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Peter Bruce was recruited as an emigrant labourer applying for a free passage to New Zealand with the New Zealand Company on 25 September 1840. He was recruited by Messrs McEwen and Miller, who were the company’s agents in the counties of Fife, Forfar (now Angus) and Perthshire.


The entry reads: Peter Bruce, Sawyer, Kirriemuir, married, M 23, 22, g 4mths.


Five days earlier Peter had married Helen Duthie, and the 4 month old girl listed above was Diana Duthie.


Less than a month later, on 21 October 1840 the family left Gravesend on the ship “Lady Nugent,” bound for New Zealand, Also on the same ship was Helen’s brother Alexander Duthie, who eventually settled in the Otago/Southland area. The ship arrived in Wellington on 17 March 1841 after a voyage of nearly five months.


Peter appears to have been able to take up land fairly shortly after his arrival, although the formal transfer of the land did not take place until several years later. In 1850/51 he was granted first 25 acres, and later 30 acres, part of Section No. 50. This section appears to be close to where Naenae College now stands.

Because civil registration of Births, deaths and marriages did not come into place for the few years of settlement it is difficult to find the names of all the children of the marriage. Those we can be certain of are: Ellen (Helen) 1850, William 1852, NR (not recorded) 1854 Elizabeth 1856. Also recorded in BDM is the birth of Alexander Bruce in 1840, but this date is probably not correct. 

The “Wellington Independent” of 7 Dec 1860 reports “Marriage at Fountain Hall, Te Aro, Wellington, on the 8th November, by the Rev W. Kirton, Mr John Speedy, to Miss Diana Bruce, both of the Hutt.


John Speedy/Diana Bruce,

David John 1862, Helen Duthie 1864, Keren Happuck 1866, Jessie Bruce 1868, Diana Bruce 1869, Mary Margaret 1871, Catherine Annie 1872, Peter Bruce 1874, Lionel John 1877, Fanny Beatrice 1879, Marion Florence 1881, Olive Ruth 1883, Rachael Alexandrina Irene, 1884, John and Duncan Stanley 1886.

This family moved to Hawkes Bay, where the family farmed at Herbertville near Cape Turnagain. All their children were born in that district, apart from the eldest son, whose birth was registered in Wellington. Diana was to live until 1908.

Helen married John Smith on 1 January 1873.  Helen died at Moutoa, Shannon, in 1893. The newspapers reports: “Deaths Smith - On the 4th September, at her residence, Motoa, Shannon, Helen Smith, fifth daughter of the late Mr Peter Bruce, aged 43 years. (5 September 1893)”

Alexander Bruce m Jane Nicols on 28 March 1878

The “Evening Post” of 17 Feb 1886 reports: Marriage. On the 4th February, at the residence of the bride’s father, Taita, by the Rev C. S. Ogg, David, second son of the late David Thomson, of Lowe Bank, Auckland, to Mary, fourth daughter of Peter Bruce, of the Taita.”

Funeral Notice. The Friends of the late Mrs Mary Thomson are respectfully invited to attend her funeral, to leave her father’s (Mr Peter Bruce) residence, Taita, for the Presbyterian churchyard, on Sunday, the 2nd January 1887, at half past 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Joseph Hall, Undertaker, Lower Hutt. 31 December 1886.   (Evening Post 31 December, 1886)

Margaret, Elizabeth (Bessie) and William do not appear to have married, as the following newspapers notices confirm.

The Friends of Mr. Peter Bruce are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of his son William, to leave his residence, Taita, Hutt, on Wednesday the 4th July, 1883, at 2 o'clock p.m. JOSEPH HALL, Undertaker. Lower Hutt, 2nd July.     (Evening Post 3 July 1883)


DEATH Bruce – On 26th October. 1885, at her father's residence, Taita, Lower Hutt, Bessie, daughter of Mr Peter Bruce aged 28 years.

DEATHS - Bruce - At Hope Farm, Petone, Margaret, beloved daughter of Mr  Peter Bruce, late of the Taita, aged 38 years. (28 May 1887 Evening Post)

In the “Wellington Independent” of 9 July 1864 there appears the following advertisement:

NOTICE. A PUBLIC MEETING will be held at Buckeridges's Long Room, on Monday, the 18th inst., at 7 o'clock, p.m., for the purpose of considering the propriety of establishing a Public School in the Taita. (Signed.) Wm. Whitewood George Buck William Beetham W. R. Welch Peter Bruce Robert McCulloch, Taita.

HUTT RIVER BOARD. ELECTION. NOTICE is hereby given that the following persons have been duly nominated as candidates for the Hutt River Board:-

Charles William Brown   Peter Bruce, John Cudby, William Alfred Fitzherbert,  Samuel Raymond Johnson, Richard Forester Petterd, James Reston,  Jun. David Speedy,  Hart Udy.

