Ellen Shiels Houliston

Ellen Shiels Houliston

Female 1837 - 1919  (81 years)


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Article about Robert Houliston and Christina Cameron from Stan Dunn's "Please meet.... Robert Houliston and Christina Cameron"

The first 7 pages from the booklet made available by Stan Dunn that lists the descendants of Robert Houliston and Christina Cameron. Photocopy obtained by Roger Moffat in August 2004

ROBERT HOULISTON (1854 – 1936)

Robert was a six year old lad when he arrived with his parents and eight brothers and sisters, in New Zealand.

Robert's father, also Robert Houliston, had been a shepherd in Scotland, and according to report "was of a very independent nature and never hesitated to leave one sheep farm and apply for work elsewhere if he thought he was not fairly treated or his skill and experience not given due consideration." Thus it was that the births in the family, ten in all, took place in so many parishes. With so large a family there seemed no chance of advancement in the homelands, and in 1860, Robert senior and his wife Alison Wright made the big decision to go to New Zealand. The fact that Ellen Shiels, their first born, had married William Moffat, was already in Australia, and would join them in New Zealand, probably influenced their decision.

The Houliston family sailed from Glasgow on June 2nd in the "Robert Henderson" -552 tons - which under the command of Captain Logan, reached Port Chalmers on Monday 3rd September 1860. Their voyage had an unfortunate beginning as on June 7th the nine months old infant Helen, died of consumption and was buried at sea. On arrival the vessel was quarantined. Temporary accommodation was arranged at Deborah Bay for passengers to wash clothes and bedding. This task was favoured by good weather. The vessel was freed and most of the passengers proceeded to Dunedin on the harbour steamer "Victoria".

Upon landing Robert senior soon obtained work as a shepherd on Powder Hill, in the Mount Allan area, and there he and his family began colonial life in a hut perched precipitously on a steep hillside. All the provisions and goods had to be dragged down from the road on a bullock hide.

Later they bought "Alleybank", a farmlet at Te Houka in South Otago. The electoral roll for the years 1866-67 records, "Houliston, Robert. Aley Bank, Clutha. Freehold. 100 acres." Life for the family in this newly settled district must have been a strange contrast to that in the old land. They took many of their old ways into the new life. Religion was a very real thing to them and attendance at the Kirk of the Sabbath was as strictly adhered to as circumstances would allow. From "Alleybank" each Sunday, Robert, Alison and family, along with daughter Ellen, her husband and family, now arrived from Australia, attended Church on Inch Clutha. This would be a distance of some 21 kms as there was no church at The Ferry as Balclutha was earlier called. The dray was yoked up and prepared by placing down one side a partly filled bag of chaff or straw. In this sat the mothers and youngest children. The men and older children walked. The route was down a ridge past Christie's farm, and the present Balclutha hospital site, and continued on through the town, then given over mostly to high flax and swamp, to the river slightly upstream from where the defunct Balclutha Railway Station now stands. They crossed the river by ferry and walked the rest of the way. The minister at that time was Rev. Jas. Kirkland and he arranged with the ferryman "to ferry people over to the Island (Inch Clutha), every Lord's Day on which it was possible to cross the river." This arrangement continued until a church was built at Balclutha.

In 1879 Robert Houliston, the senior, had a serious accident. He was driving a young horse in a spring cart, accompanied by Mr Alexander Moffat. The horse shied at some bags at the roadside and the trap was capsized. Mr Moffat escaped unhurt but the horse fell upon Robert causing injuries that were soon to prove fatal. He died on 5 October of that year. His wife Alison survived him for some years, dying at the ripe old age of 87 years, in 1901.

But, to return to Robert Houliston, the junior. Robert had been born 28 January 1854, in the Parish of Spot, in Berwickshire, Scotland. He showed early in his life that he had a quick intellect and the well-known Scotch love of education. He went to school first at Balclutha, trudging down over the ridges each day from his home at "Alleybank". Later a school was opened at Te Houka and this he attended. After leaving primary school Robert reported for night classes at Balclutha School, for some time.

At 24 years of age Robert married the nineteen year old Christina Cameron. The marriage took place, as did many ceremonies at that time, in the house of the bride's parents, on 25 October 1878, at Warepa.

