Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bennies from Ayrshire to New Zealand

I have been tracing the family of David Bennie and Margaret Sym
tree here  who were married in Stevenston in Ayrshire in 1814.

I've found 9 children of whom 2 died in childhood. There may have been others who never made it into the record books.

Boyd Miller Bennie (child no 6) married Janet McDonald in 1850 in Dreghorn. He was a coal miner. They had 16 children. Boyd died in 1879 of chronic bronchitis.  Their youngest child David was only 3 at the time.  However there were older children bringing in money by then so it was maybe not too desperate a situation. In the 1881 census Janet 50 is at Overton a mining hamlet north of Dreghorn with 10 children ranging from 23 to 5 with  3  boys working as coal miners. Two of Janet's brothers, William and Andrew, were in New Zealand according to some Poor Relief applications on behalf of their mother Elizabeth McDonald ms Murchland in 1886.

First Bennie in New Zealand*
Their son Boyd Bennie must have left sometime after his father's death on 1 March 1879 which he registered, signing his name. On 15 Oct 1880 he was elected an office bearer (SW senior warden) in St Thomas Kilwinning Lodge in Kaitangata. (Kilwinning in Ayrshire is the Mother Lodge  of Scotland). Boyd married Janet Holden in New Zealand in October 1881. That seemed like pretty quick work and I wondered if she too stemmed from Ayrshire and, lo and behold, she is also in Overton Rows, Dreghorn a few doors away from the Bennies in the March 1881 census. Janet was a steerage passenger on the SS Jessie Readman which left Greenock 15 Jul 1881 and arrived 14 September in Port Chalmers. No other Holdens aboard. Janet's uncle David Holden was married to Grace Bennie, daughter of Mathew Bennie and Cummings Littlejohn, but I have yet to connect them to Boyd's line although it does seem a bit of a coincidence. Some of this family also went to New Zealand.

On the 12th January 1883 son John Bennie, his wife Janet and their baby Janet along with 9 of his siblings set off from the Tail of the Bank (Greenock) for Otago on the Wild Deer. It was a disastrous trip as the Wild Deer ran aground on a rock just off the coast of County Down, Ireland.  Fortunately there were no fatalities and all were taken ashore to Cloughey and returned home. Undaunted, they set sail again on 19th February on the Caroline. This time mother Janet and sons William and David 7 joined the original group. It seems that young David had the flu which is why they weren't with the others the first time around.  They landed in Port Chalmers on the 23rd May 1883.

4 of the 16 children had died before they left for New Zealand. A memorial stone to them stands in Dreghorn cemetery near the church.

Alexander, James and William Bennie were miners in Kaitangata, Otago. Alexander was killed in the mine in a rock fall in 1906.
Boyd Bennie was also a miner then a government inspector of mines.
Daniel Bennie b 1874 was at gardener in the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin. His son Ronald founded Bennie's Honey.
David b 1876 was a trucker. 
Agnes married William Taylor from Dreghorn in New Zealand, had a few children then they returned to Ayrshire by 1901 only to move on to Michigan, USA in 1923!
I'm still working on the other daughters.

Many descendants were named Boyd, and there are Boyds still living.

A Bennie from New Zealand reconnects with his past in Dreghorn Cemetery in 2013!

Newspaper report of the loss of the Wild Deer
Papers Past
Janet Holden's arrival in New Zealand
Boyd's Installation at the Lodge
Bennie's Honey
Poor Relief record (no 816) for  Elizabeth Murchland.
1850 map of Overton and Warwickdale in Dreghorn Parish
1850 map of Springside, Kirkland and WestThornton in Dreghorn Parish

 * Boyd's cousin Margaret McDonald d/o Ann Bennie & William McDonald was in New Zealand by 1873 when she married James George Hay, a native of Inverness. 

Story of Boyd's brother David Bennie (child no 9) and Helen Gillies in a future post.


  1. Excellent blog Kay. You have put a lot of work into it and "Katie's Cousins"

  2. Yes this is really good. Thanks Kay for all the work that you have done on this family tree.
    Best wishes

  3. Thank you. I had fun tracing them!

    1. hi Kay Some of my friends family are those Mcdonalds Sue