And so we finally arrive at the youngest child of Magnus & May Linklater, James, my paternal great-grandfather.
James was born on 28 Oct 1842 & baptised 18 Dec 1842 at the same North Leith parish church as his siblings.
We find him at home in the 1851 census aged 9 with his mother, two siblings, a cousin & a great-grandmother living at 71 Shore, South Leith, Edinburgh. (The ‘great-grandmother’ bit is suspect though as May was 43 and ggm was 66, it doesn’t compute, but that’s another story). This is the only census of Scotland that James is found in, he’s not there in 1861 and by 1871 he was living in New Zealand. He arrived here about 1865/66 but out of all the siblings he’s the only one I cannot find on a passenger list! His death certificate in 1899 says he had been in NZ for 33 years. I could hazard a guess as to how he came here, his brother, Captain John, had been in NZ for a few years by then and in 1864 he went to Scotland to sit his Master Mariner’s examinations and also to pick up the ship ‘Wanganui’ to bring it back to NZ. He could very well have brought his brother back with him, as there were no passengers as such on this new ship that could be why there is no mention of him. It’s about the time James said he arrived in NZ although why he settled in Kaiapoi rather than Wanganui where John lived is beyond my ken!
On the 18 Jul 1871 in the Rangiora Registrar’s Office James aged 27 married Mary Elizabeth Williscroft aged 19, in front of witnesses Benjamin Ellis and Mary’s mother Elizabeth Williscroft. James is listed as an engineer and they were a bachelor & spinster. Unfortunately, that was in the early years when NZ certificates didn’t give a lot of information like parents’ names etc.
In the 1875 electoral roll he is listed as living in North Rd, Kaiapoi, a house on 1/8th of an acre on section 321, as far as I know that is where they lived for the rest of their lives becoming a well-known Kaiapoi family. The only knowledge I have of their house is from my father’s youngest brother Uncle Gordon, he told me years ago about going to visit his grandmother in Kaiapoi when he was very young, she lived in a large two storey house and while he was there the Waimakariri River flooded and he remembered standing at the top of the stairs watching the water creeping up step by step, luckily for them it stopped before it reached them, he would have only been about 3 or 4 as his grandmother Mary Elizabeth died in 1921 & he was born in 1917. I do have a photo of a two storey house that I’ve had for years but have no idea where it came from, I wonder if this is the house?
In Nov 1871 James was the engineer & driver of the ‘Pioneer’ road steamer which was to haul goods between Oxford & Kaiapoi. The early traction engines used too much coal & water, apparently it did very few trips according to these details I found in the MacDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biographies at the Canterbury Museum, although the newspaper articles tell a different story!
In 1874 he was the engineer to the Kaiapoi Fire Brigade and in 1878 he was the Clerk of the Works for the Waimakariri Harbour Board, superintending the erection of the machinery & dredge for the dredging operations which finally started in Jun 1879.
I remember my mother telling me that Dad’s mother was the 18th of 19 children but to this day I’ve only been able to find 14 of them, they are:-
John McKay 1873-1934
Emily Louisa 1874-1880
Elizabeth Charlotte 1878-1942
Albert Edward 1880-1944
Emily Louisa 1882-1971
Joseph Frederick 1887-1896
Olive Wilson 1889-1943
On the last day of 1881 tragedy struck the family:-
Mary Elizabeth lost her two eldest daughters to a diptheria outbreak when they were quite young & it looks like she became quite depressed. At that time she had given birth to 7 children in 9 years the youngest one being only 4 months old so I'm not surprised she had depression! She fully recovered and went on to have 7 more children, she named her next two daughters after the two who had died. She probably never got over those deaths along with two sons who had died young. Joseph Frederick died at 9 years of age and James, who was an epileptic, was drowned aged 24 in 1899.
On the 31 Mar 1891 her husband of 20 years, James, was committed to the asylum, the same year that she gave birth to her 14th child and it seems she was also admitted for a short time. If she did have 19 children I don't know where she could have fitted them in, 14 children in 20 years is a fairly tight squeeze!
James died of valvular heart disease at Sunnyside Hospital on the 17 Feb 1899 and was buried in the cemetery at St Bartholomew’s Church in Kaiapoi, his grave and headstone was swept away years later in a flood of the Waimakariri River.
It wasn’t until I found Joseph’s death certificate that I found out who his parents were although even then there was no given name for his father, luckily the informant knew his mother’s maiden name.
In Dec 1903 Mary Elizabeth & some of her adult children were involved in a boating accident, the Miss O Linklater referred to in the newspaper article was my paternal grandmother, I’m glad she survived otherwise I wouldn’t have been me!
Mary Elizabeth passed away on the 13 Mar 1921 and is buried in the Kaiapoi Cemetery. She was the daughter of Joseph Williscroft and Elizabeth neé Baylis who had immigrated to NZ in 1858 when Mary Elizabeth was 7 years old.