Overview of the Allans – from The Grafters.

The Allans were a very large family. Their history has been written up twice. The most significant work is The Taieri Allans by John Thompson Allan which is available on, along with a detailed family tree. This section is but a brief overview, primarily of the Rylance/Allan descent line.

NZ Descent Line

A1 AGNESS ALLAN 1794-1891

4th great-grandmother

A2 Agnes ALLAN 1833-1922

Daughter of AGNESS ALLAN

A3 Janet Scott Oliver 1862-1944

Daughter of Agnes ALLAN

A4 Lindsay Allan 1895-1930

Son of Janet Scott Oliver

A5 Elizabeth Allan 1927-1998

Daughter of Lindsay Allan

A 6 Dr Patricia Ann Rylance 1952-

Daughter of Elizabeth Allan

A7 Georgina Elizabeth & Geoffrey Phillip James Sargison

A1 Agness Allan & John Allen

John Allen was born in 1791. After his parents died, he ran away, aged 9, to the Navy where he served on the Speedy (Lord Cochrane) and then as Able Seaman on the Aboukir (Captain Thomson). John was discharged in 1815 at the age of 18. He settled at Irvine, working as a weaver and agricultural labourer until 1820 when he married Agness Allan and moved to Kilmarnock.

Agness Allan was born in Ulster where her family had settled after leaving Ayrshire, in Scotland during the Stuart religious persecutions. Agness claimed that her family was related to the founder of the Allan line of steamers. The Allan Line was once the largest private shipping line in the world, being founded by Sir Hugh Allan (1810-1862). No direct link has been found but there were relations in the area at the time so she could be right.

Agness did not change her name on marriage and family legend has it that, instead, John changed his, out of gallantry for his wife. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Scottish society in the Highlands suffered severely from the collapse of its system of chiefs and fighting clans. As the population increased, overcrowding occurred and subsistence farming did not meet food needs. In order to create space for sheep farming, many major landowners evicted crofters, sometimes burning their cottages.

The Allans were weavers and small farmers, so were doubtless affected by these upheavals. In 1842, therefore, they emigrated to New Zealand with their four sons and three daughters. They were not simply seeking to escape the poverty and tense political situation; another reason for leaving was to found a church in which they could worship, in their own way, without interference. They were religious dissenters and had attended the Burgher Kirk, in Kilmarnock, one of many sects that split from the Church of Scotland during the 18th century.

On 4 July 1842, John and Agness and the children sailed from Cumbrae on the barque New Zealand, arriving in Nelson on 3 November 1842. John apparently had a small property at Richmond. They moved on to Otago in 1844, over three years before the official settlement began. This was largely as a result of difficulties with land title in Nelson, challenging economic conditions and the so-called Wairau Massacre. The voyage south was not quite as expected. Soon after leaving Nelson, John Allan fell ill, and the ship put into Picton to consult a doctor, who was on board a man-of-war which was anchored there. As this boat was also going on to Otago, and then to the Chatham Islands, and as John had been a man-of-war’s man, the captain offered to take him and his wife with them so that he might have the attendance of the ship’s doctor during the voyage. After leaving Picton, a fair wind for the Chathams sprang up, so the captain decided to go there first. Consequently, Agness Allan was the first white woman to visit the Chatham Islands. It is not clear whether she saw this as an achievement!

The Allans initially lived at Andersons Bay but in 1850 moved to the Taieri where John built a house on the farm he called Bellfield. He became the first elder of the East Taieri Presbyterian Church and in 1854 a member of the first Otago Presbytery.

He died in August 1863.

