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Gilchrist Family 
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William Gilchrist married Janet Scott in Cumbernauld in 1749. Janet was from the parish of Denny which was to the north east of Cumbernauld. William and Janet had five children that we know of, Alexander being the third born and the second son.

Alexander was christened in 1764 and in 1785 he married Jane Gool in Cumbernauld. Alexander and Jane had seven children in Cumbernauld the second youngest being Alexander who was born in 1802 and who married Janet Mitchell in 1828 at Cumbernauld.

It was Alexander and Janet’s sixth child William Mitchell Gilchrist who first came to New Zealand. He travelled in the ship "Sir William Eyre" in April 1863 aged 23 years.

William married Elizabeth Bagley in Monticello, Dunedin in 1869.

Robert, (Alexander and Janet’s eighth child) also made his way to New Zealand. He is shown as marrying Isabella Taylor in Caversham, Dunedin in 1874. Perhaps Robert travelled with William in which case he would have been only 17.

Next to come to New Zealand was William and Robert’s sister Elizabeth. She had married James Robb in 1866 in Rothesay on the Island of Bute. Elizabeth and James Robb travelled to New Zealand on the ship the "Oamaru" which left Glasgow on the 12th October, 1878 and arrived at Port Chalmers on January the 10th, 1879. Elizabeth & James had had five children before leaving Scotland. Alexander did not travel to new Zealand so it is assumed he had died as a child before hand. Janet, James, John and Isabella all came with their parents and William Gilchrist Robb was born on 1880 in New Zealand.

My Ancestors arrive in New Zealand

Alexander & Janet’s fifth child, John came to New Zealand in 1880. John was a coalminer in Scotland. He married Catherine Thompson in 1861 and they had four children before Catherine died at the age of 26 in Scotland. John then married Elizabeth Marshall in 1872 and they had four children before they left for New Zealand in 1880. The remainder of the family (four more) were born in New Zealand.

John and Elizabeth travelled to New Zealand on the ship the "Marlborough" which left Glasgow on the 22nd of October 1879 from Glasgow and arrived at Port Chalmers on the 7th January 1880. The passenger list of the Marlborough shows:

John Gilchrist aged 36 a Labourer from Dumbartonshire was accommodated in the family quarters.

Elizabeth Gilchrist aged 37 was accommodated in the family quarters.

Alex (Catherine’s son) aged 18 a labourer from Dumbartonshire was accommodated in the single men’s quarters

John (Catherine’s son) aged 15 a labourer was accommodated in the Single men’s quarters

James (Catherine’s son) aged 12 was also accommodated in the single men’s quarters.

William aged 5, Thomas aged 3, Robert aged 1 and George aged 1month were all in the family quarters. These four boys were all Elizabeth’s.

John and Catherine also had a daughter Isabella who was born in 1864. Isabella died in 1866 in Cumbernauld.

John and Elizabeth first settled in Purakanui which is situated about 8 km north of Port Chalmers. Charles was born at Purakanui in 1881. He farmed there for about 2 years before moving northwards to Shag Point where he mined for a while before a short stint on the West Coast. Helen was born in 1883 in South Dunedin so the family must have moved into Dunedin while John was at Shag Point. Jessie and Elizabeth were also born in South Dunedin in 1885. John returned to Purakanui for a while, then moved the family into Dunedin. Refer to the excerpt from the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand below.

From Cyclopaedia of New Zealand - page477 (Otago)

GILCHRIST, john, Farmer, Ardgowan. Mr. Gilchrist is a native of Cumbernauld, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, and was born on the 13th of June, 1838. For over thirty years he was a coalminer in Scotland. He arrived in Port Chalmers by the ship ‘Marlborough’, in 1879, and settled at Purakanui, where he farmed for two years. He was for a year afterwards mining at Shag Point, and afterwards had six months experience on the West Coast, whence he returned to Purakanui for a year. He subsequently removed to Dunedin, where he engaged in road-contracting for three years. Mr Gilchrist was afterwards placed in charge of the Co-operative Labourers engaged in the construction of the Otago Central Railway, and held that position for two years. His farm at Ardgowan is eighty acres in extent and is held in the name of his son William, with whom he resides. Mr Gilchrist was married, in 1861, to a daughter of Mr John Brough, of Dumbarton. This lady died in 1871, leaving three sons, and in 1873 Mr Gilchrist married a daughter of Mr William Marshall, of Dumbarton. His second wife died on the 10th of February 1903, leaving five sons and two daughters.


Around 1895 the family moved to Oamaru where John started farming at Ardgowan which is not far from the outskirts of Oamaru near Eden Street.

Of John & Catherine’s boys who came to New Zealand Alexander married Mary McMillan in 1911 and it appears he spent most of his years in the Dunedin area before dying in the Public Hospital in Dunedin in 1943.

