Scots immigrants in New Zealand

A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa

This story traces the arrival of Scots as explorers with Captain Cook, sealers, whalers, missionaries and immigrant settlers; and shares Scottishness in NZ.

Scotland, Scots, Scottish, Scotch, immigrants, immigration, emigrants, settlers, explorers, sealers, whalers

This story traces notable moments in the arrival of Scots from the time of Captain Cook onwards - explorers, sealers, whalers, missionaries and settlers. Perhaps you have a Scottish ancestor or know of someone who does - prior to 1920 about 25 per cent of migrants to NZ were Scottish. Many aspects of Scottish culture and traditions have become part of New Zealand life.    

Uniquely Scottish in NZ:

When you think of 'Scots in New Zealand', what springs to mind - bagpipes, Highland dancing, Clan names, Scotch thistle, Scottish terriers, and singing 'Auld Lang Syne' on New Year's eve!?  What else!?

Highland dancing

Highland dancing

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Clan names

badge, regimental

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Scotch thistle

Scottish thistle

Kete New Plymouth

Scottish terrier dog originated in Aberdeen

Scottish terrier dog

Alexander Turnbull Library

For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne

Christchurch City Libraries




Captain Cook was the son of a Scottish labourer and Yorkshire mother.

Cook's Endeavour journal : the inside story

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

The Endeavour's crew included Scots (1769).

HMS Endeavour

Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga

Botanist Joseph Banks brought along Scottish artist Sydney Parkinson.

Sydney Parkinson, botanical draughtsman

University of Otago

Parkinson's portraits were the first known visual record of the tattooing, clothing and adornment of Māori.

The head of a New Zealander by Sydney Parkinson

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

THE 'HMS DISCOVERY' (1791)  & 'Pegasus' (1809)

Capt. George Vancouver's 'Discovery' arrived in Dusky Sound on 2 Nov 1791

On board was Scots naturalist Dr Archibald Menzies who collected mosses & liverworts.


Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The 'Pegasus' charted Port Pegasus (1809)

Scots William Stewart named Stewart Island when First Officer on board.

Stewart Island

Buller, Grey and Westland District Libraries


The establishment of a British penal colony at Port Jackson (Sydney) in 1788 led to increased contact with the British and Australians. Sydney’s merchant and commercial communities looked at trade opportunities, and sealers and whalers started operating in NZ's northern and southern waters.  

Whalers and sealers in late 18th & early 19th Century included Scots, and some ended up living in NZ.

Adventurous times in old New Zealand : first-hand accounts of the lawless days

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

In 1826, Scottish sealer & whaler Cptn William Stewart set up ship-building, flax & trading settlement at Port Pegasus.

STEWART, Captain William W.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scots Hector McDonald set up a shore-whaling station at Kapiti Island in 1832; then turned to trading in 1840.

Hector McDonald Snr

Kete Horowhenua

After arriving in NZ in 1836, Alexander Fyffe worked in whaling; then set up Waiopuka whaling station at Kaikōura, 1842.

Fyffe House, Kaikōura

Ministry for Culture and Heritage


 When Scottish whalers, traders and farmers settled in New Zealand, many married women from local iwi.  (See Te Ara) 

Whaler & trader John Love married Mere Ruru Te Hikanui from Ngāti Te Whiti; then moved to Te Awaiti, 1834.

Te Awaiti Bay, Tory Channel, with whaling station

Alexander Turnbull Library

Tini (Mary Burns) born c1846 was 3rd of 4 children of Richard Burns, a farmer at Moeraki, & Pukio Iwa of Ngāi Tuahuriri.

Tini Kerei Taiaroa, who spent much of her long life caring for her children, grandchildren and extended family

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Whaler & trader "Scotch Jock" (John Nicol) married Kahe Te Rau-o-te-Rangi (Betty) & moved to Paekākāriki in 1847.

Scotch Jocks - road over the mountains to Porirua.

University of Otago

Grandson of whaler Hector McDonald whose first wife Te Kopi (niece of Te Rauparaha) had a son in 1848.

Hugh McDonald

Kete Horowhenua

Family in the South Island.


Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Chapter 2: Who were migrants from scotland?


Researchers into British migration to New Zealand can consult shipping lists which include passenger names  (see New Zealand Shipping Index). A Register of Scottish Immigrants to New Zealand arriving before 1 January 1921 was compiled by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists' Scottish Interest Group, which comprises information supplied by descendants. This register has been extended to include arrivals before 1 January 1951.  An article by NZ History lists the gender and nationality of migrants to NZ from 1840 - 1852: Scottish men (20.6%) and women (20.7%). Also see a doctoral thesis profile of Scots covering from 1840-1920.  