Agness Allan survived her husband by twenty-eight years, and died at Bellfield on 10th April, 1891, at the advanced age of ninety- six years. Joseph Anderson has described her thus:

She was a typical woman for a new country. Of rather under-sized stature, she was active and wiry,

maintaining her activity of mind and body until the end of her long life. When I was a child of two-and-a- half years of age I was staying at Bellfield, when Grandmother took me home to Port Chalmers. We left the Taieri in the morning with the bullock sledge that was going as far as Dunedin, where we stayed the night with James Allan. During the afternoon I got lost – a frequent occurrence. As there was a great fear that I might wander into the surrounding scrub and bush, a search party was organised. When I was found, Grandmother rushed up and caught me in her arms, declaring: “I will never lose sight of him again until I place him in the charge of his mother.” Next day when we again started on our journey she said I walked bravely for a mile or two, and when I grew tired she carried me on her back for the remaining seven miles! All I remember of the journey was that when we entered Port Chalmers, my brother John, with another small boy, came to meet us, and from my high elevation on grandmother’s back I was throwing down a biscuit from a paper bag to each of the boys.

Some time after we had removed to Waiwera she decided on coming out to see us. Without sending word, she stepped onto the public coach that passed Bellfield in the morning and arrived at the Waiwera Hotel after dark on the same day, where she stayed overnight. Next morning an obliging shepherd who had his sheep rounds in our direction piloted her over some deep creeks and through the open tussock country for the three miles from the hotel to Kelvingrove.

In the early Taieri life she was looked upon by her neighbours as truly ‘a mother in Israel.’ Whenever sickness occurred the cry at once arose: “Go for Mrs Allan.” I can remember seeing gathered at Bellfield a number of mothers getting their children vaccinated.

When her death took place the attendance at her funeral was one of the largest of any that ever took place in the Taieri, and was probably exceeded only by that of her son, James Allan, of Hopehill, who died a few months after his mother.

A1-1 James “Hopehill” Allan and Jane Sutcliffe

James Allan , was born in 1824 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. His father, John, was 33 and his mother, Agness Allan, was 30, and of Irish descent. James accompanied his family to Nelson in 1842 aboard the SS New Zealand along with his siblings Janet, James, Isabella, Joseph, John, and Agnes

There are two versions of his marriage to Jane Sutcliffe who was born in Stockport, Cheshire and had come to New Zealand aboard the Ajax which called at both Dunedin on 8 January 1849 and thence to Nelson via Wellington on 7 February 1849.

One apparently reliable source has the marriage as being in 1846 but this date can’t be right if she didn’t come till 1849 in Nelson.

The more likely place was Dunedin and the date used by others is 18 March 1850. After moving to the Taieri, they established a sizeable family of 12 children in 20 years. Jane died on 25 July 1923 in Otago at the age of 93.

James first arrived in Otago in 1846 with a survey party, who were engaged in surveying around the Clutha.

When James Smith came to Dunedin from Nelson with the Allans in May, 1848, he brought with him £120 worth of goods, consisting of boots, flour, onions, bricks and lime for an oven, etc.. Taking James Allan into partnership, they started a store and bakehouse in Dunedin under the name of Smith and Allan, where they carried on business until 1853. The bakery was only modestly successful because people were accustomed to baking their own bread.

It is worth understanding the huge amount of physical work involved in such an undertaking. James Smith’s reminiscences were published at the time of the Otago Jubilee:

