Monday, August 2, 2010

'Out of Ireland have we come...' W.B.Yeats 1865-1939

William White and Sarah Crail in New Zealand

Sarah Agnes Crail and children,

William (1889), and Edith (1892)

There is a saying that 'It is not the sins of the fathers that are passed on to the sons, it is the sorrows of the mothers'. Sadly, the story of William White and Sarah Agnes Crail is one of sorrow for the mother and for her two children pictured above who were abandoned by their father, William, after their mother Sarah died. William remarried a woman who did not want to rear the children and they were placed separately into the care of other people. William junior ran away to Australia at the age of 16, and did not return to New Zealand until 1931 when at the age of 42, he travelled there to attend his father's funeral. Neither William nor Edith knew much about their father nor their mother so very little oral history has been passed on to their New Zealand or Australian descendants. With some help from descendants of Edith White Stringleman, and a descendant of William White's second marriage in New Zealand, and with assistance from New Zealand libraries, family history groups, newspapers and official records such as birth, death, marriage certificates and electoral rolls, I have woven the threads of a story together about the lives of William White and Sarah Crail.

This, the story of Sarah Crail and William White from Northern Ireland, is for their descendants, who live in New Zealand, Australia and London, England.

Writing, scribbled on the back of an old photograph, of Sarah Crail and her children, hinted that Sarah was from 'Ballinorhinche'. According to limited family information, Sarah was 'one of 19 children', born to a Crail or Craile family in County Down in Northern Ireland. She had left Ireland and travelled by ship to Christchurch, New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. The story proclaims that when Sarah arrived in New Zealand, she found herself jilted, her fiance having already married someone else. Imagine her distress, this young woman in her early twenties, alone in a foreign country, after travelling so far from her home in Ireland only to find herself abandoned.

After some investigation, it became evident that 'Ballinorhinche' was the mis-spelling for a town called Ballynahinch, in County Down. The record of a will probated in December 1828, for a William Crail of Ballynahinch, established a crucial link between the surname Crail and this town in Northern Ireland. By the late 1800's according to parish records, there were quite a few families by the name of Crail, living in Ballynahinch. Information from a nephew of Sarah's, provided a clue as to which family was almost certainly Sarah's. George Crail, who visited William White junior in Sydney, Australia in about 1930, told the family, that Sarah had a brother named Matthew Crail in Ballynahinch. The 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses, found Matthew Crail living in Ballynahinch, working as a weigh master and agent for London and Lancashire, and living with his wife Elizabeth (Reid). Matthew was the son of Jordan and Elizabeth Crail, and was born in 1855 in Ballynahinch. Although no birth record has been found for Sarah yet, it is estimated that she was born in around 1864 or earlier,( from the age given on her son's birth certificate). It appears very likely that Jordan Crail was Sarah's father as he was known to have around 20 children, 14 of whose births have been found to date. The seemingly unlikely story of Sarah being one of 19 children may yet be proved true! The Griffiths Land Valuation for County Down, in 1848-1864 shows the only Crail listed in Ballynahinch, as Jordan Crail. Further suggestion that this Crail family is the family of Sarah Agnes Crail, is that Matthew's brother, Samuel, (1851), named his ninth child, Sarah Agnes Crail in 1893. Two other Crail brothers, Patrick (1849) and Jordan (1842) can be found living in Lancashire in the 1881 UK census. Jordan and his wife Eliza, had a son named George Crail born in Lancashire in 1873. This birth date fits with the age of Sarah's cousin, George Crail who visited the White family in Australia and who died in New Zealand in 1945. Shipping records show the same George Crail departing Liverpool, England for Sydney NSW and New Zealand in 1907.

