Culpan family

The Culpans

Auckland pioneer family dedicated to God

First you have to get there

Imagine an uninterrupted sea voyage of 112 days, that’s over three months – from England to Auckland. On board the Jane Giffordwere the Culpan family, from Yorkshire.

The Jane Giffordwas described as “a British built A1 poop ship, 558 tons register, George Mason commander. The ship represents a most desirable opportunity for cabin passengers, her spacious poop being elegantly fitted with saloon, large and commodious state rooms, baths and every requisite for such a voyage.”

The ship England on18 June 1842 with 295 people aboard. During the sea voyage there were 17 deaths aboard, and 8 births.

The Culpans on board were Willam and Mary, a younger William (age 23 married), Sarah Anne (19 years, married), Joseph (19 years single), Hannah (16 years single), Benjamin (14 years), and Harriet (10 years).

Younger settlers were offered a free voyage, but parents Willam and Mary (at age 55-ish considered old) had to pay.

William Culpin was remembered for giving sermons on the ship. “Very stormy morning. Mr Culpin gave a sermon between decks in the forenoon, the vessel rolling so much the Doctor did not wish the passengers to come on deck in case some of them might get their legs broke.

“During the day squalls were very frequent and while at dinner a very heavy one came on which set all our plates and their contents on our knees.

“In the afternoon Mr Culpan gave a sermon and during the time the psalms were singing the vessel gave a lurch which sent the stool I was sitting on from one side to the other . .. Old Mr C came rattling down after us. In two minutes after, a sea broke over the ship which sent a quantity of water down the hatchway. Such scenes have been common for the last two days.”

Peter McDonald wrote 25 years later. The memory was obviously intact!

The Jane Giffordarrived in Auckalnd in early October 1842.

In Auckland

William and his family lived in Chapel Street (now Federal Street). They must have owned the house, for it was written into his will in 1855 He died on 8 July 1857 and was buried in the Methodist section of the cemetery – the grave is underneath Grafton Road bridge. Family historians can trace no record of Mary’s death, and surmise she died soon after arrival in Auckland, and before such official records were kept.

In a belated 1890 obituary in the Methodist Times, William and Mary were remembered: “There are still some in Auckland who remember the fervour of his prayers and the heartiness of his ‘Glory be to God’ in those Sunday morning prayer meetings , when a goodly number assembeld ‘where prayer was wont to be made.’

“Very earnestly did our old friend work among the youth of Auckland.

“His wife was a godly woman, a true help-meet for him, and with such parents it is no wonder that their children fell naturally into their work in this the land of their adoption.”

William Culpan the younger initially followed his father’s profession as a blacksmith. Joseph was a woodturner, and it is thought Benjamin found work at the hospital.

Leaving and returning

In 1844, William II and his wife Sarah sailed for Tasmania aboard the Isabella Anna. They returned to Auckland at Christmas 1846, and William joined his brother Joseph as a member of the armed police. William then became a court messenger, and was the first crier of the Supreme Court.

At ‘Leamington Villa’, their home in Wakefield Street, William and Sarah raised eight children.

The Ladies Seminary in Wakefield Street was run by a Miss Culpan – this may have been their youngest daughter Alice Mary, who died in 1878.

Music in the family

The Culpans had brought a portable Mason and Hamlin organ to Auckland aboard the Jane Gifford. It was preseneted to MOTAT in 1971.

William II built the first pipe organ in New Zealand, and organised choirs at different churches.

By 1875 his occupation was listed as ‘piano tuner.’ In 1878 he founded the Auckland Choral Society. He was also the musical instructor at the Lunatic Asylum.

His singing ability was remarkable. His son Charles wrote of William’s “powerful voice with extensive range and would fill any gap. Although a baritone his break between natural voice and falsetto could not be noticed. As an instrumentalist, he could take the double bass, second violin or piano.”

Sarah had a sweet voice and enjoyed singing hymns, ‘There is a land of Pure Delight,’ and ‘Jesus Lover of My Soul.’

Tragedy, twice

Sarah died in 1890, soon after her youngest son Arthur (a bank clerk, aged only 23) died of consumpton. She was buried at Symonds street, next to Arthur and Alice Mary.

Willam died in 1904, aged 86. He was buried next to his family.

At his funeral, “…despite the inclement weather, there was a large and representative attendance of citizens. A profusion of floral emblems was placed on the coffin … testifying to the respect and esteem in which the deceased was held.”

Other Culpans

Helen Culpan, the wife of William II and Sarah’s son William, is also buried at Symonds Street. She died in 1915, and is buried next to her parents, Elizabeth and Hendry Somervell – who had also arrived in New Zealand also aboard the Jane Gifford.

Culpan family graves

The Culpan family graveside under the Grafton Street Bridge.