TURNER Part 4b: The Simpsons

Catherine SIMPSON was an Irish born immigrant whom had arrived at Lyttleton port on 23 July 1865 on board the ‘Indian Empire’ with her parents and siblings. Known as Kate, she was 26 years old and was listed in the Single Women’s section as a Domestic Servant from Leitrim .

Kate immigrated with her parents James (a Labourer) and Mary, and three of her seven siblings – George, Eliza, and James – plus James’ wife Jane. The Simpsons travelled as Assisted Government Emigrants. The family were required to contribute £5 towards the cost of the passage (children under 12 only paid half, explaining why George was listed as 11.5 years old!). If they were unable to pay before the passage, a debt of £10 was laid against them to be paid off quarterly. Kate, as a domestic servant, only paid a total of £5. 19

The Press reported the 96 day passage of the Indian Empire as being “exceedingly pleasant” and commented that “the ship appears to be about one of the cleanest emigrant ships that has come into this port, and all on board look very healthy.” 20

Kate’s had four more siblings:

  • The eldest, Wensley (1831-1853), died in the Crimea aged 22 (21);
  • Francis, who emigrated to New Zealand with his wife Jemima and their first four children, sailing on the ‘New Great Britian’. They arrived into Invercargill May 1863. At first they lived in Dunedin then Invercargill. Later they moved to Greenstone, West Coast where Francis worked as a ‘packer’ (carrier) before finally settling in Tasmania in about 1880 (21)
  • Anne, who married in Ireland and stayed in Mohill, County Longford (21);
  • and the last, sister, Jane, whom has not been traced (21).

Before Kate left Ireland she had been married twice. She first married Henry SODEN on 4 March 1959 at age 17 (22). She was widowed soon after and married Thomas DORAN two years later in 1861 (23). Family stories tell of a child born to this Doran marriage (in 1863) but this has not been verified. There are conflicting stories as to whether Kate abandoned this marriage, or if Doran died. What is known is that Kate travelled on her maiden name.

After the family landed in Christchurch they traveled 120km across the Southern Alps to the West Coast. They likely travelled on the Cobb & Co Coach that left for Hokitika twice weekly, taking the newly opened Arthurs Pass.

“Coachlines usually followed the road construction gangs, although in many areas the so-called roads and country routes were no more than clay or rocky tracks which were often hazardous, especially in the winter months, when they became deep in mud or frozen solid with snow and ice.

Although the early Cobb & Company coaches offered the best service for travel in those times, the journey was not made in comfort. The seats were hard and uncomfortable being upholstered with horsehair. In summer the interior was hot and dusty and in winter it was freezing cold, even with rugs wrapped around legs and feet. Passengers longed for the comfort of the next watering stop at a wayside Inn or an overnight stop to rest their aching bones.

In New Zealand, travellers found conditions outside the main settlements could be difficult and often dangerous, where journeys of any distance could only be made on horseback or by the hire of a small covered wagon and driver to convey them and their luggage to their destination.

River crossings , where no bridge had been constructed, were treacherous, especially when the river was swollen after rain storms. The wagons simply bogged down in the fast flowing currents or could not make it across. Passengers who had climbed onto the roof for the crossing, clung precariously to the side rails as the horses strained to pull the carriage to the safety of the opposite bank. ” (23)

At some point in the following year Kate entered the lives of the Turner family. A family story told by the descendants of Annie Catherine say that James “engaged the services of a housekeeper and later remarried” . It seems unlikely that James was raising the three children, William, John Henry and Anne Catherine, on his own.



19.       “Migration”.  Archives New Zealand. Retrieved from  http://archives.govt.nz/research/guides/migration12 on Mar 2014

20.       “Shipping”. The Press. 24 Jul 1865. P.2.

21.       Research of Diane Young, descendant of Alexander Doull and Catherine Sinclair

22.       “Ireland Marriages, 1619-1898”,  index Family Search (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FGC5-W13 accessed 12 Mar 2014) Catherine Simpson 04 Mar 1859; citing Ireland EASy GS film number 101409

23.       Flude, Anthony G. Early Coach Travel in New Zealand. 2001 retreived from homepages.ihug.co.nz/~tonyf/cobb/cobbco.html  13 Mar 2014

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s