Ballynahinch parish records show that in 1790, a Jane Jordan (from Ballynahinch) married a James Crail (from Loughinisland). The Surname Crail does not appear in Ballynahinch records prior to this marriage. Jordan is a given name which appears in all of the Crail families in this area so it is likely that the Ballynahinch Crails all descend from the marriage between James Crail and Jane Jordan. There exists a record of a testimonial introducing the Jordan family to the Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church in November 1715. An earlier parish record for Ballynahinch shows the baptism of a Jane Jordan, daughter of William Jordan in 1701. The Jordan family are recorded as living in Ballynahinch since the beginning of the 1700's. The Irish Tithe Applotment Books (1834-37) show a number of Crail families living at nearby Loughinisland in County Down.

Across the world, in New Zealand, finding herself a star crossed lover, Sarah gained a position as a companion and household help for Mary Anne Dalzell, wife of Henry Dalzell, at their property named 'Coldstream', in the Weka Pass (pictured below right), between the towns of Waikari and Waipari on the Canterbury Plains. The 1893 New Zealand electoral roll shows Henry and Mary Dalzell living at Coldstream, however, earlier rolls show them living in the nearby town of Waikari. Henry Dalzell had been born in Newtownards County Down, in 1861 and had immigrated to New Zealand as a child. In 1887, Henry's wife, Mary Dalzell (Ewart) had four (of her eventual eight) children aged under five years, and no doubt, would have very much appreciated Sarah's help and companionship on a lonely property. In 1888, with the birth of their fifth child, Henry and Mary Dalzell showed their fondness for Sarah Crail, by naming the baby, Beatrice Crail Dalzell. A family member in New Zealand interviewed Beatrice (married name Cook) when she was quite elderly,( she lived to be 100 years of age) and she related the story proudly, of how she was named for Sarah Crail, whom her mother 'had a great fondness for'. Beatrice Crail Dalzell said in the same interview, that Sarah was 'acquainted with a William Coulthard Brideson, who also hailed from County Down, in Ireland'. 'Bill Brideson, as he was known, was a storekeeper in Waikari, not far from the farm where his friends Henry and Mary Dalzell lived in the Weka Pass and Beatrice believed that William had procured Sarah the position with the Dalzell family.

William Brideson had a partner in his store and bakery in Waikari. His business partner's name was William White who was also an Irishman, born in Shankill, Belfast, County Antrim, around 1860. From his death certificate in 1931, it can be gathered that William White arrived in New Zealand in around 1885 as it was stated that he had resided in the country for about 46 years. It as probable that William White arrived in New Zealand earlier than 1885 as he appears in the New Zealand Electoral Rolls in 1881 and 1889, as a Contractor in Lincoln Road, Christchurch, (at the birth address of his son William) and in the 1893 and 1896 electoral rolls as a shopkeeper in Waikari. According to Beatrice Crail Dalzell, (who was recounting a story told to her by her mother), William White was courting Sarah Crail at the time of Beatrice's own birth. William offered to trek across the hilly countryside from the Dalzell's farm to Waikari to fetch Doctor Little to Mary Dalzell when was giving birth to Beatrice. For this kindness and because of the family's attachment to Sarah, Beatrice was given the middle name of Crail.

William White ( pictured below) was the son of James White and Anne Jane (Annie) Houston. James, a pawnbroker, married Annie in a civil marriage ceremony on April 24, 1854 in St Anne's Church of Ireland, Shankill, Belfast, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The couples' address was 75 Nelson Street Shankill after their marriage. Annie was born in the townland of Knockbreda in County Down, and her age being given as 19 when she married James White, places her year of birth around 1835. Her father, Thomas Houston was a clergyman. Parish records for the Knockbreda Reformed Presbyterian Church show that Reverend Thomas Houston was buried in the church's graveyard on February, 20, 1886 aged 75 years. According to the certificate of marriage for James White and Annie Houston, James' father was John White, a farmer of County Down. The Griffith's Valuation for County Down (1863-64) show both the Reverend Thomas Houston and John White ( farmer) residing at Ballylenaghan, Knockbreda, Co Down, Northern Ireland. In the 1861 Griffiths Valuation, James and Anne Jane White appear in Shankill, Belfast owning properties which they leased, in Cromac Street, Henrietta Street, Edward Street, Stanhope Street, Carlisle Terrace, and Coronation, York and Verner Streets. James' father, John, had joined his son, James, in Shankill, Belfast and was also working as a pawnbroker, before his death. His will states: 'Effects under 800 Pounds. The Will of John White, late of Shankill Road, Belfast, Pawnbroker, deceased, who died 14 June, 1878 at Ballylenaghan, Co Down, was proved at Belfast by the oaths of Henry White of Ballymaconaghy (Newtownards), Farmer and William White of 7 Newtownards Road Ballymacarratt (Belfast), Pawnbroker, both in Co Down....' It appears that William was also employed as a pawnbroker, like his father, before leaving Ireland for New Zealand.

