Topic: Margaret Sharpe Galbraith (1845-1919)

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Known as 'Peggy', Margaret Galbraith was the sister of Tauranga Mayor Robert Sharpe Galbraith (1857-1890) who died in office on 21 February 1890. Margaret was a signatory to the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Margaret Sharp Galbraith, known as 'Peggy', was born at East Greenock in Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1845. She was the second child of George Galbraith and his wife Isabella (nee Taylor). George worked as chief accountant of the Caledonian Railway Company. The family included:

  • Isabella Taylor Galbraith (1843-1919). Born in Greenock, never married. Died in Tauranga, New Zealand.
  • Margaret Sharpe Galbraith (1845-1919).
  • James Galbraith (c1847-1915). Born in Greenock in c1847. James was a journalist and editor of the Bay of Plenty Times and then the Waihi Miner. He died in Waihi, and was buried in the Waihi Public Cemetery.
  • Elizabeth King Galbraith (1849-1906). born in Edinburgh, Midlothian. Married George Boyd Thornton in Scotland in 1881. Died in Ardroch, Dunbarton, Scotland in 1906.
  • Jane Mary Galbraith (1855-1858). Born in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, died in Row, Dunbarton, Scotland.
  • Robert Sharpe Galbraith (1857-1890). born in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. Died in office as Mayor of Tauranga on 21 February 1890. Buried with his parents and sister at Tauranga Methodist Cemetery.
  • Joanna Taylor Galbraith (1858-1937). Born in Row, Dunbarton. Married Alexander MacLennan in New Zealand in 1887. Died at Pennant Hills, New South Wales, Australia.
  • John Cameron Galbraith (1861-1907) (nephew of George, raised by him after parent's death). Born in Singapore. His father was George Galbraith's brother, Robert Sharpe Galbraith (1825-c.1868) who married Alice Davidson. John's parents both died in c1868 and at the age of 8 he was sent to Scotland where he was raised by his Uncle George and Aunt Isabella. John became a general storekeeper at Te Puke (Te Puke Pioneer Store) and later farmed at Papamoa. He married Barbara Ann Bird at the No 2 Road Hall in Te Puke in 1885. John died aged 46, in July 1907 and was buried in the Old Te Puke Cemetery.

The 1851 Scotland Census shows Margaret (aged 5) and family living in Paisley Road in Renfrewshire. By 1871, when Margaret was aged 25, the family had moved to Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

George Galbraith worked for the Caledonian Railway Company for 40 years. After his retirement, the family decided to immigrate to Te Puke in New Zealand where they had purchased two 100-acre sections. Illness in the family seems to be one reason they sought a healthier climate. Unfortunately, the move did not benefit Margaret’s mother, as she died within a couple of years of their arrival.

Margaret (aged 35) and her brother Robert, along with cousin John and mother Isabella, travelled to New Zealand on board the Lady Jocelyn. On 1 January 1881 Margaret wrote, ‘The doctor on board is a perfect ninny, he may be clever, but he seemed to take no interest in his duty’. She wrote of her fellow passengers, ‘some of them are not only uninteresting but disagreeable’.

The family landed at Tauranga on 3 January 1881. Margaret was 16 years older than her cousin John who had been raised by the family after his father, her uncle Robert Sharpe Galbraith, had died in c.1868. John wrote from Te Puke Pioneer Store on 17 June 1881, ‘Margaret came round and pulled my ears. She is an awful crathur’ and then ‘Margaret has often taken me for a Māori when I come over to Tauranga with a soft hat on, on the back of my head, an old coat and trousers and a flannel shirt. That’s my rig’.

It seems Margaret found life in their new country revitalising as John later wrote, ‘Margaret is getting on but she is not much stouter. She requires (more) exercise, being tied down to the house, but that will be changed when you all come out. Fancy her riding twenty four miles and then getting up next morning all right’. And then, ‘Margaret has been out on horseback twice. She was out on a ride with me one day, we went some 10 miles and she was tired, and oh, how her bones did ache. A little while back, she promised to go to Katikati some 24 miles away. She started at three and got there at seven. Fancy Peggy, who used to declare at home she would never ride, riding 24 miles at a stretch and then not even feeling stiff. Where there is a will there is a way’.