New Zealand Shipping List has been digitised

Researchers can look up passenger names; then check birth & baptismal records, marriage certificates & censuses. etc.

Shipping lists digitised

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scottish people constituted about 20% of all British migrants to NZ: 1840 - 1852

The nationality and gender of migrants shows Scottish men (20.6%) and women (20.7%).

Genealogical map

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

B. Origins of Scottish settlers

The available data suggests that most of the pre-1840 Scots-born arrivals came from the Eastern Lowlands (notably Edinburgh), followed by the Western Lowlands (both Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire), and the Highlands (notably Ross-shire) and the Far North (notably Caithness). Between 1840 and the 1970s, many thousands of Scots emigrated to New Zealand. As described by Te Ara: "They were not refugees from the Highland Clearances, but they were of modest means, typically farmers and artisans such as weavers, and later tradespeople and skilled workers. They left harsh economic times for a better life."   

Regional origin of Scots: 1842-1915

Regional origins of Scottish immigrants

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

NZ Census - Born in Scotland: 1858 - 2013

NZ Census: 1858 (7,976), 1901 (47,858), 1951 (44,089), 1976 (47,827), 2001 (28,680), 2006 (29,016), 2013 (25,953).

Percentage of Scottish-born among all non-Māori people in New Zealand counties, 1878

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

NZ Census - Ethnic identity: 2006, 2013

People were asked to indicate ethnic group/s with which they identified: Scottish: 2006 (15,039) & 2013 (14,412).


Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Chapter 3: Pre-TREATY of waitangi - "Free" MIGRANTS

 Prior to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) there were "free" migrants (i.e. non-assisted)  from Scotland who sought opportunities in NZ.     

A. 1800 - 1830s: Scots settlers arrive in Northland 

Two Scots arrive at Hōreke in Hokianga Harbour, c.1826

Two Sydney-based Scots, David Ramsay & Gordon Browne, established an early European trading & shipbuilding.

Hōreke, Hokianga

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

'Rosanna' ship arrives in Hokianga, 1826

Four ‘Scotch carpenters’ stay on in Hokianga. After ship sailed onto Sydney, some Scots returned to Northland in 1827.

Rosanna settlers

Alexander Turnbull Library

Scots were early settlers in Whāngārei & Waiheke Is.

First recorded European settlers at Whāngārei and early settlers on Waiheke Island were Scots. (See Te Ara)

[Whangarei Heads]

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

B.  1830s: British protection for settlers & Māori

The arrival of  Scots, other Europeans and American sperm-whalers from the early 1820s saw Kororāreka (later renamed Russell) become a large whaling port. The expansion in trade and settlement activities saw whalers, other seafarers, merchants and missionaries mix with adventurers, deserters and escaped convicts from Australia. The Governor of New South Wales had been monitoring the developments in NZ.  However,  with increasing concerns over the impact the changes had on local Māori, the British government appointed James Busby as British Resident in NZ in 1833.

British Govt appointed Edinburgh-born James Busby as British Resident who was based at Waitangi, 1833-1840

Role: To protect "well disposed settlers and traders", "prevent outrages" against Māori, & apprehend escaped convicts.

James Busby

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Busby convinced 34 Northern Chiefs to sign 'Declaration of Independence' at Waitangi on 28 Oct 1835

Busby had received de Thierry's message (4 Sept 1835) he was on his way to NZ to establish a sovereign govt. by force.

He Whakaputanga = The declaration of independence, 1835

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

When tribal war affected settlers, Busby sent word & Captain William Hobson arrived on frigate 'Rattlesnake' (1837)

Busby, Hobson & Samuel Marsden spoke with Ngāpuhi chiefs to reconcile them, & warn against violence to British subjects.

William Hobson

Kete New Plymouth

Hobson appointed as Foreign Consul & Lieutenant Governor (1839-41)

Hobson to obtain land from Māori 'by fair and equal contracts' & resell to settlers at profit to fund future operations.

Appointment of William Hobson as Lieutenant Governor, 1839

Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga

Busby & Hobson drafted the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) which was translated by missionary Henry Williams

The Treaty thwarted de Thierry's plans to still set up a French colony after he arrived in Hokianga on 4 Nov 1837.

Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Chapter 4: Post-Treaty - Settlement schemes

A. 1840S: Treaty of Waitangi 

Following the formalising of sovereignty with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, there were structured settlement schemes for migrants from Great Britain and Ireland.  Two types of emigrants left Scotland - as well as "free" emigrants, there were "assisted" emigrants who qualified to receive land grants as part of a settlement scheme.  Most immigrants received assistance from either the New Zealand Company, which had been set up by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, or from a government or church association formed to encourage immigration.  

