The Sinclair family was listed in the Blenheim embarkation list as being from Perthshire, and included:
- Francis Sinclair, 42, described as a sailor in the arrival list
- Eliza Sinclair, 40
- John Sinclair, 20
- George Sinclair, 15
- James Sinclair, 14, described as a labourer in the embarkation list
- Jane Sinclair, 12
- Helen Sinclair, 10
- Francis Sinclair, 6
- Ann Sinclair, 1
In fact, “John Sinclair” was John McHutcheson, Eliza’s brother, and it is likely he travelled as one of their children because the cost of his travel would then be covered by the the purchase of a £100 land order from the New Zealand Company by Francis Sinclair.
Note on Spelling: The use of “McHutchison” or “McHutcheson” or “Hutcheson” has been determined by the source material, since a variety of spellings have been used at different times.
An interesting perspective on this family can be found in “The Sinclairs of Pigeon Bay, or ‘The Prehistory of the Robinsons of Ni’ihau’: An essay in historiography, or ‘tales their mother told them'” contained in “Watriama and Co: Further Pacific Island Portraits” by Hugh Laracy, ANU Press, 2013.
Return to The Blenheim People.
Francis Sinclair and Elizabeth McHutchison
Francis Sinclair was born around 1797, the son of George Sinclair, a master mariner of Prestonpans. Elizabeth McHutchison was born on 23 April 1800 and baptized on 27 April 1800. Her parents were James McHutchison and Jean Robertson, and the record was in the Old Parish Register for Renfrew in the county of Renfrew.
The Old Parish Register for Gorbals, Lanark, recorded that Francis Sinclair and Elizabeth McHutchison, both in Kingston, were married by the Reverend Mr Ritchie in Gorbals on 13 January 1824.
Francis Sinclair was an excise officer, which is perhaps why the family lived in a number of places, as shown by the locations of the birth of the children. In 1824 they were in Glasgow, in 1826 in Kinloss in Morayshire, back in Glasgow in 1829, then in Stirling in 1831 through 1839 before they boarded the Blenheim for New Zealand in August 1840. In her journal of the voyage, Jessie Campbell notes that on Sunday 6 September the cabin passengers had the Bible read to them in English “by a very respectable steerage passenger of the name of Sinclair from Stirling.”
On arrival in New Zealand, Francis got to work immediately by buying a boat and shipping timber from Petone to Wellington. Within a few months he moved the family to Wanganui, where he had purchased an option on land through the New Zealand Company. However, there were going to be considerable delays before the land could be settled and they returned to Petone. There Francis built a boat, the Richmond which he used as a cargo vessel and to relocate his family and that of Ebenezer Hay to Banks Peninsular in the South Island, squatting on land in Pigeon Bay. In building the vessel, Francis Sinclair, his sons and John McHutcheson did all of the work themselves, except for the iron work which was done by a blacksmith named Fraser, another Blenheim passenger. The Richmond was sold to pay for cattle, but Francis built another ship, the Sisters, which he used for trading between Banks Peninsular and Wellington. This vessel was sold in 1845 to purchase land at Pigeon Bay from the Nanto-Bordelaise Company.
Tragedy was to strike, when in May 1846, Francis, his oldest son George, and two others, were lost when his next ship the Jessie Millar went down while sailing to Wellington with a cargo of dairy products. The New Zealand Spectator and Cook Strait Guardian of 11 July 1846 reported:
By the Mana we learn that Mr Sinclair, of Pigeon Bay, left that place on the 10th of May last in a small cutter of about 10 tons, bound for this port. She has never been heard of since, and there is too much reason to fear that the unfortunate vessel foundered the following day in the heavy south-east gale, which our readers may remember came on very suddenly. Mr Sinclair was accompanied by his two sons, a nephew, and Mr M’Lennan, a shoemaker of Akaroa. He has left a widow and several children to lament his untimely fate.
This report appears to be not quite correct in the identities of the missing.
Elizabeth moved to Wellington for a couple of years, but in 1849 returned to Pigeon Bay, and on their land at Sinclair Bay built a homestead called “Craigforth”.
