Chapter 2

2.1 The Origins of Speddings

“Spedding” is not a common name. It is not listed in Cottle’s “Penguin Dictionary of Surnames”.

There is some disagreement about the place of origin of the Speddings. Burke in his “Landed Gentry” states that the Spedding family originated in Ireland, then went to Scotland for some generations before settling in Cumberland, England.

Captain J. Carlisle Spedding, who wrote “The Spedding Family” in 1909, said that the opposite is almost conclusively proved – that there are no records of Speddings in Ireland until 1746, when Henry Spedding, grandson of Edward who settled in Cumberland in 1685, crossed to Ireland and settled in Dublin.

A “History of Cumberland and Westmorland” written in 1777 by Nicolson and Burn, records the payment of an annual stipend to a John Spedding, curate in the parish of Kirkby Thore, Westmorland, in 1572, over 100 years earlier than the record of Edward in Cumberland, and nearly two hundred years earlier than Henry in Ireland.

Also, there were many wills, proved at Carlisle around 1600, of Speddings who were yeomen of Morland, Bolton, Kingsmeaburn, Colby and Kirkbythore – a cluster of villages within 10 miles of Appleby, in the north of Westmorland. Later wills, being proved around 1700, came from Speddings who had moved across to Cumberland – to Whitehaven, Hensingham and Distington.

A study of the Parish Registers of Westmorland and Cumberland, which date from the middle 1500’s, shows the same general pattern – the earliest records of Speddings are mostly in parishes round Appleby and Morland – spreading south and west in the late 1600s and 1700s as new towns and industries flourished, and in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the 1800s.

So, there is plenty of evidence to show that the Speddings either originated or settled early in the 1500s, in Westmorland around the Vale of Eden – about 10-15 miles south of Penrith (Figure 2.1).


Figure 2.1: The Vale of Eden – Showing the parishes where the earliest Speddings are recorded.

2.2 “Our” Speddings


Figure 2.2: The Spedding Family line.

My Aunt, Ida. G. White was very proud of and knowledgeable about our Spedding forbears. Her mother, Ida Macfarlane Spedding was one of a big family. She had six sisters and two brothers; they lived in Dunedin, and to a great age, so were a wonderful source of family history, oral and written.

After their grandfather, Joseph Spedding died in Melbourne, family papers, which might have told where our Spedding family came from, were lost in a fire. Joseph’s son, Donald, told his daughters that he remembered spending boyhood holidays with relatives near Penrith just over the border of Westmorland, in Cumberland, so this is probably where our earlier generations of Spedding came from.

Ida White made a study of the early Speddings of Cumberland, and visited some of their descendants when she was staying in the Lake District in the 1950s. She was struck by a family likeness – especially did the portrait of James Spedding hanging in the library at Mirehouse, a stately home on Lake Bassenthwaite, remind her of her brother David. She would dearly have liked to find a connection between these well-to-do, well educated families of Speddings with their stately homes – and “our” Speddings!

These Speddings of Mirehouse, Armathwaite Hall, Summergrove and Windybrowe – were all descended from the Edward Spedding mentioned above who married Sara Carlisle, a rich heiress, in Lazonby, in Cumberland in 1684. He was the first Spedding to settle in Cumberland. He was chief steward of the Lowther estates in the new town of Whitehaven (c.f. Figure 2.1). His sons served Sir John Lowther as engineers in his coal mines. John, the eldest, installed pumping engines which made it possible to drain the pits and so to mine at greater depths. Carlisle, a younger brother, invented a primitive lamp for use down the mines, which saved many lives, and served until the invention of Sir Humphry Davy’s safety lamp nearly one hundred years later. Sir John Lowther rewarded them for their services by leaving them money in his will.

The descendants of Edward Spedding are recorded in Burke’s “Landed Gentry”. They married well, lived in their stately homes with big estates – one became Sheriff of Cumberland, many entered the professions, the Church and the Army. The most famous was James Spedding M.A., of Mirehouse, an historian, essayist and critic, a Cambridge Apostle and friend of Alfred Tennyson and Edward Fitzgerald. Many of these Speddings are remembered by memorial windows and monuments in parish churches in Cumberland.

Their family trees, dating from Edward and Sara in 1684, are well laid out in the aforementioned book, “The Spedding Family”, compiled by Captain John Carlisle D. Spedding, a member of the Cumberland Westmorland Antiquarian Society. It was printed in 1909 for private circulation.

So, if our family is connected to these Speddings, with the well documented family trees, as I believe it might well be, the connection must have been before 1684. Parish Registers started in England over one hundred years before this date. The earliest Speddings I have found recorded were in Morland, only a few miles from where Edward married, and from where my great-grandfather Donald spent holidays with relatives. These earliest Speddings recorded are likely to have been forbears of both Edward and our family.

The story of our Speddings that has been handed down through the family, is recorded in “notes” by Ida G. White, and in “The Spedding Family” by Captain J.C.D. Spedding in a chapter headed “The Speddings of Australia and New Zealand”. Just how Captain Spedding got this information about our family, I do not know.

This family story begins with Dennison Spedding, a soldier who fought and died in the Peninsular War. He had married Marion Gunn and they had an only son, Joseph Dennison Spedding, born in Sicily, posthumously, about 15 June, 1814. This Joseph married Margaret, daughter of James Donaldson, at Ayr in Scotland on the 29 April, 1833. they emigrated with their sons, to Australia in 1853 – and a few years later, their eldest son, Donald McKenzie Spedding emigrated to Dunedin, New Zealand.

This family story does not tell us where Dennison Spedding, the soldier, came from, and nor does it connect us with earlier Speddings of Westmorland, where Donald, son of Joseph, remembers spending childhood holidays.

After I.G.W’s death in 1976, a member of another branch of our Spedding family, employed a professional researcher in London to investigate the military career of Dennison Spedding.

