Margaret Justina Pratt

Female ()

Also Known As


Family Tree


Margaret's father, John, was an elder of the Glasite Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she was married, but she was not herself a member.

When Margaret was 15 years old her father, a gunsmith, and his business partner split and John had a very hard struggle before he was able to make headway alone. Margaret and her sisters were anxious to help their parents and after much consultation decided to ask for work at a ladies' underclothing establishment - and got it. Being very good needlewomen they soon had the finest work given to them to do, such as trousseaux, and so were able to help at home to a certain extent. Part of their first earning went to buy warm furs for their mother who was not a strong woman.

When Margaret was nine years old her father taught her the notes on the piano then gave her Graser's Tutor and promised her sixpence if at the end of three months she could play a tune from it. She set to work and duly earned the sixpence then began to teach her younger sisters, who from her account, seem to have been tractable pupils. Though young, she was an alert teacher, making each sister learn a different study as otherwise she had found that although the first would play from the book, the others following would play by ear!

When the first large Institution for the education of “Young Ladies” was opened in Edinburgh, Scotland, Margaret got a post there as one of the piano teachers under the head music master and held that post until she married, aged 28. While teaching at the Institution Margaret also took singing lessons from Dibdin, at that time considered to be the first singing teacher in Edinburgh, Scotland. He must have found her a delightful pupil as her lessons were seldom limited to the allotted time. He would keep her longer as she read at sight quickly, trying one thing after another.

At the Institution, Margaret made the acquaintance of another teacher, Miss Hardie, whose brother later married Margaret's sister Janet. Miss Hardie taught Margaret Italian in exchange for piano lessons. Another teacher (a Master possibly named Crawford), who had lived in Paris, France, for many years, taught Margaret French. She sent two of her sisters to him, after teaching them for a short time herself.

Margaret had almost the entire charge of her younger sister Mary, nursing her through her illnesses and missed her sadly when she died at the age of six.

In 1845 William and Margaret moved to Kolkata, India, taking their eldest son John with them. Their second son, William, was a delicate child and remained in Edinburgh, Scotland with relatives.

There were only two common routes to India at that time. The P&O Company ran a steamer to and from Egypt from where passengers then travelled overland to Suez Canal, Egypt, to embark there on another steamer for India. Alternatively, many sailing ships made the long voyage around the Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope, Africa.

Three further children, James, George and Elizabeth, were born in India. Margaret brought the children back to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1854 where she gave birth to a final child, William. The four older children remained in Edinburgh, Scotland to be educated, in the care of their aunt, Anna Gordon (nee Pratt), and her husband James, an artist. Margaret returned to India taking young William with her. She visited Edinburgh, Scotland March 1858, staying until October 1859.

On their return from India in June 1863, it was said with a sizable fortune, William and Margaret decided to settle in the South and rented The Cedars, Enfield, England, a furnished home in Enfield, England, then a country district near London, England. Two years later they moved to Bush Hill House, Middlesex, England.

During this period they re-established contact with William's older brother John, Margaret's brother-in-law, Alexander Blaikley and other people that they knew through their upbringing in the Glasite Church.

When the Agra and Masterman Bank in India failed, in 1867, William lost a large part of his capital. He decided to use what was remaining to emigrate to New Zealand. The family sailed from Greenock, Scotland in the Brig “Maria”, in December 1867, all except John, their eldest son, who returned to Kolkata, India and settled there.

Margaret's brother John had died a year earlier, leaving a widow and four children. It is not known what happened to the only son, John, but the widow, Matilda, who was then only 26, married again and William took his three nieces, Margaret, Matilda and Bessie, with him to New Zealand.

Otago, New Zealand, where they settled, had been formed in 1848 and was still in a very undeveloped state. They bought Mabel Bush, New Zealand, a farm near Invercargill, New Zealand. It did not prosper and eventually the family sold up and moved to Dunedin, New Zealand.


Date Known

2 August 1813

Margaret Justina Pratt is born to Elizabeth Cuthbertson and John Pratt in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sources: 1

7 October 1841

Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson marry in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sources: 1

7 December 1843

John Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Tranmere, England.

21 December 1844

William Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson move to Kolkata, India, India.

4 September 1846

James Cox Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India. Sources: 1

2 October 1848

George Malcolm Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India.

22 May 1850

Elizabeth Anna Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India.


Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson return to the United Kingdom from India.


The Agra and Masterman Bank fails and Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson lose a large part of their capital funds.

December 1867

William and Margaret Thomson emigrate to New Zealand with their children James, Elizabeth and George plus three neices Margaret, Matilda and Elizabeth.