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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2012

Allan Family — Pioneering Collingwood Family

page 7

Allan Family

Pioneering Collingwood Family

This is a summary of the lives of three generations of the Allan family: David, his son G. H. (Harry) and grandson H. F. (Frank) from material supplied by Frank’s daughter, Barbara Allan.

David Allan (c.1838 – 1920)

The following biographical report is selected from an obituary from an unsourced newspaper clipping. It is probably the work of his son, Harry Allan, the editor and publisher of the Golden Bay Argus.

“The earliest discoveries of gold at Collingwood soon attracted him thither. Where he immediately entered into business as a general shopkeeper...”

Died March 28, 1920. Colonist announcement. “Mr David Allan passed away in his 92nd year; his passing was peaceful and in his long life he suffered few ailments. His death removed a figure identified with the fortunes of the community since its earliest settlement..late of Kelso, Edinburgh. He served his apprenticeship in the grocery trade and came with his young wife to New Zealand in the ship Lady Nugent, the eldest son, Nugent Allan being born on the voyage. He landed in Nelson in 1850.

“He was employed by William Wilkie, general merchant and lived at first in a cottage on Collingwood Street, before building a more pretentious house in Wakapuaka.

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“The earliest discoveries of gold at Collingwood soon attracted him thither. Where he immediately entered into business as a general shopkeeper which business expanded and amplified until his branch establishments were distributed all over the goldfields, and he became a pioneer of means of distribution of commodities to the remotest back blocks diggers.

“On the decline of alluvial mining he spent a few years on the West Coast

– at Charleston and Addison’s Flat – but returned to Collingwood, in which district he has resided ever since, the latter part of his years in retirement.

“His wife predeceased him five years ago. There was a family of seven sons and four daughters, of which all but two sons and three daughters are still living. One son, David, was drowned in the Takaka river in 1875. All but one of the remaining family are married and there are quite a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren...

“...the late Mrs Allan was an expert horsewoman, and soon became a skilled midwife. It is claimed for her she made many and dangerous journeys to all parts of the district. It is claimed for her that there are nearly a thousand babies, who first saw the light under her skill and care, some of whom are now grandmothers and refer kindly to her as “mother”.

“...for many years the deceased gentleman took an active part in the welfare of the district and held seats on most of the public bodies of those days. He was in much demand at social entertainments, being a keen and racy reader and speaker of the Scotch dialect, and literature, and as a reminiscent portrayer of early pioneer struggles. He always had a host of interested listeners.

“Altogether there will be a universal sigh of regret at the passing of “Little Davy Allan”, and that his long familiar figure and personality have gone for ever. The remains were interred in the New Cemetery on Monday afternoon last. The Rev. G. Widdup conducted the solemn funeral rites.”

Mrs Agnes Allan (1830 – 1915)

The obituary of David Allan’s wife is that of one who had offered her services to the women and children of the district. She lived at a time when women did not serve on local bodies, but had used her skills to contribute to the district in her own way. Parts which duplicate information in her husband’s obituary have been omitted.

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Obituary January 30, 1915

“There died at Collingwood on Saturday last an old lady of 85 years of age, who had been identified with the life and history of the district for a long way

– more than half a century. Mrs David Allen was in her time probably the most useful and highly respected woman who ever pioneered a country. Following her husband in all the vicissitudes on a gold field, she took her share of the hardships which came to them.

“The deceased with her husband has been living in retirement for a number of years, and her familiar presence in Collingwood will be much missed by a host of friends who knew her well. The remains were laid to rest on Monday last, and the Rev. W.H. Stych, who officiated, made special reference to the usefulness and life record of the deceased. Of her large family, five sons and two daughters survive her, and her husband, who has passed his 87th year, is still hale and hearty.”

George Henry (Harry) Allan (1864 – 1929)


“By the death of Mr. George Henry Allan, which occurred at Nelson Hospital on Thursday last at the age of 65 years, there passed a person prominently connected with, the history of Collingwood for many years. Born at Colling- wood he was the fourth son of the late Mr. and Mrs. David Allan and spent his boyhood in that district. He commenced his career as an apprentice at the Colonist office at Nelson. After leaving the trade he went south, where he joined the lighthouse service as a keeper, being stationed at the Nuggets, Bluff and Dog Island lighthouses. He was married in Invercargill in 1887 and shortly after he went to Westport where he re-entered the newspaper business, being engaged on the Buller Miner and the Westport News.

“In 1891 deceased returned to Collingwood where he purchased the Golden Bay Argus and in conjunction with commenced business as a mining and commission agent, auctioneer, land agent and valuer, which business he very successfully operated for many years. As a mining agent when Collingwood was at the height of its prosperity he had few equals in the Warden’s Court. He was closely associated with a number of gold-mining schemes in the district and acted as local manager for various companies and syndicates.

“The late Mr. Allan took a leading part in all matters appertaining to the advancement of the district and served on practically every local body. He was a member of the Collingwood Road Board which then included the

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present Takaka County, and when the two separate counties were formed he acted as clerk and engineer in the Collingwood County for many years, later becoming a member of that body. He represented the Collingwood and Takaka districts continuously for many years as a member of the Nelson Hospital and Charitable Aid Board. Among other positions held by the deceased were Justice of the Peace, Government Valuer and Returning Officer for the Electoral District.

“Apart from these he took a keen interest in local affairs, serving on the School Committee, the now defunct Collingwood A and P Association, the Racing Club and several other sporting clubs.

“In 1913 the late Mr Allan purchased the Golden Bay Times in Takaka which he incorporated with the Golden Bay Argus, but the loss of eyesight and ailing health: which culminated in a serious illness in 1918, compelled his retirement from business, since when he has more or less suffered ill-health. For the last three years he has resided in Takaka. During the last twelve months he had been steadily failing and his demise was not altogether unexpected.