The family prospered there for a number of years but in 1863 they decided to make a fresh start elsewhere. Thomas Gay, who married Jane Sinclair, purchased the barque Bessie and the family set off, first to British Columbia, and then to Hawaii where they purchased the island of Ni’ihau from King Kamehameha V. Ni’ihau had good grazing land for sheep and the family also bought land on the neighbouring island of Kauai where they grew sugar cane.
The Marlborough Express of 14 January 1893 included the Death Notice: “Sinclair – On October 15, at her residence, Makaweli Kauai, Hawaiian Islands, Elizabeth MacHutcheson, widow of the late Francis Sinclair, formerly of Craigforth, Pigeon Bay, New Zealand, in her ninety-third year.”
The Old Parish Register for Glasgow records that Francis Sinclair, Excise Officer, and Elizabeth McHutcheson, had a lawful son George born on 5 November 1824. Witnesses were James McHutcheson and Robert Miller.
George Sinclair emigrated to New Zealand on the Blenheim in 1840 and worked with his father on his various enterprises until they were lost at sea in 1846.
James McHutcheson Sinclair
According to the Old Parish Register for Kinloss in Morayshire, James McHutcheson Sinclair, lawful son to Francis Sinclair, Excise officer, and Elizabeth McHutcheson, in Findhorn, was born on 23 June and baptized on 25 July 1826. Witnesses were William Duston, Excise officer, East Grange, and George Gill, Findhorn.
James Sinclair was a passenger on the Blenheim in 1840 along with his family, and moved to Hawaii with his mother in 1863. James did not marry and died in 1873 in Hawaii. The Press of 19 December 1873 carried the Death Notice: “Sinclair – At Makawell, Kauai, Sandwich Islands, on 22 September, James McHutcheson Sinclair, Esq, late of Craigforth, Pigeon Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand.”
Jane Robertson Sinclair
The Old Parish Register for Glasgow records the birth to Francis Sinclair, Officer of Excise, and Elizabeth McHutcheson, of a lawful daughter, Jane Robertson, born on 22 March 1829. Witnesses were James Calder and John Wylie.
Jane travelled to New Zealand with her family on the Blenheim in 1840. The Wellington Independent of 24 October 1849 carried the notice: “Married – August 18, at the Court House Dunedin, Otago, by the Rev. C Creed, Captain Gay, of the whaling ship Offley, from Hobart Town, to Miss Sinclair, of Pigeon Bay, Banks Peninsular.”
Thomas Gay was a widower, whose first wife was Bridget Burke, who died in Tasmania in 1847. They had two sons, Thomas Gay and James Walter Gay. James Walter Gay, was born on 19 November 1841 in Tasmania, and died on 28 May 1893 in Hawaii.
The Gays moved to Hawaii with the rest of the family, and Captain Thomas Gay continued to trade with New Zealand and Australia. In 1864 Thomas Gay and his brother William, his first mate, were tried in Auckland for assaulting an insubordinate seaman, and were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment but were released early. Thomas Gay, however, died in New South Wales, Australia, on 9 February 1865 of pneumonia.
Jane and Thomas Gay had at least five children in New Zealand and a further child in Hawaii:
- George Gay, born in 1850.
- Francis Gay, born in 1852.
- Eliza Gay, born in 1856.
- Annie Gay, born in 1859.
- Charles Gay, born in 1862.
- Alice Gay, born in 1865.
Jane (Sinclair) Gay died in 1922.
Helen McHutcheson Sinclair
The Old Parish Register for Stirling records that Helen McHutcheson Sinclair, daughter of Francis Sinclair, Officer of Excise, and Elizabeth McHutcheson, was born on 29 May and baptized on 26 June 1831 by the Reverend B Bailey. Witnesses were James Brown and William McHutcheson.
Helen was on board the Blenheim with her family on the voyage to New Zealand in 1840, and moved with them to Pigeon Bay.
Helen Sinclair married Charles Barrington Robinson on 17 January 1853. The Lyttelton Times of 29 January 1853 carried the notice: “Married – January 17th, at Akaroa, by the Rev W Aylmer, Charles Barrington Robinson, Esq, to Helen, daughter of the late Captain Sinclair, of Craigforth, in Pigeon Bay.”