The researcher found a “Joseph Speddings” in the First Battalion of the 21st Regiment of Foot (The Royal Scots or North British Fusiliers) in December 1811, serving at Palermo in Sicily. He found that in the quarter to March 1812, this Joseph Speddings was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant, serving as the regimental schoolmaster, and receiving 6-1-4 pence for a quarter, 91 days!

The researcher felt it was unlikely there were two soldiers, whether named Spedding or Speddings, Joseph or Dennison – in Sicily in the Autumn of 1813. He could find no personal papers, no Description Books for the 21st Foot, which would have given personal details of the recruits, but he searched on through the Muster Rolls. In the Spring of 1814, when the Regiment was sent to Bermuda, this Joseph Speddings was still Sergeant schoolmaster in Sicily, and remained so during the next 12 months, though the regiment was on the move.

He rejoined the regiment on June 18, 1815, in Cork, and was demoted to Private, probably because he had been out of active service for so long. After the Battle of Waterloo, the First Battalion proceeded to the Continent, forming part of the Army of Occupation in France for nearly two years. In April 1817, the Regiment embarked for England, landing at Harwich, and in March, 1819, it sailed from Portsmouth for the West Indies, landing at Barbados in April.

The regiment served for 8 years in the West Indies, during which period it lost, by disease, 14 officers and 400 men. Joseph Speddings was one of these – he died at Barbados on February 2, 1820. The Casualty Return gave no next of kin for Joseph, but did give his place of birth – Ravenstonedale, Westmorland!

A quick search of the Parish Registers of Ravenstonedale, found a Joseph Spedding, born to John Spedding and Elizabeth Dennison, baptised in 1782. This connected the names of Dennison and Spedding, and confirmed that here indeed was our forbear, Joseph Dennison Spedding, born in Ravenstonedale, Westmorland, a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, in Sicily from at least 1811-1815, during which time a son was born though not posthumously, Joseph dying in 1820.

So this research provided us with a village in Westmorland, in which to seek out earlier generations of our Speddings!

Alan and I visited Ravenstonedale in 1984. It is a beautifully wooded, almost unspoiled village on the River Lune – about 20 miles south of the cluster of villages in the Eden Valley, where the earliest Speddings are recorded.

Ravenstonedale – pronounced “Rasendal” by the locals – was a “Peculiar”, a parish which for some reason, now unknown, was exempt from normal jurisdiction. The Court of the Dale consisted of 24 Estatesmen (those possessing land) who sat in the church, on two rows of benches near the Altar. They exercised probate jurisdiction within their own manorial boundary, and had the power of life and death! Grim witness to this, is Gallows Hill – and the pleasant name of Ravenstonedale may be derived from the Raven-stone, the gibbet where the ravens gathered! Malefactors awaiting trial were imprisoned in a vault – the ruins of which are still to be seen, on the North side of the church.


Figure 2.3: St Oswald’s Church in Ravenstonedale.

The present Parish church, St. Oswald’s, (Figure 2.3) was rebuilt in 1744 – the 13th century south porch reconstructed stone by stone, and the old oak reused for pews and paneling. Midway on the north side, stands a fine three decker pulpit, with room for parson and clerk – and most unusual, a recessed seat for the parson’s wife! The church is set in a long, lovely dale by the river, a little distance from the main street which runs up hill to Town Head.

The old school was endowed in 1668, by Thomas Fothergill B.D., who was born in the parish and became Master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. In 1758, a new school was built, alongside the church, with an adjoining, commodious dwelling house for the Master.

The oldest cottage, at the top of the main street of stone cottages, had walls four feet thick, and was built around 1550 with a Dames school adjoining. Nicolson and Burn in their “History of Westmorland, written in 1777, state that “it was a rare thing in this county to find a person who could not read and write tolerably well”.

The village was everything we could wish for, as a place of origin for our forbears – but alas! we could find no mention of the name Spedding in church or graveyard! A woman tending a grave, was so anxious to help, she borrowed a tenpence coin from the church collection jar (which Alan had placed there only minutes before!), and rang Mrs. Duff at Townhead House, at the call box outside the school. We found this lady seated in the garden of a most delightful old farm house, with its dove cote – and stone walls – set back from the road at the “head” of the town. She was topping and tailing gooseberries. She very kindly invited us in to her library, to look at her copy of the Ravenstonedale Parish Registers – transcribed and edited by the Reverend R.W. Metcalfe M.A. – Vicar of Ravenstonedale – in three volumes and printed in Kendal in 1893. Mrs. Duff’s first husband was a Metcalfe Gibson, a grandson of the Vicar.

Here we found the record of the baptism of our Joseph Spedding [Sp1], son of John Spedding and Elizabeth his wife, on 27 February, 1782, as reported by the London researcher.

In the Register of Marriages, we found the record of the marriage of these two on 22 June, 1772, – John Spedding, 27, shoemaker and Elizabeth Dennison, 23, Spinster – by banns. The witnesses to the ceremony were Edmund Wilson and Joseph Hansen.


Figure 2.4: The Shoemaker’s house in Ravenstonedale.


Figure 2.5: The Shoemaker’s house – around the back.

By going back through the Register of Baptisms, we found that Elizabeth was the daughter of Geofrey Dennison and Margaret Brunschall.[Sp1a] They were both of the parish, and they wed in 1743.

The Parish Registers dated from 1571, and from this early date there were many Dennies, Denny’s, Denisons and Dennisons – and a few Brunschalls/Brunskills recorded – but no other Speddings, either before the marriage of John in 1772, or after the baptism of Joseph and his sister Agnes – in 1782.

Our family tree had grown two branches in one afternoon! – but we had still not found a place of origin for our Spedding family.

