Rodney Times : January 20th 2011
17 RODNEY TIMES, JANUARY 20, 2011 NEWS Ancestor's arrival 165 years ago marked By SARAH MACDONALD Picnic day: Family of Captain James Ninnis celebrated 165 years since his arrival on Kawau Island. Photos: PETER DEVERELL Youngest and oldest: Sarah MacDonald with son Owen, seven months, and Cedric Breckon, 85. Ninnis numbers: Family gather in front of the original miner's house, now incorporated into Mansion House. About 150 people gathered on Kawau Island to meet some of their family members for the first time. The event was held to cel- ebrate 165 years since Cap- tain James Ninnis and his family arrived on the island. Captain Ninnis, born in St Agnes, England, in 1809, was appointed by the North British Australian Loan and Investment Company of Aberdeen to establish and manage the island's new cop- per and manganese mine, one of New Zealand's first mining operations. In 1846 Captain Ninnis and wife Priscilla emigrated from England with six children in tow. Eventu- ally their family grew to a staggering 17 children, although three did not sur- vive beyond infancy. The copper mine was one of New Zealand's earliest com- mercial enterprises and thrived for several years. Remains of the industry and its community are protected today in the Kawau Island Historic Reserve. The island later became famous as the home of New Zealand governor and statesman Sir George Grey. The original Ninnis house on the island was the mine manager's home built for the captain and his family. After Grey purchased the island in 1862. he made significant additions to the home, incorporating it into what is now known as Mansion House. Mutual curiosity about the significant number of Ninnis descendants there could now be, and their whereabouts, prompted two relatives to try and track some of them down and get together. So Eunice Whitcombe of Tauranga and Stuart Bright from Sydney, with help from other relatives, organised the special 165-year reunion at Mansion House on January 9. Ninnis descendants travelled from as far as Christchurch, Sydney and the United States. They ranged in age from 85-year-old Cedric Brec- kon of Northcote to seven- month-old Owen MacDonald from Cambridge, a great- great-great-great-grandson of Captain James Ninnis. Julie Baker of Christ- church was among those who met a great number of new relatives to add to her family tree. I'm loving the fact that we have got parts of our history written down here,'' she says. I think it's awesome that DoC has put signs up with our ancestors' names on and we can start understanding where we came from.'' She was excited to see the family home and to under- stand more about the family and what their lives were like. Although James and Priscilla had 14 offspring who reached adulthood, only some of their subsequent family lines were represented at the reunion. Mr Bright says he used Facebook to search for descendants, starting with the ones with fairly unusual surnames that would have more manageable numbers, like Flexman, Hamlin, Woollams and Beeson. He knows there are thousands more out there yet to be found. I did a calculation and based on three child-bearing children per generation and an average child-bearing age of 27, I came up with about 12,000 living descendants,'' he says. The 11 Ninnis daughters subsequently married into names including those mentioned, plus Green, Ste- phens, Harrison, Kaye and Kitt. Any potential descendants can contact Eunice Whitcombe on (07) 543-0901, Stuart Bright at stuart. email@example.com or Marie Le Blanc of Stanmore Bay on (09) 424-0349.
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