David Philp was born in Boarhills, Scotland in June 1821. His was an established and educated family: his eldest brother James became a doctor, and another brother Simson became a writer, conductor and a noted musician. At the age of 16, David was apprenticed to the St Andrews branch of the bank of Scotland. Later, he became a teller at the Callander branch.
David married Helen Bowie in July 1856, She was from a prosperous family, and they went to Paris for their honeymoon.
In March 1857, David made a big decision, and accepted a position as agent, or branch manager, of the Edinburgh and Glasgow’s newly-opened Callander branch. Trouble was, the bank was in difficulty, due to the depression in Britain and America. The bank branch where David worked was closed, and he transferred to the Clydesdale branch. In 1860, David left the bank and went into business in partnership in a shawl-making company. It appears that company failed in 1863 – which is when David and Helen decided to emigrate to New Zealand with their three children, James, Margaret and Andrew. A smart house that Helen had inherited was taken from them, and returned to the trustees.
The Philps sailed to New Zealand aboard the clipper ship Queen of Beauty, departing from Gravesend, London on 4 May 1863. The reduced financial circumstances of the Philps meant they travelled in steerage, rather than in a cabin of their own.
Three days into the voyage, a boy stowaway was discovered, and clapped in irons. The passengers of the ship raised £14 and the captain accepted this as the boy’s passage money, so he was released and set to work. Later in the voyage, near Rio de Janiero, the Queen of Beautywas fired on and stopped by the American Confederate warship the Alabama. After being boarded by men from the Alabama, the Queen of Beautywas allowed on its way. The ship then weathered gales in the Roaring Forties, and eventually arrived in Auckland on 9 August.
The Philps landed in Auckland at a time of great concern among the settlers there, due to the wars against Maori in the North Island at the time. Undeterred, David set up in business as an accountant, stock broker and property agent. By 1864, he was employed by the Onehunga branch of the Bank of Auckland. The fourth child of the Philps, named Agnes, was born in November 1864.
The Bank of Auckland went into liquidation in April 1867. David joined the gold rush to Thames, and in October was issued with a miner’s rights licence. But thinking his talents lay elsewhere, he became a mining agent. Unfortunately, David invested in some failed mining ventures, and in 1875, was declared bankrupt. While David was suspended from practising, Helen opened a school. The Thames gold rush was short-lived, and in 1880, the Philps returned to Auckland. David died in December 1883, aged 64, and was buried “in the nearest graveyard” according to his will. Later, his daughter Margaret and her husband Harry Carse were buried here too.
Helen moved to Sydney, Australia, with son James and daughet Agnes. She died there in 1907, and was buried there.