George Cameron and his wife Christian (Christina) were among the earlier identities in the Lovell's flat district, arriving at Port Chalmers on the "Slaines Castle" in 1852. Immediately preceding their settlement at Lovell's Flat the Camerons carried on an accommodation and hotel business at Glenore right in the very track of the gold rushes to Gabriel's Gully and beyond. From the mid - 1870s, what began as very prosperous ventures into cattle and sheep fanning, and coalmining, turned sour and George Cameron was left a considerably poorer man. The removal to Warepa did not alter the circumstances. George Cameron's house and farm buildings at Lovell's Flat were to be found immediately over the main highway from the restored wattle and daub house which is such a landmark today. The restoration of the sod cottage took about one year. It was officially opened on 30 May 1970 and must be regarded as one of South Otago's main tourist attractions. The Camerons may have operated the local Post Office from that very same building. Anyway, about 1878, the Messrs Boyd acquired George Cameron's property. In 1915, a Peter Boyd, the owner of the farm, built a stately house on the site. The architect was Edmund Anscombe of Dunedin and the grounds were landscaped by Alfred Buxton of Christchurch. "Garvan Homestead" is the name of the majestic building and it is presently the home (1994) of Judy - nee Logic - and Doug Anderson.

George Cameron died at Balclutha in 1889, and his wife Christina six years later at Te Houka, in the care of her daughter and son-in-law, Christina and Robert Houliston.

Family gossip suggested Robert Houliston junior had had a disappointment in love, and that Christina Cameron had come along on-the-rebound. If that was to be true, Robert should be regarded as a very fortunate man, indeed.

The first home for the newly weds was being built in Balclutha at the time of the 1878 Great Flood, the biggest flood in New Zealand's recorded history. As windows of the house were not in place the waters washed right through. Loose timbers for completing the job were washed away and never seen again. The building had to be partly dismantled to get rid of the huge deposits of silt. They later sold this house in Clyde Street and moved to a small residence on the "Alleybank" property. When Robert Houliston senior died, his widow Alison moved into this smaller house, and the young couple took over the larger dwelling. Robert junior now had the task of managing the "Alleybank" farm as well as working his own "Clawbare" farm which was located on the main south road. The latter place contained a two roomed cottage and a feeding shed for horses.

At this period in the colony's history, swaggers were commonplace on the highways and this vacant cottage at Clawbare was a paradise for the "gentlemen of the roads". Gradually all the chairs, the table, the lining of the walls, and even the horse feeding boxes in the shed, were cut up for use as fuel by the vagabonds. Robert eventually shifted the shed over to "Alleybank" where it provided entertainment for many a day. The walls had been covered with messages, verses, and references to people at whose farms the swaggers called. It was a guide as to who would give a handout, or where to avoid a dog. These people were a real scourge. Some did genuinely seek work but many were just parasites. Up to eighteen in one day called on "Teanie" Houliston and it was not unusual to have three to five dossing down in the barn. When Robert and his family went away from Te Houka they left a block of potatoes. These showed good shaws and the crop looked promising, that is, until the harvesting when it was found that practically all the tubers had been cleaned out by swaggers.

From snippets gleaned in local newspapers it is apparent Robert and Christina were active in the sporting and social scenes of the South Otago district. At Balclutha's Caledonian Games of 1876 Robert gained second placings in the Heavy Hammer and Walking Match events, getting LI in prize money for each. Five years later he was repeating these performances with second placings in Putting the 221b Ball, and, Throwing Heavy Hammer. In July of 1881, Robert was taking part in a Clutha Ploughing Match, held on Moa Hill. It was another second placing, this time in the Class A Double Furrow. The following year showed a similar result in the Double Furrow event, but a first placing at Best Finish was an improvement. Within the month Robert was ploughing at Clinton. His third placing in the Class A Double Furrow was topped with the major prize in the Best Break Double Furrow. Christina Houliston asserted herself, also at Clinton, by taking prizes for Best Kept Harness, and Best Three Horse Team.

Robert Houliston was recorded as serving on the Te Houka School Committee, at least for the term in office which included the year 1893. His children, Robert and Christina, would have been aged 12 years and 9 years, at that time.

