to obtain at the very least, a basic education even although he may not have studied Latin or trigonometry as did some of the Ullapool children at their local school.[1]

          Roderick's story is that of one whose adult life was to have a promising beginning despite the adversity of the cradling years. It is the story of a young man who knew and experienced more of his native Scotland than did either of his parents or any of his brothers and sisters, and whose initiative was probably the catalyst which finally led to their emigration. It is also a story which might have been regarded as having a tragic ending were the concept of family not that of an on-going institution and this story just the beginning segment in the history of one branch.

          As the boys were growing up perhaps it was Roderick, more than his brothers, was stirred by thoughts of a world far beyond the Strath of the Kanaird and the hills of Coigach. By the time he was 17 he had begun a movement eastward which was to take him from the west coast to the edge of the Firth of Moray in the north-east of Morayshire. He was the first of Alexander's sons to leave home to seek work elsewhere and twelve years later he was to be the first of the family to set out from Scotland in search of a better life on the other side of the world.

          Roderick followed in Donald's footsteps in that he too, became a shepherd. In 1861 he was employed on Auchindrean Farm in his home parish of Lochbroom.[2] This was a large farm, mainly pastoral. It was situated on the southern side of the Big Strath, not far from Braemore and a good fifteen-mile tramp over the hills from Achindrean.

          During World War II Auchindrean Farm was used as a prisoner-of-war camp,[3] but in the 1860s when Roderick worked there it was farmed by a David Mundell, an incomer from the Lowlands.[4] Following the Highland clearances it was not uncommon to find men from the south engaged in large-scale sheep-farming and managing the land in ways new to the Highlands. Many Highland landlords saw this strategy as a better prospect as far as rental returns were concerned than was the old crofting system. Because of the ideas brought north by David Mundell Auchindrean was at the forefront of changes in agricultural and pastoral management in the local area at that time.

          The Mundell household included eight live-in employees as well as the farmer, his wife and six young children. In the census list there is an implied hierarchy which places the three shepherds second to the governess, followed by the ploughman, cook, nursemaid and dairymaid. Being a member of such a household and living in a home many times larger than the cottage on the croft where he had been raised was a new experience for Roderick. However, it did not mean that he actually lived as one of the family but rather that he was provided with food in the farmhouse kitchen and that he slept in a chaumer, a small shared room in the farm-steading.[5] This arrangement, known as the farm-kitchen or kitchie system, was part of the conditions of employment offered single farm-workers in the North-East and West-Central areas of Scotland.

          Roderick's work at Auchindrean brought him into contact with a wider range of people than he had encountered before. In addition to his fellow employees there were the sheep-farmers and the cattlemen whom he was likely to meet at the markets held at Contin, Dingwall and Tain, all towns to the east of Auchindrean. And then there were the men who gathered at the feeing market,[6] a special market or hiring-fair where farmers engaged their workers from among those seeking new positions. Meetings at the feeing markets were not infrequent as the usual contract period was for six months for a single man and one year for a married man. Although there was a degree of mobility arising from this practice the men tended to stay within a particular area, getting to know the local farms and their methods. In the case of Roderick however, there was a definite movement eastward until the year 1868 found him shepherding at Covesea, in the North-East of Morayshire.

          Morayshire presented a dramatic contrast to the North-West Highlands. Its geological history differed markedly as evidenced by its land features and soil types. From the southern hills the valleys opened out on to an expanse of low land which stretched from west of Forres to Elgin and beyond. Between this plain and the sea were the Culbin Sandhills and a long coastal strip running eastwards to Covesea, Lossiemouth and Spey Bay. Three great rivers, the Findhorn, the Lossie and the Spey, each spectacular in its own way, flowed down from the mountains and across the plain, the Findhorn and the Lossie to Moray Firth and the Spey to the North Sea.

          The lowland area was known as the Laich o' Moray.[7] It was there that most of the farming operations took place and it was there that Roderick lived and worked until 1872 when he returned to Ross-shire.