In a subsequent visit to Ravenstonedale, we visited a Mr. Raven Frankland of Bowber Head Farm, who was very knowledgeable about local history. He pointed out that Ravenstonedale in the 1700’s, would have been a self-supporting village with only one of each trade living and working there at any one time. There would have been only one shoemaker, and one tailor, and the houses wherein they lived were known as the shoemaker’s house and the tailor’s house. We were directed to the shoemaker’s house. It had been converted into an antique shop – with a large window put in the front, but it was still possible to imagine what it was like when our Spedding family lived there for 10 or so years from 1772. By 1789, another shoemaker Robert Chamberlain is named in the Parish Registers. So he would be occupying the shoemaker’s house, and the Spedding family must have moved away, perhaps to Whitehaven, the thriving town and port on the coast of Cumberland, where there would be plenty of work for a shoemaker. In my search of the Parish Registers of Distington, a village a few miles north of Whitehaven, I found this baptism recorded.

13 June, 1790, Thomas and Mathias, children of John and Elizabeth Spedding.

There is no way of knowing whether this is our John and Elizabeth Spedding, but the date is right for two children to have been born after Joseph, and the two were baptised together, as were Joseph and Agnes in Ravenstonedale.

I have worked hard and long to try to find where our John Spedding came from to marry Elizabeth Dennison of Ravenstonedale.

I have searched the Parish Registers of every parish of Westmorland and Cumberland, looking for the baptism of a John Spedding, born at the right time – around 1745, to be 27 years of age in 1772. I have found no John Spedding baptised between 1741 in Morland and 1753 in Appleby. The first would have been over 30 on the marriage day and the second, under 20. I favour the younger one, because there are some clues, customs and coincidences which seem to me to add up in favour of this choice.

Firstly, it was quite common for bridegrooms younger than their brides, to give an older age on their wedding day – and the Speddings of later generations were very good at falsifying their ages to suit an occasion!

Secondly, there is one other Spedding recorded in the Ravenstonedale Parish Registers – a George Spedding who witnessed at the marriage of a Thomas and Anne Hansen in 1763. The only George Speddings I have found in Westmorland at this time were a father and son, yeomen in Colby, a few miles from Appleby – less than a day’s journey on foot from Ravenstonedale. One of them, the son, was Church Warden for nearly 20 years, with a James Hansen, at the Parish Church of Appleby, St. Lawrence. A Joseph Hansen was witness at the marriage of “our” John Spedding in Ravenstonedale. And George Spedding, Junior, as he was referred to in the Registers, was father of the John Spedding born in 1753! These are interesting connections between Speddings and Hansens, Appleby and Ravenstonedale, and Georges and Johns.

Thirdly, George Spedding senior, died in 1775 leaving a will which is outlined in Part I, Chapter I of “The Spedding Family”. He left his Estate of Colby to his eldest son, George junior, and 130 to each of his five younger sons, with small sums to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. The Parish Registers show that George Junior had two sons, Robert and the aforementioned John. Robert, the elder, would have inherited the Estate – and is indeed listed as a husbandman with his wife Frances, near Appleby in a very early ‘Census’ of Westmorland, commissioned in 1787 (Figure 2.6). But what of John? He, like the younger sons of the earlier generation, would probably have received a sum of money, and gone to seek his fortune elsewhere. Perhaps he became a shoemaker, and married at Ravenstonedale! – The calling of shoemaker, in those days, indicated a “person of substance and well established” according to our London archivist.


Figure 2.6: Entry in “Westmorland ‘Census’ of 1787”.

Lastly, in Part II Chapter VIII of “The Spedding Family” on Memorials, there is an inscription on a gravestone in the churchyard of Long Marton, near Appleby, which caught my eye.

– To the memory of Mary who died December 11 1796, aged 19. – Figure 2.7


Figure 2.7: To the memory of Mary.

Also named on the gravestone are Robert and Frances, John and Elizabeth. The relationships described are very muddled and the dates very unlikely. They make yet another puzzle which needs further research to unravel – but the fact that “our” John and Elizabeth had a daughter Mary who would have been 19 in 1796 – and that a John, Frances and Elizabeth are here buried in the same grave, makes it seem very likely to me, that this John is “our” John, brother to Robert, – both sons of George Spedding of Colby, near Appleby, Westmorland.

I will leave these conjectures about John Spedding’s forbears – and return to Joseph Dennison Spedding, his son, my great great-great-grandfather born in Ravenstonedale in 1782.

He would have been a small boy when the family moved away from Ravenstonedale. There is no record of when or where he enlisted in the 21st Regiment of Foot – possibly he joined up in 1806 when this Regiment first embarked for Sicily. He would have been 24 years old. The military researcher found him there in 1811, and we have followed his career from this year, in the army, until his death in Barbados in 1820, in an earlier section of this chapter.

2.3 Joseph Spedding and Catherine Gunn

We have not found a record of Joseph’s marriage to Catherine Gunn or of the birth of their son about 1814.[Sp1] But we know that Joseph Dennison Spedding the second was born in Sicily, from census returns of Ayr and Glasgow and from his Death Certificate in Melbourne. This certificate also gives the name of his mother as Catherine Gunn – not Marion as was handed down in the family story by Captain Spedding and I.G.W..

If Catherine was born in Ayr, Scotland, I have not found her baptism registered there – but this is where she went with her son, after Joseph rejoined the Regiment on active service – and where she died, only four years after her husband’s death in Barbados.


Figure 2.8: Fly leaf of the Spedding Bible confirming the name of Joseph’s wife as Catherine Gunn and the McKenzie connection.

“Catherine Gunn, died Ayr, 12 August 1824” is written on the flyleaf of the Bible, which belonged to Joseph Spedding and his wife and which hereafter in these tales is referred to as the Spedding or New Plymouth Bible because that is where we found it in New Zealand, some years after the death of I.G.W.. Its fly leaves are a veritable treasure house of information on our Spedding Family births, marriages and deaths.

