Tuesday, 17 July 2007

James McKerrow - New Zealand Surveyor

James McKerrow was born on 7 July 1834 in Kilmarnock, Scotland, with a genealogy that can be traced back to King James the Vth. [1]
His Father, Andrew McKerrow was a famous ploughmaker of Beansburn, Kilmarnock, who manufactured patent single furrow, ploughs and back delivery reaping machines which gave him the means to provide his sons an adequate education. James was a bright young student and frequently was top of his class and had a great love of mathematics, and after a good grounding in both pure and mixed aspects of the subjects under Mr. Thomas Lee of Kilmarnock Academy, he studied these subjects further at Glasgow University. Like all his brothers, James did an apprenticeship in implement making as his father believed that having a trade ‘prove a safe standby in times of need, and would often open the door to numerous other occupations.’[2] During his apprenticeship, James showed more interest in surveying the paddocks in the neighbourhood and gaining knowledge of surveying.
James was the eldest of ten children, nine brothers and one sister. When James was five, his sister Jean was born but she died before the age of one. His brother John, born when he was three, died at the age of 21, the year before James left for New Zealand. He was the first to leave for New Zealand, and later, 6 of his brothers emigrated
James McKerrow married Martha Dunlop at Fenwick, Ayreshire Scotland, on 5 August, 1859. Three weeks after their marriage, James and Martha traveled to Glasgow to board the Cheviot, a ship with a reputation for speed, weighing 1066 tons.
Unfortunately the Ship’s departure was delayed some hours so James and Martha, decided to fill the time in by having their last walk on Scottish soil. As they were strolling through the countryside, they passed a field of turnips, and feeling the pangs of hunger, James climbed over the fence, and plucked a turnip. As he was climbing back over the wall, a farmer appeared and threatened to get the police and take charges against him. James quickly produced a sum of money and paid an exorbitant price for a miserable turnip, and they quickly scurried back to the ship, before any other misfortune came their way.[3]
The cargo vessel ‘Cheviot’ set sail on Tuesday the, 23 August and left ‘The Tail of the Bank’ at Greenock and with it Scotland. The ship was heavily laden with foodstuff, spirituous liquors, iron goods, building materials, farm implements, stud sheep, pigs and cattle.[4] Being a cargo ship, it was only able to accommodate twenty-four cabin and eighteen steerage passengers. The majority of the steerage passengers were emigrating under the sponsorship of a Mr. Holmes, who had made large purchases of land in the Lumsden district where he intended to settle them on his holdings. The McKerrows were in the steerage cabins together with sixteen men and one woman.
The Cheviot rounded Ireland and then reached Madeira on 3 September, passed close to Cape Verde on 7 September, and after confusing winds, crossed the equator on 26 September For the next leg of the journey, the weather was good and they rounded Cape Horn on 25 October and a point, south of Adelaide reached on 18 November.

The trip had been eventful with the discovery of a ‘stowaway, the death of a still born baby, the provisioning of a life boat from a foundered vessel and condition were tough at times with cramped quarters, snow and thunder storms, gales force winds and ripped sails, and near misses from flying blocks. The dairy of one of the passengers, Mr. T.L. Barnhill, on 3 October 1859 shows the spirit on board. “ shipped a sea which ducked almost all the steerage passengers who were standing together- all in good spirits owing to our making such progress.” [5]
James and Martha got their first look at New Zealand a week later when they sighted Stewart Island and the next day after ninety five days at sea, they entered the Otago Harbour.
‘ I was very much struck with the beautiful situation of Dunedin and with the clean, neat appearances of the houses looking out spick and span from picturesque spots in the surrounding bush. In coming up the bay and through the islets of Port Chalmers, I was strongly reminded of beautiful Loch Lomond.[6]
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In 1859 James amd Martha McKerrow (to be finished)


James McKerrow was 85 when he died in 1919 at his Ghuznee Street home in Wellington.
[1] Andrew Kennedy McKerrow, Your Folk and Mine – The story of the McKerrows, private circulation, Edinburgh, 1990
[2]
[3] David G.Herron, James McKerrow –SURVEYOR, EXPLORER AND CIVIL SERVANT- With special reference to Exploration, 1861-3, Presented for History Honours, University of New Zealand.1948
[4] Otago Witness, 3 December, 1859
[5] Barnhill, T.L., MSS Dairy of Voyage of Cheviot. Read by D.C. Herron, 1947.
[6] Mckerrow, J., Reminiscences, p.10 MSS

1 comment:

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