Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1862 to 1961
Location: New Zealandmap
Surnames/tags: cromb recollections immigration_to_New_Zealand_
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Ship Sailing Doric, sailed 28 August 1884

A daughter of Uncle Alex Cromb asked Jean Robertson (Cromb-32) – (died 1962) then aged 95 years (about 1956) to write down an account of the background to the Cromb emigration to NZ. The original is in possession of Connie Hill - recopied 1996 – RWH


I have been trying to think what is meant by "background" of your father's life, because anything I tell you must go back to our childhood, as he must have often talked of the days before he came to New Zealand at the age of 18. (Uncle Alex)

Why he happened to come here at all — especially to the Maniototo - sprang from a simple incident. An old lady neighbour of ours who had a grandson in New Zealand who used to write to her and send money, always got me to answer her letters, and when she later went out to a daughter in Cape Town, our correspondence continued. He used to send me the "Otago witness" and the stories in it of New Zealand Station life (he was on one) fascinated me, and I always said to myself ”I’ll go there sometime". That came years later.

Our father - your grandfather - was the overseer of Bandirran estate in Perthshire. He was responsible for the outside staff — gamekeepers, kennelmen, forestmen, and all the many workers needed to run the place. We lived near what we called the "Big House", a three-storied mansion set in beautiful gardens and park, with a walled kitchen garden, which kept two gardeners busy. They were married men with cottages nearby. The Drummonds kept a big house staff — butler, cook, and kitchen—maid, housemaid, coachmen, and footman - that was time of coaches and horses. Motors were a thing of the future.

I was born in 1852, the oldest of our Family. Your Father, (Uncle Alex) was the eldest son. Bethia came after me, then your father, Maggie, Will, Jessie, and Jack, who was born five months after father's death. He contracted pneumonia and died after a week's illness. There were no sulfa drugs in those days. He had been a big strong man in his prime, only 40 years old. He left a widow with seven children to bring up, the eldest, myself , being only fourteen. It was a task to daunt any women, I have always thought of my mother as the bravest women I have ever known.

The Drummonds were very kind to us in lots of ways. Mother still had a free cottage, though had to move to a smaller one later to let Father's successor get it. They fitted it out for her and built a nice little dairy. They had kept a cow, poultry, and a pig, which kept us in pork and ham. Mother was a famous hand for curing that and for making black and white puddings after the pig was killed.

We had a big vegetable garden so were never without vegetables or potatoes, (Mother's work was never done). We children had to work pretty hard as soon as we were able. It was "off with the school frocks" and to weeding, or whatever needed doing in the long summer evenings. I had left school , of course, to help Mother when Father died.

The Drummonds had no family. Mrs. Drummond wished me to be baptised in her name, Jane Drummond. The beautiful christening robe is still in the family, one of Dawn's twins being the last to wear it. (I have ten great grandchildren).

Except For farm work there was not much in the country for young Folk to do, so they had to go town to look for jobs. Perth was eight miles from where we lived. Bethia was first, going as a pupil teacher to one of the city schools, and from there to Edinburgh College, after which she came back home to teach in our home school, where she stayed with mother until they came to New Zealand. I moved into town then too, working in several shops until I came here. Your father had learned the grocery trade with an uncle. Many a night he and I would walk the eight miles home on a Saturday night and think nothing of it. There was generally a crowd of young folk on the road at weekends for they had to be at work on Monday mornings and there were no buses in the country then.

Your father and I made up our minds to come to New Zealand, Mother saying "You can go. If you don't like it you can come back. If you do, we will all come out." That was Mother, So I wrote to the young man in New Zealand to find out about things there for a condition of assisted passages was that you had to be nominated by someone in New Zealand so that you would have someone to meet you and somewhere to go on arrival. He assured me he would be glad to do all that for us, and an uncle and aunt would welcome us to their home to start with, so your father and I got everything ready to go. Then we had a great disappointment. Your father had to cancel his passage because of the illness of his uncle who later died. So I went off on my own on the "Doric" in August 1884. I was twenty-two. Your father came a year later - I don't know his boat, but the same people took him in till he could get a start. (This is where the Maniototo comes in.)