With Treaty of Waitangi (1840) formalising sovereignity, Hobson became Governor (1841-42)

Te Tiriti o Waitangi = The Treaty of Waitangi, 1840

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Colonial Secretary's Office established (1841) to handle creation of NZ's public service

British William Shortland appointed by Hobson; then replaced by Paisley-born Andrew Sinclair from 1844-56.

Dr. Andrew Sinclair MD R.N., Colonial Secretary of New Zealand 1843-56

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Settlement schemes became more structured & large numbers of Scots arrived in 1840s on assisted immigration

Majority were from the Lowlands or Borders—mostly Lanarkshire & Midlothian (counties that include Glasgow & Edinburgh).

NEW ZEALAND COLONIZATION SOCIETIES. (New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 04 July 1840)

National Library of New Zealand


Scottish farmers were experiencing  falling cattle prices, a decline of the kelp industry, and the potato famine in the Highlands that began in the mid-1840s. New Zealand offered Scots migrants the opportunity for a better life – and the chance to shape a new society. 


> New ZEALAND Company ship 'Bengal Merchant'

New Zealand Bill 1839

Bill for the provisional government of British settlements.

DEBATE IN THE COMMONS ON THE NEW ZEALAND BILL. (New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator, 06 September 1839)

National Library of New Zealand

New Zealand Company ship 'Bengal Merchant', Feb 1840

Single women going out as servants to cabin passengers, or in charge of married emigrants, received a free passage.

First Scottish colony for New Zealand. That fine teak-built fast sailing ship Bengal Merchant ... will positively sail from Port-Glasgow for New Ze...

Alexander Turnbull Library

Mary and David McEwan arrive on the 'Bengal Merchant'

he 'Bengal Merchant' arrived with c.120 Scots at Port Nicholson in Feb 1840.

Mary and David McEwen

Palmerston North City Library

The Scotch kirk (church) opened on Lambton Quay, 1844 - first Presbyterian Church in NZ

The congregation was founded four years earlier by the Reverend John Macfarlane.

The Scotch kirk

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

>  New Zealand Company ship 'Blenheim'

New Zealand Company ship 'Blenheim', Dec 1840

The 'Blenheim' arrived with c.200 Scots; many settled north of Wellington at Kaiwharawhra - "the Scotch settlement".

London to India trade sailing ship 'Blenheim'.

Alexander Turnbull Library

Some 'Blenheim' Scots moved to Turakina, 1849

They moved to the Rangitīkei block after the Govt purchased it from Ngāti Apa in May 1849.

Buying the Rangitīkei block

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

>  Other migrant ship arrivals

Letter describing feelings and experiences written on board the 'Clydeside'

Donald Gollan describes his feelings on leaving Scotland, his family and friends to voyage to Wellington in 1841.

Gollan, Donald, 1811-1887 : Letter started on board the `Clydeside' and continued in Port Nicholson / Transcribed by Marsha Donaldson (electronic t...

Alexander Turnbull Library

Rev. James Duncan was sent by the Reformed Church of Scotland in 1843 as the first Presbyterian Missionary to the Māori

He arrived on the 'Phoebe' and settled at Te Awahou (Foxton) and worked among the Manawatu Māori until 1872.

Rev James Duncan

Kete Horowhenua

Nelson: New Zealand Company

The New Zealand Company claimed their negotiator Colonial William Wakefield (brother of Edward) purchased land at Port Whakatū (Nelson) and Wairau from Ngāti Toa in 1839.  In 1843, the Nelson colonists were keen to also occupy the Wairau Valley (70kms south-east of Nelson). This led to conflict with Te Rauparahau of Ngāti Toa who disagreed, obstructing surveyors and destroying their huts. Fighting broke out and the surrendered Europeans were killed. (See NZHistory)

New Zealand Company purchased land at Nelson (1839); sites surveyed (1841); & settlers arrived (1842)

The Fifeshire arrived in Nelson on 1 Feb 1842 with immigrants.

Settlers under canvas

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Alarm amongst settlers at the killings at Wairau

Incoming Governor, Robert FitzRoy, enraged settlers by arguing that the Europeans had provoked Ngāti Toa.

THE NELSON SETTLERS, Unreasonable Alarm and Excitement. (Daily Southern Cross, 04 November 1843)

National Library of New Zealand

AUCKLAND: Scottish Colonisation company 

Information about ship and passenger arrivals to Auckland is held by Auckland Council Libraries.   

