Alexander Thompson and Helen Gollan

Alexander and Helen Thompson were not on the initial passenger list for the Blenheim, but did appear on the embarkation and subsequent lists:

  • Alexander Thompson, 28, Paisley, labourer
  • Helen Thompson, 26, Paisley

Spelling: Although the Blenheim passenger lists used “Thompson” most other records have “Thomson”.


Return to The Blenheim People.


Based on the details in the Blenheim passenger list, Alexander Thomson was born around 1812 and his wife Helen around 1814.

The Old Parish Register for Paisley Middle parish records that Alexander Thomson, lawful son of Alexander Thomson and Margaret Robertson, was born on 27 October 1812 and baptized on 15 November 1812.

The Old Parish Register for Barony in Lanark, recorded the marriage on 15 May 1836 of Alexander Thomson, cotton spinner, Calton, and Helen Gollan, residing there.

From the reports below, it appears that Alexander and Helen moved to Auckland shortly after the arrival of the Blenheim, and eventually settled on a farm in West Tamaki.

The Auckland Star of 14 June 1886 provided a full report of the Golden Wedding celebrations for the couple:

A GOLDEN WEDDING.
The golden wedding of Mr and Mrs Alex. Thomson was celebrated on the evening of Thursday, the l0th inst., in the Presbyterian Church of Tamaki West. The little church was very artistically decorated for the occasion with evergreens, white and pink camellias, and other flowers of the season. About three hundred visitors were invited, and the church was literally crowded. An excellent repast was provided, chiefly by Mrs Thomson. Tables the whole length of the inside of the building were liberally spread with the daintiest viands. A number of ladies of Tamaki and neighbouring settlementa courteously waited at the table. After a bountiful tea, the Rev. John Macky took the cbair, supported by Mr and Mrs Thomson, Mr William Thorne, and immediate relations. The proceedings opened with the hymn “Praise Ye Jehovah” and prayer by Rev. R. F. Macnicol. The Chairman then made a few appropriate remarks upon the auspicious event, and called upon the Rev. Mr Steele to read apologies from well-wishers who were unavoidably absent, viz., the Revs. David Bruce, A. Carrick, T. M. King (St. John’s College), Mr James Bell, of Wairoa, and several others. The Chairman proceeded and expressed the pleasure he felt in the position which he had been called upon to occupy. He felt sure that in wishing Mr and Mrs Thomson much happiness on the event of their golden wedding day, every heart would respond to the prayer that their kind friends might be spared many years longer in their career of usefulness in connection with the locality and the church. He had known Mr and Mrs Thomson intimately ever since he was first introduced to them thirty three years ago. Having spoken at some length in eulogistic terms of the amiable qualities of his friends, he would call upon Mr Thomson to speak for himself and his aged partner. Mr Thomson, on rising, was greeted with prolonged applause, and proceeded to say that he had frequently said that if it should please God to spare him and Mrs Thomson to see fifty years of married life, he would have all Tamaki and half Auckland present to celebrate the happy event. He had not much to say to married guests upon the subject of matrimony, but he hoped they would all live to see their golden wedding, and be able to look back over half a century with as much retrospective pleasure and satisfaction as he looked over his past. He then gave some advice to unmarried men, enforcing the words of the highest authority, “It is not good for man to be alone,” the truth of which he and his partner had proved in their early colonial struggle by being united. They had found in their mutual endeavours that “two heads are better than one.” The speaker then gave a pleasing sketch of his life from tho time when he started with others from Glasgow, in 1840, by the good ship Blenheim for Wellington, and of his arrival in Auckland with Sir William Martin, the Hon. William Swainson, Mr Outhwaite, and others. He and his partner worked hard, and at length saved sufficient money to purohase Water Yett, Tamaki, the farm upon which he and Mrs Thomson had laboured 40 years. He now occupied the building which formed the first Presbyterian Church in the province. A preacher, still living in Scotland, characterised the church as a barn, and the pulpit a tea chest. He did not approve of the terms. The little church, however, had boen of real service to the people of the district, and the ministrations from that so-called “tea chest” had proved a blessing to many. Mr Thomson then sketched the history of the church and the Sunday school and Bible class, with which he had been closely connected, for the long term of forty-five years, concluding with several suggestions for practical work and general improvement. At Mr Thomson’s request, Rev. Mr Steele read the marriage lines, which showed that Alexander Thomson, bachelor, and Ellen Gollan, spinster, were married on the 2nd of June, 1836, by the Rev. John Edwards, in the Monteith Row Church, Glasgow. (Loud cheers.) Short congratulatory addresses were successively given by Rev. T. G. Carr, D. W. Runciman, G. E. Monro, K. F. Macnicol, Thomas Norrie and Mr Hunter. Between these brief speeches several sacred selections and songs ware sung. Mrs Kimpton, of Otahuhu, sang the old but very appropriate song, “Darby and Joan,” with telling effect. The same lady, with Miss Wallace, sang a duet, and subsequently the fine lyric entitled “Charity.” Miss Pulman sang “Too Late,” with pianoforte accompaniment. Mr James Wallace gave a recitation, “The Young Man Leaving Home,” with much elocutionary skill. Miss Lily Pulman then recited “The Golden Wedding Song,” written for the occasion by Mr John Blackman, which was received in a kindly spirit. This effusion was distinctly and clearly enunciated by the reciter. A splendid picture of the aged pair, photographed by Pulman, Shortland-street, was then exhibited to the audience, elegantly framed. The wedding cake was then cut by the bride with the silver knife and distributed to the assembled visitors. The cake was the gift of Mrs Carr and Messrs W and A, Thorne. The Rev. Mr Steele, on behalf of the company, expressed thanks to Mr and Mrs Thomson, to the ladies of the tea tables, and to all who had assisted in contributing to the entertainment, and the whole closed with the Benediction pronounced by the Chairman.

