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The Early Emigrants

Capt William McNeur - 1830 - 1901

Son of James and Mary McGaw, brother of great grandfather James, Archibald + Alexander, Jane, Sarah + Elizabeth

It was part of family history among the NZ descendants that James Uncle William had brought James to NZ, and that whenever he was in Port Chalmers he would sing with the church choir - he apparently had a lovely singing voice. However official documents show it was Capt James McNeur who visited Dunedin and there was no documentation to support the family stories.

The following information comes from the Comber Index:
Agent / Ship / Captain
Young / Dunedin / James McNeur
4/9/1855 sailed Deal
23/1/1856 Otago Harbour (84 days)
22/2/1856 sailed for Nelson
27/2/1856 arrived Nelson
Agent / Ship / Captain
J.Hamlin / Dunedin / McNeur
9/1/1857 sailed Gravesend
16/4/1857 Otago (98 days) No passengers
6/6/1857 sailed for Melbourne
03/09/1857 Arrived Dunedin ex Melbourne on "Thomas + Henry" - passenger Capt McNear
18/01/1858 arrived Dunedin ex Bluff on "Star" - Mr McNeur
09/04/1858 Sailed Dunedin on "Content" for Port Victoria (Melbourne)
17/05/1858 Arrived Dunedin on "Content" - Passenger Capt McNeur
16/06/1858 Sailed Dunedin on "Strathfieldsaye" to Melbourne - Capt McNeur

The "Dunedin"

So for many years, there has been confusion regarding the identity of the Captain McNeur who visited NZ. However in 2007, Bob O'Hara, a maritime researcher with the National Maritime Archives at Kew, was hired to investigate this matter. His answer cleared up the mystery. There was no Capt James McNeur - it was Captain William McNeur, and he captained the "Dunedin" on both trips to NZ. We can now rewrite this piece of history:

18/11/1830 Born in Port Glasgow
15/08/1852 Received his First Mate's certificate, # 6809, aged 22
18/12/1854 Received his master mariner's certificate, #6809, aged 24.
18/05/1855 Married Elizabeth Colquhoun.
4/9/1855 Sailed from Deal, as Captain of "Dunedin" - confirmed by researcher Bob Ohara from Kew archives. Ticket # 63 515
He was aged 25 and had been married for 3 months.
23/1/1856 Arrived Otago Harbour (84 days)
22/2/1856 sailed for Nelson
27/2/1856 arrived Nelson

He obviously went back to UK onboard "Dunedin" after leaving Nelson. When he left on his next journey, Elizabeth would have been pregnant.
9/1/1857 sailed from Gravesend
16/4/1857 Arrived Otago (98 days) No passengers
6/6/1857 sailed for Melbourne
William Junior was born while he was in Melbourne 06 August 1857 and died the same year. Capt William probably never saw his firstborn as he appeared to have been in Australia and NZ throughout that year.
03/09/1857 Arrived Dunedin ex Melbourne on "Thomas + Henry" - passenger Capt McNear
18/01/1858 arrived Dunedin ex Bluff on "Star" - Mr McNeur
09/04/1858 Sailed Dunedin on "Content" for Port Victoria (Melbourne)
17/05/1858 Arrived Dunedin on "Content" - Passenger Capt McNeur
16/06/1858 Sailed Dunedin on "Strathfieldsaye" to Melbourne - Capt McNeur
What William did whilst in Melbourne and Dunedin during these various visits is not known. However his last trip to Melbourne captaining the "Strathfieldsaye" is interesting. Apparently this ship had travelled from UK to Dunedin under Captain Brown, and passengers and crew alike were shortfed and short provisioned. There were several complaints about Captain Brown's drunkeness, and whilst in Port Chalmers he had an "indecorous liaison" with a local lady. The passengers took a great exception to this, Captain Brown fired a shot at them which hit one of the mates, so the passengers and crew tied him up and delivered him to Dunedin as a prisoner. Capt Brown was found guilty and fined but he "jumped ship" and disappeared. Evidently, Capt William McNeur, who happened to be in Dunedin at the time, took over as Captain and took the vessel on to Melbourne.
He presumably then returned to UK in 1858 or early 1859 as son James was born in November 1859. There is no record of him coming to NZ again after this. Our great grandfather James' brother Archibald left Scotland on 19 August 1859, which would have been several months after brother William returned from NZ. Whether James came on the same ship as Archibald, or whether he came out with Capt William in 1857 is conjecture. James would have been 20 if he came out with William and would have been a crew member as there were no passengers on board. I doubt William would have left his 20 year old brother in Dunedin by himself, so would assume James and Archie came out together on the Sevilla in 1859 after William returned home.
William's Children:
Name Born Died
William Pt Glasgow 06.08.1857 same year as a baby
James Pt Glasgow 26.11.185904.01.1877 at 18 yrs old, drowned at sea
Elizabeth Houston Greenock 31.07.1861 01.09.1924, age 63 yrs
Archibald Colquhoun 07.12.1863 Married Ella Morrison 1894 (B 1867, d 19.04.1929).
Children Anna Helen MacNeur, b 1895 + Dorothy Elizabeth b 1899, m Scott, d 1935.
Lived and died in Mauritius.
Mary McGaw 03.08.186627.04.1900 (aged 36 yrs)
Wilhelmina 1870 06.09.1928 (aged 68 yrs)

