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Agnes Davison

Signed family name
Signed given name
Given address
Sheet number

Biography contributed by Wayne Church

Agnes Davison

'Agnes Davison … wore high elastic sided boots and used a button hook to lace them up. She had a mind of her own and was a very fast walker, always meeting things as they came and not before', observed her grandson Bob Lynn. [1]

Agnes (also known as Nancy) Hume Davison was a determined and hard‑working woman. She was also a great storyteller, and particularly enjoyed retelling tales of the hardships and ambitions of the Davison family.

Agnes was born in 1845 and baptised in 1846 at the 1st Ahoghill Presbyterian Church [2] in the village of Ahoghill, Ballymena, in County Antrim, Ireland. Her parents were Joseph and Agnes (nee Gavin) Houston. Agnes was born during the Potato Famine –   a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland.

On 6 February 1866, Agnes married William Davison in Ahoghill [3] and over the next eight years had four children: Alex, John, Elizabeth, and Margaret. The Davison family then left Ireland for the long voyage to Australia, sailing on the St Vincent from Plymouth, England on 21 August 1874 and arriving in Adelaide on 5 November 1874. [4]

The Davisons bought land near Burra Burra in South Australia. They were soon joined by William’s sister Sarah Davison and Samuel Campbell, and the two families grew wheat and raised cattle on their farms.

Often William was away for several days at a time taking loads of wheat to the nearest town, leaving Agnes alone with the children. One night she went outside to chase away an intruder and was hit over the head with a spade. Agnes had the scar across her forehead for the rest of her life. Agnes kept a gorse knife by her bed when William was away, and one night she thought she saw a man in her room. William’s new suit was hanging on the bed post, and in the dark Agnes had hacked the suit to pieces.

Agnes and William had five more children in South Australia: William, Annie, Olive, Agnes, and Priscilla. In 1888, after four years of devastating drought, the Davisons decided to leave for New Zealand, where some of their brothers and sisters had settled. Leaving Alex and John behind in Australia, the Davison family travelled from Burra Burra by train to Port Augusta, and then to Dunedin on the Union Steamship Company sailing ship Rotomahana. They bought a farm on the Winslow Willowby Road near Willowby in the Ashburton district. Their tenth child, Alice, was born in the following year [5].

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was active in the Ashburton area during that time [6] and it is likely Agnes was attracted to its cause, signing the Women’s Suffrage Petition in 1893.

Tragedy struck that year, when Agnes’ daughter Priscilla was scratched by a cat when she was trying to get it out from under the house. The scratch became infected and Priscilla died, at the age of nine.

During the 1890s, the Davisons bought another 20 acres of land on Maronan Road, near the Tinwald Domain in Ashburton. Sometime in the next decade, they left Willowby and moved to Ashburton. William and Agnes lived near the top end of Carters Road in Allenton, then on the corner of Wills and Grigg Streets in Ashburton.

William died in 1912. In 1926, when Agnes was 81, she married her brother-in-law David Kerr [7]. Agnes died two years later on 21 October 1928 and is buried alongside William in the Ashburton Cemetery.[8]

[1] Lynn, Bob (1982) ‘Under the Lynnwood Tree, 1840-1940’, R.F. Lynn, Ashburton.

[2] Email correspondence with Yvonne Mitchell, 5 August 2018.

[3] ‘Ireland Marriages, 1619-1898,’ database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), William Davison and Agnes Houston, 07 Feb 1866; citing Ahoghill, Antrim, Ireland, reference bk1866 p149, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 101,487.

[4] Australia, South Australia Official Assisted Passage Passenger Lists, Family Search, Film 102692159.

[5] Entry in family bible, email correspondence with Yvonne Mitchell, 5 August 2018

[6] Email correspondence with Allan Lill, 23 July 2018.

[7] Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records, Department of Internal Affairs (, Marriage record for David Park Kerr and Agnes Hume Davison, Registration Number 1926/7088.

[8] Ashburton District Council Cemeteries (    

Photo from Yvonne Mitchell.






Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.