A banner in the Free Press of 28 August 1891 was "Wedding at Four Mile Creek". It reported the marriage of Miss Fahey, daughter of Mr Martin Fahey to Mr George Moffat. Mrs Christina Houliston's attire at that occasion was described as "black cashmere with velvet trimmings"; that of her mother-in-law, Mrs R. Houliston, senior, as "black silk"; while Jane Houliston, Christina's sister-in-law, wore "black Italian cloth, velvet front". During the dance following the wedding ceremony it was noted that another relation, G. McKay "entertained with a step-dance". Some two months later Robert and Christina Houliston were venturing out again, attending this time, the Te Houka Bachelors' Ball. "Married Ladies" present included Mrs R. Houliston wearing a "black dress, velvet trimming". That description sounds familiar! The highly successful function was held in "Mr G. McKay's barn".

It must have been towards the end of 1900 that "Clawbare" farm was sold for in November of that year it was reported a number of farmers and their wives, met at the Houliston residence, to put on a surprise party. Robert was presented with a handsome gold Albert and Maltese Cross, suitably inscribed, and Christina with a silver biscuit barrel. The biscuit barrel is still treasured by Christina's grand-daughter, Elsie Wilson (1994) of Hokitika. From Te Houka Robert took his family to the seaside township of Kaka Point for a holiday. One day, while in Balclutha, he met a Mr Nelson who was erecting machinery on a dredge up the Grey River. Robert was persuaded to return with him to the West Coast and soon after the rest of the Houliston family was summonsed. They went by sea, sailing from Port Chalmers, on the "Janet Nicol". Stormy weather was encountered and the ship was fog-bound for some time outside Westport and Greymouth. The voyage took eight days. Christina, the daughter, had her 17th birthday while on board and the ship's captain provided the cake.

Robert and his family would have only been gone a few months from South Otago when his mother, Alison Wright Houliston, passed away, at the home of her eldest daughter, Mrs W. Moffat, of Te Houka.

In the latter part of June 1901 the Houliston family were to be found living at Totara Flat, up the Grey River arid north of Greymouth. Robert was still with the gold dredge and working alongside him was his son, Robert Houliston the younger, now a man of twenty-one years. The "Waipuna" appears to be the only dredge working at that time, at the Flat, and record shows the Totara Flat Gold Dredging Company being formed, as per License No 985, in September of the year 1900, on an area of 73 acres. An inspection report concerning the "Waipuna" noted:-

"6/10/01. Light boat not arrived, otherwise fully equipped. Locality Duffers Creek"

It is likely the boat and dredge displayed in the photo album is the same "light boat", and the same "Waipuna". The Dredgemaster and sometimes the Engineer, were the only members of staff on the Waipuna to be named. Robert was obviously one of the nameless dredgehands. Teanie Boddington, formerly Christina Houliston, always said her family lived in tents for about two years. Old photographs show the types of accommodation commonly used - some were totally canvas; some with iron roof and canvas sides; some with timber or iron sides; some with chimneys and some without. Names handed down from this area as being lasting friends of the Houliston family, included the Mackleys and Fergusons, who were among the first settlers in the Grey County region.

However, the lure of the land must have been strong in Robert Houliston's blood because in April of 1903 he and his family put gold and Totara Flat behind them, and settled in the Westland locality of Koiterangi. Koiterangi - now Kowhiterangi - is found some twenty kms south of Hokitika. Farming, sawmilling and the limeworks support a small population. It was here Robert purchased a parcel of land, of some 340 acres, from Edward Matthews. Robert Houliston, the younger, was initially a partner in this farming venture but after four years he withdrew from the business leaving his father to continue on his own account, until his death in 1936. Still standing today (1994), but looking rather neglected, is the farm house and its barn and sheds, which were newly built by Robert and Christina in 1916. Their earlier house which was sited further along the property, is no longer in existence.

"Balmoral" was the title bestowed upon the Koiterangi farm and the thirty three years spent there by Robert and Christina were full and busy ones. Robert gained the reputation of being a progressive farmer who made good use of the advisory services available to him. A small herd of a dozen or so jersey cows supplied cream to the dairy company. Experimental plots dotted the paddocks. The cropping of swede turnips and carrots as a stock food raised the eyebrows of neighbours who considered such supplementary crops as unnecessary in a climate which produced more than enough grass for fodder.

