150 years of Pollok settlement

Last week I visited Auckland to attend the 150th anniversary of Pollok settlement on the Awhitu peninsular to the south-west of Auckland.  My 3 x great uncle Robert Scouler with his second wife, Mary McWatt and their children travelled to Auckland on board the Ganges in 1863.  Luckily an account of their journey survives that was written by on the of the cabin passengers, David Buchanan.  The Scoulers were in the steerage cabin.

Robert was the brother of my 3 x great grandfather John Scouller and cousin to John’s wife Janet Scouller.  The two brothers had a weaving wenstrel making business together in Gallowgate, Glasgow.  The two families, John and Janets’ and Robert and Marys’ had firstly travelled to Australia in 1853 on board the Waverley.  Mary’s brother Lawrence was also with them.  Robert’s daughter Margaret Hamilton Scouller had travelled to Melbourne three months ahead of them on board the Sea.  It seems the two families had made the decision to migrate together.

John Scouller
John Scouller
Janet Scouller
Janet Scouller

However by October 1855 Robert and Mary with their three children, Robert and Marion from Robert’s first marriage with Jean Jamieson and their son Lawrence were all back in Scotland.  Mary’s brother Lawrence may have stayed in Australia until a later date.  He may have only returned to Scotland in 1862.  John and Janet and their six children stayed in Australia.   I wonder what happened, if the brothers had a falling out, if Mary was homesick or what else may have happened?

Robert and Mary had a daughter, Mary, born in Glasgow in October 1855.  She died 3 months later of bronchitis.  In July 1857 a son Andrew was born, their daughter Marion died in the July then Andrew died in October.  Robert once again had his own business in Glasgow making weaver’s equipment and employing four men including his nephew (son of his sister Margaret), Andrew Riddell, who was also living with them.

In 1863 Robert and Mary again made the decision to migrate, this time to New Zealand on board the Ganges.  Mary’s brother Lawrence again travelled with them with his new wife Sarah Duncan.  Luckily a diary survives that tells of the journey of the Ganges.  Mary and Robert had a baby on board the Ganges before she left London whom they named Ganges, however she later went by the name of Sarah.   Sarah and Lawrence also had a baby on the journey to New Zealand but he died after only four hours of life and was buried the next morning.

The Ganges was a vessel of 1211 tons, built at Boston in 1856, and was originally a Boston packet ship.  There was a Presbyterian group from Pollokshaws on board with the Rev. James Smith.  Also on board was Mr. Jamieson from the Kilwinning Associated Congregation, a church the Scouller family had been associated with.  Were the Scoullers on board with one of these groups or were they travelling to New Zealand as Robert had consumption (TB)?

It took them a week going against westerly winds to reach the mouth of the English Channel.  The passengers kept themselves amused by studying Greek and mathematics, cutting down their tobacco, one or two fired at a bottle they had swung over the rails and some women were working at needlework.  Boxing was another pastime but it wasn’t shared by the people from Pollok or Barrhead.  Buchanan, the diarist spent a lot of his time teaching his son or conversing with the captain.  He recounted many stories that the captain had recounted about earlier journeys.  He particularly noticed that brandy was a popular remedy that was only supposed to be provided on the express instructions of the doctor.  There was also much singing, dancing, playing of cards, conversation and reading.

They arrived in Auckland on Monday, 12 October 1863 to find the colony was ablaze.  There had been fighting for the previous three months.  Alongside the medical inspector, customs inspector, the ships agent, the accountant of the colony, friends of the passengers a volunteer in uniform came aboard to address the passengers.  He was there to convince the men to volunteer.  Buchanan wasn’t sure how much success he had.

Mary’s brother Lawrence and his wife Sarah had a son Robert born in 1864.  The Scoullers along with  other passengers from Pollokshaws who had been aboard the Ganges formed the settlement of Pollok in about 1865. It was on land originally purchased by the Crown from Ngati Te Ata in 1861. The venture was led by the Reverend James Milne Smith, of the Pollokshaws United Original Secession Church congregation. Smith was nick-named “Brimstone Jimmy” by his flock due to his hell-fire and damnation preaching style.

The original concept of the settlement had been that it should be a self-contained and self-sufficient religious community where there would be little need for contact with the outside world.  To this end it was planned that there should be two of each type of tradesmen so that there would always be one available and, with true Scot’s canniness, so that there would be sufficient competition to keep prices within reason.  There were at least 20 rules that the community were to abide by including that no alcohol was to be sold.  Women also had the right to vote.  Robert Scouller was on the first council made up of seven men.

Robert and Mary had a son James Scouller at Pollok in 1866. He was their only child born in New Zealand  Tragedy struck the McWatt family when Lawrence was killed along with his brother-in-law Alexander Duncan while working at a quarry at Mangawai breakwater in August 1866.  Sarah lost both her husband and her brother at the same time.  She married fellow Ganges passenger Robert McEwen a year later and went on to have a further twelve children.  Sadly she lost her daughter Elizabeth in 1872.  Her daughter Jemima was to marry James Scouller born to Robert and Mary at Pollok.

Robert and Mary lost their son Lawrence in 1868, he died of a fever. One year later Robert died of consumption, aged 53 although his death certificate said he was 56.  It is believed that Robert and his son Lawrence are buried in the small cemetery at Pollok. The Scouller plot was directly at the back from the gate but no marker now exists.


Pollok cemetery
Pollok cemetery

When her husband died Mary was left with three children under ten years of age.  Six years later she married neighbour and fellow Ganges passenger Richard Dean, brother of her daughter-in-law Elizabeth Dean.  However he died ten years later while trying to jump his horse over a cow.   Mary lived until she was seventy-seven having outlived five of her children and two husbands.

All of Robert and Mary’s children married and had large families of their own.  Mary Ann married William Sproul, Helen married William Cochran, Sarah married George Joseph Garland and as mentioned above James married Jemima McEwen.  Further tragedy was to befall the family when James, then his wife Jemima were to die leaving their children to be brought up by other family members.  Robert’s son Robert from his first marriage with Jane Jamieson married Elizabeth Dean.

Thus far I have photos of Helen and James but hope to find photos of the other family members.  I believe there are some photos of Sarah.  If anyone has photos or stories of any of the families I’d love to hear from you.  Especially if anyone has a photo of Robert Scouller, his son or Mary McWatt.



4 thoughts on “150 years of Pollok settlement”

  1. My name is Bill Potaka-Osborne from Lower Hutt. I was married to Elizabeth Sarah McEwan (deceased) whose father was Andrew McEwan, the youngest child of Robert McEwen and Sarah Duncan. Note the dropping of the “e” for “a” in the McEwen name. Elizabeth attended the Pollock celebration organised by Bishop McWatt. Elizabeth and I visited Waiuku many years ago and met a number of the descendants of Robert and Sarah. We were taken to the cemetery and later our hosts organised a dinner party and we were amazed at the number of Elizabeth’s relations who turned up. Thought you might be interested.

  2. Hi I am Fiona Grocott (nee de Raat), my mother is Mary Janet de Raat (nee McLean), her father was Charles Neil McLean, his mother was Sarah McLean (nee McEwen) who was the 6th child of Sarah McEwen (nee Duncan/McWatt). Charles mother died in 1909 and his Aunt Agnes McEwen (the 7th child of Sarah McEwen (nee Duncan/McWatt) came to look after the three children – Agnes later married her sisteres husband John Neil McLean, making Charles McLeans Aunt also his step-mother!


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