Several branches of the families came as assisted emigrants. Wilhelmina McLeod and her mother Janet Mackay with 3 siblings arrived in 1839 on the James Morgan from the Sutherland Shire  of Scotland. The Sanders ( William and Mary Ann) came by the VICTORIA in 1849. In 1853, The Jacksons arrived in the WILLIAM BROWN but I don’t yet know under what conditions they came. Also in 1853 the BEEJAPORE sailed to NSW and NZ and on board were John and Harriet Hurrell ( who died in the same year 1853. Many died on that ship and Harriet’s death may well be as a result of the voyage. ) Also on board were the Scottish CRAIGS. The extract below is from a NZ thesis on death and mourning amongst the Scots who emigrated .






1840 -1890


Debra Powell

A Thesis

Submitted to the University of Waikato

in fulfilment of the

requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts

in History

Official aggregates from ships surgeons’ reports reinforce the impression of

diaries that

“few immigrant ships arrived in New Zealand waters with their

original complement of passengers. Infectious diseases, chronic illness,

accidents at sea, dysentery and diarrhoea, and the debilitating effects of constant

seasickness on pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers, all took a toll on

passenger numbers. Migrants were not unaware of the risks involved. The loss

of babies and infants was considered an inevitable consequence of long seaboard

journeys. William Usherwood on board the Beejapore to Sydney in 1853

expressed a common sentiment when he wrote: ‘The … adults are all in good

health, we have lost several children but this was quite expected, being always

the case’”

William Usherwood, cited in Robin Haines, Doctors at Sea: Emigrant Voyages to Colonial

Australia (Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 2


By the mid-nineteenth century there was a plethora of emigration societies set

up to assist Scots to find new homes abroad. In 1839, for example, a society was

formed among the weaving community of Fenwick in Ayrshire. The society

oversaw a ‘constant flow’ of departures to immigrant destinations including

Australia and New Zealand. Its constitution reflected a sense of impending crisis

and was unequivocal in its expression of the conviction that ‘ordinary folk’

should have the means to improvement, and an escape from the prospect of

unemployment, pauperism and starvation. It states:

A fearful gloom is fast thickening over the horizon of our country. Every

prospect of comfort to the working man is daily becoming darker and

more dreary. Trade and manufacturers are rapidly leaving our shores and,

to all appearance, a crisis is at hand in which the sufferings of the working

class will form a prominent feature

Cited in Jim Hewitson, Far off in Sunlit Places: Stories of the Scots in Australia and New

Zealand (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 1998), p. 19



“The ocean voyage between Scotland and New Zealand could take anywhere

from three to five months. These months represented a transitional period for

individuals and families, and acted as a liminal zone between the old life and the

new. Migrants’ experiences of death at sea were an important part of this

transition, as traditional ideas and practices were challenged by the exigencies of

sea burials. Of necessity, the time between death and disposal of the body was



I have elected to include the diaries of English as well as Scottish migrants to New Zealand and

Australia, both for what they reveal about perceptions of ‘Scottishness’, and because of the

obvious commonalities in both experiences and responses to death at sea.

short. In the case of stillborn infants, and when infectious diseases were aboard,

this may have been as little as one hour.


The complex traditions of waking and

kisting which had served to facilitate the mourning process among Scots in their

home communities had to be dispensed with in the cramped space aboard ship.

Moreover, many adult patients spent their last days quarantined in the ship’s

‘hospital’ being cared for by a matron and the ship’s surgeon rather than their

own kin, as they would have been at home. This removal from the dying process

often left families with little to comfort them through the difficult process of

mourning. There were several modes of reaction to the disruption of the grief

process through death at sea. Aside from the negation of traditionally held

customs and observances, sea burial provided the family with no fixed place of

interment, effectively denying them the comfort of future visits to the graveside.

Furthermore, the body of the deceased could never lie in the family grave sites

that were to become a feature of colonial graveyards in New Zealand, as they

were in Britain and Ireland. On a religious or superstitious level, many migrants

still held onto fears concerning resurrection. People witnessed the bodies of the

deceased dropped into water teeming with sea-life, protected by nothing but a

weighted canvas shroud. Residual beliefs concerning the resurrection of the

body and its dependence on corporeal integrity at death, meant that the fear of

burial at sea resonated with that of dissection in many minds”




2 thoughts on “‘IT WAS HARD TO DIE FRAE HAME’:”

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