An added effect in one of the farm's paddocks was a large patch of showy water lilies which Robert had planted in a ponded part of a wandering creek. Near the house was his generous vegetable patch. Christina's duties were to borders of cottage-garden type plantings about the house and pathways. Potted plants decorated a portion of a porch which was closed-in. Striking displays from a few climbing roses, over a pergola and at a rear verandah, have likewise stayed in the memories of people to visit the Houliston's home.

The "Weekly News" for January 1928, recorded:

"Mr R. Houliston, a Koiterangi settler, was attacked by a jersey bull on Friday week. He managed to beat the animal off with a stick, but suffered considerably from the shock".

This was actually his second encounter with a bull. When living in the old house Robert had his trousers ripped, from the ankle to near the waist - fortunately with only minor damage to his skin.

Robert's energies also extended into local affairs, where he served as a member of the Westland Agricultural and Pastoral Association, as a member of the Land Board, and as a Justice of the Peace.

Alongside this man, was Christina ("Teanie"), his wife. The following quote tells us much about her:

"Mrs Houliston was widely known as a woman with a splendid personality, kind and full of sympathy for those in trouble - a woman who never spares herself Her home was always open to the people in the district and to all travelers, especially to any from the Otago district."

The Houlistons must have been very hospitable people. Dignitaries coming to the district seemed to be often directed to their home for accommodation. This included clergymen from other persuasions, as well as the Anglican Vicar. Visitors from south - McKays, Moffats, Walkers, Fairbairns, Houlistons - would be shown the local area with pride, per the trap drawn swiftly by a headstrong ex-racehorse called "Ruatapu". Apparently Ruatapu's stylish gait had been developed by the use of weights attached to its legs. This training encouraged the horse to throw the forelegs out in front. In 1926, a more modern form of transport came along when the Houliston's invested in a motor vehicle. One social visit, by Margaret and Gilbert McKay from South Otago, following their holiday in the North Island, relates something like this:-

Christina: "And did you see any Maoris, Gibby?"
Gilbert: "Oh Teania, you should've seen the ladies. Their titties were down to their tummies, and their tummies were down to their knees ".

As "Gibbie" spoke with a lisp, his reply would have created quite a chuckle.

Fifty years of marriage for Robert and Christina Houliston was celebrated in style. "The whole district joined in this beloved couple's rejoicings in the community hall" at Kokotahi, where they were presented with a silver tea service and an inscribed walking stick. The programme, still preserved, and prepared for this special time is well worth noting:

"1878 --- 1928. Social tendered by Mr & Mrs R. Houliston to their friends on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of their Wedding.

Dance Programme:

One Step
Short D 'A/hens
Plain Schottishe
Waltz Cottillions
Fox Trot
Valse Vienna
Barn Dance
Highland Schottisch
One Step
Short D 'Alberts
For They Are Jolly Good Fellows
A Auld Lang Syne
God Save The King

Music Supplied by the Southern Cross Orchestra. M. C. Mr J Fleming."

Christina Houliston, the only daughter of the late Mr and Mrs George Cameron, of Milton and Warepa, passed away on the 22nd November 1935 at her farm, "Balmoral", Koiterangi. She leaves a husband and a family of one daughter, Mrs H A Boddington, and one son, Mr Robert Houliston. To them will be extended the sympathy of many friends.

Robert Houliston, eighth child and fourth son of the late Robert and Alison Houliston of Te Houka, died on the 29th November 1936, at the Westland Hospital, Hokitika. The sympathy of the district was extended to the family - Mr Robert Houliston Junior, Koiterangi, and Mrs B. Boddington, Koiterangi. There were five grandchildren, viz - Mrs W. Dunn (Stirling), Mr G. Houliston (Clifton), Mr C. Boddington, Miss Elsie Boddington, and Mr R. Boddington, (Koiterangi). There were also five great grandchildren - Stanley Dunn, Daphne Dunn, Robert Houliston, Patricia Houliston, and Shirley Houliston.

Linked toWritten note titled “Please meet..... Robert Houliston and Christina Cameron”; Elsie Dorothy Boddington; Christina Cameron; George Cameron; Ann Susan Fahey; Christina Houliston; Ellen Shiels Houliston; Helen Houliston; Jane Houliston; Robert Houliston; Robert Houliston; Robert Houliston; Alexander Moffat; George Moffat; William Moffat; Alice Wright; Christian [--?--]

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