John, who arrived in New Zealand at the age of 15 years came to Oamaru with John and Elizabeth. It was here that he met and Married Grace McGregor in 1891. The McGregor’s were living in Reed Street in 1887 and the 1892 Otago and Southland Directory show that John Gilchrist was also living in Reed Street as a Carter.

John and Grace celebrated their 50th Wedding anniversary in Dunedin in 1941 where the were living at the time. The newspaper report of the anniversary appeared as:

Gilchrist.jpg (540613 bytes)

GOLDEN WEDDING - Mr and Mrs John Gilchrist of Victoria Road, St. Kilda, who are well known in North Otago, will celebrate their golden wedding today. Mrs Gilchrist arrived from Scotland in 1875 by the Christian McCausland. Mr Gilchrist arrived at Port Chalmers on January 13, 1880 by the ship Marlborough from Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. They were married at Oamaru on march 27, 1891 at St Paul's Church by the Rev. Mr Todd. There are six daughters and four sons and several grandchildren.

John died in May of 1943 and the following notice appeared in the Otago Daily Times :20/5/43:

Mr John Gilchrist: The death has occurred in Dunedin of Mr John Gilchrist, in his seventy seventh year. Mr Gilchrist was born in Cumbernauld, Scotland and came as a young man to Oamaru, where he resided for over 55 years. He was for a long period associated with the North Otago Dairy Company before he left for Dunedin eight years ago. He was a staunch member of the Orange Lodge and Protestant Alliance Friendly Society, with which he was connected for over 53 years. Mr Gilchrist is survived by his wife Mrs Grace Gilchrist and four sons, Messrs Alex. and John (Dunedin), Jim (Oamaru) and Ernest (overseas), and six daughters, Mesdames H Nightingale and W Woodall (Oamaru), R Carmichael (Auckland), E A Dalton ( Lower Hutt) and Misses E and K Gilchrist (Dunedin).

John and Grace had eleven children; Alexander who married Margaret Sparks, Grace married Henry Nightingale, John married Jessie Speid, Helen married Walter Woodall, James married Martha Petrie, Ernest did not marry, William died aged 9 years, Christina married four times, Evelyn did not marry, Catherine also did not marry and Mabel married Edward Dalton.


James and Martha Gilchrist (My Maternal Grandparents)

James & Martha.jpg (26282 bytes)

Jim Gilchrist was born in 1900 in Oamaru. He worked for the Railways and eventually met and married Martha Petrie in 1923.

Jim was a Maintenance Surfacemen with the Railways and the couple moved around the Otago area as work dictated.  Joan was born in 1924 in Oamaru, Isobel (My mother) followed in 1927 in Dunedin and Ernie in 1928 in Goodwood.  Life was very hard and the places they lived in were often very isolated.  The house they were living in at Goodwood burned to the ground about 1929 and the family lost everything.

In 1932 the family were living at Parera in the Taieri Gorge and it was here that Martha brought Maurice home to after she and Jim adopted him.  They brought the baby home on the railway jigger (man operated trolly). 

Isobel started school at Hinden and caught the train each day.  By the time Ernie started school the family had moved to Waitati.  they lived in the hills where there was a short cut across to Port Chalmers.  The children went to school in bare feet.  They had strict instructions not to take rides from anyone and not to talk to strangers, so whenever someone came along the children would hide in the bushes.

Jim rode a motor bike to Dunedin.  This would have been about 1933.  Next the family moved into Dunedin and lived in an old shop.  Ernie was about 6 by then. Bill came along in 1933.

During the depression Jim had Rheumatic fever and the family had no money,  They lived off the land, eating wild geese and eggs. For fuel they would dry cow paddies and boil the copper to heat water and do the washing.

After Dunedin the family moved to Waihola.  It was here at the lake that Ernie learned to swim.  The family lived in a 2 storied house behind the church.  Norman was born in 1936.  Then in 1937 they all moved to Oamaru.  They went to North School and South School. and the family lived in Perth Street in the south and in Chalmers Street  Jim was a signalman on the railways.  The family moved to Eden street and there was not enough rooms.  Nordmeyer was in Government at the time so Jim spoke to him and told him there was not enough room for 6 children.  He told him he wanted a house with 4 bedrooms so he got the government to buy the house at Chalmers Street and the family lived there until 1953, when the family moved to 50 Leith St.  Jim bought this house with his pension he got when he had to retire because of Rheumatic fever and bad health.

In their retirement Jim and Martha often went to the North Island to a small spa town in the far north called Ngawha Springs to sock in the hot mud pools.

Jim died at Oamaru in 1977 and Martha followed three years later in 1980.



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Last modified: November 30, 2008