There are five (5) vacancies to be filled, and as the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies, I hereby appoint a Poll to be taken, as between the several candidates whose names are given above, on SATURDAY, the 28th February, 1885, at the Toll House, Hutt Bridge. Polling will commence at 9 a.m. and close at p.m. WM. JONES, Returning Officer. Hutt River Board, Hutt, 23rd February, 1885

HUTT RIVER BOARD ELECTION. I HEREBY give notice that the number of votes polled by each candidate at the above election, held on Saturday, the 28th February, 1885, was as follows:

Brown, Charles William 131                                                                                                                                                  Bruce, Peter 121                                                                                                                                                                    Cudby, John 46                                                                                                                                                                 Fitzherbert, William Alfred 50                                                                                                                                              Johnson, Samuel Raymond 109                                                                                                                                        Petterd, Richard Forester 28                                                                                                                                                      Reston, James, jnr 83                                                                                                                                                          Speedy, David 83                                                                                                                                                                        Udy, Hart 76

I further give notice that Messrs. Brown, Bruce, Johnson, Reston, and Speedy, having received the highest number of votes, I declare those gentlemen duly elected Members of the Hutt River Board. The members elected are requested to meet at the R.M. Court, Lower Hutt, on Saturday, the 7th day of March, 1885, at 2 o'clock p m., for holding the first meeting of the Board (as per Gazette notice of 29th January, 1885). WM. JONES, Returning Officer, Hutt River Board. Hutt, 2nd March, 1885.        (Evening Post, 24 February and 2 March, 1885)

Nearly twenty years earlier there had been a difference of opinion between Peter Bruce and William Fitzherbert which emerged at a Provincial Council meeting, as the following report in the “Evening Post of 30 June 1866 shows.  


Yesterday. The Speaker took the chair at 5 o'clock. The minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.

Mr. W. S. Milne moved that the refusal of the Commissioner of Crown Lands to comply with the recommendation of this Council, in the matter of the petition of Peter Bruce, presented during the last session, was unjust, and calculated to bring this Council into contempt, and was the more unseemly, inasmuch as the Commissioner had availed himself of the recommendation of a previous Council, whereby he had received a refund of 4s l0d per acre on a large quantity of land, also because the matter in dispute lay between the Commissioner's own application and that of the petitioner. Mr. Fizherbert claimed the indulgence of the Council for a few minutes, and said that the mover of the resolution had shown great animus against him. Several of the allegations were untrue. He had never, directly or indirectly as Crown Lands Commissioner, purchased land from the Crown, but he would maintain that his appointment to that office could never lawfully prevent him from exercising his just rights previously obtained. In conclusion, he said that he would court any proper investigation, but he would never hesitate to denounce the person making such accusations as those in the resolution, as a coward and a traitor. He would divide the Council on this present motion, and would move as an amendment the previous question, because he would submit to any investigation of his conduct which was instituted in a proper manner. Mr. Bryce defended the action of the Committee, and maintained that it had every right to presume that the Commissioner of Crown Lands would be able to grant Mr. Bruce’s application. The Provincial Solicitor condemned the conduct of Mr. Milne in bringing forward a resolution containing disgraceful charges against a high political officer, and casting blame on the Council in a previous session. He did not wonder that Mr. Fitzherbert had replied so warmly, and hoped that after the explanation he had given, all ill feeling would cease, especially as the charges were founded on rumour, and magnified by circulation. Dr. Allison was not quite satisfied with Mr. Fitzherbert's explanation. Several other members then expressed their intention of supporting that gentleman and throwing out the resolution. On the question being put the Council divided, when there were Ayes 6, Noes 15. Ayes, 6 Messrs. Allison, Bryce, Fagan, A. Milne, W. Milne, J. Taylor. Noes, 15— Messrs. Borlase, Brandon, Bunny, Dransfield, Fitzherbert, Halcombe, Hunter, Hickson, Kells, Ludlam, Masters, Pearce, Pharazyn, Reading, Wallace. The resolution was therefore not put.


Early in 1887 the following advertisement appeared in the “Evening Post.”

For SALE, 42 acres of first-class Land. 1 For further information, apply to, Peter Bruce, farmer, Taita. (16 Feb. 1887)

It must have been at about this time that Peter and Helen Bruce moved to Daniell Street in Newtown, as Peter died later in the year.

DEATHS Bruce - On Tuesday, 20th September, at Newtown, Mr Peter Bruce late of the Taita, Hutt, aged 71 years    (21 September 1887)

FUNERAL NOTICE. The Friends of Mr. Peter Bruce late of the Taita, are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral, which will leave the residence of Mr. Henry Collett, Petone, on Thursday, 22nd September, at 3 p.m. E.. & A. COLLETT, Undertakers, Petone.

DEATH – Bruce - On 3rd February, 1895, at Daniel-street.  Helen, relict of the late Peter Bruce aged 79 years.               (4 February 1895)

FUNERAL NOTICE. The Friends of the late Helen Bruce are respectfully invited to attend her Funeral, which will leave her late residence, Daniel-street, on Tuesday, 5th February, 1895, at 12 noon, and Lower Hutt Bridge at 2 p.m., for Black Bridge Cemetery. E. Morris, Jun., Undertaker, 10, Taranaki Street. (Evening Post)

Both are buried at Blackbridge cemetery in Lower Hutt.

On the interior wall of Knox Church in Lower Hutt there is a plaque with the following inscription.

To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of Mr and Mrs Peter Bruce, founders of this congregation. 1858. Erected by their grand-children.

It is one of four similar plaques, which may have been prepared at the time of the church’s 75th anniversary in 1933. The others commemorate the McCulloch, Williamson and McCaw families.

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