Alongside the record of Catherine’s death, and written with the same blotchy pen, is the death of a Christian McKenzie, who must have been a special person indeed, to have her death recorded in the Spedding Family Bible! (Figure 2.8)

I found her in the Ayr Registers, Christian Forbes married to John Mckenzie, a travelling merchant, with a son, Alexander, born in 1791.[Spa] And at Alexander’s marriage in 1819, he is described as a soldier in the 21st Regiment of Foot! Perhaps he was a friend of the Speddings in Sicily, and perhaps he suggested that Catherine take her little son to Ayr to be near his family. Christian McKenzie may have looked after Joseph, who was only 10 years of age when his mother died, and thus earned her place in the Spedding Bible.

2.4 Joseph Spedding and Margaret Donaldson

A few months after Christian’s death, in April 1833, Joseph [Sp2], only 18 years old, married Margaret daughter of James Donaldson, a tailor in Ayr, and Mary Robison, his spouse.[Sp2a] Joseph, who became a tailor himself, was possibly an apprentice with Mr. Donaldson. Margaret, according to our researches, was born in 1807, so was 7 years older than her husband, though as the years went by, the difference became smaller! In the 1851 Census for Glasgow, the difference was three years, and by 1853, in the Passenger List of the ship taking them to Melbourne, only one year! As I said earlier, the Speddings were very good at giving false ages! When Margaret died, a very old lady in Dunedin, her age was stated on her death certificate and gravestone as 94, whereas by our reckoning from her date of birth, it was 97 [Sp2].

Joseph and Margaret had 7 children, born in Ayr. Their names followed the traditional Scottish naming pattern, except that the first born son was named, not after either of his grandfathers, but after another McKenzie, who must have been a loved and respected friend, for the boy to be christened “Donald McKenzie Spedding” after him.

Again I searched through the Ayr Parish Registers, and found the record of a Donald McKenzie, pensioner aged 81, buried on April 22, 1840. A pensioner in those days would have been receiving a pension from the Army, and there we found him in the 21st Regiment of Foot – the Barracks of this Regiment was at Ayr. It was Joseph’s regiment! Donald enlisted in 1783, spending periods in Ireland, England, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies. He was discharged from the Army in 1809 – about the time Joseph Spedding enlisted. Donald was 56, described as “old and worn out”, and granted a pension of one shilling and threepence halfpenny – whether per day or per week, I do not know! He had a wife, Helen Low, probably met during his service abroad – and a son James, born in Ayr in 1798. The 1841 Census found Helen, a widow and cotton winder, living on Mill Street with son James, a cotton hand-loom weaver. By the 1851 Census – Ellen McKenzie at 78, was getting aid from the Parish, her birthplace is given as America.

In the AYR ADVERTISER of May 1840 was a death notice –

“At 2 Main St., Newton, on the 22nd April Mr. Donald McKenzie, late private in the 21st Scotch Fusiliers, much regretted”

This address. at which the old man died, is nearby and later the same as that given in the New Plymouth Bible as the place of birth of Joseph Spedding’s children born between 1834 and 1847. It was probably a Tenement House, in which several, self-contained residences share the same stairway, front entrance and address. These addresses are down the right hand side of the flyleaves (Figure 2.13)

Little Donald Spedding [Sp2] was six years old when his namesake died. Perhaps the old soldier had been like a grandfather to the boy, or like a father to Joseph. Perhaps he was a relative of Christian McKenzie – and a benefactor to Catherine.[Sp4] I.G.W. made no comment – so we can only guess at this reason for this name, McKenzie, being handed on through three generations of our family. The next two sons were named after their grandfathers – James Donaldson and Joseph Dennison Spedding – and the last two boys, were called William and Thomas. The daughters did not survive infancy – Mary Ann, called after Margaret’s mother, dying of “mortification” at 8 months, and Catherine, after Joseph’s mother, died at 6 weeks. As the boys grew to school age, they attended the Ayr Academy.

The Ayr Directory of 1845, lists Joseph Spedding as Tailor, at 24 High Street. In an advertisement in the Directory, he “gratefully acknowledges past patronage – and asks for more”. It cannot have been forthcoming as his name does not appear in later Directories!

Joseph had become a strong Wesleyan and an advertisement in the “Ayr Advertiser” of March 1846 stated that “Mr. Joseph Spedding wishes to advise the public that he will shortly be opening a Temperence and Coffee House – with comfortable rooms for Dinner and Supper parties and well-aired bedrooms. – All conducted on strictly tea-total principles.”


Figure 2.9: Joseph Spedding’s advertisement in “Ayr Advertiser” 1846.

Again, Joseph evidently didn’t get the “countenance and support from the Public” that he had hoped for, and within a few years, the family moved to Glasgow.

The 1851 Glasgow Post Office Directory lists “Joseph Spedding, cutter at Gardiner and McIntosh, a Clothing Establishment at 104 Argyle Street. The family lived at 37 Morrison Street, a tenement house, shared with five other families. The 1851 Census, shows Joseph by this time aged 38, Margaret 41, Donald 16, and James 13, both salesmen at a Yarn Warehouse, Joseph 9 and William 5, students at school, and Thomas, just 3.

2.5 Glass

About this time, the Speddings became friendly with a Mr. William Glass. [Sp3] The Glass family lived in what I.G.W. described as “comfortable circumstances”. William Glass was a leather merchant and bootmaker on Buchanan Street, one of the main business streets of Glasgow. He and his wife, Janet Macfarlane (Figure 2.10) lived at 9 Abbotsford Place, a tenement house in an affluent part of the city, with their growing family. The two elder daughters learned the piano, and were accompanied to their dancing lessons by a maid! When their parents gave a party, the children loved to hang over the balustrade to watch the guests arrive.

But in 1849, about the time the Speddings moved to Glasgow, Janet Glass died in childbirth with her eleventh child, leaving William, a widower, with a large family to look after.


Figure 2.10: Janet MacFarlane Glass.


Figure 2.11: The Spedding and Glass families emigrate to Australia on the “Sir William Moles-worth”.

The Glasses were Methodists and “temperance folk” as were the Speddings, and the two families shared an interest in emigrating to the colonies, where they hoped the life would give their children better opportunities.

Donald Spedding became engaged to Elizabeth Glass, Williams eldest daughter, and a dressmaker. Leaving the two families to make their final plans to follow him, Donald sailed for Port Philip, Melbourne, aboard the “Grampian”, on 15 August 1852. Although he was only 18, his age on the passenger list is given as 24!

Mr Glass took an active part in the organisation of their affairs, offering financial help to the Speddings. He would pay Joseph’s passage money if Joseph could find the money for Margaret and the four Spedding boys.

Joseph gave notice at his work, and disposed of his furniture. The family made do, not very comfortably, with a few bits of furniture lent to them by Elizabeth’s uncle, John Macfarlane. They could view their ship, the “Sir William Molesworth” from their window in Morrison St., while she was berthed at the Broomielaw on the River Clyde.

The ship sailed with around 200 passengers bound for Port Philip, Australia, on 12 October 1852, under Captain James Watt. There were six Speddings aboard, Joseph and Margaret and their four sons, and William Glass, with his nine children, ranging from Elizabeth 18, to the youngest, only 4.

The journey took 5 months. A fellow steerage passenger, Mark Addison, a clerk from Glasgow travelling with his new wife Janet, wrote a diary , a day by day account of the 5 month journey, describing the agonies – and wonders – as well as the every day happenings on board. The conditions in steerage left a great deal to be desired! The already crowded accommodation was cluttered up with luggage – by luggage which belonged to the first class passengers and not wanted during the voyage.

In the first few days almost all the passengers were sea-sick. Mark Addison wrote, “One family next to us – Mr. Glass’s were all sick – four in one bed and three in another, not one able to rise to assist the other with a drink of water. To tell the truth, those who have never seen a sight of the kind, can have no idea, nor form any conception of the steerage of a vessel such as ours was, when about one hundred individuals, young and old, were stowed and not above half a dozen out of the whole, free from sickness”.

There were days of rough, cold weather, days when they were becalmed, with the tropical sun beating down mercilessly on the decks. Food and water had to be rationed. There were many religious services, lectures, much singing and dancing, and catching of fish and birds to give variety to the diet. Several babies were born during the voyage – and seventeen children and two adults, died. Among the children who died of fever were Thomas Spedding, aged 5 and the Glass twins, Isabella and Lillias, aged 7.

Another fellow passenger, Alexander Dick, wrote his account of the journey. In the following excerpt, he describes the scene that met the travellers when they arrived at their destination:

“As we had lately had both scarlet fever and ship fever on board, we were taken to the quarantine station and anchored close to that terrible plague ship the “Ticonderoga” which had lost some hundreds of passengers on the voyage out, by ship fever. We were released next day and proceeded up to the Bay but having unfavourable winds did not reach Hobsons Bay till nightfall and proceeded to our anchorage off Sandridge on the morning of Tuesday 15th March 1853. Never will I forget the sight that greeted us on turning out that morning. Vessels had been for months arriving from all parts of the world and being deserted by their officers, had remained in Hobson’s Bay until it looked as if all the ships in the world had gathered there. Certainly a “forest of masts” was no longer a mere figure of speech.

“We were assured that many of the ships had not a single human being in charge of them, many of the vessels had been lying there for twelve or eighteen months unable to get hands to work them.

“At that time Liadet Pier Hotel was the only building in Sandridge worthy to be called a house, the rest being merely tents or shanties and the road to Melbourne was but a dray track deeply rutted in sand.

“We of course walked to town, for even had we been inclined to the extravagance of riding there was neither cab nor coach to take us. Melbourne we found in a high state of excitement full of diggers with pockets full of gold which they were spending in the most reckless fashion, and of newly arrived immigrants whose slender purses were threatened with speedy depletion by the extravagant prices to which all merchandise and all kinds of services and above all rents had risen. But it was a time of general prosperity. All the tradesmen in our ship such as joiners, masons, bricklayers etc. found employment readily at from 20 shilling to 25 shillings per day, and servant girls were engaged from the ship at 40 per annum, but for some of the married men with large families it was a hard trial to have to pay two pound a load to bring their furniture and boxes up to town and to hire a house at 4 pound or 5 pound per week before they had begun to earn anything.

“However I believe I am correct in saying that in a very few days they had all settled down to profitable employment. Up to this time I and nearly all the other passengers had slept on board the ship. We used to have breakfast on board, then row each other ashore, walk to Melbourne, stroll about the town, getting dinner at one of the eating houses and walk back to the beach and get on board in time for tea. On this Sunday I packed my box and arranged with a fellow passenger named Spedding to take it to his house and keep it for me, for a charge of one shilling per week.”

So the Speddings had already settled in a house – only a week after their arrival – and were already making at least one shilling a week!

The moving letter written by Joseph to his son Donald, already in Melbourne, and copies of the accounts of the voyage by Addison and Dick are in my Spedding File.

2.6 Donald Spedding and Elizabeth Glass

Donald Spedding and Elizabeth Glass [Sp3] were married in Melbourne on 17 June, 1853, nearly three months after the arrival of their two families. They had twelve children, in sixteen years.

