Topic: William Gillies (1837-1908)

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Reverend William Gillies was a Presbyterian Minister at St Peter's Church in Tauranga from 1903 until his death in 1908. He had studied for the ministry and became part of the Presbyterian Church, serving at West Taieri, Timaru and Tauranga.

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William Gillies was born at Rothesay in the Isle of Bute, Scotland, on 24 December 1837. He arrived in New Zealand on board the Slain's Castle with his parents in September 1852. 

He married Jane Reid Russell in Govan, Lanark, Scotland on 21 April 1864. Their children included:

  1. Jane Russell Gillies (1865-1890). Born in New Zealand on 17 January 1865 (reg. 1865/16691). She didn't marry, and died, aged 25, on 22 September 1890 (reg. 1890/5529).
  2. Isabella Lillie Gillies (1866-1824). Born in New Zealand on 12 December 1866 (reg. 1867/30791). She married Robert William Urquhart in 1892 (reg. 1892/589). Robert was chief engineer aboard the SS Penguin and died when it sank off Cape Terawhiti near the entrance to Wellington Harbour in poor weather on 12 February 1909. Isabella died in 1924 (reg. 1924/5762).
  3. John Gillies (1868-1870). Born in New Zealand on 19 December 1868. He died on 21 December 1870.
  4. Flora Craig Gillies (1872-1968). Born in New Zealand on 17 January 1872 (reg. 1872/38167). She did not marry, and died at age 96 on 10 October 1968 (reg. 1968/37145).
  5. Louisa Will Gillies (1873-1874). Born in New Zealand on 22 October 1873 (reg. 1873/43301). She died on 19 April 1874 (reg. 1874/16570).
  6. Fanny Morton Gillies (1874-1893). Born in New Zealand  on 25 December 1874 (reg. 1874/13). GILLIES. On Dec. 31st, 1893, at The Manse, Timaru, Fanny Morton, daughter of the Rev. Wm. Gillies, aged 19.
  7. William David Gillies (1876-1886). Born in New Zealand on 8 March 1876 (reg. 1876/3358). GILLIES, on the 29th June, at the Manse, Timaru, after a short illness, William, second son of of the Rev William Gillies (Otago Times, 1886).
  8. Jessie Osborne Gillies (1877-1961) Born in New Zealand in April 1877 (reg. 1877/17150).
  9. Emily Louisa Gillies (1879-1911). Born in New Zealand on 4 November 1879 (reg. 1879/10225). She never married, and died aged 32 on 21 October 1911 (reg. 1911/7874). 
  10. Alice Prentice Gillies (1881-1937). Born in New Zealand on 12 April 1881 (reg. 1881/4918). In 1917 she married Alfred Moffat Smith (reg. 1917/4949). Alice died in 1937 (reg. 1937/20974).

In 1903 the family arrived in Tauranga in July 1903 and William worked as the Presbyterian Minister at St Peter's Church. His welcome was recorded in the Bay of Plenty Times on 22 June 1903 (p. 2):

ST PETER'S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. INDUCTION. The induction of the Rev Wm. Gillies to the pastoral charge of the above congregation, and the welcome accorded to him and his family passed off most successfully last Thursday afternoon and evening. At half past two p.m. the weather was threatening and uncertain yet there was a good congregation in the Church, to witness the induction of the new Minister. Through a prior engagement the Rev Mr Kelly was unable to be present. The Rev Mr Munro conducted the opening portion of the service, preaching an instructive and thoughtful sermon upon ‘Quartus, a brother,' taken from Romans, 16th Chapter and 23 verse. After the sermon the Rev Wm. Evans ascended the pulpit and put the questions prescribed by the Church to Mr Gillies, who stood in front of the assembled people and gave his answer in the affirmative, promising his obedience to the Church and faithfulness to the duties devolving upon a minister of Jesus Christ. Mr Evans then declared the ties between Mr Gillies and the people of St Peter's congregation complete, and in a most fervent prayer commended both to the care of the great Head of the Church and invoked the divine blessing upon minister and people. He then gave a few words of counsel to Mr Gillies, and descending from the pulpit gave him the right hand of fellowship, welcoming him to the charge, as did the other ministers and members of Presbytery present. The Rev. Mr Munro gave the congregation a few words of kindly advice, and after the singing of a hymn pronounced the benediction. Mr Gillies was introduced to and shook hands with the people as they left the Church. There was a full choir present, Miss Huxtable, organist, presiding.