The owner of Lynburn Station (I forget his name) and his wife rented a house in Dunedin because of the coming birth of their first baby. They kept two maids, a cook and myself. Your father arrived only a short time before and was looking around for something to do, so one morning I asked if I might speak to the "Master". I told him about my brother and I asked him if there would be any chance of a job on the station. He replied he didn't think my brother would like that sort of work, but when I told him he was brought up in the country, he told me that e wagon was going up with stores to the station and he could go if he liked. So he went up there and the Maniototo was his home for the rest of his long life. After the baby was born and the lady was able to travel, she went for a holiday to friends near Timaru while we two girls were taken up to the station to get things ready for the "Mistress". The Master drove us all up in a buggy and pair. We stopped for dinner and to rest the horses at a place called Maisies, a sort of country hotel. After the wife came up to the station, the cook found it too lonely. Only your father was allowed to come up to the station at night. Being my brother I suppose he was considered "safe". Anyway, after a time the cook gave notice, and I wouldn‘t stay when she was going, so we went back to town. Occasionally we would go with the mail to a place called the Styx on a Sunday afternoon. Nowhere else to go. The Mistress was a "Home" girl and very much the Mistress. Bella, the cook, hadn't been used to being kept "in her place" so much. We liked the Master; he was a gentleman.

Then I went to a doctor's place - a Doctor Hocken - as a housemaid and to show in his patients. I was there until your father and I were able to think of getting the rest of the family to New Zealand – 3 ½ years that was after I arrived there. In the meantime, I got engaged to a cousin of Bella the cook. whom I met when we came back to town. We were both saving up (your father did the big share) for the passage money for the family, and when they were ready, Mother sold up all her belongings at Home and with the rest of the family Bethia, Maggie, Will, Jessie, and Jack (who was 11 then) arrived safely in New Zealand. We rented a house for them on arrival. Bethia got the choice of two schools - one in town, the other in Central Otago which had a school house and a bit of ground. It did have a name which I forget but was usually called White Sow Valley. It was somewhere for them to go at first and was home for your father and Will (Jack was still at school). Jessie was about 15. I think Will at first went to Lynburn too. Mother kept house with Bethia until she married Wilson Mawhinney - that was some years later. A few months later I went up to the school house and my intended came down from Southbridge, Canterbury, where he was then stationed, and we were married in the school house by the Rev McCosh-Smith of Naseby. Ranfurly wasn't there then, nor the hospital, or the cemetery. My Mother is buried at Naseby. There is a stone to her memory in it.

I wasn't to see much of my family after they did come to New Zealand. Mother visited me at Southbridge and stayed with me when Logan (Robertson} was born. My husband got orders to transfer to Auckland, and though he tried to put it off he had to go. His son was two days old when he left and I was left to manage as best I could. Of course the Railway Department moved us — myself and furniture-by boat from Lyttleton a month later. Eight years later, after Charlie was born, we got what we wanted, a move to Invercargill again. All our children were born in different places - Southbridge, Auckland, Gore, and Invercargill. My husband had been retired 24 years when he died 16 years ago. (He dropped dead in the Public Library in Invercargill). None of his family, the Robertson's are alive now, except myself, his wife. There were 10 of them. He was only a year old when his parents came to New Zealand in 1862. There was only three months between our birthdays.

As a family I don‘t think we should have any regrets for the day your father and I decided to come to New Zealand. The country has been good to us, everyone has "made good” or bettered themselves, and the Cromb name on the Maniototo isn't likely to die out.

Grace: Aunt Jane was quite a girl. I used to visit her on my Ad Ed tours to the south where she was in one of those big Eventide homes, and quite happy with a few things of her own. Mother (Jessie) told me she used to visit Jane in Auckland where there was always a branch of bananas hanging in the wash house.

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