Eveline Donaldson Spedding, the first, was born at Collingwood in 1854. In 1856, Ida Macfarlane Spedding, my grandmother, was born, I think in a tent! – at Fryerstown, a goldfield town which had grown rapidly to accommodate miners and their families after gold was discovered in the area, in 1851. A third daughter, Alice, was born at Fryerstown, but by 1859, Donald had left the gold diggings, and is listed in Victorian Directories as living in Geelong, with a drapery business in Skene St. Here he settled for a few years – long enough to instigate the formation of the Newtown and Chilwell Volunteer Fire Brigade, of which he became the Foreman. Selena Amy, and Donald McKenzie Junior were born in Newtown.


Figure 2.12: Marriages of Joseph Spedding and Margaret Donaldson in Ayr, and Donald Spedding and Elizabeth Glass in Melbourne, shown on the fly-leaf of the N.P. Spedding Bible.


Figure 2.13: Spedding children at Main Street Ayr and Newton on Ayr, Scotland.


Figure 2.14: Deaths of Speddings at Ayr, at sea, in Australia, and New Zealand.


Figure 2.15: Births of Donalds and Eliza’s children.

In 1861, Donald and Elizabeth, with their five children moved to Melbourne. In the 1862 Directory, Donald is listed as a Clothier at 98 Bourke St. East – his home address at 46 Hanover St., Fitzroy. Here in April of that year, Elizabeth Janet was born. At the end of May, Donald’s father, Joseph died of Hepatitis – at 7 Byron St., North Melbourne. His death certificate confirmed so many facts of his life – his birth in Sicily, his father a soldier, his mother’s maiden name Catherine Gunn, his marriage to Margaret Donaldson in Ayr Scotland at the age of 19, and the names of their two little daughters who died in infancy, Mary and Catherine. But the informant did not list the little Thomas who died at sea, and nor did my Aunt, I.G.W. record his existence.


Figure 2.16: Donald Spedding and Elizabeth Glass.


Figure 2.17: Elizabeth Glass.

Donald, it seems, did not do well on the gold fields, or as a draper. Soon after his father’s death, he left his wife and six little children, with very little to live on, while he looked for a better life for them all in Dunedin, New Zealand.

There were many ships plying between the ports of Dunedin and Melbourne, and Donald sent regular letters by these to his wife, always anxious for the welfare of his family, and often complaining that she did not reply often enough. His letters, which I have inherited, were always loving with affectionate messages to his children, his mother, and brothers.

Work was not easy to procure in Dunedin, but eventually he found a position with a shipping company and then in a wholesale store, Griffins, specialising in groceries, ironmongery and spirits. He managed to send small amounts of money back to his family, and after some months in steady work, with a growing number of friends and a growing appreciation of the beauty and climate of Dunedin, he wrote to suggest that his wife and children join him there.

Elizabeth’s father, Mr. William Glass, offered to travel with her, to help with the children on the ship – but Donald wrote very strongly against this. He said it was not sensible for his father-in-law to leave behind two unmarried daughters in Melbourne! Mr. Glass died in 1868, so Elizabeth would not have seen her father or brothers and sisters again.

Donald’s last letter to Elizabeth was written on March 13, 1863 and a month later husband and wife and their six children were reunited in Dunedin. The following account of their life there, I have taken from I.G.W.’s notes on the Speddings. Much would have been recounted to her by her mother Ida, the second oldest of the children. The following pages then, are in I.G.W.’s words, carrying the story up to the marriage of her parents.

Donald and Eliza found a reasonably large house in Lees St. near the centre of town. It had a garden with a large willow tree which was a happy playground for the children who spent many hours there in the summer evenings sitting on the branches and singing.

After settling in this home, my grandmother’s first interest was to find a school for the elder girls and as there was no public school in 1863, Eva and Ida went to a private school nearby.

Fortunately for the Spedding family, as it had been for the White family after their arrival in North Dunedin, a public school was opened in William Street in 1864. This was the Third District School under the Headmastership of Mr. J.B. Park – an outstanding headmaster so long connected with the school that it was popularly known as “Park’s School”. Here in 1864 among the first pupils enrolled were Eva, Ida, Alice and Amy Spedding to be followed for some years by each of the family in turn as the following extract from the Jubilee magazine of that school shows – “Among the names which stand out in the early history of the School are those of the Spedding family. At one time there were five of them on the rolls and for many years afterwards three or four of them were passing through different classes”.

My grandfather must have continued to give satisfaction to Mr. Griffin whose firm seemed to have been extending its business to other parts of the South Island for my grandfather took a cargo ship over to the Diggings on the West Coast in 1865. In a letter to his wife, from Hokitika (or “Okitika” as he headed his letter of April 8), he wrote:

“I have sold nearly all the cargo, and I weary to get home again after having put up with more discomfort these last two or three weeks than in all my life before. However, I have got along pretty jolly, and after this rough life I will be better able to enjoy Home Comforts when I return. I earnestly hope that you, dearest, still keep well and that the children are also well.”

and again in a second letter, April 9, he acknowledges a letter from his wife

“I am glad to hear you still continue well. I have been very anxious about you and now hope you may keep well for only a few weeks longer I hope Eva and Ida are getting on with their music – I expect to hear them play nicely when I get back.”

His anxiety about his wife’s health was connected with her approaching confinement, for a daughter Williamina (probably called after her grandfather William Glass) was born soon after his return. But the baby lived only two months.

During the next few years three more children were added to the family bringing the number up to nine. Josephine, Laura and Percy.

They were a busy and lively family and the elder girls must have been very capable and helpful in the home. My mother always carried in her memory a picture of her young, bright, happy mother enjoying her home, her husband and her children. She had many good friends and she and her husband enjoyed together going to Balls and other social engagements.