In 1905 William opened a new church at Judea:

Tomorrow afternoon the Rev. Wm. Gillies will open the church erected by the Presbyterian body at Judea. It is intended that this building be used solely for religious services conducted by any Protestant denomination (Bay of Plenty Times, 12 July 1905, p. 2). 

William died suddenly on the Te Awamutu Railway Platform on 2 November 1908 after his train stopped there for refreshments. His obituary appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on 4 November 1908 (p. 2):

OBITUARY, REV W. GILLIES. Consternation and grief were prevalent in Tauranga on Monday evening, when the news reached here that the Rev. W. Gillies, minister in charge of the Presbyterian Church at Tauranga, had expired suddenly on Te Awamutu railway platform, after the arrival of the Auckland express. The gentleman was travelling via the Main Trunk line to attend the Presbyterian Conference at Dunedin, and was accompanied by his wife. On arrival at Te Awamutu he left the car and proceeded to the refreshment room – a few yards distant – in order to procure a cup of tea for Mrs Gillies, and on reaching the room he was seen to fall. Dr. Wohlmann, who was travelling in the same train, was in attendance immediately, but could only pronounce life to be extinct. The cause of death was heart failure. The deceased gentleman was in excellent health up to the time of his death. His remains will, in deference to the request of Southern friends, be buried in Auckland.

The late Mr Gillies arrived in the colony over 50 years ago, when he was 15 years of age, and took his share in pioneer work in the shape of bullock-driving, ploughing, etc. And in the latter capacity he took second prize in the first ploughing match in New Zealand. After some years he turned his attention to studying for the Ministry and visited the Old Country, returning to New Zealand a fully qualified minister of the Gospel, the first of New Zealand’s sons to dedicate his life to the work of the Presbyterian Church. His first charge was at Tuieri, where he remained for some years. Subsequently he accepted a call to Timaru, where he spent 27 years of his useful life. After spending upwards of a year in collecting for the Century Fund of the Presbyterian Church he resigned his charge at Timaru, feeling that the work was too much for him. Five and a half years ago he accepted the charge of St. Peter’s, Tauranga, and by his congregation here he was looked up to as a fond father and a stable example of what a true follower of Christ ought to be. For upwards of 40 years Mr Gillies was an ardent advocate in the temperance ? and in public matters he was known as an uncompromising enemy of hypocrisy or duplicity. His familiar ?ure will be much missed in Tauranga for many a day.

 He was buried in Purewa Cemetery.



Bay of Plenty Times (22 June 1903, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (12 July 1905, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (4 November 1908, p. 2).

Free Lance (29 August 1903, p. 3).

History of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

Otago Witness (23 November 1904, p. 33).

Otago Witness (4 November 1908, p. 51).

Timaru Herald (13 July 1903, p. 2).

Wilson, John (1912) Reminiscences of the Early Settlement of Dunedin and South Otago

this page was archvied at perma cc March 2017

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William Gillies (1837-1908)

First Names:William
Last Name:Gillies
Date of Birth:24 December 1837
Place of Birth:Rothesay, Isle of Bute
Country of birth:Scotland
Date of death:2 November 1908
Place of death:Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Place of burial:Purewa Cemetery, New Zealand
First settled:Otago
Date of Arrival:September 1852
Name of the ship:Slain's Castle
Spouses name:Jane Reid Russell
Spouses date of birth:31 August 1836
Spouses date of death:15 July 1927
Spouses place of death:New Zealand
Spouses place of burial:Old Napier Cemetery
Date of marriage:21 April 1864
Place of marriage:Govan, Lanark, Scotland
Fathers name:John Gillies
Fathers date of birth:1802
Fathers date of death:22 July 1871
Fathers place of death:Dunedin, New Zealand
Mothers name:Isabella Lillie
Mothers date of birth:1802
Mothers date of death:1888
Mothers place of death:Dunedin, New Zealand