Charles Robinson was Akaroa’s first magistrate from 1840 to 1845, and purchased land there from the Nanto-Bordelaise Company. He is said to have raised the British flag in Akaroa in 1840 to thwart French efforts to claim the South Island.
Charles and Helen had a son, Aubrey, born on 17 October 1853. However, in 1855 Helen parted from her husband, apparently because he was violent to her, and she and Aubrey moved with the family to Hawaii.
Charles Barrington Robinson died at 15 Hermitage Road, Richmond, Surrey, England, on 28 December 1899.
The date of Helen’s death has not yet been established.
Aubrey Robinson married his cousin Alice Gay in 1885, having travelled in Europe and Asia, and returned to Hawaii in 1883 to manage the family estates with his cousin and brother-in-law Francis Gay. They established the company of Gay & Robinson. Aubrey died in Hawaii in 1936.
The Old Parish Register for Stirling records that Francis, son of Francis Sinclair, Officer of Excise, and Elizabeth McHutchison, was born on 12 January 1834 and baptized by the Reverend Alexander Marshall of Friar’s Wynd Chapel. Witnesses were John Paton and George Harvey.
After emigrating to New Zealand with his family, and living with his mother at “Craigforth” following his father’s death, Francis Sinclair and his uncle John McHutchison took up a sheep farm in the Mackenzie Country, but were unable to make a go of it, and returned to Banks Peninsular. Francis then moved with his mother and siblings to Hawaii, returning to New Zealand in 1866 to marry his cousin Isabella.
The Lyttelton Times of 29 August 1866 has a Marriage Notice: “Sinclair-McHutchison – August 7, at Blenheim, Marlborough, by the Rev Russell, Francis Sinclair, Niihau, Sandwich Islands, to Isabella, third daughter of William McHutchison of Blenheim.”
The New Zealand Herald of 12 April 1890 carried a review of “Ballads and Poems From the Pacific” by Francis Sinclair. The review noted that he had been well known to New Zealand readers in the past under the pseudonyms of “F.S.C.” and “Aopouri”, with the book of poems originally published under the nom de plume of “Philip Garth”. In commenting on the poems, the review said “among his sketches in the Pacific Ocean are to be found some glowing descriptions and brilliant pieces of word painting.”
The Otago Witness of 12 December 1900, in a piece entitled “In Starry Byways” set out some biographical details of Francis Sinclair, quotes from his poems, and suggests that he may claim to be New Zealand’s “first poet”.
In 1881 Francis bought a property in Epsom, and in 1883 passed management of the family’s Hawaiian estates to his nephews Aubrey Robinson and Francis Gay. In 1885 he was in London overseeing the printing of Isabella’s book Indigenous Flowers of the Hawaiian Islands, and in 1891 sold his property on Ni’ihau to his sisters, Jane Gay and Helen Robinson, and his nephew Aubrey Robinson. When his mother died in 1892 he was living in California, but eventually moved to England. Following Isabella’s death around 1896 Francis married her widowed sister Williamina Shirrifs. He settled in London and published more poems, essays and short stories.
Francis Sinclair died on the island of Jersey on 22 July 1916 aged 83.
Ann McHutchison Sinclair
According to the Old Parish Register for Stirling, Ann McHutchison Sinclair daughter of Francis Sinclair, Excise, and Elizabeth McHutchison, was born on 7 March and baptized on 22 March 1839 by the Reverend Mr Marshall. Witnesses were Andrew Beath and James Mitchell.
Ann, aged 1, was part of the family party that emigrated to New Zealand on the Blenheim in 1840, lived at Pigeon Bay, and then moved to Hawaii in 1863.
The Lyttelton Times of 27 May 1867 carried the Marriages Notice: “Knudsen-Sinclair – On the 12th of February, at the residence of the bride’s mother, Nihau, by the Rev D S Kupahu, pastor of Nihru, Valdemar Knudsen, Esq, of Waiawa, Kuai, to Annie, youngest daughter of the late Francis Sinclair, Esq, Canterbury, New Zealand.”