William White and Sarah Crail had two children. William Leonard (pictured below) was born 0n June 1, 1889. His birth place was recorded on his birth certificate as being Lincoln Road, Christchurch. Edith was born three years later in 1892. A birth certificate has not been found for Edith, however on her death certificate in 1938 (she died suddenly at age 46 from a brain aneurism walking home from church with her family) it states that she was born in Netherby, which is a town on the Canterbury Plains, not far from Christchurch. Beatrice Crail Dalzell (Cook), in her interview with a descendant from William and his second wife, was most emphatic that William and Sarah were married, but attempts to locate a marriage certificate have been unsuccessful. On William Leonard's birth certificate, it states that William and Sarah were married in Melbourne, Australia on March 12, 1888, however, there is no record of a marriage in Melbourne, and no marriage record has been found in New Zealand.

It is not known exactly when William and Sarah parted company, however it is known that Sarah found herself with a rival for William's affections after the birth of her second child, Edith in 1892. Bessie Marchbank Little, one of the daughters of James Little of Allendale, near Waikari, 'set her cap at William', according to Beatrice Crail Dalzell. James Little was a very successful sheep farmer and is known to this day as the 'founder of Corriedale sheep' in New Zealand. Although James began life on the Canterbury Plains as a shepherd, he was, by the time Bessie made eyes at William White, a wealthy man. No doubt, William found Bessie's attentions most flattering. Bessie became extremely jealous of Sarah, according to Beatrice, who insisted that at this time William and Sarah were still together ( and it has be said that 'no one dared argue with Beatrice!). Life for Sarah became quite unbearable with Bessie determined to have William for herself. Although family accounts describe William White as a 'softie', there is no accounting for his actions. William sent Sarah and the children away, to live in Christchurch. Sarah does not appear with William on the 1893 electoral roll in Waikari so it is possible that they were separated by then. A broken hearted Sarah took ill, some time afterwards and died. No death certificate has been found for Sarah under the names White or Crail, however her death can be placed before July,1899, as William and Edith were admitted to the Christchurch East School on July, 9, 1899 and were in the care of someone other than their mother. The school admission records show that the children attended this school until December of 1900 when they were separated. William was sent to Ashburton at the age of 11 to work, (his father named as his guardian), while 8 year old Edith went to Dunedin to live with a Mrs Hammond and later to Wellington to board with a family named Canner.

How Sarah Agnes Crail died, the exact date and place, all remain unknown. Sadly, where she is buried also remains a mystery, and any persons who may have known, are long since gone. The family will continue to search for more information about her.

'A mother's love is like no other in the world,
and she has the most wonderful memories of a little boy and girl.'