          The natural fertility of the soil in Moray and its relatively mild climate were attested to as early as 1640 when it was written:

 Corn, the earth pours forth in wonderful and never-failing abundance.[8] 

          In the 1860s when Roderick first arrived, cropping, grazing and fruit-growing were being carried out on a large scale in the Laich o' Moray and to a lesser extent in pockets of fertile land in the glens and on hillside terraces. This wealth of production was a result of the agricultural revolution at work on an already fertile soil and to the efforts of a farming community more receptive to change than were the crofters of the North-West Highlands.

          These agrarian changes were not the only ones to have taken place in that part of Scotland since the movement to advance agriculture had swept Europe and England. Attention to animal breeding had led to the replacement of the old Highland cattle with pure-bred Shorthorns, Aberdeenshire polled and various crossbreeds.[9] The standard of husbandry was such that many farmers were already rearing prize animals which were earning a high reputation south of the border. The Highland sheep, too, had been superseded, especially in the Lowlands where the Leicester and the Southdown had become predominant.

          Although these branches of farming were basic to the economy, industry and manufacturing were also of significance. Rich natural resources supported timber and fishing industries, while an abundance of pure crystal-clear water ensured the production of high-quality whisky. Such things as free-stone and timber; haddock, herring and salmon; potatoes, corn and of course, whisky, were transported by rail to markets in other parts of Scotland and to England.[10] Such activity must have seemed almost frenetic compared to daily life in Coigach as Roderick had known it.

          But it was not just life in the country that offered so many new sights and experiences. For instance, the old cathedral town of Elgin, where Roderick was later married, produced blankets, tweeds, rope, candles and leather goods, and a local tannery supplied the saddlers and shoemakers.[11] While many a crofter in the North-West Highlands had produced such goods for his own use, here there was manufacturing of a commercial nature, albeit on a small-scale.  

          Covesea was near the edge of Moray Firth, in the Parish of Drainie, about ten kilometres north-north-west of Elgin. Once it had been a tiny fisher village but in Roderick's time it was more of a dormitory village. Although there were a couple of small crofts in the village itself most of its houses were occupied by farm-servants who walked out to their jobs each day.

          From Covesea a track led down to the water, on the way crossing a coastal strip where the natural vegetation of heather, rough grass and bracken was similar to that growing in many parts of the North-West Highlands. Any similarity to the environment of Achindrean ended there. From the high water mark the great openness of the North Sea spread out to the horizon, uninterrupted except for the jagged silhouette of the Covesea Skerries off-shore. Here and there along the coastline were ancient caves, eerie and romantic places, the setting for legends. During Roderick's time one of the caves was occupied by a tinker and his wife and follower.

                   Inland from the village was a tract of arable and pastoral land the site of several farms ranging in size from 50 to 1000 acres. Of the thirty or so farm-workers employed in the area only three were shepherds while eight were ploughmen and the others, farm-servants and labourers, indicating a preference for cropping and cattle-raising rather than large-scale sheep-farming. 

Margaret and Roderick 

Living in Covesea at the same time as Roderick and working as a housemaid in one of the bigger houses was a Margaret Cameron. Before the winter of 1868 was over wedding banns had been cried in the local church and shortly afterwards Roderick and Margaret had been married. Although the church of Drainie was near Covesea they chose to be married in a private home in Bishopmill, a suburb of Elgin. The original certificate shows that Roderick signed his name with a confident flourish whereas Margaret made her mark with a cross[12] as she was to do throughout her life whenever her signature was required.

          Margaret was from the Parish of Alness,[13] not far from Covesea as the crow flies - just across Moray Firth, the Black Isle, and the Firth of Cromarty which it bordered. Except for a narrow low-lying strip along the water's edge Alness was a typical part of the North-East Highlands. When Margaret was a child in the early 1840s and her father a ploughman, the land was planted in barley, oats, pease and potatoes. But in the summer of 1989 it was the warm, rich yellow of rape in bloom that dominated the landscape.     

