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•• three brothers were born on the family farm in Marshallstown in the 1850ies and came to New Zealand six years after the start of the gold rush at Arrowtown. All three were incredibly young: Henry, the eldest, was fifteen, William thirteen and John only nine. They probably landed in Dunedin, some 150 miles from Arrowtown, and continued to have family links there down to the present. At the time of their arrival, Dunedin was already an established though small port, and a centre of Scottish settlement. I imagine the McKibbin brothers must have come to the Arrowtown district some time in the 1870ies, when land was available and steadily being brought into cultivation. Elaine remembered her father saying: “they were wonderful farmers”, but she added “.. the farms were at 2000ft, and they have changed hands many times since”. Apparently they brought out a young man, Joseph Miller, possibly a relative from home, who died at Arrowsmith in the l970ies when he was over ninety. Of the three brothers, John, Elaine’s grandfather, died in 1894 when he was only thirty-five; his daughter, Elaine’s mother, was born that same year. William, the middle brother, was the longest lived, dying in Dunedin in 1942, seven years after his wife, Sarah Frances, who had been born in “Borris Inossory, Queen’s County, Ireland” in 1862. Leslie has a copy of their marriage certificate: her maiden name was Talbot, her father a farmer, and the marriage took place at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Arrowtown on May 15th 1889. William’s tombstone is the largest in the graveyard, and unlikely though it may seem, Elaine states that“…all three family tombstones were ordered from France before their deaths”. Henry, the eldest of the three, died in Arrowtown in 1923, aged seventy. He seems to have been the most prosperous: he was a JP, a mayor of the town, and owned “shops and land in the main street. A photograph taken when he was in his mid fifties, shows a comfortable figure wearing a well-cut suit, thoughtful and serious in expression, but with laughter lines around his eyes. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1895 when she was only 32; on their tombstone she is stated to be:“A native of Money Carra, Downpatrick”. Had Henry travelled home to find a bride, or had he met her in New Zealand? We don’t know. The story of the McKibbins of Marshallstown is similar to that of many families in this district and Henry McKibbin elsewhere in Ireland, driven to find new lives overseas Mayor of at a time of agricultural depression, when life on a small Arrowtown farm was especially difficult and there seemed better opportunities elsewhere. But the McKibbins were unusual in two respects, in their age and their choice of destination. It is hard to imagine three young boys, the youngest only nine years old, setting off to such a distant land on their own. Surely they must have travelled in the care of someone from home, or at least, have been met by a relative or friend at the end of their long voyage lasting at least seven or eight weeks. Perhaps that is why they went to New Zealand, for it was the least likely destination for emigrants from County Down at that time. Most emigrants went to the United States and Canada, and some to Australia and within New Zealand the main centre of Ulster immigration was Kati Kati, a fertile district in the aptly named Bay of 49

Inverbrena 2003

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