Book to commemorate early settlers' landing

01:43, Jan 31 2009
PAINTED HISTORY: Artist Ray Morris, front, with his depiction of the Strathallan, the first immigrant ship to Timaru. With him at the South Canterbury Museum yesterday were, from left, his brothers Brian and Kevin, the museum's curator of documentary history, Tony Rippin, and Alan McKenzie, author of the book being published on the Strathallan's passengers.

Just what the first ship to bring immigrants to Timaru actually looked like has become a little clearer, thanks to a descendant of one of the passengers.

To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Strathallan's arrival in January, the South Canterbury Museum is publishing a book about the voyage and the lives of the passengers.

Just what will be on the cover of the book, written by local author Alan McKenzie, was revealed when Strathallan passenger J. T. Morris's great grandsons arrived at the museum yesterday.

Christchurch artist Ray Morris has produced what he calls an "artist's impression" of the Strathallan. Mr Morris's pen, ink, and watercolour portrayal of the vessel is based on a painting in the Otago Early Settlers Museum and details he obtained from Dundee where the three-masted vessel was built. What was in his favour, was most of the ships built around that time were of a similar design.

The painting depicts the Strathallan at anchor, in a position similar to that when "J T" made an entry in his diary stating "Timaru at last. Five houses in sight".

Mr Morris's artistic bent appears to be a family trait as "J T" was known to be both a painter and a poet.


Mr McKenzie's book is now in draft form and contains details on all but about 10 of the 110 or so passengers who sailed to Timaru.

The exact number on board isn't known as some passengers weren't on the official passenger list.

Mr McKenzie has also come across instances where people claimed their relatives were on board, but there was no record of them.

Even those he has been unable to trace will still receive a mention in the book.

``JT's'' entry will record how he initially sailed on to Lyttelton, but then returned to Timaru where he worked on the roads. He was one of the few immigrants who subsequently returned to Britain and then sailed back to New Zealand with his new bride.

The plan is for the book to be launched in late November when the museum opens a major exhibition aimed at helping visitors understand the significance of the Strathallan's voyage and what it was like for those on board.

Museum director Philip Howe said the exhibition will include a replica of one of the ship's cabins, photos and other items from the museum's collection. JT's poems will be recorded to provide an audio aspect to the exhibition.

The 1959 centenary of the Strathallan's arrival was celebrated with a parade and re-enactment of the landing of the immigrants at Caroline Bay.


The Timaru Herald