          Once he was married Roderick's terms of employment changed. He was no longer in the chaumer system, nor was he a bothie-man. Instead he was entitled to a two-roomed cottage and to be employed for a year at a time.

          Five years were to pass before Roderick and Margaret emigrated to New Zealand. Some uncertainty surrounds their exact movements during the first two years. However it is known that after leaving Covesea they set up home in at least three other places, namely Longmorn, Tearie and Coul.

          Their first child, Helen, was born in Elgin towards the end of 1868. The event took place in one of the homes at 184 High Street Elgin.[14] Number 184 was a close which with sub-letting may have comprised as many as eight households with an occupancy of 30 or more persons. The McKenzies may have been permanent residents at the time, in which case Roderick would have had to walk out of the town to work, a distance of perhaps five miles. While this was not unusual for agricultural labourers living in Elgin as late as the 1920s, it is difficult to reconcile it with the demands normally made on the daily life of a shepherd. Perhaps it is more likely that one of the houses in the close was occupied by a mid-wife and Roderick had taken Margaret there for the event. He may have been working nearby or have already moved to Longmorn.

           It was there,at Longmorn, on 3 April, 1870, that their second child, William, was born. Spring was late coming that year[15] and Roderick would have been busy with lambing. It was Margaret who either walked the few miles or took the train to Elgin to register the birth.

          Longmorn was a tiny settlement about three miles south of Elgin. It was more a cluster of farm houses than a village although it could boast a cornmill and there was a distillery nearby. The Morayshire railway line which ran almost directly north and south from Lossiemouth to Craigellachie passed through the centre. As was reported in 1868 that the line provided "a highway for cattle, agricultural produce, and native manufactures"[16] destined for markets in the cities to the south. Another feature of Longmorn was the fresh-water lake that fed a tributary of the River Lossie which supplied the distillery with pure water, that essential ingredient for high-quality whisky.

          Longmorn Farm[17] spread over an area of 365 acres of arable and pastoral land. The emphasis appears to have been on cropping and cattle rather than on sheep as Roderick was the only shepherd at the time and on his departure he was replaced with a more general farm-worker.

          Of the four houses three were part of the farm complex while the fourth was occupied by the miller and his wife. The farmer, several relatives and the household servants occupied the main house, a comparatively large place with its 12 windowed rooms. Roderick lived in the two-roomed cottage while the six unmarried farm-servants were in the bothy.

          In many ways Longmorn appears to have been an ideal place in which to have lived and worked. However, before the spring of 1871 was over Roderick and Margaret had moved to Tearie West in the Parish of Dyke and Moy.

          Margaret, like other women for whom a high degree of residential mobility was an inevitable part of life, had long since learned to be adept at packing. Her kist held clothes and bedding and the family's few treasured belongings. In addition, there were the basic cooking utensils - a three-legged pot, a spurtle or porridge stick, bowls and spoons; a girdle, brander, toasting-stone and bannock spathe. With these and a bag of oatmeal she had all she needed to provide for her family upon arrival at their new home.

          Tearie West[18] was about a mile south of the village of Dyke and only a short distance from the old Royal Burgh of Forres. This was Darnaway country, the seat of the Earl of Moray whose home was Darnaway Castle. Tearie Farm was part of the estate.

          To reach Tearie West from Longmorn meant either taking the train to Elgin and then westward to the station closest to the their destination, or else travelling by coach and perhaps walking a short distance near the end of the journey. Travelling by road meant crossing the Findhorn River by way of a great suspension bridge hung high above the gorge. From there the traveller who was impervious to heights could marvel at the views of the river and forest, hidden from him at ground level . Whether by train or by coach, the journey must have been an exciting one for this little family.

          This time their small cottage had only one window although there were probably two rooms. By nightfall, with a peat or turf fire burning in the hearth, the spinning wheel set up and bannocks cooking, Margaret would already have made a cosy home.

           There were six other houses in the immediate vicinity and many more in the district. Over 20 different occupations were listed among the residents,[19] but Roderick was the only shepherd actually in the area. In fact, of approximately 160 farm-workers in the whole parish, only eight were shepherds. As in other districts where Roderick had worked more land was given to cropping and cattle-breeding than to sheep-farming.