Highlander Donald McLean becomes Government official, including land agent, 1844-63

Arrived in Auckland in 1840 to work for Sydney merchant firm; appointed to Govt roles, & became a politician in 1866.

Donald McLean, 1863

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Glaswegian Nathaniel Hawthorne set up lime works (1866) & Portland cement (1880s)

Arrived on Duchess of Argyll as 6 yr old & later on moved to Warkworth & began limemaking, then started cement works.

Group of workmen at J. Wilson & Co., Lime Works, Warkworth

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira


With the passing of the NZ Constitution Act 1846, NZ became divided into twp provinces - New Munster and New Ulster. The new Constitution Act 1852 enabled the General Assembly of New Zealand to make laws regulating the sale, disposal, and occupation of Crown land and authorised the division of New Zealand into six provinces.  


Edward Gibbon Wakefield's New Zealand Company had proposed NZ should have representative institutions

When Treaty still being signed, new settlers arrived in Wellington & set up their own Council, which Hobson disbanded.


National Library of New Zealand

George Grey appointed Governor (1845) & NZ Constitution Act (1846) divided NZ into 2 provinces: New Munster & New Ulster

Both had a Legislative & Executive Council led by a Lieutenant-Governor who reported to Governor Grey.

New Zealand Constitution Act 1846


The new NZ Constitution Act (1852) divided NZ into 6 provinces self-governed by elected councils

Under the New Provinces Act (1858) provision was made to add additional provinces.

Constitution Act 1852

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

B. Crown sold land to settlers 

The Crown sold land at £1 an acre with higher prices in the Wakefield settlements – £3 an acre in Canterbury and £2 in Otago. In 1853, Governor Grey issued regulations to reduce the price of rural land outside the Canterbury and Otago blocks to 10s. or 5s. an acre. This policy did not end up leading to greater numbers of poorer settlers but allowed speculators and pastoralists to take up large areas particularly in the South Island, Hawke's Bay, and Wairarapa, where the major areas of available land existed. Those who could not afford to take up pastoral land and buy the sheep to stock it, turned to market gardening or dairying on small farms, in many cases engaging in casual work to increase their income.      

North Island provinces (1852): Auckland, New Plymouth & Wellington

Hawkes Bay separated from Wellington on 1 Nov 1858 and New Plymouth changed its name to Taranaki.

The three North Island provinces established in the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

South Island provinces (1852): Canterbury, Nelson & Otago

Marlborough separated from Nelson on 1 Nov 1859; and Southland from Otago on 1 April 1861.

The three South Island provinces established in the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

C. Canterbury settlement founded 

Prior to the founding of the Canterbury settlement in 1850, several Scots moved south from Wellington. Organised groups of settlers on Canterbury Association vessels arrived between December 1850-1853. The ships arriving between 1853-1855 came independently. From 1855-1870 the Canterbury Provincial Government was in charge of immigration to Canterbury and had an emigration agent stationed in London.  (See Christchurch City Libraries) 

Several Scots moved south from Wellington in 1840s

Brothers John & William Deans moved to Riccarton (1843) and established first successful farm on Canterbury Plains.

Photograph: Dean's Homebush Station

Canterbury Museum

Clydesdale horses arrive from 1842 onwards

Newspaper reports mention Clydesdales arriving as early as 1842.

Clydesdale Ploughing Team at Work

Palmerston North City Library

Plaque commemorating Scottish pioneers of 1840s

Scottish plaque at Kilmore Street

Christchurch City Libraries

Canterbury Association vessels arrived between Dec 1850-1853

First four ships were the 'Charlotte Jane', 'Randolph', 'Sir George Seymour', & 'Cressy'.

[Fox, William] 1812-1893 :Landing of passengers at Port Lyttleton 17 December 1850. Charlotte Jane. Randolph. Cressy. Sir G[eorge] Seymour. Office ...

Alexander Turnbull Library

From 1855-1870 the Canterbury Provincial Government was in charge of immigration

An emigration agent was stationed in London.

GOVERNMENT IMMIGRANTS. (Lyttelton Times, 08 September 1858)

National Library of New Zealand

Scots William Cargill was elected as the Canterbury province's Superintendent, 1853-1860

Captain William Cargill (1784-1860) was born in Edinburgh and arrived in NZ on the 'John Wickliffe', 1848.

William Cargill

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scottish shepherds were recruited

Scottish shepherd

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Border collie sheepdog

The Scottish shepherd & border collie were familiar figures on runs in the South Island, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay.