The 1881 Census shows William MacNeur age 50, Archibald MacNeur age 17, Elizabeth MacNeur age 19, Mary MacNeur age 14, and Wilhelmina age 11, all residing # 291 Paisley Rd, Govan, Lanark

The 1901 Census shows William MacNeur age 70, Elizabeth MacNeur age 37, and Wilhelmina age 31, all living in Kilmalcom, Renfrew. Archibald MacNeur age 37, Ella MacNeur age 34, Anna H Macneur age 6 , Dorothy E MacNeur age 1, all in Cathcart.

Capt William McNeur's family gravestone
The family graveyard in Port Glasgow . It lists:
Capt William McNeur
d. 20 Nov 1901
Elizabeth Colquhoun
His wife
Died 20 ...1871

Their children
William died 6 Dec 1857
James died 4 Jan 1877
Mary McGaw died 27 Apr 1900
Elizabeth Houston died 1 Sept 1924
Wilhelmina died 6 Sept 1928
From this, I assume Archibald would have added the 2 last sisters as they died after William did. Archibald's name is missing from the gravestone. He died in 1948, aged 84 in Glasgow.
Dorothy Hyland (NZ) was named after Capt Wiliam's grandaughter Dorothy, and was given this photo of her taken in 1920.
She claims Ian McNeur met Dorothy while he was stationed in Egypt during WWII, before Dorothy moved to South Africa, but Ian has no recollection of that meeting.
It is not known if Anna or Dorothy had children, but the McNeur/MacNeur name would not have continued down this family line.
Another gravestone from Pt Glasgow cemetery lists several Morrisons. In the middle it says:
Ella Morrison
beloved wife of
Archibald C MacNeur.
Died 19 April 1929 aged 62 years.
Daughter Anna Helen (Nana)
Beloved wife of
Eng. Lieut Comdr. H Lindsay Rae r.M. retrd
Died at Candos Mauritius
24th December 1928 aged 33 years.
This is Archibald's wife. Note the spelling of his name. Most of William's family were listed as MacNeurs .

Alexander McNeur. 1802 - 1878 (Alexander II)

Born18 July 1802
Trade House Painter
MarriedMargaret Crawford 09 July 1827
Died 13 September 1878

Time to go back one generation to trace the other descendants of Archibald McNuier and Sarah McArthur McNuier. Archibald and Sarah had 9 children, but we can trace descendants from just 2 of these. James we have already looked at. The youngest son was Alexander.

The first son of Archibald and Sarah, born at Inverary in 1785 was named Alexander, as one would expect with the Scottish naming system. However he must have died at some stage, as the youngest son, born in Port Glasgow on 05 September 1802, was also named Alexander. He became the father, so to speak, of the Irish-Australian branch, an American branch and a number of future Scottish families.

Alexander was a house painter by trade and started a family trend in colour and line, showing up in later generations as house painters, artists, draughtsmen and designers.

On 09 July 1827 he married Margaret Crawford, daughter of Patrick or Peter Crawford, a foreman cooper, and Helen Sherrie, both from well documented Renfrewshire families. They had 8 children.

  • Archibald, born 1828, married Barbara Dove and had 2 children, Margaret Crawford McNeur born 28 April 1855 who died 2 years later, and John Dove McNeur. He may have descendants - they have not yet been traced.
  • Margaret, born 1830, married John Crawford (any relation to her Mother Margaret Crawford??) and they had 6 children - Euphemia born 1862, Helen born 1863, Lizzie born 1865, Barbara born 1866, Mary born 1869 and Jemima born 1873.
  • Helen Crawford McNeur , born 1832, married Daniel Robertson on 20 July 1858. Nothing else is known of them.
  • Alexander III, born 1836, married Sarah Nash and some of their descendants emigrated to NZ or stayed in Scotland. Their story comes later.
  • Peter, born 1839. Possibly also called Patrick. Seems to have married a Skene, and no records appear in Scotland - maybe he and his descendants loved elsewhere. They need some investigation.
  • John Crawford McNeur, born 1842 became Alice's great grandfather. Their story comes later.
  • Sarah, born in 1845 and died 3 days later.
  • James, born 1851 and died in 1852.

Margaret Crawford McNeur died of tuberculosis in June 1855 at Princess St, Port Glasgow, aged 50 years, and was buried at the Chapel Burying Ground, Port Glasgow.