Valdemar Knudsen was born in Norway in 1819, and travelled to North America where he was a publisher in New York and a merchant during the California gold rush. He then moved to Hawaii where he managed a plantation before leasing land at Waiawa on West Kauai. Valdemar Knudsen died in Honolulu in 1898.
Ann and Valdemar had five children – Ida, Augustus, Maud, Eric and Arthur – and lived in Waiawa, and Halemanu in Kokee when Waiawa was too hot and dry.
Ann (Sinclair) Knudsen died in 1922 at Kauai, Hawaii, aged 83.
The Old Parish Register for Glasgow records that James McHutcheson, manufacturer, and Jean Robertson, had a lawful son John, born on 6 October 1816. Witnesses were Thomas Mitchell and Septimus Ellis.
John McHutcheson travelled on the Blenheim with his sister and her family, but under the name of “John Sinclair” and aged 20 (in fact he was 24), but reverted to his real name on arrival.
John McHutcheson worked with his brother-in-law in their various enterprises, and accompanied the family initally to Wanganui, back to Petone, then to Banks Peninsular. In 1856, with his nephew Francis, John took up a run of 10,000 acres in the Mackenzie Country, but they lasted there only two years because of the difficulties in working it effectively.
It appears that at some point “John McHutcheson” became “John Mack Hutcheson”. John Mack Hutcheson married Mary Gorrie on 4 July 1856.
In 1873, John Mack Hutcheson was elected Mayor of Blenheim.
John Hutcheson died on 27 January 1899. The Press of 28 January 1899 carried the following obituary:
Wellington, January 27: Mr John Mack Hutcheson, aged 82 years, a very old colonist and one of the best known and esteemed settlers in Marlborough, died at noon to-day. The late Mr Hutcheson was well known in Canterbury. Having come out to New Zealand from Glasgow in 1840, he settled on the Hutt river, Wellington, and though he removed to Wanganui, he soon returned to the Hutt. In 1843, however, he settled at Pigeon Bay, Akaroa. He went to England in 1848, and while there was interested, with Captain Cargill, in securing the despatch of the first immigrants to Otago, in the ships John Wickliffe and Philip Laing. On his return to the colony he settled in Canterbury, and remained in this district till 1864, when he left for Nelson, where he and Mr McDonald re-opened a branch of the Union Bank. Later on he took up a cattle run in the Mackenzie Country, and it is stated that he was the first man, after Mackenzie, to wander over those plains. His nearest neighbour at this time was sixty miles away, and the loneliness of the life did not offer many attractions to Mr Hutcheson, who sold his property, the buyer, it is said, being a Mr Gladstone, a nephew of the late Prime Minister of England. Mr Hutcheson went into business in Blenheim in 1859, and resided in Marlborough ever since.
John and Mary had at least eight children:
- John Hutcheson, born in 1859, died in 1907.
- Francis Sinclair Hutcheson, born in 1863, died in 1881.
- David Gorrie Hutcheson, born in 1868, died in 1930.
- Richard Morley Hutcheson, born in 1871, died in 1877.
- Helen Eadie Hutcheson, born in 1873, died in 1941, married Malcolm Bird in 1910.
- Jeanette Robinson Hutcheson, born in 1877 died in 1889.
- Ronald Oliphant Hutcheson, born in 1881, died in 1951, married Cecilia Jane Jacobsen in 1920.
- William Hutcheson, born in 1882, died in 1904.
John’s brother William McHutcheson also emigrated to New Zealand in 1862, having worked for the Inland Revenue in Scotland before moving to Christchurch and then Oamaru. William died in Oamaru in October 1905, aged 95.
- Blenheim passenger lists at FamilySearch website
- Family trees on Ancestry.com
- ScotlandsPeople website
- PapersPast website
- NZ BDM records
- Knudsen Trust website
- Jessie Campbell’s Journal and Letters.
- “Watriama and Co: Further Pacific Island Portraits” by Hugh Laracy, ANU Press, 2013.