Another memory of her home my mother used to speak of was lying in bed after all the children had been put to bed and listening to her father and mother making music together – my grandfather singing in his tenor such songs as “My Sweetheart when a Boy” to his wife’s accompaniment. I think my grandmother was a good pianist – she had learned in Glasgow as a girl and some of the duets she played with a sister I have in my possession with the names “Misses E and A Glass”.

Six happy years followed in their home in Lees Street – then came in 1869 a terrible sorrow to them all, The beloved wife and mother died in childbirth with her eleventh child.

When my mother’s sister Amy was a very old lady she gave me a moving and vivid description of those tragic days of grief and suffering.

She was kept at home from school the day previously as her mother was expecting the birth of the baby very soon. Her mother gave her a note to take to her father at business. The little girl walked down to Princes St. and handed her father this slip of paper on which was written – “Dearest will you send for the midwife.”

Amy was put in a cab and sent to the house for the nurse in North Dunedin to bring her up to the home.

On May 27 my grandmother was delivered of her eleventh child and with her baby, died a few hours later of severe haemorrhage.

The following notice of her death appeared next morning “at Lees Street on the 27th May, Elizabeth Glass, the beloved wife of D.M. Spedding, aged 34 years. Deeply lamented by a numerous circle of friends.”

She was buried in the Southern Cemetery beside her little two-month-old daughter Williamina. At the foot of the stone my grandfather had inscribed these lines from an Indian poem that had appealed to him:

“The far country to which we journey seems nearer to us and the way less dark – for thou hast gone before, passing so quietly to thy rest, that day itself dies not more calmly.”


Figure 2.18: Eva (15), Ida (14), Alice (13), Amy (11), Donald (10), Elizabeth (9), Josephine (5), Laura (2), Percy (1) in mourning after the death of their mother.

Many good friends came with offers of help to this stricken household and they took the younger children away to their homes. But on the Sunday after his wife’s death, my grandfather took his little family to the morning service at St. Andrew’s Church. Carrying his youngest child in his arms he walked down the aisle of the Church followed by the other eight children, all in deep mourning.

My mother’s life-long friend Miss Mary Paterson told me in later years of this moving scene. She was one of the large congregation and said “there was not a dry eye in the Church” as they watched that pathetic little line of motherless children following their father.

The suddenness of this terrible blow, and the overwhelming sense of responsibility in being left alone to bring up his family of nine children, changed my grandfather’s spirit. From the buoyant sociable man, he became quiet, reserved and aloof and the children never had the sense of happy, free comradeship with him again.

Later my grandfather sent for his mother to come over from Melbourne to help him, but in the meantime Eva and Ida had to take charge of the home and their younger brothers and sisters. Eva was the housekeeper and Ida had charge of the children, caring for them, teaching them and later even giving them their first piano lessons.

Great-grandmother Spedding was 60 years old when she came to Dunedin. Her son, in appealing for her help, realized the need for an older woman in the home – the elder daughters were soon to grow to womanhood and needed advice and control. But perhaps she was inclined to think more of her son and of his comfort than of being an understanding companion to her granddaughters. She would keep the little ones away from their father. “Don’t worry your papa” she would say. She herself had been accustomed to a family of boys – her baby girls having died in infancy!

It could not have been an easy household for a woman of her age. Nine children – full of life – not always easy to manage and when Ida was training as a teacher and away from home all day, if the children were a little difficult, Eva would say to them “Wait till Lady Ida comes home and then you’ll have to be good.”

The children must have been conscious too, of the change in their father – they were a little afraid of him. This is sad – for when one realizes from his early letters how much he loved them, the reason must be that he could not be both strict and loving and keep their affection and confidence, or that his mother had built up a barrier between them – or else it may have been that Fate had dealt him such a hard blow in the loss of his beloved wife that he did not realize that he had to be mother as well as father to them, entering in to their loss as well as his own with tenderness.

As the years passed life resumed a more normal course – the elder daughters brought their friends to the home and my grandfather joined in these social and musical evenings. Ida and Amy had taken singing lessons from a Mrs. West and sang duets. Ida had also kept on with her piano lessons and became a very fine accompanist.

There was an organ in the home which she was very fond of playing and these accomplishments made her a useful member of St. Andrew’s Church. The sisters were all devoted Church workers – singing in the choir and teaching in the Sunday School. The Church was a centre of social life in those days and my grandfather was known to say to his daughters “You had better go and sleep in the Church – you are there so many evenings.”

Eva left school and continued in charge of the home while Ida and Amy trained as pupil teachers under the Headmaster of William St. School, Mr. Park. As part of their course they had to attend lectures given by some of the University Staff.

Eva was the first of the family to marry. She became engaged to Hector Mercer with whom she had been friendly for years. He was a son of Andrew Mercer – one of the early pioneers and an ex-Mayor of the City. Before the marriage in 1877, my grandfather sent her and Ida to Melbourne to see their mother’s sister Janet (Anderson nee Glass). This was done in appreciation of Eva’s work in looking after his home since her mother’s death. This was a very happy experience for both girls. Aunt Janet had a large family of sons and daughters and a friendship was formed with several of them which my mother kept up throughout her life.

My grandfather evidently left Mr. Griffin about this time and went into business on his own as an Auctioneer and Valuator. Later he took his son Donald in to the business with him and they were known as D.M. Spedding and Son.

My grandfather was beginning to take an interest in public affairs. He was still a young man at 45 years – gradually realizing with Eva’s marriage and the possibilities of his other daughters following suit, that life was going to be very lonely for him.

He had fallen in love again with a handsome young lady of 19 – Clara Couzens whose father was proprietor of the Ship Inn. She had been educated at the Convent and was a Roman Catholic.

He announced his engagement to Clara, to his daughters in an unusual way. He wrote a letter to them which read rather pathetically in that he said he had not found it easy to speak of intimate things to them and realized, from what Alice had said to him a few days before, that his daughters thought he did not love them. This, he wrote, was quite wrong. He loved them all deeply, but could not find it easy to express his feelings. He realized that they would soon all leave him for homes of their own and he wished to marry again.