The sheepdog memorial, Lake Tekapo

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

John & Allan McLean - largest numbers of sheep from 1852

The brothers owned land in runs in Canterbury, Otago, and Morven Hills.

Morven Hills Station (8)

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Shetland ponies arrive 1858

Standens farm shetland Pony

Kete Horowhenua

Notorious Scotsman James Mackenzie and his dog 'Friday' rustled sheep, 1855

Mackenzie & Friday drove 1,000 sheep from Levels station north of Timaru south to the Mackenzie Country in March 1855.

Sheep dog owned by James MacKenzie

Alexander Turnbull Library

Don Reid's Salisbury estate in north Taieri, 1856

Land purchased 1856 to grow wheat & oats; then grazed sheep & cattle from mid-1860s.


National Library of New Zealand

Birthplace of Canterbury's assisted immigrants from UK during 1854-74: 19.9% were Scottish

Birthplaces of Canterbury’s assisted United Kingdom migrants, 1854–70

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

D. Otago - Influx arrived after 1848

The settling of Otago and Dunedin in the 1840s was organised by the New Zealand Company and its offshoot the Otago Association, as a (Presbyterian) Free Church of Scotland settlement. The recruitment scheme in Scotland, together with the direct departure from Scottish ports in addition to the River Thames, led to an influx of Otago settlers arriving after 1848. Over half of Otago’s United Kingdom-born population of 403 was Scottish. New Zealand  Land Company purchased Otago block from Ngāi Tahu (31 July 1844) for £2,400 & gained legal title in 1847.  Negotiations held by Local Government to allocate land for council use and for purchasing by settlers.   

Otago chosen in 1840 for settlement

Initial supporters were Scots George Rennie & William Cargill, & the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland.

SETTLEMENT AT OTAGO. (Wellington Independent, 15 August 1846)

National Library of New Zealand

John McGlashan appointed secretary in Scotland for the Otago Association, 1847

He oversaw the arrangements for the dispatch of 12 of the first 14 ships; then emigrated to NZ in 1853.

Mr John McGlashan, secretary in Scotland for the Otago settlement.

University of Otago

Two New Zealand Company ships, 'Philip Laing' & 'John Wickliffe', set sail in 1847

Settlers boarded a ferry on Loch Goil to journey to Greenock, to set sail on 'Philip Laing' to NZ.

Colonists leaving for Otago, 1847

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The ship 'John Wickliffe' arrived on 23 March 1848 with 97 migrants

Sailed on 22 April from Gravesend (on River Thames). Migrants included many Scots, & agent Captain William Cargill.

John Wickcliffe ship

Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga

Reunion of 'John Wickliffe' settlers, 1909


National Library of New Zealand

Reverend Thomas Burns selected passengers for the ship 'Philip Laing'

But rather than for religious reasons, most came to escape hardship or advance themselves economically.

Reverend Thomas Burns

Alexander Turnbull Library

The ship 'Philip Laing' arrived on 15 April 1848 with 247 migrants

Sailed on 27 Nov 1847 from Greenock on River Clyde. On board was Rev Burns (nephew of poet Robbie Burns) & his family.

GROUP OF EARLY SETTLERS AND DESCENDANTS, PHILIP" LAING (1848). Uack Row: A. Cullender. M. Marhhall, A. Marshall, A. B. Mercer, H. F. M. Mercer (fi...

National Library of New Zealand

The Lay Association founded Dunedin in 1848

The new settlement was originally to have been named New Edinburgh but that was changed to Dunedin.

Dunedin, Edinburgh of the south - Roadside Stories

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Lots of land in Dunedin allocated to settlers before leaving Scotland

Modest houses, a store & a school, which was also used as the church, were constructed.

Fox, William 1812-1893 :Part of the town of Dunedin, Otago. W. Fox. Jan. 1849

Alexander Turnbull Library

Public meeting on Scottish settlement of Otago, 20 Dec 1848

Public meeting. Otago, New Zealand poster

University of Otago

View of Dunedin in 1849

View of Dunedin from ‘Little Paisley’

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Early settlers of emigrant ships & descendants, 1908

Two-thirds of the original Otago settlers were Free Church Presbyterians.


National Library of New Zealand

Chapter 6: land Grant schemes: 1850s 

The Waste Lands Act 1858 set out general conditions on which provinces could deal with Crown lands - control the land and the revenue that passed into the hands of the Provincial Councils.  Auckland introduced the sale of rural land on credit, and Wellington adopted a similar method of sale on deferred payments. Auckland and Otago adopted a ballot system for dealing with two or more applications for the same land, but later followed the pattern of offering land by auction used in the other provinces.  (See Te Ara)

A. Scots in Northland via nova scotia: 1850–1860 

North Island provincial government initiatives such as Auckland’s land grants scheme attracted Scottish migrant groups, including the followers of the Reverend Norman McLeod who settled at Waipū in Northland. 