Mr James Allan and I agreed to go into partnership as Smith and Allan. We sawed timber in the bush at Port Chalmers, bought a boat from the late Thomas Jones (brother of the late John Jones), and rafted the timber up to Dunedin to build a Bakehouse. Then, as there was no draught animal in Dunedin at that time, we carried it out, wet as it was, on our shoulders, and up to what afterwards became known as Bullen’s Corner, at the top of Rattray Street. This section we had leased from the Rev. Thomas (afterwards Dr) Burns for a term of seven years, at a rental of £4 per annum, he being attorney in the matter for an Edinburgh lady. We then bought some Nelson timber (three and four- inch planks) out of a vessel arrived from Nelson, erected a saw pit at high water mark on the beach, under where the old First Church stood and ripped it up into three-quarter and one-inch boards. As Mr A. C. Strode, then R.M., could not get timber enough to finish the gaol, we cut a small portion of it out of the planks to enable him to finish. After that we got Captain Cargill’s sanction to cut enough timber at Quarry Point, Anderson’s Bay, to finish our bakehouse, and help build a store. We cut it, carried it out on our shoulders to the water’s edge, and boated it across in our whaleboat, which we had bought for £28 from Mr Thomas Jones, of Waikouaiti. We were sawing there when the ‘Blundell’ arrived with Mr Adam Begg (of Anderson’s Bay), Mr Somerville, and others as passengers. We had the bakehouse erected about the site where Mrs Wood’s Temperance Flotel (Rattray Street) now stands, about October 1848. About January, 1849, the store was erected where Bullen’s (afterwards Hardie’s) shop was, and we at once began business as storekeepers 18 . When the boats first came up with flour and other goods from Port Chalmers we had to wade into the tide nearly up to our middles, and carry out the 200lb bags of flour on our backs up to the bakehouse. Mr George Westland afterwards got a draught poly bullock and cart, which saved us a lot of heavy carrying. By the way, I helped to drive this bullock from Waikouaiti to Dunedin, over Flagstaff, in company with the late Mr Edmund Smith, of the Savings bank, then a cadet with the Dunedin butcher, Mr Alexander McDonald.

“As before stated, I started baking about October 1848, and in 1849, employed a man to assist me, James Jones, afterwards of Jones and Williamson. Our business as storekeepers was carried on in conjunction with the bakery. The late Mr John Jones was the only wholesale merchant at that time, and he only employed one man (James Marshall, of Halfway Bush). Mr Jones kept his own schooner (the ‘Scotia’) running constantly to Sydney for supplies, but sometimes the supplies ran out, and then a famine prevailed for a while. On one occasion, in 1850, we were about six weeks without any flour in Dunedin, with the exception of enough to make one batch of bread. This we made from the surplus of some seed wheat that was imported from Nelson for the late Rev. Dr Burns, and was sown by him at Grant’s Braes, near where Mr Scobie Mackenzie’s house now stands. My man and I ground this surplus wheat in a steel mill, baked it, and were rushed for the bread before it was out of the oven.

On another occasion there was no salt to be got for two or three months. We had to boil down the sea water to get enough salt to bake the bread, a process which entailed great labour, and was not very satisfactory when done.

In 1851 James Smith retired from the store and took up land at East Taieri, at what subsequently became Hopehill station. At the beginning of 1852, he transferred Hopehill to James Allan, who gave up his Dunedin business. Smith took up land at Tokomairiro and the Greenfield Estate became something of a showpiece. A few years later, James Allan again joined him in partnership in a run near Tokomairiro. He held this interest until 1860.

In May 1853, James and Jane moved into Hopehill, in East Taieri, which he had previously stocked with sheep, and where he resided until his death in 1891, at the age of sixty-seven years. He left a family of seven sons and four daughters. He was a member of the Provincial Council until the abolition of the provinces; a Commissioner of the Waste Lands Board, a member of the Education and River Boards; and captain of the first East Taieri Rifles.

A2 Agnes Allan & Adam Oliver

Agnes was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, and came out to Nelson, New Zealand, with her parents, John and Agness, in 1842. She moved with them to Otago in 1844. Adam Oliver was born in Upper Hindthorpe Farm, Roxburgh, Scotland in 1824 and arrived in Port Chalmers on the Cresswell in 1851.

The couple married in East Taieri on 1 February 1855.

A3 Janet Scott Oliver & James Allan(1860-1934)

Both Janet Oliver and James Allan were New Zealand born. James, the son of James Hopehill Allan and Jane Sutcliffe,was born in Taieri Mouth area. Janet was the daughter of Adam Oliver and Agnes Allan, in East Taieri. They were second cousin and became the great grandparents of the Rylance sisters. They married in 1888 in East Taieri, and had four children. Later they moved to Hawera in Taranaki.