Visiting New Zealand couple seek family connections

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A RETIRED couple from New Zealand were in Arbroath this week trying to track down family information.

Clive Rae and his wife, Margery, visited what is left of West Grimsby where Clives’ paternal grandfather, sailmaker Walter Spark Smith, was brought up.

He believes that Walter had three brothers and a sister and would love to get in touch with any of the family who might still live in Arbroath.

His grandfather had an exciting voyage to the other side of the world.

He was aboard the Scottish clipper ‘Strathmore’ which sailed from London on April 17, 1875, for Dunedin laden with gunpowder, iron and emigrants.

The captain was one Alex MacDonald and there were 88 people on board, including a crew of 38.

In June, 1875, on a foggy night in the southern ocean, the captain set a course that he thought would take him south of the Crozet Islands.

However, at 4.40 a.m. On July 1, the ship drove on to a rocky coast which later proved to be one of the Crozets.

Captain MacDonald and the first mate were washed overboard and drowned but the second officer, Mr Peters, succeeded in getting the gig and dinghy off the deckhouse and safely launched, carrying as many as possible ashore before returning for five more.

It was the middle of winter and the weather was bitterly cold. As most had been in bed when the ship struck, they had little clothing to protect them,.

The gig returned to the ship in daylight and eventually all the survivors – a total of 46 – were got ashore.

They existed on the island for seven months before they were rescued by the crew of a passing American whaler, the ‘Young Pheonix’ on January 21, 1876.

Some of the survivors travelled to Mauritius on board the whaler while others were taken to Point De Galle, Ceylon after having been transferred to the ‘Sierra Morena’.

Mr Rae believes that his grandfather was one of the survivors and eventually made his way to New Zeland where he set up home. He is buried at Palmerston North, in North Island.

Mr and Mrs Rae fly home from Heathrow on Monday.

If anyone has information of family members still in Arbroath, he can be contacted by e-mail on raeburn0308@xtra.co.nz