After Sarah has died, William married Bessie Little. The marriage took place on January, 18, 1900 at Allendale (pictured right), the home and sheep property belonging to her father, James Little. After the marriage, Wiliam and Bessie lived at a property called Littledale, not far from Allendale, which James Little bought for his daughter. William Brideson had already married Bessie's sister Mary and the two Williams gave up the store in Waikari, (White & Brideson's), in the early 1900's. The shop building was moved to Littledale where it still stands today, known as 'the red shed'. Bessie was referred to by William's children as the 'she devil' and sadly, she refused to have anything to do with William's children, Edith and William. Edith told her children that Bessie, on her deathbed, in January, 1932, apologised for sending the children away from their father, however not even this admission of guilt could have erased the pain William and Edith endured in their very unhappy childhood, after the death of their mother, Sarah.
William White had three children with Bessie, James Little White born in 1901, Mary Telfer White, born in 1906 and Bessie born in 1910 (pictured below with William amd Bessie). This family portrait was taken in 1910. When the photograph was taken, William, aged 21, was living in Australia and Edith would have been 18 years of age. It is known that both children endured unhappy lives in foster care. As soon as William reached the age of 16, he left New Zealand to make a life for himself in Sydney, Australia, where he married and had a family. Edith later married Edwin Sydney Stringleman and had a happy life with Edwin and their four children. Tragically, however she died suddenly at only 46 years of age. Pictured below right, is Edith Stringleman (White) with the two eldest of her children, Moira and Brian.

Pictured left, is William Leonard White in his World War 1 army uniform in Sydney, Australia.
In 1927, with her sister Ellen (Nell), Bessie, her husband William White, and their two daughters, Mary and Betty (Bessie) travelled to Sydney Australia for a holiday. At the conclusion of their trip, William senior, visited his estranged son, William, his wife Mary Jane (Jean) MacDonald and their children, William Brian (Brian), Lorna and Shirley. William senior presented his son with a handsome Mantel Clock which is still in the family. William, Bessie, Mary, Betty and Nell left for New Zealand on November 3, 1927, aboard the ill fated mail steamer, 'Tahiti' (pictured below). Off Bradley Heads, inside the harbour, the ship collided with the Watsons Bay bound passenger ferry, 'Greycliffe' Still considered to be one of the worst Maritime disasters on Sydney Harbour, this accident killed saw 40 people aged between 2 and 81 swept to their deaths and many more injured.

William junior, did not see his father again after the 1927 visit. William White senior, died on March 13, 1931, of Broncho Pneumonia. His last place of abode was 29 Clissold Street, Christchurch. He was 71 years old. Bessie White died the following year, whispering her regret and sorrow to Edith that she had treated her and her brother William so thoughtlessly. At her father's funeral, Edith became friendly with her half sister, Betty and they remained firm friends until Edith's untimely death 7 years later. William junior, returned to New Zealand for his father's funeral, seeing his birthplace for the first time since he had left at the age of 16. After the funeral, William, unemployed, because of the Great Depression, remained in New Zealand for a year, travelling around the South and North Islands by car with Sarah Crail's cousin, George Crail and a friend, Tom Miles, the three, selling manchester. Photos that William junior brought back with him, are a record of his trip and include images of the tragic earthquake which destroyed Napier in February, 1931. Sadly,William White left nothing for the children born to him by Sarah Crail. The photographs which appear here were sent to William junior by his sister Edith and by her daughters Moira, Gwen and Patricia and sons John and Brian, who remained close friends with their Australian cousin, and his family for the rest of their lives.
Pictured above, is William White senior, seated, holding one of his grandchildren with his wife, Bessie beside him. The White family tree is a work in progress and we hopefully one day will know more about the ancestors of William White and Sarah Crail, from County Down in Northern Ireland.


I was assisted by many people with my research into the lives of William White and Sarah Agnes Crail. Thankyou to you all. Thankyou to Robin Pawsey, (a descendant of William White through his second marriage to Bessie Little), for his enthusiastic assistance.

Of particular interest was information provided by John Harper of the Waipari Historical Group, who was contacted by the Christchurch Library on my behalf. John was able to help me with some of this story. By sheer coincidence, Henry and Mary Ann Dalzell's property 'Coldstream' is situated directly next to his own property between Horsley Down and Mason Flat. By another amazing coincidence, the chimney from James Little's property, Allendale, is now sitting in John's home! I am grateful to John for his help.


The Christchurch Library
The Canterbury Historical Society
The Society of New Zealand Genealogists (of which I am a member)
New Zealand Historical Births Deaths and Marriages -
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]
New Zealand Electoral Roll 1881, 1889, 1893, 1896 [CD] &