          The Parish of Dyke and Moy was situated in a beautiful part of the country, rich in history and legend. Scotland's primeval forest had been hereabouts; Picts and Norsemen had occupied the land in turn; Forres Castle had been home to royalty, and kings had ridden in the surrounding forests. Here was the setting for Duncan and Macbeth, and here too, witches had been put to death. Although Roderick and Margaret spent just the customary brief period here, they could not but have been aware of the sense of history all around them. And even although this was not the history of Achindrean or of Alness, it was part of the history of Scotland and therefore part of their heritage.

          By 1872 the family was on the move again. Once more Margaret, now pregnant with their third child, packed for the train journey which was to take them west to Contin and the Estate of Coul in Ross-shire. For the first time since he had left Auchindrean Farm, Roderick was to live within a day's journey of his parent's home on the croft in Achindrean.

          The train travelled from Forres to Inverness and on to Dingwall and Contin. For Helen, then three, and William aged two, the trip was a great adventure, but for their parents it was a time to reflect upon this latest move and to wonder if such mobility was to be the pattern for the rest of their lives. The possibility of ever being able to lease a croft of their own was remote. The idea of emigration was discussed. In the meantime they were returning to what was truly McKenzie country.

          Coul was one of a number of estates in the Parish of Contin. Since the 17th century it had been owned by the McKenzies of Coul, the proprietor in 1872 being Sir Robert Ramsay McKenzie who had spent some time in government in New South Wales. In the 1870s the estate comprised several large farms, more than 20 crofts, a mill, kiln and smithy, houses and gardens, deer forests, woodlands, grazings and shootings and not least, salmon fishings.[20] A short distance up from the village of Contin was the Mains of Coul. It was possibly there that Roderick spent his last year as a shepherd in Scotland. Considering the range of sheep-farming experiences he had already had, along with those which awaited him in Coul, it is likely that he knew even more about sheep and shepherding than did Donald. However, as time was to tell, somehow he failed to capitalise on this later when he lived in Hawkes Bay, the great sheep province of New Zealand.

          On 25 May, 1872, their third child, Ann, was born and her birth registered at Contin.[21] Although no records survive it is probable that she was christened in the ancient parish church situated on an island across the river from the village.  

Leaving Scotland

It was soon after this event that Roderick and Margaret finally decided to emigrate. For Margaret this was a particularly difficult decision as it meant she would be leaving her parents without any prospect of ever seeing them again. Added to this was the fact that she was unable to write. For her and for others in similar situations, parting was poignant as any future communication would have to be through willing and literate third parties. It would be Roderick who wrote to his parents-in-law while they in turn relied on the goodwill of friends to write and perhaps even to read for them.

          Except for John and Mary who chose to stay in Scotland, Roderick's parting from his family was only temporary. If all went well they would be departing for New Zealand by the time he and Margaret and the children had already settled in their new home in Hawkes Bay.

          It was early summer, a lovely time in England, when they arrived at the Port of London, one little group among many and strangers all. All around them was unaccustomed noise and bewildering activity as ships were loaded and passengers embarked. Those emigrants destined for New Zealand were to sail on the Douglas.

          This was regarded as a magnificent ship.[22] Since she had been launched in 1869 the Douglas had been in the Melbourne trade and made two voyages to India, transporting horses to Calcutta. In 1873 she was chartered by the Shaw Saville line for use as an emigration ship. This was to be her first voyage to New Zealand. With relatively spacious and well-ventilated cabins and the best equipment available passengers could look forward to a reasonably pleasant and comfortable voyage. As they sailed down the River Thames on 14 June, 1873, all augured well for the next three and a half months.


S S Douglas

 S S Douglas, C J Wrigley Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library.

           Unfortunately after a short time at sea there was an outbreak of smallpox and also some cases of scarletina. A hospital was set up on deck. and with fresh air and careful nursing the ship's surgeon was able to keep the diseases under control. It was a worrying time for all on board even although, like Helen, William and Ann, many children would already have been vaccinated.

