The 1851 census listing for Lairdlaugh Farm, Kirkpatrick Durham, includes an entry for Watson Shennan, then aged 16 years and son of the farmer. His elder brother Alexander, aged 18, is also listed. Below are two articles, mainly about Watson, telling their stories and family history. The first is from the Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Volume 4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts Volume, 1904) and the second is from Burke’s Register of Colonial Gentry (Volume 2, 1895)

Mr Watson Shennan of the Conical Hills and Puketio Stations, Otago, New Zealand.

Mr Watson Shennan of the Conical Hills and Puketoi Stations, left Scotland when he was quite a young man in company with his late brother, Alexander, on the 8th of July, 1857, and sailed from Liverpool on the 12th of July, en route for New Zealand, via Melbourne, in the Royal Mail Steamship “Emu,” making the voyage in fifty-eight days - a very good passage at that time. After a short stay in Melbourne the brothers sailed in the brig “Thomas and Henry” for Port Chalmers; Captain Thomson, now of Port Chalmers, in command. The voyage was a fine one, taking fourteen days. The Shennans landed at Dunedin on the 3rd of October, 1857.

There were no large ships in the harbour, only a few small coasters. Passengers had to go up the harbour in a boat, as the Upper Harbour was too shallow to take a ship of any tonnage. The Dunedin harbour was very pretty at that time, as the hills on each side were covered with bush to the water's edge. Dunedin was only a village, with only a house here and there on the ridges. There were no streets but only bullock dray tracks, and a large portion of the town was still covered with native timber. The Shennans left home with the intention of starting sheep-farming in New Zealand, so after a short residence in the country they went on an exploring expedition with the object of selecting a sheep run. They explored a large portion of the country now known as the Otago Central district, and took up runs in the valley of the Manukerikia, and named the stations Galloway and Moutere; Galloway after their native county in Scotland. The Shennans were the first white men to explore that part of the country. No bush was found, only scrub on the river banks in places. Game was plentiful in the form of wild duck and quail, and wild pigs numerous.

The stations were formed and stocked with sheep in April, 1858. As no timber could be found suitable for building a house or sheep yards, the nearest timber being 120 miles away, the work of forming a station was very difficult and expensive. The nearest neighbours at that time were 100 miles away, so no assistance could be got from them. Everything had to be packed on horse back or on bullock sledges, and wool and stores had to be taken on sledges for 120 miles, the roads being very difficult. There were no roads, in fact, and the pioneers had just to travel over the ridges where a way could be found. But the country was nearly all taken up by sheep-farmers in 1858–59, and after that time the roads were made passable for bullock drays.

The Shennans had a very hard rough time of it for some years, and were just getting comfortably settled when the gold diggings were found on the Upper Molyneux river. So the home of the squatter was invaded, and the quiet retired life in the wilderness vanished like a dream of the night. The country on the banks of the Molyneux, where no one but a shepherd with his dogs was ever seen, was changed within a few weeks from the quiet of a wilderness into a scene of the greatest excitement; and thousands of people looking for gold, townships springing up like mushrooms, stores, hotels, banks, theatres, etc., etc., appeared as in a transformation scene.

With the view of improving the breed of sheep in the colony the Messrs Shennan imported high class Merino sheep from Germany and long-wool sheep from Scotland in the years 1859 and 1861, and were the first direct importers of stud sheep to Otago. Mr. Alexander Shennan went to the Old Country in 1862 and died at Edinburgh in 1863. The rough life he had lived in New Zealand while there had brought on rheumatic fever which caused his death, and so ended a short industrious life. Mr. Watson Shennan bought the Puketoi run in the year 1868 and the Conical Hills estate in 1878.

WATSON SHENNAN, of Conical Hills, Otago, New Zealand, b. at Lairdlaugh, parish of Kirkpatrick-Durham, co. Kirkcudbright, Scotland, 29th January, 1837; m. 17th June, 1885, Grace, daughter of Rev. William Burnet, minister of Half Morton, co. Dumfries, and has issue,

I. Watson Douglas, b. 30th June, 1887.
II. Launcelot Stuart Burnet, b. 12th October, 1891.
I. Grace Burnet, b. 28th January, 1889.

Mr. Shennan arrived in New Zealand in the year 1857, and explored a portion of the interior of Otago province, and started sheep farming on what is known as the Galloway sheep station.


The family of Shennan was originally located in co. Kirkcudbright, in Scotland. In 1571, the lands of Faulby were granted by charter of William Maxwell, of Avon, to Robert A'Shennan, and on the 13th March, 1592, there was a resignation of the same by Robert A'Shennan to William, first Lord Herries, for new infeftment in favour of Robert A'Shennan, of Dunjop, in the parish of Tongland, and his spouse, Margaret Charteris, and their children. Robert A'Shennan, of Dunjop, granted a charter dated 23rd August. 1604, in favour of his son Robert. This Robert A'Shennan disponed Faulby to John Murray, of Lochmaben, 16th March, 1614. On 16th July, 1632, Robert A'Shennan of Culquhae granted a disposition of the remaining portions of his lands to John Halliday, in Glen, and John, Viscount Kenmare. In 1573, the estate of Torhouskie or Tohouse McKie, which formerly belonged to the McKies, was owned by James A'Shennan, who was s. by his nephew, Robert A'Shennan. In 1582, he was s. by his son, Robert A'Shennan, who was s. by his son,

James A'Shennan, who sold the estate to the McCullochs, of Torhouse, in 1620. His second son,

Robert A'Shennan, settled in the lands of Beoch in Irongray, and by his wife, Margaret, daughter of John McMillan, by his wife, Margaret Glendonwyn (of the old family of Parton), had issue.

William A'Shennan, who m. Mary, daughter of David Neilson, of Lairdlaw (now Barncalzie), and Isabel, his wife, daughter of John Maclellan, of Bair, and had issue. His eldest son,

Robert A'Shennan, m. Sara, daughter of John McNacht, of Kilquhanity, and by her had issue. The eldest son,

John Shennan (as he spelled the name, having dropped the A'), m. Grizel, daughter of Archibald Stewart, of Barnsoul, Irongray, and had with other issue,

William Shennan, of Beoch and Brockloch, b. at Irongray ; m. Isabella, daughter of William Gordon, of Brockloch, Kirkpatrick Durham, co. Kirkcudbright, and by her (who was Irongray, and d. at Brockloch, 1842), had with other issue, a son,

Robert Shennan, of Lairdlaugh (1818), and afterwards of Balig, in the parish of Rerwick, b, at Irongray. 1784, m. Catherine daughter of James McMillan, and his wife Jane Douglas, of Hillhead, Kirkpatrick Durham, and by her (b. at Hillhead, 1795, d. at Barmoffity, 2nd February, 1871) had issue,

I. William ; II. James ; III. Robert ; IV. John ; V. Alexander; VI. Watson, of whom we treat ; VII. Samuel ; VIII. David; I. Isabella; II. Jane, and III Catherine.

Mr Shennan d. at Barmoffity, 27th December, 1868, aged 86.

Arms - Registered in Lyon Office. Crest - On a dexter gauntlet or a falcon close perched ppr. Motto (over the crest), - Virtute duce.

Residences - Conical Hills, Otago ; and Puketoi, Otago, New Zealand.

External Links

  1. Burke’s Register of Colonial Gentry (Volume 2, 1895)
  2. Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Volume 4, Otago and Southland Provincial Districts Volume, 1904)
  3. Shennan Family Papers