06 May 2015

Hugh Ross – from Scotland to New Zealand – 1857-1933

I found this lovely old bible last year at an Antiques Fair at the Avondale Race Course in Auckland. I was devastated to see that the ‘Family Register’ page on the inside of the bible was blank even though it came from the era when people would fill in their family details in their Bibles.

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Licenced to be printed in Scotland in 1874 I was sure there would be a lovely family tale to tell, and I was right, because tucked inside the pages of the bible were a lot of newspaper cuttings and a few small photographs. I was able to piece together a story about a NZ pioneer family who first settled here in 1877, and so starts the story of the ROSS family from Elgin in Scotland.

We first find Hugh Ross aged 20 and a farm labourer arriving on board the ship ‘Waipa’ which landed at Port Chalmers in Dunedin, Otago on the 21 Nov 1877, he was an assisted immigrant and the NZ government had paid £11.13.6d for his passage. The ‘Waipa’ had left Plymouth, England on the 26 August, Hugh was listed as coming from Perth and he seemed to be alone although he may have been with other friends also from Scotland.

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Quoting from Hugh’s Obituary in the Te Aroha News 2 Aug 1933:-

“There passed away on Saturday one of Waihou’s oldest and most respected residents in the person of Mr Hugh Ross, who at the age of 75 years, had spent most of his life in the district. Mr Ross was born at Elgin, Scotland, in 1857, and came to New Zealand when 20 years of age, with the intention of following his profession as a nurseryman in this country.”


”He landed at Port Chalmers in 1877, and arrived at Waihou after an extensive trip round the North Island. During that period he experimented with land at Hawke’s Bay and at Cambridge, but decided to place his faith in the vast waste of scrubby swamp which was then the Thames Valley. He bought up several sections on the dry ridge of which the struggling settlement of Waihou was situated. At that time there was only the hotel, a few cottages and a store, while the mining town of Te Aroha had not been thought of. A Maori pah occupied the site of the present Hot Springs Hotel. Mr Ross lost no time in establishing the first nursery on the plains, and to get his stock he was forced to make periodic trips to Cambridge, then a long, tedious journey occupying several days. He married in 1883 and reared a large family.”

 ross-leith-marriage “Since then he has been most active in all movements for the betterment of the district, and gave liberally of his time and substance in the causes of education and religion. To him is due the credit of the artistically laid out grounds of the Waihou school, and also the area round the Waihou Memorial Church, a building which he presented to the residents of Waihou in memory of his son, who was killed in action in the Great War.

Mr Ross was a Justice of the Peace & an elder in the Te Aroha Presbyterian church for a great number of years. He was also chairman of the Waihou School Committee for a considerable period, and served for many years on the Waihou Domain Board. A past Master of Lodge Te Aroha No 52, he was well-known amongst the Masonic fraternity, and enjoyed membership in the Royal Arch Chapter, Ohinemuri, Paeroa. He was a prominent figure when the Waihou school held its fiftieth jubilee in June, 1930. Mr Ross worked practically up to the time of his death, having been ill in hospital only for a brief period of a few days.

He is survived by his widow, who lives at Waihou, and seven children. These are Mrs Elizabeth Woodhead (Auckland), Mrs Muriel Muir (Hamilton), Mrs Nellie Hawke (Napier), Miss Margaret Ross (Waihou), Miss Gertrude Ross (Auckland), and Miss Connie Ross (Sydney). Mr Douglas Ross, the only surviving son, is a solicitor practising at Whangarei, while Mr Hugh Ross junr. another son, was killed in the Great War. There were seven grandchildren.”

Hugh & Elizabeth had a total of ten children, they were :-

1884/4161    Ross    Elizabeth Jane    Elizabeth        Hugh
1886/18356  Ross    Mary Ann            Elizabeth        Hugh
1886/5898    Ross    Margaret Brodie  Elizabeth        Hugh
1887/5518    Ross    Gertrude Ethel    Elizabeth        Hugh
1889/10523  Ross    James                Elizabeth        Hugh
1891/16744  Ross    Muriel Bruce       Elizabeth Allen    Hugh
1893/16930  Ross    Nellie                 Elizabeth Allen    Hugh
1896/16090  Ross    Hugh Leslie        Elizabeth Allen    Hugh
1898/6998    Ross    Constance Mary  Elizabeth Allen    Hugh
1903/2464    Ross    Mabel Irene        Elizabeth Allen    Hugh

As well as son Hugh Ross Jnr two of their daughters predeceased their father, Mabel Irene in 1915 and Constance Mary who seems to just disappear after her birth, I’ve found no death or marriage for her. Another sister, Margaret Brodie joined them in 1941 and mother Elizabeth Allen Ross in 1943.

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About six months after Mrs Ross’ death the Waihou Memorial Undenominational Church had a special service to farewell the survivors of the Ross Family from Waihou:

farewell Of the six children that were left one daughter, Gertrude Ethel, didn’t marry and I haven’t been able to find a marriage for son James Ross, there are just too many of them for me to be certain which one might be him, if indeed any are. The other four children did marry into the following families:- Woodhead, Muir, Hawke & Kelly. Inside the bible were also many cuttings from the lives of these families, one day I might post another story on them if no-one claims the Ross Family Bible before then.

Included inside the bible were these few photographs, people unidentified unfortunately apart from the newspaper cutting in which son Douglas Leith Ross was the winner of a Scholarship at Auckland Grammar School in 1907.



This may very well be Hugh & Elizabeth Ross and their grandson, Donald Bruce Woodhead (born 1914 who later died in WWII), with his mother, Elizabeth known as Bessie holding the flowers, she seems to have been the first child to produce a grandchild, but this is a complete guess on my part. This photo was printed in Pukekohe and has written on the back ‘For Margaret’. The next photo of a woman looks very much like the one with the young boy on her knee, so may also be Elizabeth Ross. The last photo could be Bessie at an older age, but nothing written on them to say who any of them are.



References: ancestry.com.au; NZBDM Online; Papers Past


If anyone knows anything about or is connected to the ROSS family please do contact me, I would love to pass the Bible etc onto a family member. Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

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