          Once the emergency was over the passengers were able to settle down to enjoy the rest of the voyage. After the initial excitement it was a long time to be at sea especially when there were small children who had to be watched constantly. While Helen and William were old enough to play with other children and perhaps to attend ship-board school, Ann was at the exploring stage and no doubt eager to climb everywhere. Fathers had time to spend with their children and to share in their daily care to an extent not previously possible. Roderick had time to talk at leisure, to tell and to re-tell those stories which were part of his family history and his Gaelic heritage. There was time too, to share his dreams for the good life which he believed awaited him in New Zealand.

          On 25 September, 1873, after fourteen weeks and five days at sea the Douglas sailed into Wellington Harbour and was immediately directed to the quarantine station on Somes Island.[23] Because of the cases of smallpox and scarletina which had occurred at the outset of the voyage it was necessary to carry out health inspections of all on board and to fumigate clothing and bedding.[24] Upon being cleared passengers left for their various destinations. It was 6 October when those going to Hawkes Bay boarded the coastal vessel Luna for the short voyage up the east coast to the Port of Ahuriri, Napier. Two days earlier Helen had celebrated her fifth birthday.

          After disembarking the family spent the next four days in the barracks. The Master's book lists the following in relation to Roderick[25]   

Residence:    Waipukurau
Employer:    R Harding
   £65 a year

        The family was counted as five souls, the equivalent of three and a half statute adults. Their passages had cost a total of £49. Of this £37 had been taken on as a debt when Roderick signed the promissory notes. The balance was paid by the government.  

Hawkes Bay 

Hawkes Bay was a province of large landholders, one of whom, John Harding, was to be Roderick's employer. Rechab Harding, who had gone to Napier to meet the family, was his son. The Harding property was known as Mount Vernon Station. It covered 16,000 acres and stretched from the Tuki Tuki River to the Waipawa.[26] Shepherding on a property of that size presented even a Scottish shepherd with fresh challenges. The attributes Roderick brought to the task included his relative youth (at 29 he was still a young man), and his wide-ranging experiences during the previous 12 years. In addition he was literate and driven by the family's dreams for a settled and better life in an environment reputed to offer the freedom to be equal, and where land-ownership was seen as the eventual reward for hard work.

          As they travelled southward from Napier they must surely have been in good spirits. Six days earlier Alexander and Ann with most of their family, had left Britain and could be expected in New Zealand within three and a half months. By that time Roderick and Margaret would be well settled into life at Mount Vernon. Adjustments to be made included familiarisation with the huge estate with its flock of 25,000 pure-bred Romney Marsh sheep; the use of horses as well as dogs when mustering; and meeting and working with the native Maori whose ancestors had arrived many centuries earlier.

          The route from Napier crossed the Ahuriri Plains where the sight of cropping and sheep-farming would have reminded them of the Laich o' Moray in mid-spring. From the plains they travelled on through undulating country to Central Hawkes Bay passing the town of Waipawa before reaching their destination, a distance of approximately 45 miles.

          Mount Vernon Station homestead was situated on the outskirts of Waipukurau township. There were separate quarters for the 20 permanent employees including cottages for those who were married. Not all Roderick's fellow employees were shepherds; in addition to the sheep, the station carried about 300 head of pure-bred Shorthorn Durham cattle. In earlier years wheat, maize and potatoes had been grown for export. Although there were similarities with land use in Morayshire, at Mount Vernon things were on a much grander scale. It was mid-spring when the McKenzies arrived, lambing was over and a second summer ahead for them.

          European people had long been in Central Hawkes Bay. The government's land-purchase commissioner, Sir Donald McLean, had negotiated the purchase of great blocks of land from the Maori owners and it was the government's hope that immigrants from Britain and Europe would make Hawkes Bay a community of small farmers. In the years to come small towns and settlements were to develop on the plains around Waipukurau and in strategic places where no clearing of virgin bush had, as yet, begun. Many of these were to be of significance in the lives of this family for generations to come. Descendants of Margaret and Roderick were to settle in Tikokino and Kaikora; in Herbertville, Tamumu, Porangahau and Wimbledon; in Takapau, Ormondville and Woodville; and further afield, in Nuhaka and Wairoa.

