McGregor Family

McGregor Family 
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Robert McGrigor married Janet Scot in 1751. Janet was from Borlich, not far from Aberfeldy.  We know they had at least three children, James, Elspeth and Thomas, these children being born in LaggannaCardoch in the parish of Dull.  I have searched in all the old maps and found no trace of the village.  I believe the clearances may have been the cause of this community being wiped forever from the record books.  Laggan na Cardoch must have been a reasonably big crofting community because in the course of my research I noticed many other families residing here and many children being born from here. 

Thomas, I believe was the Thomas who was born in the parish of Dull in 1764 and later went on to marry Margaret McLaren in 1762.  Thomas and Margaret had at least eight children of which Alexander was the 6th and the 3rd son.  At the time of Alexander's birth 1800 Thomas and Margaret were of Aberfeldy. 

In 1825 Alexander married Margaret Munro, the daughter of John Munro and Grizel MacFarlane.  John McGregor was born the third child and fist sone of Alexander and Margaret.  They had 8 children that we know of, all but James the last born were born in Aberfeldy, James in Perth.

John McGregor.jpg (308188 bytes) John Mcgregor

John McGregor was born in Aberfeldy, Scotland on the 20th of March 1835.  When John was about 12 years old the family moved to Perth where they resided in the High St.  Alexander died in Perth when John was 14 in 1849. On the 10th of March 1854 John married Helen Ritchie in St Paul's Church camera.gif (1191 bytes) parish in Perth, Scotland.

Helen was Born in Perth in 1837, the daughter of William and Jean Ritchie.  They lived on South St which was not far from the McGregor home.

John became a stone mason by trade and it was through this trade that he was able to move relatively freely around the world in search of a better life for his family. In 1858 John and Helen sent sail with the two children for Table Bay in Cape Colony. Little John was just three years old and baby Helen was not quite one year old. They travelled in the ship the "Gypsy Bride". The following is based on a report from Esme Bull's book "Aided Immigration from England.

The Gypsy Bride was a ship of 1487 tons. She departed from Liverpool on the 20th March 1858, arriving in Table Bay on the 12th of May 1858. Living soles on board, 514; six were born, 22 died and there were 2 stowaways. Captain P Murphy was in charge and the ship's surgeon was Charles Watson Kitching. A cabin passenger acted as the religious instructions teacher.

The IBC reported her "a fine vessel and conditions on board were excellent. The surgeon gave the utmost satisfaction and merits special notice. The unfortunate Dr Kitching had to cope with a severe outbreak of measles. Despite his untiring efforts to save them 22 children died. The vessel was put into quarantine on arrival but after the death of two more children in the bay, Kitching asked for the quarantine to be lifted as the close and uncomfortable conditions on board could lead to further illness. His request was granted at once, but all bedding was destroyed and quarantine was maintained at the depot for three days.

All the single men on board were from Scotland and suffered a high incidence of TB. Several subsequently died. The Board considered the passengers a very superior class of immigrant who would prove a great acquisition to the Colony.

Two stowaways (unnamed) behaved in so exemplary a manner that the Board who paid their passage money accepted them as immigrants.

The Gypsy Bride brought a group of stone cutters, incorrectly listed as masons, who made a most useful discovery while out walking shortly after their arrival. The identified a bed of sandstone at the base of table Mountain and were at once set to work under the direction of the civil engineer to cut and prepare stone for the proposed buildings.

Little Helen was among the children to die of measles on the Gypsy Bride. John and Helen eventually made their way to Colesburg by bullock wagon, a journey of about a month. It was in Colesburg, it is believed that John rebuilt the first Dutch Reform Church. This church (pictured below) was originally built in 1830 with a thatched roof. This building was demolished ad the church below was completed in August 1866. The Architect was Welchan and Read and they used four builders from Cape Town but there is no mention of names. Messrs Ross and Hobkirk were the master stone masons.

In 1926 a tower was added to the church and below is a picture of the building today.
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John and Helen lived in South Africa for about ten years and after the birth of Alexander, Annie in 1863, Margaret, in 1865, Catherine in 1867 and Grace was born in 1868, the family made their way back to Scotland. Apparently my Great Grandmother Grace McGregor  was born on the bullock wagon as they made their way south from Coleburg, with fires burning all around to ward off the wild animals.

During this period of time in Scotland John became a master Green Grocer in Glasgow. The wanderlust must not have left him though, as he next went off to America, this time on his own. John was disillusioned with America and soon returned to Scotland.  After the births of Christina in 1870, William in 1872, Charles and Jane in 1873, James Alexander in 1874 and the subsequent death of Christina, William, Charles, and Jane, the family decided to immigrate to New Zealand.

The family settled in Oamaru where Robert was born in 1876. Among other places, John was involved in the building of the first hotel at Weston, the Methodist parsonage, and a lovely big home at Duntroon known as Otekaike. It is believed he was the main contractor in the construction of this magnificent home. At some stage he had 30 men working for him on this project which bankrupted him.

Helen was a midwife and was a great help to many, many births in Oamaru around that time. Later on Helen ran a General Store. This was in her name alone because John's bankruptcy meant he was unable to own a business. John was a heavy drinker and it is said that on finding a new barrel of liquor she would knock out the plug. He hid his drink from her in the outside toilet. It is believed that Helen's Grandmother came to New Zealand to visit the family. She only spoke Gaelic but helped in the shop occasionally.

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Last modified: November 30, 2008