Preacher Norman McLeod & Scots arrive in Northland (1854) from Nova Scotia

McLeod left Scotland in 1817 for Nova Scotia; then led his people facing hardship to Australia in 1851; then to NZ.

Waipū, a Scottish settlement

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scots mostly Highlanders & purchased land in Waipū

More Scots joined them from Nova Scotia & direct from Scotland. Total no. exceeded 800.

Waipū’s first settlers

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Descendants of Waipū settlers

Waipū’s community

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Memorial to Waipū's settlement by Scots

In 1918 the oldest of the original pioneers still living in Waipū was photographed sitting on the monument’s base.

Waipū’s memorial to its Scottish pioneers

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Chapter 7: SCOTS join gold rush: 1860-1870   


Scot John Buchanan discovered gold, 1858

Buchanan was the first to find gold in March 1858 at the Tuapeka and Clutha rivers.

John Buchanan

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scottish goldminers were mostly migrants from the Shetland Islands

Buchanan, John, 1819-1898 :Gabriel's Gully, Tuapeka by moonlight [1860s]

Alexander Turnbull Library

Merchant: 'Russell, Ritchie & Co' (1873) & 'National Mortgage & Agency Co' (1877) in Dunedin

John MacFarlane Ritchie joined firm (1865); became partner (1873); then manager when firm taken over by NMA (1877).


National Library of New Zealand


The numbers of Scots in Otago and their wealth from gold contributed to many of NZ's early leading firms being founded in Dunedin.    

Scots James Hector arrived in 1862 to conduct a 3 year geological survey of Otago after gold was found

He founded the Colonial Museum (Te Papa), Geological Survey (GNS Science), NZ Institute, & Geological Gardens.

James Hector, about 1863

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

James Little developed new breed of wool-producing sheep called Corriedale

Little arrived in Otago in 1864 & cross-bred Romney Marsh & Merinos; then Lincoln rams & Merinos.

Corriedale sheep

Alexander Turnbull Library

C. Missionary settlers in otago


Scot Learmonth White Dalrymple long campaigned for a high school for girls

Otago Girls’ High School, NZ’s first girls’ secondary school, opened in 1871 with a Scottish principal, Margaret Burn.

First girls’ high school

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Otago Education scheme, 1870

Teacher qualifications corresponded "to the qualifications required of the parish schoolmasters of Scotland."

THE OTAGO EDUCATION SCHEME (Otago Daily Times, 27 April 1870)

National Library of New Zealand

University of Otago first student in-take in 1871

NZs first university established.

Clock-tower block, University of Otago

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

chapter 8:  NZ LAND Wars & MILITIA settlers: 1860-1870

Scots settlers were amongst those that served in the Volunteer Rifle Companies during the New Zealand Wars. Between 1860 and 1870 around 12,000 men, including Scots, from British imperial regiments and the Royal Navy also served in  the Wars. (See Soldiers of Empire).  Auckland Libraries has developed the database New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871.  Militia and their families were allotted free grants of land to settle under the Waste Lands Act 1859 and the subsequent 'The Naval and Military Settlers' Act 1860.  Immigrants were encouraged to settle in the Waikato.  (See Archives NZ: Waikato Immigration)

Militia allotted free land under Waste Lands Act 1859 & Naval and Military Settlers' Act 1860

35 Naval and Military Settlers Act 1860

The University of Auckland Library

The New Zealand Settlements Act, 1863

Governor Grey called for Māori to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown or forfeit their lands.

The New Zealand Settlements Act of 1863

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Following the NZ Wars, settlers were allotted confiscated land in Taranaki, Waikato & Bay of Plenty

Taranaki Military Settlers, Pukearuhe

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Gold dredge on the Buller River

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

chapter 9:  Large-scale Government IMMIGRAtion: 1870s  

The early 1870s marked the beginning of a co-ordinated central government programme of state assistance for willing immigrants.

A. Immigration and Public Works Act, 1870

By 1870, with a drop in wool prices and gold production in decline, NZ was in a depression. Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel "believed that borrowing overseas funds could pay both for building railways and roads, and for large-scale immigration. This would not only create an economic boom; the new immigrants could settle on land purchased and confiscated from Māori, to engender social order and ‘British civilisation.’" (Source: Te Ara,)  The Immigration and Public Works Act 1870 created the position of agent general in London to promote immigration.

Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel's vision for economic boom

Proposed borrowing £20 million to provide assisted passage for building railways, telegraph lines & roads.

Julius Vogel, 1870s

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Immigration and Public Works Act 1870 passed & agents appointed to boost immigration

One agent general was appointed in London in 1871. By 1873 there were 78 in Scotland, 53 in England & 46 in Ireland.

80 Immigration and Public Works Loan Act 1870

The University of Auckland Library


Newspaper advertisements and posters called for married agricultural labourers and single female domestic servants, provided they were ‘sober, industrious, of good moral character, of sound mind and in good health.’  Canterbury and other South Island areas received more Scottish immigrants with farming backgrounds than other parts of the country. By 1882 the Scots owned about half the farms in NZ of more than 40 hectares. In 1892, 40% of those owning more than 4,000 hectares were Scots.    

Facts to attract Scottish emigrants

Special efforts were made to recruit married agricultural labourers and single female domestic servants.

FACTS FOR EXTENDING EMIGRANTS. (Otago Daily Times, 22 March 1870)

National Library of New Zealand

Fare of £5 per adult waived (1873-79) & travel was free until 1890 to boost migrants

NZ residents could nominate friends and relatives to come and join them.

FREE PASSAGES TO NOMINATED IMMIGRANTS. (New Zealand Tablet, 25 October 1873)

National Library of New Zealand

Just over a fifth of all immigrants were from Scotland

Most were from the Lowlands, but also included the Western Highlands and Shetland Islands.


National Library of New Zealand

C. SHETLAND ISLANDERS arrive in significant numbers:

During the mid-late 19th Century, the Highland Clearances continued to take place in the Highlands and western islands of Scotland. Tenants were evicted from their rented land  to allow the landowners to establish large sheep farms. With the evictions coinciding with the offer of assisted passage, Shetlanders arrived in significant numbers in the 1870s - around 1,200  (see Te Ara).  Targeted special settlements were established across NZ by the the provincial governments. One special settlement was that of Stewart Island, where a significant group of Shetland Islanders settled.

Shetlanders farming on Campbell Island

In 1904–8, a group of Shetlanders made an unsuccessful effort to farm on bleak Campbell Island.

Shetland Islanders on Campbell Island, about 1904

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Other Shetlanders settled at Karamea on the West Coast

Shetlanders beachcombing blacksand for gold at Nine Mile Beach, West Coast

Alexander Turnbull Library

A Shetlander woman knitting as she walks

The skill of knitting has become part of NZ's popular culture.

Shetland woman knitting

Alexander Turnbull Library

Shetlanders later became concentrated in Wellington; many worked as fishermen

The Island Bay fishermen's rugby team with Shetlanders and Italians.

Fishermen’s rugby team

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Shetland Society was formed in 1922

Published "Chips off the Auld Rock: Shetlanders in New Zealand" (1997) for its 75th anniversary.

Shetland Society of Wellington [electronic resource].

National Library of New Zealand

D. Farm-based INDUSTRIES developed - DAIRY & FROZEN MEAT

Otago Peninsula Co-operative Cheese Factory Co was first dairy processing operation, 1871

Scottish couple John & Catherine Mathieson & neighbouring farmers at Springfield formed the company.

A CHEESE FACTORY IN OTAGO. (Bruce Herald, 18 November 1873)

National Library of New Zealand

William Davidson was Manager of New Zealand and Australian Land Company from 1878

By 1880, Davidson had explored meat preserving, dairying & refrigerated transport.

William Soltau Davidson

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Ship 'Dunedin' carrying 1st frozen meat shipment, 1882

Scot Thomas Brydone helped set up frozen meat industry.

Dunedin, 1882

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

E. Economic DEPRESSION: LATE 1870S-1880s

Several of the provinces had financial problems and experienced issues over immigration and funding public works.  The situation was compounded by a slump in wool prices and decline in gold production. A downturn in immigrants with farming backgrounds began in 1870s until early 20th Century.

Following collapse of City Bank of Glasgow (1878), there was a contraction of credit by the City of London

With reduced credit available to NZ, farmers went bankrupt and there was a lack of jobs for rural workers.

