BOOK REVIEW: How Ulster emigrants had a lasting impact on New Zealand

NORTH Island and South Island, New Zealand’s two main islands, may soon be officially renamed as Te Ika-a-Maui (‘The Fish of Maui’) and Te Waipounamu (‘the waters of Greenstone).Ulster & NZ Cover blog
The name ‘the Fish of Maui’ is inspired by the Maori legend that the North Island was fished out of the sea by an early explorer named Maui. The Maori name for South Island is a reference to the widespread presence of jade there.
Between 1841 and 1846 all of New Zealand’s North Island north of the Patea River was referred to as New Ulster. South Island was known as New Munster. Furthermore, Stewart Island, the small island just south of South Island, was briefly called New Leinster.
Over 80% of all Irish migrants to New Zealand either originated from Ulster or Munster. From the early 1850s Ulster accounted for over 40% of annual Irish migration to New Zealand but by the 1890s Ulster accounted for over 50% of migrants from Ireland.
Ulster emigration to New Zealand is the subject of a new publication, entitled Ulster And New Zealand: Migration, Interaction and Legacy, produced by the Ulster-Scots Community Network. Among the figures featured are John Ballance (from Glenavy) and William Ferguson Massey (from Limavady), the fourteenth and nineteenth Prime Ministers of New Zealand respectively. James Dilworth (from Donaghmore) and George Vesey Stewart (from Ballygawley) also feature prominently.
Dilworth, a shrewd investor in land and property, bequeathed the bulk of his vast wealth to a trust to establish a school which would take in and educate boys who were living in “straitened circumstances” and “sons of persons of good character”: the Dilworth School. Within a century Dilworth School became one of one of New Zealand’s largest boarding schools. Dilworth School and the Royal School, Dungannon, enjoy a warm and friendly relationship and operate an exchange scheme by which gap-year students travel to their sister school to act as tutors and to experience life and education on the other side of the world.

English: The Dilworth School in Epsom, Aucklan...

The Dilworth School in Epsom, Auckland City, New Zealand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1875 George Vesey Stewart founded the remarkable Ulster/Orange settlement of Katikati (which the historian D H Akenson has described as “the purest Irish Protestant community ever to exist in New Zealand”). Between 1877 and 1885 Stewart published eight pamphlets advertising his special settlements. He is credited with bringing about 4,000 emigrants to New Zealand.
Stewart was an exceptionally able man with imagination, drive and determination and possessed great organizational flair. He aspired to prominence politically but while success eluded him at national level, his achievements at local level were genuinely impressive. For example, he managed to secure more money for the Bay of Plenty from central government than all the area’s parliamentary representatives put together. On a national level, his personal contribution to the settlement of New Zealand was in a league all of its own.
Today Katikati is famous for its many murals. Beginning with three murals in 1991, there are now 44 murals. Most offer interpretations of the town’s history but some look to the future. Originally a tourist project to attract more visitors to the town and the surrounding area, the murals assisted Katikati secure the distinction of being New Zealand’s ‘Most Beautiful Small Town’ in 2005.
David Gallaher (from Ramelton) was one of the most interesting people to settle in Katikati. Gallaher was the captain of the Original All Blacks (often simply referred to as ‘The Originals’), New Zealand’s first national rugby union team to tour outside Australasia. He captained the team from 1903 to 1906. The legendary All Blacks tour of Britain in 1905 probably constitutes the highlight of his career. The All Blacks scored 976 points and conceded only 59, setting a high standard for all subsequent All Black sides.
Close examination reveals that Ulster men and women played a significant part in the making of New Zealand and their role is by no means confined to Katikati. The figures highlighed in Ulster And New Zealand convey a flavour of Ulster’s contribution to many aspects of New Zealand life, including politics, industry and commerce, education, journalism, trade unionism and sport.
Through the efforts of John Ballance New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote in parliamentary elections. Women enjoyed a prominence in New Zealand society much earlier than they did elsewhere in the world. Names to look out for are Aileen Anna Maria Garmson (from Coy Cavan), Mary Jane Milne (from Coalisland), Harriet Morison (from Magherafelt), Frances Jane Ross (whose mother came from Co Cavan), Margaret Jane Scott (also from Co Cavan) and, Marianne Smith (from Portaferry).

Ulster And New Zealand: Migration, Integration and Legacy. Published by the Ulster-Scots Community Network. Free to download from


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