“Deceased was a member of the Collingwood Foresters Lodge since he was

18 years of age and took a prominent part in the affairs of that Order attaining the highest degree, that of District Ranger and represented his Lodge on numerous occasions at various conferences throughout the Dominion. He was a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, being initiated in the Golden Bay Lodge and was one of the founders of St Cuthbert’s Lodge, Collingwood, of which he was a Past Master and honorary life member.

“Of a jovial nature, and a ready wit and great raconteur, the late Mr. Allan was always pleasant and jovial company and made sincere friends, generous to a fault, a helping hand extended to those in need, especially many of the older day miners having a life long gratitude for his kindly assistance and help received at a difficult period.

“He is survived by a widow and three sons and four daughters; the sons are Messrs. E.F. Allan, Christchurch, H.G. Allan, Takaka, and H.F. Allan, Science master, Nelson College, while the daughters are the Misses E.M. Allan, San Francisco, M.L. Allan, New Plymouth, Mesdames H. Henderson, Pahiatua, and R. Benson, Collingwood, by whom messages of sympathy have been received from friends from all parts of the Dominion.

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“The funeral took place at Collingwood Cemetery on Sunday afternoon and despite the postponement from the previous day owing to the floods there was a large attendance from Takaka. A Masonic service was conducted in the Lodge prior to the funeral and at the graveside Rev. Corney performed the Church of England service, while W. Bro. E.A. Skilton, W.M. of St. Cuthbert’s Lodge and the Chief Ranger C. Solly of Court Aorere conducted the Foresters service. There was a large gathering of both Masonic and Foresters Lodge, members of which acted as pall-bearers.”

Hector Frank Allan (1903 – 1997)

The most prominent of the grandsons of David Allan, known to family and colleagues as Frank, was born in Collingwood on June 6, 1903. The third son of the printer and entrepreneur Harry Allan, he was reared in Collingwood and attended Collingwood Primary School. At the end of 1916 he won a pupil scholarship which paid his boarding fees and allowed him a free place at Nelson College.

To reach Nelson from Collingwood one travelled either on the Hinau, owned by the Golden Bay Shipping Company, or its competitor, the Wairoa, run by the Ricketts family of Riwaka. The crossings were always an ordeal for Frank, as he was a poor sailor and was heartily sick on every trip. A graphic account of one of those journeys was recorded in the Society’s Journal of 1982:

“In 1917 it was time for me to go to board at Nelson College. I said good- bye to my little dog and sailed on the Hinau with my father and mother on a lovely summer’s day. Crossing the bar in the afternoon, there was only a gentle breeze but it was too much for me. I turned greener and greener and greener and finally made a dash for the rail – on the windward side

– silly boy! A man sitting there beat a hasty retreat. Next day when classes assembled at Nelson College my form master was none other than the man at the weather rail. He was Mr. H. P. Kidson, who had been returning with Mr. Julius Lemmer from a tramping trip to Golden Bay. Mr. Kidson was later a headmaster at Hutt Valley and at Otago Boys’ High. We had occasion to laugh about our first encounter in later years.”

Another of his contributions to the Journal, on the 1904 Collingwood fire, appeared in the 1989 issue. His 1939 MA thesis, The Nelson Provincial Council, was published by the Society in 1974.

Hector Frank Allan died in Ashburton on July 10, 1997 at the age of 94 years and his death was announced in the Nelson Mail of July 11, 1997. An obituary was page 12 published in the Mail on July 16, 1997:

Obituary – Six Decades With the College

“The death of Hector Frank Allan on July 10, one of the longest serving staff members of Nelson College, will rekindle memories of many Nelsonians of his selfless dedication and enthusiasm. He was 94. Mr Allen’s six decades associated with the College began when he left Collingwood in 1917 and became a scholarship pupil at Nelson College.

“He planned an army career and trained at Duntroon, but his course was terminated as a government economy measure. He took courses at Victoria University and Wellington Teachers’ College, leading to his teaching career. Six years after leaving Nelson College, Mr Allan returned as a qualified teacher and filled many roles in a career from 1926 to 1970.

“As a young man, he was one of the most experienced trampers and climbers of his time, and for 20 years he took parties of boys on tramping expeditions at Easter and Labour weekends.

“Military training of the College cadet force was given a big boost by Mr. Allan’s training and enthusiasm. He rose to the rank of Major and at the outbreak of World War II he assisted with regular army training. In 1942 the army sent him to New Caledonia to establish an expeditionary force base and he was subsequently involved in operations in the Solomon Islands. He later became the 36th Battalion commanding officer. He was a lieutenant-colonel when he returned to Nelson College as a teacher again.

“Beyond college life, Mr. Allan became a foundation member of the Nelson Historical Society, tramping and bridge club, and was a Past-President of the Nelson Bowling and Bridge clubs.

“Mr. Allan retired from teaching in 1960 but returned as a relieving teacher until 1970. He had established the annual Nelson College Bulletin in 1936, co-edited the Old Boys’ Register and was made an honorary life member of the Old Boys’ Association.

“He was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in the late 1980s and later moved to Ashburton, where he died at Turangi Home. Mr. Allan was predeceased by his wife Ruby, and he is survived by their children, John, Barbara and Jocelyn, as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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“A memorial service is being planned for Nelson at a date to be advised.”

The promised memorial service was held in the Assembly Hall of his alma mater with a full attendance of College pupils and a strong representation of respectful Old Boys on August 8, 1997. The assembly was rounded off with a spirited rendition of the famous student song: Gaudeamus Igitur.