Elizabeth Anna Thomson

Female ()

Also Known As


Family Tree


Elizabeth was born while her parents were living in India and the first few years of her childhood there. In 1854 she and her three brothers were sent back to Edinburgh, Scotland to be educated. 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.

Elizabeth and her brothers lived with their aunt, Anna Gordon (nee Pratt), and her husband James, an artist, in Hart Street/68 Broughton Street, a garden-less house in central Edinburgh, Scotland. At that time Anna's father lived on Maryfield, a short road running from Edinburgh, Scotland in the direction of Leith with only a few houses on one side. The houses stood in nice gardens and his wife maintained a fine show of flowers in their own. Elizabeth recalled that at any time she and her brothers visited the house they always asked if they might visit the garden, while Anna chatted inside. This was always allowed on condition that they did not make a mess of themselves or the back yard where they drew water to water every inch of the garden - whether it needed it or not! They were not allowed to pick the flowers but never left without a nice bunch of cut flowers which were much appreciated.

In 1859 they moved to a larger house on a quiet country road on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland, where they lived until 1863. Comely Gardens House, as it was then called, was over 300 years old and was said to have belonged to Lord Balserino in the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Being a fairly large house it was made into two and shared by the Gordon's, who had the larger part, and an Irish family called O'Hara. The house was one of only a few and stood well back from the road, an extension of Abbey Mill Road, in a delightful old-fashioned garden, with lots of shrubs and flowers and good ground for vegetable and fruit bushes. The front of the house faced Arthur's seat and the flower garden was on that side. From it there was a very pretty view of the East window of the ruined chapel of Holyrood Palace. Beyond the flower garden there was a small paddock surrounded by beautiful old elm trees with a gate at the bottom leading directly to the parade ground where the soldiers freqently exercised. St. Mary's Loch was just beyond.

Elizabeth and her brothers saw nothing of their father while living in Edinburgh, Scotland but in March 1858 Margaret returned to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit her children, staying until October 1859.

1860 was an eventful year for the Thomsons. They spent the first month of the summer holiday in Westpans, a small village between Musselburgh and Prestonpans, under the care of Elizabeth Purves (nee Blaikley) and May Blaikley: “We had lodgings in the last house in the village; it had a back stair (wooden) leading down over the rocks at the back of te house to the beach enabling the occupants to get on to the beach without going by any road. It had in our eyes a double advantage as it made the putting on of our shoes and stockings quite unnecessary except when we went for walks. The only fly in the ointment for me was that I had to practice piano and get a lesson now and then from May Blaikley - I grudged the time taken from the beach. Besides digging and building houses, we used to be always on the lookout for beautiful small shells of which there were a great number in many parts of that coast. Also we were always on the lookout for pebbles and when the tide was out we often found beautiful seaweeds in the rock pools. The boys used to fish sometimes and also get shrimps with the shrimping net. They were plentiul on that coast.” A previous summer holiday, in 1856, had been spent in Melrose, “our going to Jedburgh to see Mistress Janet Brydone who had been our grandmother's greatest friend and whom Aunt Jessie was named after.”

They returned to Edinburgh, Scotland in time for the Royal Scottish Volunteer Review, “ and enjoyed it immensely.” It took place on the 7th of August, on the parade ground at Holyrood Park. Volunteer Corps, newly formed in response to the percieved threat of Emperor Louis Napolean, came from all around Scotland for the event. Thousands of spectators were able to obtain a clear view of the parade ground from a part of Arthur's seat immediately above St. Mary's Loch. The day was brilliant and, to most people, intensely interesting and exciting. Elizabeth's brother John paraded in the Review as a member of the Volunteer Corps from Glasgow, where he working in McKinnon's office.

On the 19th of August Elizabeth's aunt Jessie (Janet) married Walter Hardie at Comely Garden House: “I remember being greatly excited over it. The ceremony took place very early in the day and was followed by the wedding breakfast soon after which the bride and bridegroom left for the English Lakes. I remember so distinctly after all the bustle of the wedding was over and the guests gone, what a blank there seemed to be. We young people were sent for a walk but I think we all felt greatly depressed; I know I did, it seemed such a long afternoon, but no doubt after a good night's sleep, the world assumed a more cheerful aspect next day.”

In May 1963, the Gordons and their extended family left Comely Garden House for a smaller one in Grange Loan, the then extreme limit of Newington. Anna Gordon, who knew that the Thomsons would all be leaving her in a few months, said that she could not bear the thought of staying on in the old home after their departure. She would, she said, be always hearing the boys running down the stairs. It certainly must have been lonely for her.

By the time Elizabeth's parents finally returned from India in June 1863, it was said with a sizable fortune, she had not seen her father for nine years, since she was sent to Edinburgh, Scotland at the age of four and although she had remembered his face for some time after, eventually all memory of it had faded away. However, when she saw him getting out of the cab at the door she knew his face at once.

William and Margaret could not stay long in Edinburgh, Scotland, business required William to be in London and they had decided to settle in the South. They spent all their spare time house-hunting together and as the childrens' school began before the house quest ended they remained under Anna's care. However, Elizabeth was not there long, but went instead to Tayport for a long visit, staying with her step-grandmother, who had moved there while they were still living at Comely Garden House and whose own friends and relations lived in Newport and Dundee. Elizabeth very much enjoyed her stay with her and recalls her as being always a kind person.

After seeing many houses which were not the least like their advertised description, Elizabeth's parents eventually decided to rent a furnished house, “The Cedars” in Enfield, for two years. At the end of the summer, Margaret returned to Edinburgh, Scotland to engage servants before moving her children to London. They stayed in rooms in Bedford Place, Russel Square, for about a week before going to Enfield.

Enfied was at that time a country district near London and their life there was a great contrast to that of Edinburgh, Scotland. Elizabeth missed the educational advantage of a city but conceeded that their surroundings were beautifully wooded and that the whole neighbourhood was full of historic interest.

When their two years at The Cedars were up, they moved to Bush Hill House near New Southgate, in Middlesex and lived there until 1867, when the Agra and Masterman Bank, in India, failed and Elizabeth's father lost a large part of his capital. He decided to use what was remaining to emigrate to New Zealand. In December 1867, the family sailed from Greenock in the Brig “Maria”, all except Elizabeth's eldest brother, John, who returned to Kolkata, India and settled there.

Elizabeth's uncle, John Pratt, 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 Elizabeth's father took his three nieces, Margaret, Matilda and Bessie, with him to New Zealand.

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

Even though her father attended the Congregational Church, Elizabeth became a member of the Knox Church, one of the early Scottish Presbyterian churches in Dunedin.

When Elizabeth's husband opened a retail outlet in Dunedin, her father and youngest brother managed it as Thomson, Fox & Co. Unfortunately Edward's business in Gloucestershire subsequently failed and the store closed.

In 1883 William made the long voyage to England to see Elizabeth who then travelled back with him for a return visit, via Kolkata, India, where they stayed with her brother John and his family.


Date Known

22 May 1850

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


John Thomson, James Cox Thomson, George Malcolm Thomson and Elizabeth Anna Thomson are sent to be educated in Scotland.

December 1867

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