          Some uncertainty surrounds the chronology of the family's movements over the next 16 years. After leaving Mount Vernon they lived in Waipawa and then in Takapau where Roderick owned a small piece of land. There were several changes of residence and some unsettled periods when they seem to have moved between these two towns and maybe even back to Waipukurau. They were to have at least four more children, possibly five - Alexander, Roderick, Margaret, George and maybe another son named Charles.

          Situated on a navigable river and surrounded by extensive timber-milling country and large-scale mixed farms Waipawa was in an ideal position to be the main town of Central Hawkes Bay. It was 1876 before the railway line from Napier reached there but in the meantime the river provided a convenient route to the port. Wool and grain could be carried down-stream on canoes tied together, while logs were floated down to be collected near the river-mouth at Clive. All in all, Waipawa was a bustling town with many opportunities.[27]

          The first step along the path to betterment and independence was taken shortly before the birth of their third son, Roderick, in June, 1875. Surprisingly at that point Roderick had given up his crook for a plough. Two years later their third daughter, Margaret was born and Roderick had moved on to be a driver. The exact nature of his job is not known. He may have been a bullock driver, hauling logs from the bush, or he may have been in charge of a team of horses carting metal for roads or bales of wool and sacks of grain to the boats; or he may even have been driving the horses that hauled the flat-bottomed boats back up the river against the current. As fate and circumstances would decree, Roderick was to work with horses for the rest of his life.

          By the late 1870s the family had moved to Takapau and Roderick was a contractor in his own right. He had his own team of horses and was in a position where he could tender for business and enter into contracts independently of others.

          Those were early days in Takapau and the forest known as Seventy-Mile Bush still reached its outskirts. The atmosphere generated by the death throes of virgin bush was described:

....we enter the bush country. We pass sidings with great logs ready for the trucks. Wooden tram-ways lead everywhere into the forest. Here are magnificent wild wooded valleys and forest-clad gorges; the silence of their dim recesses broken only by the ring of the bushman's axe.[28]

Wherever there was bush to be felled there were contracts to be won. This was also the case with the carting of metal and the construction of roads. In Takapau, there was a thriving flax industry and flax had to be carted. The prospects appeared bright.

          Takapau School opened in June 1879 and although the five eldest McKenzie children may not have been first-day pupils they were certainly attending shortly afterwards. In September 1880 both Helen and William passed the annual standards examination conducted by the school inspector. Their parents no doubt felt a degree of pride as many children failed to reach the required standard and were forced to remain in the same class for another year or even longer.

          As early as 1879 Roderick may have purchased a small block of land on which he built a cottage. Certainly by 1882 he was paying rates on 20 acres with a cottage in Takapau. Economic conditions in New Zealand had been deteriorating for some years and by the mid 1880s the country was in a deep depression. There are signs that Roderick's business was affected. At the beginning of 1883, Helen, who was then 14 years of age, had to leave school and go into service. William continued at school until the end of the same year when, having passed the Standard Six examination, he left to take up a carting job at Tamumu. He was 13 years old and a promising student. After 10 years in this new country it must have been difficult to hold on to dreams at such times.

          At the beginning of 1884 the family returned to Waipawa but their fortunes did not improve. Roderick struggled as a contractor for another three years but in April 1887 he was finally adjudged bankrupt.[29] Nevertheless in 1891 he still received a rate demand. 

Description: ..\..\..\My Documents\MY PICTURES\Roderick and Margaret Pics\Roderick Rates Notice.jpg

Alexander was withdrawn from school to help at home until he could find a job. Ann had already left school and like Helen was probably in service. No matter how bright a child may have been at school the goal was often to join their peers in a paying job as soon as they were twelve. When the family was experiencing financial problems there was no choice. Having to provide for at least three children, Roderick, Margaret and George and possibly another son, Charles,[30] Roderick continued to work in the carting business, though now as a labourer and not as an owner.