Margaret’s brother James arrived in New Zealand on board the Hermione on 19 August 1881. Her father George and sisters Isabella and Joanna arrived on board the Oxford on 10 March 1882. David Lundon built the Galbraith family home, Ardencaple, in Tauranga to a design by architects Fitzgibbon Louch and Son. The house had three frontages, Edgecumbe Road, 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue.

On 21 February 1890, Margaret’s younger brother Robert Sharpe Galbraith died whilst holding the office Mayor of Tauranga. He was buried with his mother in the Tauranga Methodist Cemetery.

Margaret was a signatory to the Women’s Suffrage Petition presented to Parliament in 1893 (Sheet No. 398) which led to the Electoral Act and New Zealand becoming the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the right to vote. She was surely one of more than 90,000 women who voted for the first time on 28 November 1893. 

Margaret’s father, George, died in Tauranga on 9 December 1899. In 1915 her younger brother, barrister and solicitor James Galbraith, died in Waihi and was buried in the Waihi Public Cemetery. James had been the editor of the Bay of Plenty Times and the Waihi Miner.

Margaret spent much time nursing her elder sister, Isabella Taylor Galbraith who, like Margaret, never married. Isabella died in Tauranga on 17 May 1919. Two months later Margaret died at Ardencaple, on 30 July 1919, at the age of 73. Margaret was buried in the Tauranga Methodist Cemetery. The family plot 388 also contains her parents and brother. Her obituary appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times

GALBRAITH On July 30th at her residence 'Ardencaple', Tauranga, Margaret Sharpe, daughter of the late George Galbraith, and dearly beloved sister of Joanna T McLennan of the Manse, Granville, NSW, aged 73. Funeral Saturday 2pm. Friends please accept this intimation. We regret to chronicle the death of Miss Margaret S. Galbraith, which occurred at her residence "Ardencaple," Sixth Avenue, on Wednesday last. Deceased was a daughter of the late Mr G Galbraith, who, with his family, arrived in Tauranga in the year 1880. With the exception of a visit to the Old Country some years ago the late Miss Galbraith had since resided here. She took a keen interest in the affairs of St Peter's Presbyterian Church and was organist of the church for a period of six years. The late Miss Galbraith saw much illness in her own home and the loving care which she bestowed upon her late sister and others during long illnesses showed her great self-sacrificing spirit. She was a sister of the late Mr James Galbraith, who was a well-known journalist in Tauranga and Waihi. Another brother, Mr R. S Galbraith, who owned a large farm in the Rangiuru district, died here many years ago. A sister Miss Isabella Galbraith, passed away here on May 17 last. Mrs McLennan wife of the Rev Mr McLennan, of Granville New South Wales, is a sister of deceased, and has been staying in Tauranga for several months. Much sympathy will be extended to Mrs McLennan and family in their sad bereavement. The funeral takes place to-morrow at two o'clock (Bay of Plenty Times, 1 August 1919, p. 2). 


References: 1871 Scotland Census. Scotland, National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936

Bay of Plenty Deaths 1872-1920: E-G.

Bay of Plenty Times (1899, December 11): Death of Mr George Galbraith.

Bay of Plenty Times (1919, August 1): Obituary.

Births, Deaths and Marriage Online (New Zealand).

Clement, Christine (2011). The Pioneers, Settlers and Families of Te Puke and District (pp. 113-125).

McLean, Heather (1996). Tauranga Methodist and Children's Cemetery.

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Margaret Sharpe Galbraith (1845-1919)

Note:398 Galbraith MS (Tauranga, Bay of Plenty)
First Names:Margaret Sharpe
Last Name:Galbraith
Date of Birth:1845
Place of Birth:East Greenock, Renfrewshire
Country of birth:Scotland
Date of death:30 July 1919
Place of death:Ardencaple, Tauranga, New Zealand
Place of burial:Tauranga Methodist Cemetery
Fathers name:George Galbraith
Fathers date of birth:1821
Fathers place of birth:Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Fathers date of death:9 December 1899
Fathers place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Mothers name:Isabella Taylor
Mothers date of birth:1817
Mothers place of birth:Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Mothers date of death:4 November 1883
Mothers place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand