7 December 1843
Although born in Scotland, John spent much of his childhood in India with his parents who moved there in 1845. His younger brother, William, who was a delicate child, remained in Edinburgh, Scotland with relatives.
There were only two common routes to and from India at that time. Steamer ships operated between India and Suez Canal, Egypt, where passengers then travelled overland to Egypt to embark on another steamer to the UK. Alternatively, many sailing ships made the long voyage around the Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope.
When his parents finally returned from India in June 1863, it was said with a sizable fortune, they decided to settle in the South and rented a furnished home known as “The Cedars” in Enfield, then a country district near London. Two years later they moved to Bush Hill House near New Southgate, in Middlesex.
When the Agra and Masterman Bank in India failed, in 1867, John's father lost a large part of his capital. He decided to use what was remaining to emigrate to New Zealand. The family sailed from Greenock in the Brig “Maria”, in December 1867, all except John, who returned to Kolkata, India and settled there.
In 1883 John's father and sister, Elizabeth, paid a visit to his family in India. John's two eldest children returned with them to be educated in Dunedin.