          Three years later he died. Woven around the manner of his dying are three stories, each varying in detail while having one element in common - that he was loading metal down at the river at the time. One claims he slipped and was drowned; another that he drank "bad water". In the third he was drowned trying to rescue a son who had fallen into the river. The second version is consistent with the death certificate which states that he died in the Waipukurau Hospital after suffering from typhoid for ten days. However the third story, having survived to the fourth generation in two branches of the family, may also have some truth in it. Was there a fifth son, Charles, and was he the one who drowned?

          Donald came from Apiti to help with the funeral arrangements and to support Margaret and the children. Roderick was buried in the Waipukurau Cemetery on Thursday, 19 June, 17 years after leaving his native land. The Reverend Alexander Grant of the Presbyterian Church took the service.

          For a time the better life he had sought for his family had been within his grasp. The closest he came to realising his dreams was during the few years he owned the small property in Takapau and worked for himself. The immigrant's usual route to ownership of land was from shepherd to sheep-farmer or from contractor to farmer. Roderick had given up the occupation he knew so well after only a short time in New Zealand and taken to ploughing, driving and then contracting. While it cannot be said that he would have done better had he stuck to shepherding there is no doubt that for many the life of a shepherd was a satisfying one. But like all members of this McKenzie family there was a deep desire to actually own land. Certainly he was a victim of the depression but had the support of the wider family been more easily available things might have turned out differently. On the other hand Roderick may have been fiercely independent and not given to asking for advice or seeking practical help. Nor was the situation helped by the geographical isolation from those living in the Rangitikei and the Manawatu.

          Although Roderick did not leave a material legacy he did pass on to his offspring traits and abilities which have helped many of them to achieve in different walks of life. Among his descendants are New Zealand's first woman trade commissioner to Asia, the first woman to be elected to a school-committee in Hawkes Bay, an O.B.E. and a long-serving company secretary. There are also Fresian breeders and sheep-farmers, nurses and social workers. Could he and Margaret have seen into the future they might well have been satisfied.

          Margaret survived Roderick by 32 years. In many ways it is difficult to see her life in its own light. Like many pioneer women she had little existence outside the family unit and the immediate neighbourhood. Her name appeared on the electoral roll for Hawkes Bay in 1893, the first year women had the franchise. Although her daughters, Helen and Ann, certainly did, it is not known whether she ever discussed political issues. Shortly after Roderick's death Margaret and the two youngest children, Margaret and George, moved to Kaikora North. It is possible that Roderick, who had left school the previous July, went with them.

          In 1892 there was a wedding in their home when Helen married Birley Doria of Porangahau. In the following year the first two grandchidren were born, William's son Alexander Roderick and Helen's daughter Francis Margaret. Second names had become the fashion and for each of these babies the Scottish naming system was used. Alexander and Francis were no doubt wrapped in shawls knitted by their grandmother who was long remembered for her skill with knitting needles. In true Highland tradition each shawl was so fine it could be passed through a wedding ring.

          In the later years of her life she went to live with her son George and his wife Nita. Helen and Margaret and their families were not far away so there were frequent visits from grandchildren. Ann, who had moved to the South Island after her marriage in 1899, was able to visit annually as her husband worked in the railways and this entitled her to a railway pass. Roderick and Alexander led somewhat nomadic lives but probably visited their mother at times. When William's wife, Johana, died in 1914 leaving him with a large family to care for, Margaret was unable to help him because she was suffering from asthma and seldom ventured outside.

