b. – – 1814
b. – – 1816
John Gebbie was the son of a farmer from Ayrshire, Scotland, whose family had farmed the same land for over 300 years, probably as tenants for the Earl of Loudon, Mary was the daughter of Hugh and Isabella Campbell (nee Brown) and she and John were married in the Loudon Kirk, on 14 June, 1837. They lived at Loudon Hill, Darvel, Straeven, Kilmarnock, Co. Ayr.
With times hard and the prospect of advancement bleak, and John not in good health, they decided to emigrate, perhaps to Canada. While looking into the procedure of emigration they met up with William Deans, who was coming to New Zealand. He was looking for a good man with stock to take with him, and he persuaded John to try a new life in New Zealand. William engaged John for a period of five years as “grieve” or working manager, at a salary of £25 per year.
On 18th September 1839, Mary and John, and toddler son David embarked on the ‘Aurora’ at Gravesend, and arrived off the New Zealand coast 110 days later. The Aurora was considered a lucky ship, and was built in 1817, of teak and English oak. The ship was kept out of Wellington by a gale, and so did not land until the 22nd January 1840, little David’s second birthday. Mary was the first woman to land from the ship’s boat, but two young girls decided to be first on land, and swam ashore.
William Deans obtained an acre of land, and got some Maoris to built him a ‘New Zealand house’ which was built of wood and large pieces of fern, and was 34 feet by 17 feet, with three rooms, one for baggage, one for himself, and one for the Gebbies. He paid the Maoris 6 blankets for this work. He got work for John Gebbie cutting surveyor’s lines through the bush. This was very heavy work, 12 hours a day, and John was paid £1 per week. William cultivated his land and planted vegetables, which he later sold, and did a little trading, and so the first winter was passed by the new settlers. William went off on survey trips, and eventually decided on land in Canterbury. While John and Mary were in Wellington they added two more children, John and Mary, to their family.
On 10th February 1843 William Deans, the Gebbies, and also the Manson family who had arrived on the ‘Thomas Harrison’ in 1842 and were also under contract to the Deans brothers, set sail for the South Island on board the ship ‘Richmond’, and landed at Port Levy 10 days later. Only a few whalers and some Maoris lived at Port Levy, but the women and children were settled here, with John Gebbie as protector, while William Deans and Samuel Manson went on to Riccarton, where William Deans had decided to settle, to get a building erected. First the timber was felled and pit sawn in the bush, and because the nails had been left behind in Wellington, wooden pegs had to be made in the tents at night. The first building was a long barn-shaped structure with a loft for stores. It was partitioned into three rooms with blankets and sheets; one for Manson and his family, the middle one for the Deans brothers, and the other end for the Gebbie family. It was later called the ‘Old Barn’. (Another house was built the same year, with three bedrooms, sitting room and store-room, and this one was moved by the Rotary Club to near Riccarton House in 1950.) When the building was finished Sam Manson returned to Port Levy for the families. The families came by boat up the Avon as far as possible (about where the botanical gardens are) then walked to Riccarton, carrying the little children as well as some of their posessions. The way was rough, with tall fern and scrub that had to be pushed through, with resulting damage to their clothing. William Deans was watching and waiting for them at the house, the only one on the plains. When the ladies mentioned the damage to their clothing, he said to comfort them, that one day there would be roads and railways in all directions,