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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

The Lad from Limavady

The Lad from Limavady.

Mr. Massey'S parents, like thousands of other Ulster families, were of Scottish ancestry. Those Scots - Irish settlers came from Galloway, Kirkcudbrightshire, Ayrshire. Many were given land there as military farmers, a bulwark against the native Irish. Some others left Scotland to avoid the persecutions of Claverhouse towards the end of the Seventeenth Century. Many ultimately intermarried with the Irish folk; others wholly retained their Scottish racial connections. Dr. G. H. Scholefield, in his excellent short biography of W. F. Massey (published in 1925) says that the Masseys first belonged in Ireland to the county of Tyrone where the name is very wellknown. It is a Norman one and appears commonly in Normandy to-day as “Masse.” His father's mother was a Hamilton and his own mother bore the name of Ferguson. The original Masseys were two brothers whose descendants are widely scattered over Ulster to-day.

William Ferguson, the eldest son of John Massey, was born at the small market town of Limavady, in County Derry, on March 26th, 1856. The family were small farmers, the good, sturdy agricultural stock of the industrious and productive North. There were four in the family besides William, a son and three daughters. Education for the children was gained first at the National School at Limavady. William passed on to a private secondary school kept by a Mr. Brandon, and there received a solid grounding in English, Latin and mathematics.

His parents left him at school when they emigrated to New Zealand. That was at the end of the ‘Sixties. They sailed in the ship Indian Empire and landed at Auckland, and after looking round leased a farm at the Tamaki. There the boy William joined them in December of 1870; he was then fourteen years old. In those days the Government offered free land to settlers who paid their own passages out to the colony; adults received 40 acres of land and minors 20 acres each. In this way a good-sized family could secure a comfortable little farm, under what was known as the “forty-acre system.” Many British and Irish families were first attracted to New Zealand by the publicity given to this arrangement, which assured them of a property on arrival. They were often people in comfortable circumstances, owning farms of their own; but the old places did not give sufficient opportunity for growing families, and the broad new lands called. But the Masseys were disappointed with the place allotted them; it was up in the Kaipara bush, and they never occupied it.