          During the First World War she saw five of her grandsons leave for overseas service. Three of them did not return. Margaret McKenzie, nee Cameron, died at Takapau on the first day of February, 1922 and was buried in the Waipukurau Cemetery two days later. She was at least 80 years of age.[31]


Roderick and Margaret's Family

Helen (4 Oct 1868 to 18 May 1949)

William (3 Apr 1870 to 13 May 1937)

Ann (25 May 1872 to 23 Aug 1967)



Margaret (5 Jun 1877 to 20 Jul 1960

George (2 Oct 1881 to 9 Dec 1959)

[1]. Census for Ross and Cromarty, Parish of Lochbroom, 31 March 1851, Village of Achindrean, Scedule number 15.

[2]. Census for Ross and Cromarty, Parish of Lochbroom, 8 April 1861, Auchindrean.

[3]. Helen MacLeod, personal communication, 2 August 1987. For many years her father leased Auchindrean Farm. The area used for the prisoner-of-war camp became known as the German Field.

[4]. Census for Ross and Cromarty, ibid.

[5]. This was slightly different from the bothy system more common in the east of Scotland where single farm-workers shared one-roomed cottages and were supplied with oatmeal and milk which they cooked for themselves.

[6]. There was a feeing market at Ardgay in Easter Ross. A fixture in the village is a large white boulder, the Clach Eiteag. Tradition claims that wherever this "pebble" was, there the annual fair or market would be held. It was sometimes "helped" to move mysteriously from village to village but eventually it was permanently anchored at Ardgay.

[7]. Laich refers to a plain or to low-lying land.

[8]. Sir Robert Gordon of Straloch, quoted by J and W Watson, Morayshire Described, Russell and Watson, Elgin, 1868, p.4.

[9]. Watson, Morayshire Described, ibid., p.9.

[10]. Ibid., pp.10-12.

[11]. Moira Innes, Director of Libraries, Elgin. Personal communication, 1990.

[12]. Register of Marriages for the District of Elgin, 1868, General Register Office, New Register House, Edinburgh.

[13]. Sir John Sincliar, ed., The Statistical Account of Scotland, 1791-1799, County of Ross, pp.277-283.

[14]. Register of Births for the District of Elgin, 1868, General Register Office, New Register House, Edinburgh.

[15]. Inverness Courier, 7 April 1870, p.5.

[16]. Watson, ibid., p.13.

[17]. Census for the Parish of Elgin, Longmorn, 1861, 1871.

[18]. Census for the Parish of Dyke and Moy, Tearie West, 1971.

[19]. Ibid.

[20]. Census for the Parish of Contin, 1871. Valuation Roll for the County of Ross, 1877-1878, Parish of Contin.

[21]. Register of Births, Parish of Contin, 1872, New Register House, Edinburgh.

[22]. "This noble ship ... well deserves a visit of inspection, being not only by far the largest, but also in every respect the finest vessel that has ever yet been at the wharf." Evening Post, 21 January, 1874.

[23]. Evening Post, Wellington, 8 October 1873.

[24]. Immigration Commissioners, Wellington, Report on Douglas to The Under Secretary for Immigration, Wellington, 14 October 1873, National Archives of New Zealand, IM 5/4/6 No.56.

[25]. Barracks Masters Record Book, p.821. Hawkes Bay Art Gallery and Museum Library.

[26]. Miriam MacGregor, Early Stations of Hawkes Bay, p.147.

[27]. This is Waipawa, 1961, p.29.

[28]. Warren Bayliss quoting an unknown writer in Takapau. The Sovereign Years, 1876-1976, p.45.

[29]. Denis Hampton, An index to Bankruptcies in New Zealand, 1881-1940, volume 5, p.466.

[30]. There are several indications Roderick and Margaret had a fifth son, Charles. A Charles McKenzie was enrolled at Takapau School in February 1884. His father is given as Roderick McKenzie, and he transferred to Waipawa school early in 1884, the same time as Ann, Alexander and Roderick. However no birthdate is mentioned and no other records of his birth or death have been located. As noted there is a son who is said to have drowned at the time of Roderick's death and this may have been Charles though no inquest details or cemetry record have been found. William and Margaret both named sons "Charles," and the name appears in later generations of Roderick's family.

[31]. The majority of age entries on her certificates point to 1842 as the year of her birth although her death certificate states that she was 83 in 1922.