His death registration shows that Alexander Thomson died on 3 August 1886 at St Andrews Church of Scotland. He was a farmer of 73, the son of Alexander Thomson, stonemason, and Margaret Robertson, was born in Paisley, had been in New Zealand for 46 years, and had been married in Glasgow at 25 to Helen Gollan. There were no living children. The cause of death was apoplexy.

The Auckland Star of 4 August 1886 carried the Death Notice: “Thomson – On August 3, Alexander Thomson of West Tamaki.” The New Zealand Herald of 4 August 1886 included the following account of his life and death:

SUDDEN DEATH AT THE MEETING OF THE AUCKLAND PRESBYTERY.
At the meeting of the Auckland Presbytery, yesterday afternoon, a very sad event occurred. After the Presbytery had concluded the business before it, Mr. Alexander Thomson, an elder residing at Panmure, and representing the church at West Tamaki, rose, having taken no part in the business previously, and asked that the Presbytery should proceed then to inquire whether the collections for the foreign missions appointed by the Assembly had been made by the several congregations. To this the Presbytery at once agreed, out of respect to Mr. Thomson, and was about to carry nut the request when he was observed to have fallen back in his chair in what appeared to be a fainting fit. He was immediately unconscious and, a pallor coming over his features, it became evident that death was at hand. The Moderator and the other members near him did all they could to ease his position, but the heart had ceased its pulsations. Dr. Kenderdine was present in a few minutes, and pronounced life extinct, the cause being apoplexy. After some time had elapsed, and the body had been removed into the vestry, the Presbytery met for a few minutes, and Mr. Carrick, at the Moderator’s request, engaged in prayer, the Presbytery adjourning its meeting until to-day, at ten a.m.
The deceased gentleman was 75 years of age, and on the 10th of June last celebrated his golden wedding. It appears that about two years ago he received injury in the chest from the kick of a horse, which at the time caused a very dangerous illness. Since his recovery he had been subject to fainting fits, and yesterday morning, when coming to the Presbytery meeting, he complained of not feeling well. Mr. Thomson came to Wellington in 1840, and after remaining there for about a year he came to Auckland, where he has been ever since, on a farm at the Tamaki. He leaves a widow, but no children. Deceased was an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and took a great interest in the Sunday schools and in other departments of Church work. He was kindly, frank, and hospitable.

The Auckland Star of 14 August 1886 also provided an obituary:

Mr Alexander Thomson, a very old settler of Tamaki West, and an elder of the Presbyterian Church, died on Tuesday, August 3, at the sitting of the Presbytery in St. Andrew’s Church. Mr Thomson came into town early and transacted a considerable amount of business,and while dining at a friend’s house in Shortland street said he feared he had overdone it. He felt somewhat weary, and his breathing was difficult. He left for the meeting of Presbytery at St. Andrew’s, and was speaking upon the subject of the collections of the churches for Foreign Missions, when suddenly he staggered and fell back unconscious upon the seat. A pallor immediately overspread his features, and it was evident that the hand of death «as upon him. Mr Lennox ran for Dr. Kenderdine, and that gentleman, on arrival, pronounced life extinct. The cause of his death was apoplexy. The body was removed at the moderator’s request into the vestry, and subsequently was placed in a shell and removed by Mr Wm. Thorne, solicitor, a nephew of deceased, to Mr Thomson’s late residence. Deceased was born in Glasgow in I811, so that he had reached his 75th year. In early life Mr Thomson was a cotton weaver in his native city, and was of a quiet and religious disposition. He was married June 2, 1836, to Ellen Gollan, in Glasgow, and four years from that auspicious event, in 1840, the young pair left Glasgow in the good ship Blenheim, for the city of Wellington, and after staying there for some months, sailed for Auckland, and filled in this city and suburbs several positions of trust. Mr Thomson and his partner settled on a small farm at West Tamaki, known as Water Yett, where they lived for more than 40 years. Mr Thomson told the story of his colonial struggles with graphic force on the occasion of the celebration of his “golden wedding” in June last. The funeral of the deceased was very largely attended, several hundred persons joining in the procession. A short service at the house was conducted by the Rev. John Macky, sen., minister of the united charge of Otahuhu, Tamaki, and Howick, and the Rev. T. G. Carr, Wesleyan minister (nephew of the deceased by marriage). On arriving at the cemetery the coffin was carried into St. Enoch’s Church, where service was performed by the Revs. J. Macky and T. Norrie, the former giving an appropriate address, in which he spoke of the Christian character of the deceased, and the good services he had rendered in the district for many years, especially to the younger members of the resident families, and concluded by urging all to follow his example. The Rev. D. Bruce and Rev. Mr Steele conducted the service at the grave, near the church.

Helen Thomson, widow of 84, died on 14 May 1898, at Pakuranga. No details of her parents were included in death registration, although it was noted that her father was a schoolteacher. Helen was born in Glasgow, and had been in New Zealand for 58 years. She was married in Glasgow at 18 to Alexander Thomson. There were no living children. The cause of death was senile decay.

The New Zealand Herald of 16 May 1898 carried the death Notice: “Thomson – On Saturday May 14, Helen, the widow of the late Alexander Thomson, of West Tamaki, aged 84.”

The reports above refer to a nephew, William Thorne, solicitor, and nephew by marriage, the Rev T G Carr. William Thorne and Matilda Carr were the children of William Thorne and Mary Gollan, Helen’s sister, who were married in 1846. Mary Gollan emigrated to New Zealand on the Duchess of Argyle which sailed from Greenock to Auckland in 1842. She was 30. There was another family of Gollans from Glasgow on this ship, headed by James Gollan, 33, and including his wife Abigail and several children.


Sources:

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