He gave this letter to Ida to read the next day to her sisters while he was out of town on business. I have heard so often the story of the night that followed the delivery of this letter – how emotionally upset they all were – yet so strong was their obedience, not one of them would dare to open the letter before the appointed time. When opened the next day, the letter was also found to contain the request that Ida would call on his prospective bride and introduce her to his mother, his daughters and sons.

He was particular to emphasize that he proposed to bring Clara to his home as a sister to them – not as a mother.

Clara agreed to meet her future husband’s wishes to become a member of the Anglican Church which he would also join.

They were married in 1878 [Sp3b] and the whole family moved to a large three storied brick house in Manor Place while my grandfather and his bride sailed for Melbourne on their honeymoon.

This was now a large household – husband and wife – grandmother, Ida, Alice, Amy, Donald, Lizzie, Josephine, Laura and Percy – eleven people with the addition of a servant.

Two years after this second marriage, a son was born. In all, my grandfather had seventeen children.

My mother was appointed Assistant Mistress of William Street School in 1878 and in 1879, Mistress.

“Miss Spedding was perhaps the most popular of all the lady teachers in her time being of a bright disposition and full of the joy of youth. One especially associates her name in connection with music. A singer herself, the singing hour was always looked forward to with pleasure by her pupils, while in the Upper Classes she acted as accompanist.” (Quoted from William Street School Jubilee Magazine).

Perhaps my mother had another reason for giving this impression of happiness as there had been appointed to the Staff in 1872 David Renfrew White as First Assistant and for the next two years she and her future husband had many opportunities of getting to know each other. And perhaps when my father was asked by the Education Board to return to Union Street School in 1880 to “take charge of an unruly class” there was also a reason for strong persuasion before he consented to accede to their request. But this part of the story will come in its appointed place – later!

My grandfather had entered public life and represented the South Ward of Dunedin for four years. He was now living a very busy and social life – his business must have been flourishing when he was able to entertain as the printed invitation to a dance at his home shows – and to provide such a supper Menu!


Figure 2.19: The Menu and Wine list at a dance held by Donald M. Spedding and his wife Clara.

On April 2 , 1883, my mother announced her engagement to David Renfrew White whose letter of request to my grandfather for his “daughter’s hand” received the following reply.

Princes Street
April 2 - 1883

My dear Sir,

I have been suffering from an attack of sciatica for the last few days. This is the reason why your letter has not been answered.

I have put your request before my daughter.

She seemingly was quite prepared for it and answered me as doubtless you expected. In a matter of this kind I have no desire to interfere with any of my children’s inclinations, so long as they are of sufficient age to judge for themselves, unless I have reasons to consider the match an undesirable one and one likely to lead to unhappiness. In such a case I would consider it my duty to advise, but not command.

In your case my daughter appears to be satisfied with your proposal and she has had every opportunity of judging your character and disposition, having been so long associated with you in school duties.

I have a high opinion of Ida’s judgment and I have no doubt she has well considered her own feelings before deciding on such an important step as marriage. I only hope that if you are spared to be joined together as man and wife that the union will prove a happy one.

Ida has been a truly good and affectionate daughter and well deserves a husband that can love and appreciate her.

I suppose the matter is now settled between you and her and it only remains for me to say “with my consent”. So wishing you both every happiness and prosperity

Yours truly
D.M. Spedding

The marriage took place one year later at the home of the bride in Manor Place on April 2, 1884. My parents were married by the Rev. Stewart and the Rev. Dr. Waddell. Alice was the bridesmaid and Andrew Bremner (brother-in-law of my father) the best man.

It was for many of the nieces of my father a great occasion from what I have heard from them in later years and my father gave each of them a silver brooch with a stone inset.

And now I have brought my mother’s maiden life to an end”

- and thus ends I.G.W.’s account of the Speddings, with the marriage of her parents, Ida Macfarlane Spedding and David Renfrew White.

Donald McKenzie Spedding died in January 1911, at his home in Cargill Street, Dunedin, aged 77. His mother, Margaret Donaldson Spedding had died six years before, aged well into her 90’s.

He was survived by seven daughters and two sons of his first marriage [Sp3], and one daughter and five sons of his second [Sp3b]. His second wife, Clara, lived to be an old lady too. I remember her. We called her “Auntie Clara” –though she was our grandmother’s step-mother! She died in 1938. The second family were rather looked down on by the first. Joan Spedding, the wife of a Spedding of the second family, has recorded their family trees which are in my Spedding files.


Figure 2.20: The “first family” of Donald and Elizabeth Spedding – Left to right: Alice, Josie, Ida, Percy, Donald, Eva, Laura, Amy, Lizzie.

2.7 The Brothers of Donald Spedding

Donald McKenzie Spedding was spoken about often and proudly by I.G.W. – but Donald’s brothers [Sp2] I never heard mentioned by Auntie Ida or my grandmother.

Donald’s brother James, and his descendants, remained in Australia. He was a draper.

William came to New Zealand, married rather late in life in Invercargill, had a daughter and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Karori, Wellington.

Joseph, a miner in Australia, came to New Zealand as a soldier to fight in the Maori Wars – but became Regimental Schoolmaster like his grandfather of the same name. He married Helen Calderwood, whose father was a surveyor in Thames. They settled in Naseby in Central Otago – he as a housepainter, she a dressmaker.

Why did we not hear of these brothers? Did they come to visit their mother who lived with Donald in Dunedin? I think my grandmother Ida Spedding, and her sisters, were snobbish about their position in Dunedin society, as their husbands and sons rose up in business and professional circles. Thus ends my Tale of the Speddings.