THE PRESENT DEPRESSION. (Colonist, 23 August 1883)

National Library of New Zealand

Factory workers experienced exploitative labour conditions

THE SWEATING SYSTEM (Poverty Bay Herald, 29 October 1888)

National Library of New Zealand

F. Provinces replaced by COUNTIES: LATE 1870S - 1880S   

 As a result of tensions occurring between provincial and central government administration, provincial government came to an end under the Abolition of Provinces Act 1875. The provinces were then replaced by the county system under the Counties Act 1876.  in 1886 the Scots-born living in NZ peaked at 54,810; then the number of Scots started to decline. Scots were among those who moved to Australia from a depressed NZ. (See Hocken and Te Ara

Counties Act (1876) replaced provinces

With tensions occurring between provincial and central government, provincial government abolished.

New Zealand : according to The New Zealand Counties Act, 1876 / by Keith Johnston.

National Library of New Zealand

Scots Robert Stout was appointed Prime Minister, 1884-1887

Failure of his policies to stave off economic depression led to downfall of his Cabinet in 1887.

Portrait of Robert Stout

Alexander Turnbull Library

Scots emigrate from Glasgow, 1884

Settlers arrive on board the Clyde-built iron clipper ship 'Saraca'.

Patrick Henderson & Co. :Emigration to New Zealand from Glasgow. The beautiful Clyde-built iron clipper ship "Saraca" / P Henderson & Co. [1884].

Alexander Turnbull Library

CHAPTER 10: EBBS & FLOWS in SCOTS migration: 1890S–1945  

In 1890, the New Zealand Government discontinued the practice of NZ residents nominating particular people, such as near relatives, for concessional passages. It was reintroduced in a modified form in 1906.  During the first half of the 20th century, war and economic depression impacted on immigration at various times.

A. Immigration flux until WWI

Refrigeration contributed to growing prosperity & increased immigrants

Refrigerated shipping enabled frozen meat, butter and cheese to be transported to Britain.

Frozen meat carcasses

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scottish Highland cattle imported in early 1900s

Highland Cow


More than 16,000 Scots arrived between 1906-1916

In 1912 & 1913, 47% of Scots adult males described themselves as skilled, compared with 36% from England & Wales.

IMMIGRANTS FROM SCOTLAND. (Mataura Ensign 14-3-1908)

National Library of New Zealand

B. ASSISTED PASSAGE - WWI VETERANS & British/Irish descent

During the demobilisation after World War One, the Overseas Settlement Committee provided assisted passages for ex-service men and women. The Immigration Restriction Amendment Act 1920 proclaimed the principle of free entry for people of British or Irish birth or descent. Other nationalities were allowed entry only at the discretion of the Minister. 

The Immigration Restriction Amendment Act 1920 proclaimed the principle of free entry for British & Irish

Scots migrants had to await the availability of shipping which had been restricted by WWI.

SCOTCH EMIGRANTS. (Poverty Bay Herald, 21 June 1919)

National Library of New Zealand

Scots served in New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Of the 145,624 NZEF soldiers examined by NZ military authorities between 1916-18, 6279 were born n Scotland.

- First World War by the numbers

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Scots involvement in the Great War

Common cause : Commonwealth Scots and the Great War

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

C. Economic Depression increased Scots arrivals - 1930s 

Between the First and Second World Wars, the number of Scots coming to NZ increased dramatically.  Many were trying to escape the economic hardship caused by the decline of the traditional heavy industries in Scotland after the short-lived post-war boom. Scottish industry mostly produced goods for export rather than for the domestic market, and downturns affected particular industries or particular regions in Scotland.  Mass unemployment, particularly among skilled male workers, was high -  in the shipbuilding industry, the average rate of unemployment in the 1920s was 29%.  Assistance schemes encouraged many Scots to look to New Zealand for opportunities.    

Overseas Settlement Committee offered free passage to ex-service women & men, & their wives

About 3,000 wives of NZ soldiers who married abroad and their 600 children arrived in NZ.

WOMEN EMIGRANTS. (Marlborough Express, 01 November 1919)

National Library of New Zealand

1930s Depression: Shetlander Jack Tait fishing for groper in Cook Strait

Tait helped form Wellington Fishermen's Cooperative unit to give security of income.


Ministry for Culture and Heritage

D. WORLD WAR TWO - Arrival of Scots refugee children

Two regiments were affiliated with Black Watch

Forerunners include Highland Companies, and the Dunedin Highland Rifles.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira

Highland Companies

Forerunners of the Regiments include Highland Companies, and the Dunedin Highland Rifles.


Auckland Libraries

New Zealand Scottish Regiment, 1940


Auckland Libraries

New arrivals of Scottish children at Presbyterian Boys’ & Girls’ Home, 1940

Staff and Scottish children at the Presbyterian Boys' and Girls' Home, Berhamphore, Wellington

Alexander Turnbull Library