Canterbury Association History Making Settler Died – 16th June 1871

Cyrus Davie will always hold the most interesting record regarding our First Four Ships. He was the only passenger who made this historic journey on two of them! Charmingly, this resulted in him making the voyage from England to Canterbury two days faster than any other of his fellow settlers.

Purchasing a passage on the ‘Randolph’, he listed himself as a Gentleman and secured all his worldly belongings onboard. Knowing he had a few days before his voyage would begin from Plymouth; he obeyed the demands of his heart and travelled out of London to see his fiancée Emma Ratcliffe Mortimer – who was to join him in Canterbury later – one last time. He planned to catch up with the ‘Randolph’ in Plymouth where it was due to stop-over (from London) to collect further supplies and passengers.

That was to be a bad decision.

It was quite common place for a ship to decide to sail in a moment’s notice if the wind suddenly became agreeable. It was never wise to stray too far when traveling by sea in those days.
The ‘Randolph’ pulled up anchor and sailed out of Plymouth at midnight on 7th September 1850 – a total of six hours before Davie arrived at port to take his place onboard.

After quite a struggle and a lot of begging, Davie was allowed to board the ‘Sir George Seymour’ despite the Captain arguing how the ship was already at maximum capacity. The ‘Sir George Seymour’ sailed out of Plymouth the following morning with Davie literally thanking the heavens and standing in the only clothes he had with him.

On 4th October 1850, after almost a month at sea, the ‘Randolph’ appeared in the morning light port-side of the ‘Sir George Seymour’. Of course, great excitement rippled through both ships at the sight of each other. The ships managed to communicate to each other by “signals” (flags maybe?) so the ‘Randolph’ learned of the fate of their missing passenger. A whalers boat was lowered into the sea by the ‘Randolph’ and a team paddled over to collect Davie. One can only imagine his thoughts as he was brought up beside the ‘Randolph’, facing quite a climb up the ship’s flimsy rope ladder.

Upon arriving at Lyttelton, Davie found work at the Survey Department. He settled on Colombo Street (between Gloucester and Armagh Streets) and was praised for his well maintained garden. He kept a lovely journal; writing about his visit to Riccarton, how he crossed paths with some heavily tattooed, spear carrying, Maori who offered him tobacco and oddly enough parsley and also how he slept on the (Canterbury) plains, covering himself with nearby ferns. He was a member of the Park and Domain Board and as well as the Acclimatisation Society.

In 1853, Davie took on farming, buying land with business partner R.J.S Harman (a fellow Sir George Seymour passenger). Simply known as the ‘Davie and Harman Station’, it sat between Lake Ellesmere and the Selwyn River. A year later, his beloved Emma joined him in New Zealand and they were married.

At the time of his early death on 16th June 1871 – he was only 50 – he was the Chief Surveyor for the Canterbury Provincial Council and owned several thousand acres of land. He is buried with Emma, at the Barbadoes Street Cemetery, who outlived him by 31 years.

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