Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alexander Robertson Sutherland and Elizabeth McKay Part B

So what do we know of the voyage for the Sutherlands and other passengers on board the emigrant ship, the Oriental - the first such to sail from Gravesend, London in 1839 and the second to arrive in Port Nicholson, New Zealand in early 1840?


The list of the outfit requirements for emigrant labourers on the store ship Glenbervie which arrived in New Zealand on 7th March 1840 is probably a good guide for what was in the luggage of the Sutherlands:

Outfit for Emigrant Labourers – supplied at the prices quoted.


  • 2 Gowns, 18 yds. print cotton 9/- 
  • 2 Petticoats, 6 yds. Col. Calico 3/- 
  • 2 Petticoats, flannel 6 yds 6/-
  • 12 Shifts, 30 yds., long cloth 15/- 
  • 6 Caps, 3 yds. of muslin 3/- 
  • 6 Aprons, 6 yds. Calico 3/- 
  • 6 Handkerchiefs 3/- 
  • 6 Neckerchiefs 4/6 
  • 6 Towels 3/- 
  • 1 Pair Stays 5/- 
  • 6 Pair black worsted stockings 7/6 
  • 2 Pair shoes 8/- 
  • 1 Bonnet 3/- 
  • Needles, pins, tapes, etc. 5/- 
  • 2 Ibs. Soap 3/- 
  • 2 Ibs. Starch


  • 2 Fustian jackets 15/- 
  • 2 Pair trousers 12/- 
  • 2 Pair duck trousers 5/- 
  • 2 Round frocks 5/-
  • 12 Cotton shirts £1/7/- 
  • 6 Pair worsted stockings 9/- 
  • 2 Scotch caps 3/- 
  • 6 Handkerchiefs 3/- 
  • 6 Coarse towels 3/- 
  • 1 Pair boots 10/- 
  • 1 Pair shoes 6/- 
  • 4 Ibs. of soap 2/- 
  • 1 Pair blankets 10/- 
  • 2 Pair sheets 10/-   
  • Sum required for Married Couple £10/-/-.

The Petone Settlers Museum data base has a few extracts from the diary and journal of the Oriental’s surgeon Dr J P Fitzgerald.


33  Married Men 66 ( including the married women)
Single Men 28
Single Women 3
7 Children between 9 & 14
18 Children between 1 & 9
Deaths on Board      
ISAAC  Maryanne 11M  F  Oct.14 1839   Acute Hydrocephalus Lat. 26.18 N.
COCKBURN  Elizabeth   11M     F     Oct.20 1839   Chronic Enteritis Lat. 11.46 N.
HUGHES  Richd. Cabin Passenger   30Y     M     Nov.8 1839  Liver  2.4 S.


Sept 10 1839 “According to the orders I received at the new Zealand Land Company’s offices I went on board the ship Oriental and took charge of the Emigrants on board the said ship the lying in Basin out Side the West India Docks…”

22 “Weather wet and Stormy, Emigrants very sick…”

Friday  25th Oct “Fine weather. Emigrants Births all on deck. Births cleaned out and Sprinkled with Chloride of Lime.

Dec. 1st 1839 “Emigrants suffering from chest affections Lat. 39-38…”

Sat. Dec 14th “Rough weather with showers..Grace Spencer was delivered of a Son. Mother and Child both doing well..Steerage cleaned out half past 9 a.m.  Long. 46.50.”

Jan 23rd 1840 “As yet received no Intelligence from Colonel Wakefield:   a good many Natives came on board this day…”

“Arrived in Port Nicholson on the 31th Jany. (1840) Emigrants and Cabin Passengers discharged on the 15th Feby…”

Dr Fitzgerald, Surgeon Supt, Oriental

Another commentator states “The barque “Oriental,” 506 tons, commanded by Captain Wm. Wilson, with Dr. J. Fitzgerald as surgeon superintendent, sailed from London on the 15th September, 1839, and arrived at Port Nicholson on the 31st January, 1840. There were on the Register (the New Zealand copy) 66 married couples, 29 single men, 3 single women, 17 children between nine and fourteen, and 9 between one and nine. There were 8 births and 3 deaths on the voyage.


On board, Elizabeth Sutherland, busy with her first young daughter, was also pregnant with her second child. Kathrean (aka Catherine) was born on board the Oriental on 11 January, 1840. Although this birth was not mentioned in the extracts of the ship’s surgeon on the Petone Settlers Museum Data base it is safe to assume Elizabeth would have at least had a doctor to assist deliver her child. But doctor or not, giving birth on board a cramped sailing ship in the middle of nowhere would have been both a hazardous and difficult event. I rather hope Elizabeth had a bit more sympathy and support from her husband Sandy than she appeared to get on leaving Broro. Kathrean would have been about three weeks old, a tiny new born baby, when the Oriental sailed into Wellington Harbour.


On the voyage out Alexander Sutherland had some furniture made by the ship’s carpenter which included a large chest of drawers, still in family use in the 1940s. Several other articles from Scotland were said to have survived in New Zealand for at least one hundred years. These included a Gaelic Bible, one or two willow pattern jugs, a blue embossed milk jug, a mahogany table and a large pewter meat cover.


Once in Port Nicholson harbour the Oriental anchored near Somes Island. The passengers remained on board for two weeks while arrangements were made at the settlement of Pito-one (now called Petone). When they finally were allowed to leave the ship most of the passengers were accommodated in tents but the Sutherlands were allotted a hut of sorts on a rise nearby.

There is a lot of detail about the arrival of these early immigrants on the nzetc.victoria.ac.nz website but suffice to say the land was covered with dense forest, swampy land and flax. The Maori who were settled and resident in the area were very involved (and impacted indeed) with the new European arrivals and their processes of getting food and shelter.

The cow Elizabeth was allowed to keep (possibly the first cow in New Zealand) calved shortly after arrival and was a great asset not only being the foundation of a breeding herd but also supplying milk sufficient for Elizabeth to make and sell fresh butter to other settlers.


The Sutherlands stayed at Petone for only a short time. The prospects of farming there were not promising with the whole of the Hutt Valley being under dense bush. Alexander Sutherland was allotted his one hundred acres according to the agreement from the Land Company. These one hundred acres were across the harbour at Lyall’s Bay. Alexander, Elizabeth and their two daughters were taken to their place by whaleboats in early 1840. At Lyall’s Bay Elizabeth sat on a large rock with her babies while the men carried the luggage and furniture ashore. They lived in a raupo hut built by Maori until a house of clay bricks was built. The story of the Sutherlands gradually settling in at Lyall’s Bay and establishing themselves as farmers is told in Sutherlands of Ngaipu.
Raupo huts of the first settlers Petoni Beach


The last word in this blog goes to the resourceful Elizabeth in 1848, who by then with six children, endured that terrifying earthquake in Wellington, and along with many others contemplated leaving New Zealand.

“Mrs Sutherland, who had saved quite a considerable sum of money from the sale of butter and eggs, offered the money to her husband, he to decide if they were to leave New Zealand or rebuild and start again. He decided to remain. In after years they always considered that this decision was the turning point in their lives as from then on they prospered.” 
Sutherlands of Ngaipu, pg 24
Elizabeth Sutherland with son David Malcolm born 1854
Source: Mary Doyle album

Alexander Sutherland
Source: Mary Doyle album

Source: Sutherlands of Ngaipu by Alex Sutherland, AH & AW Reed, Wellington 1947
Swainson, William : Hutts [sic] of the first settlers Petoni Beach. [1840s]. Drawings & Prints Collection, Reference No. A-190-013 Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand