Margaret Bullians of Mangapai

Adapted from obituary in The Northern Advocate of 6 January 1939

Mrs Margaret Bullians passed away at Nurse Lowe’s Hospital, Maunu Road, last evening, January 5, in her 92nd year. She had not enjoyed good health for the last two or three years and had been confined to her bed for the last 10 weeks prior to her death.

The deceased put up a splendid record. She was the youngest daughter of Robert & Ann Crawford, who had a family of seven children overall, and she was born at Torbrex, about two miles from Bannockburn, in what is now Stirling city, in Stirlingshire, Scotland on May 16, 1847.

When she was ten years of age her mother died, and two years later she accompanied her father and two brothers, James and William, to New Zealand. The family departed Liverpool on 12 October 1859 on the ship Phoenix and arrived in Auckland on 3 February 1860, taking 114 days in all.

Immediately on landing Mr Crawford and his two sons headed directly to Mangapai, on the Whangarei Harbour, where they had each been granted 40 acres of land. Whangarei is on the east coast of the North Island of NZ and about 100km north of Auckland by sea.

At that time there were no roads and the family would have had to take one of the smaller coastal vessels north and would have been delivered to an inlet on one of the sprawling arms of Whangarei Harbour. The fact that they did so meant they were operating to a plan and were most likely redeeming allocations of land given to immigrant families under a special scheme. Margaret stayed in Auckland, we don’t know who with, but she must have had relatives because she was only twelve years old. She followed 6 months later after celebrating her thirteenth birthday in Auckland, thus qualifying for 20 acres under the same land scheme.

Mrs Bullians actually landed on the site where Blackburn’s Boarding House stood for many years.

The land the family received was very different to what they knew in Scotland. It was clothed in rough bush, with flax in the creek bottoms, but the family set about cutting it all down, burning it off, then sowing wheat on the cleared property. In their native Scotland cropping was necessary to grow food; different kinds of grain were ground to make basic flour a staple we see even today in the bread we buy from a shop.

These pioneers made their own flour using a small hand-mill they’d brought out with them from Scotland. Similar mills can be bought in our own times, either a mechanical device similar to the old style mincer or one more like the ancient quorn stone mill used throughout history. In modern thinking slow grinding does not heat and reduce the nutrients in the grain but in those times it was probably portability that dictated their choice and the mincer style is likely what they had.

Miss Crawford, as she was then, lived with her father and brothers until in 1868 she was married to Mr William Bullians by the Rev. David Bruce in St. Andrews Church in Auckland. She was 21 and he was 38, and it should be remembered what an investment in time and money was needed to travel back to the city where there was a ‘proper’ church to be married in.

After their marriage Mr and Mrs Bullians returned to Mangapai and settled on Mr Bullians’ farm which was only half a mile away from that of the Crawfords, and she lived on that farm until seven years ago (1932) when she went to live with her youngest daughter, Annie Bourke.

This fine old lady was an ardent Presbyterian for whom the Church was a rock. She was a well known identity in the Mangapai and adjacent Maungakaramea districts, always anxious to help neighbours and her assistance at times of sickness made her a much loved personality. Of her family of eight, all but one are living. Helen, the fifth eldest, passed away 17 years ago.

In order of age the seven children are; Margaret (Mrs Walter Holster) of Maunu, William of Houtu, Mary (Mrs John Walls) of Paeroa, Henry, currently (1939) gold mining in Alaska, Robert of Taumaranui, Andrew, Headmaster of the Stanley Bay School, and Annie (Mrs Herbert Charles Bourke. Mrs Bullians has 25 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren.

The funeral will leave Messrs. Miller’s Mortuary Chapel at one o’clock tomorrow, Saturday, for Mangapai cemetery.