Alexander continued to live in Port Glasgow, and in the 1871 census, was living with his daughter Margaret Crawford at 43 Greenach Rd. His death was registered on 13 September 1878 under both McNeur and McNair. The Inverclyde District Council's list of McNeur burials includes the following

"Alexander McNeur (76) died at McConnachies Farm, Ardgowan St, Port Glasgow, 13 September 1878. Assumed to be interred Chapel Burial Ground, Port Glasgow. Parents Archibald McNeur, Sarah McArthur. Married Margaret Crawford."

Alexander McNeur (1836 - 1902) and Sarah Gillespie Nash (Alexander III)

Alexander was born in 1836 and became a foreman painter of houses and ships, and had a considerable ability as an artist. He married Sarah Gillepsie Nash, daughter of Thomas Nash, ropespinner and merchant seaman, and Ann Nash nee Cochran of Dumbarton, on 04 December 1857. They lived in the Devols Glen area of Port Glasgow and later Springhill Terrace.

A number of paintings in Scotland are attributed to him; 3 held by Mary Scouller Nelson and 1 by Anne Fleming at Waimate, NZ.

Sarah drowned (allegedly committed suicide by drowning) in the Douglie Hill reservoir near Port Glasgow on 25 June 1890.

Alexander died 24 January 1902 of typhoid attributed to either drinking beer out of a cracked mug, or visiting one of his men who had the fever.

Alexander and Sarah had nine children:

  • Ann Cochran McNeur was the eldest, born 04 December 1858. She married a cousin, John McNair, and died in May 1896.
  • Margaret Crawford McNeur , born 13 May 1861, married William Murdoch King Strachan on 11 September 1888. They had five children, some of whom inherited the artistic ability. Margaret died in Largs 27 January 1940. Margaret's grandson, Gordon Wyllie was a well known artist in Scotland, and died in 2006.
  • Alexander was born 12 June 1863 and was a ship's draughtsman. It is quite probably that we was working at the shipyards in Govan (Glasgow) when he met Ann Frazer who lived at 21 Princes St, Govan. They married on 08 July 1889 eventually moved to Arran View in Fairlie and had 3 sons. Among the ships he designed was the J class racing yacht "Shamrock", sailed by Sir Thomas Lipton. Alexander was also interested in astronomy and chemistry, keeping some of his chemicals buried in a hill. He died on 07 November 1928 and Ann died 28 August 1949.
    Their descendants are recorded here
  • Robert Nash McNeur was born in Port Glasgow in 1865 and became a shipwright's blacksmith. He married Willhelmina Baker Millar and they had four children, the last being born in Phildelphia, PA, USA after they had emigrated. When Willhelmina died on 24 December 1898, her sister Elizabeth came from Scotland to help care for the family. She later married Robert and they had a son, Alexander. They later moved to California and at this stage Elizabeth wanted it kept secret that she was a sister of the first wife, apparently due to an old Scottish taboo. When the fact came out, it caused a rift in the family.

    Robert was a gentle kindly person with a refreshing sense of humour. He enjoyed reading, music and playing the fiddle. After retiring from the shipyard he did beautiful custom wrought iron pieces: lampstands, fireside benches, candle holders etc. His granddaughter Elizabeth Millar Lusk recalls receiving birthday presents as a child, chosen by him.

    Robert died in Oakland, Ca in 1946, and Elizabeth died in 1956.
  • Peter Crawford McNeur was born on 22 April 1867 and died in the same year.
  • Sarah Gillespie Nash McNeur was born on 05 October 1868. She never married and died on 27 April 1934.
  • Elizabeth Nash Simpson McNeur was born 26 December 1870. She married Alec Melrose and died 17 June 1900 at Port Glasgow.
  • Helen Crawford McNeur was born at Port Glasgow on 10 September 1873, and on 23 July 1902 married William Dewar Douglas, farmer of East Lang bank, Erskine. She signed her name Macneur. The couple emigrated to New Zealand with their first daughter being born at Waimate on 07 April 1903. They bought an 80 acre river flat farm at Willowbridge near Waimate, South Canterbury where they grew crops and potatoes, as well as the usual cows, pigs and hens, They never appeared affluent, being very careful with their spending. William was once described as a "dour old Scot of the first degree."

    Helen was a kindly lady who helped her husband with the farm when needed, but was never happy in NZ, missing her Scottish heritage. She was always pleased when her granddaughter played the piano so she could sing the old Scottish songs. She did not like anything Maori.

    She maintained correspondence with family and friends in Scotland, and her previous employer in Port Glasgow, Mrs Lithgow, offered to pay her fare back to Scotland. But Helen chose to stay in NZ.

    William died on 17 December 1928, aged 65, and Helen died on 07 July 1966, aged 92.

    Her granddaughter, Annie Fleming, had a large collection of family photos.

    Ruth was Alexander and Sarah's last child, born in 1877. We know nothing of her except that she married Henry Toone and had 2 daughters living in Perth - uncertain whether that is Scotland or Australia.

Grave of Alexander McNeur and Sarah Gillespie Nash

A Gordon Wylie print

The "Shamrock"

Alexander and Ann Frazer

Robert Nash McNeur

Marriage license of Helen Crawford McNeur
and William Douglas.
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