The Hay Family – Annadale – Pigeon Bay

Ebenezer Hay upset an entire family when he fell in love with Agnes Orr. Anges lived just two miles away from the Deans and McIlraith’s families at Annadale Farm in Ayrshire, Scotland. No one suffered more from this union of Ebe and Agnes than her father who was alarmed to learn that his favourite daughter was following her future husband to the new colony of New Zealand. The thought of her heading off to the unknown, being harmed by unruley savage natives was more than the old man could take. He aged over night. Agnes stuck by Ebe, informing her father that she had given him her word and she would not break it. Ebe and Agnes got married on the 27th October 1839.

The Hay’s arrived in Petone, Wellington (then called Port Nicholson) in 1840 and like other pioneers, discovered how unorganised the New Zealand Association were about paid for land orders. Like everyone else, they were forced to live on the beach in a tent to ponder their future. Agnes bore the family’s first 3 children in Petone: Hannah only survived a few weeks, soon followed by James in 1841 and Thomas in 1842. It was also around this time that the Hay’s met the Sinclairs and the two families bonded instantly. With Ebe funding the project, Francis Sinclair built a schooner which they called ‘The Richmond’ and it was the beginning of making a secure future of these two families. In between hiring out the schooner for money, they explored the South Island (then known as the middle island), finding their way to Lyttelton (known then as Port Cooper) harbour.

The two heads of the families walked up the south side of the harbour through what was to become Gebbies Pass (was known as Maori Valley then) and from the summit, saw Lake Ellesmere. They weren’t overly impressed, completely unaware of the Canterbury Plains (then know as the Port Cooper Plains) that was out of their view. Setting sail again to head south, they catch a glimpse of a bay that the Maori’s called Wakaroa. They were enchanted and with great reluctance, they continue down the coast to Otago, Wakaroa not far from their minds.

Having no choice, they return to Wellington to tie up loose ends. They get approached by William Deans who also had plans to move down to the South Island. With William are the Mansons and Gebbies families and their eyes are firmly on Putaringamotu (Riccarton) as a place to set up a farm. Dropping William and his party off in Port Levy, ‘The Richmond’ continues to Wakaroa. The Hay’s start to build in the main bay where the Sinclairs build in the nearby Holmes Bay. Wakaroa becomes known as Pigeon Bay because the huge amount of Native Wood Pigeon living in the area.

The Hay’s build Annadale and the Sinclairs build Craigforth. Both families had an open door policy to all weary travellers, Agnes even sharing the family’s last loaf of bread with some whalers who had walked over from Akaroa. Not forgetting her kindness, the Hay’s were surprised to see a whaler’s ship sail up a few weeks later with gifts of flour and sugar on board as a thank you.

Over the next 40 years, Annadale grows along with the family. In their wildest dreams, they wouldn’t have guessed how they would eventually lose their home. In 1886 after 3 weeks of storms, the hills around Pigeon Bay became unstable. As Ebe and Agnes second eldest son Tom is working away in the garden, he hears a rumble. Looking up behind his home, he sees a 15 metre mud slide coming down the hill. He scrambles to the house and gets his family out safely so they can all watch Annadale being swept away – 165 metres into the sea. A lone Walnut tree survives.

What would become the new Annadale was built as a hotel in 1850. The two storey, wooden accommodation was erected further towards the heads of the bay. Leased out to various Innkeepers, it’s another successful family business. After the devastating mud slide, the family cancel the lease on the Inn and move in, making it their new family home and re-named it Annadale.

Up to 5 years ago, it was still in the Hay family. A Kiwi millionaire who lives mainly in America has bought Annadale and all the land out to the heads and has restored the Homestead to its former glory. He also plans to plant the rest of land, out to the heads in native bush which sounds great to me.

At the original Annadale site where a plaque now sits, you can almost imagine the sight that greeted Tom Hay that morning in 1886!!! This wasn’t the only tragedy to strike the Hay’s. A few years before, James Hay had started a fire to smoke out some cattle that were hidden in some dense bush and it became out of control and burned down into Holmes Bay, damaging some farm land. The Holmes family sued the Hay’s and won £5000. This sum of money almost broke the family. If that wasn’t enough, Ebe was walking home from Christchurch after seeing his lawyer concerning this court case and ended up falling to his death off the Bridle Path.

He is buried at Addington Cemetery in Christchurch.

A few nice stories have also been passed down through the family over the years, like the following:
When James and Tom were 5 and 4 years old, they were playing out the front of Annadale in the tussock when a huge beast came out of the nearby bushes and it sent the boys scrambling for their lives. Finally working up the courage to look out from their hiding spot, they see their father chatting with this frightening moving mass. What was the creature that scared the boys so? A man on horseback…they had never seen a horse before and it was a few years before either boy felt easy around them.

*Images courtesy of http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz  http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/Photos/ and photos taken by Annette Bulovic *

9 Responses

  1. Peter A Warren says:

    Hello there I am looking to find where a couple of my ancestors lived and worked..Frederick and Martha Fletcher arrived in Lyttleton in 1860 and dissappeared to the peninsula to work as farm hands…march 1861 Martha left Pigeon Bay to go to Lyttleton (Lyttleton Times) have you any record of her having worked on a farm in Pigeon bay? thankyou Peter

    • Hi Peter. I am sorry but my sources don’t mention anything about a Frederick and Martha Fletcher ;(

      I do recommend that you try and get your hands on a copy of EARLIEST CANTERBURY which was written by James Hay 100 years ago this year! My copy is also this old and very frail and I try and not to open it much but it is a very good book, as James recalls tales from his childhood in Pigeon Bay and the history of the region. He just may touch base on who’s who of Pigeon Bay of the 1860’s. All the best with your research.

  2. Donna Stewart says:

    Hi, I have been reading about the fire in 1863, from Port Levy side over to Holmes Gully, Was your family affected by this? Do you have any old maps or more stories from around that time. It is quite interesting reading the sometimes confused and contradictory accounts over what happened. My first cousin 4x removed was working in Holmes Gully at the time, Archibald Hamill.

  3. Yvonne Hoyle says:

    Hi my maternal Great Grandmother was Sarah Anne ? married william Henry Firmstone whom we believe was a nanny to the Hay children. She was born in Cork Ireland.Do you have any records of this ? and her maiden name ?

  4. Marie BURN says:

    Hi Yvonne Hoyle,
    I am the Great Great Granddaughter of Henry FIRMSTON (1833-1913)
    Henry’s Son William Henry FIRMSTON married your Great Grandmother Sarah LEONARD, born 2nd January 1861 in County Fermanagh Ireland, she died 16th October 1934 in Governors Bay Canterbury NZ
    Kind Regards
    MARIE BURN (NZ)

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