Given names: 
Sarah M.
Given address: 
Rockyside Caversham
Sheet No: 116

Biography contributed by Vicki Herbert.  Sarah was her grandmother's sister

Sarah MArsh

Sarah Matilda Louisa Evans (née) Marsh was born in New Zealand on the 17 January 1859. Her parents Octavius John Blake Marsh and Bedelia MacGillycuddy had first met each other when they were passengers on the Persia, which arrived in Wellington from London in August 1852. Octavius was with the 65th regiment and Bedelia accompanied her widowed mother Ellen who came to New Zealand to join her sister Catherine Healy and her husband Dr Francis Healy, who were from Tralee, Ireland.

Sarah was the second child, her older brother Henry William was born in New Plymouth on the 22 June 1857.  Her younger siblings were Caroline Eleanor, 24 March 1861, Theodore Henry 13 May 1863, Marguerette Helen Mary 6 June 1865.

Octavius sold his commission and resigned from the Army in 1858 and later took up one of his land grants in Havelock North.  The family tried farming but it must have been very hard for them, neither having any sort of previous farming experience.  Both Octavius and Bedelia had come from well to do families and would never have done any sort of manual work before.  They tried to make a go of it but in 1864 all the property and stock were put up for auction as Octavius had decided to return to England.  Unfortunately Octavius died in January 1865, and Sarah's mother found herself a widow with 5 young children to bring up. The Marsh family in Bath offered help and in about 1866 young Sarah was sent to England in the care of a lady.  She then lived with her aunt Caroline and uncle Edward at 39 Grosvenor Place, Bath, Somerset.  The other children went later and were cared for by the Marsh aunties and uncles.  They were all treated well, received good educations and had happy holidays with their uncles the Rev Charles and the Rev Theodore in Salle and Cawston, Norfolk.  About 1881 Sarah returned to New Zealand and joined her mother Bedelia, who had remarried a Dane Emil Simmilhag.  Emil had bought the Delta Hotel in Ngaruawaria and Sarah lived there as she had obtained a teaching post at the local school.  In 1883 she was teaching in the Thames district.

The following extracts from her letters to her brother the Rev. Theodore Marsh in Cawston, Norfolk show her loneliness and unhappiness in her new surroundings:

8 October 1882
My dearest Theodore, 

I hope to hear from you by the coming mail in answer to my last to you.  I would write every mail but I am very busy and besides the postage is really quite a tax.  Of course you know that I am appointed to Ngaruawahia School till Xmas.  I only have 30 pounds per an. as yet but that as Mother gives me board gratis is ample for my wants and I must also save what I can for I must eventually leave here and then most probably I shall find it very hard to make both ends meet.  I was very much astonished to hear of the sale at 39 Grosvenor, poor dear Auntie has completely sacrificed herself for us who can never repay her devotion.  I hope you will come out here some day – I cannot say I like it as I am situated, doubtless living in a private house with those of one’s own class one could be very happy.  I hope you are working hard and will do well at college.  Of all the things do avoid our besetting fault procrastination. I have just been to church.  The building is so small, and the brewer reads the service and sermon.  I fear that you will find Havelock little better (as regards your house) than a shepherd’s cottage while the land is most likely by all accounts an unfenced run.  I have just had a week’s holiday, the Board gives us only five weeks in the year altogether.  The weather here now is like that of May at home.  I am so stout and can eat and drink anything I can get.  This is splendid country for riding, but I have no horse though they are very cheap they are beyond my means.  I will not write to Uncle if you will kindly give him my love and tell him it is not that I have forgotten his past kindness and my pleasant sojourn in his house but simply because in my humdrum life there is just nothing to write home about.  If ever you have an illustrated paper or periodical to spare it will be an immense blessing to me.

Grahamstown, 22 August 1883
My dear Dore

I missed last mail home altogether for I moved here a few days before the date of its departure and had such a trouble to meet with lodgings and such battles to get the children into anything like order that really my letters were quite forgotten.

You are doubtless more than happy at Pembroke; if you come out here you will think the folks barbarians.

The little manners I once possessed are rapidly vanishing; miners and diggers are not refining company!  The last it is absurd for me to use for “company”: here I have none.

This want I do not feel much for I am too much engaged with my duties to need amusement.

I am at school before nine in the morning and do not leave till about five.  I have a class of about 70 children girls and boys with a pupil teacher to assist me, it is hard work here because the children have not been used to drill or discipline in their work and this I always insist upon for without order teaching is killing work.

The master complimented me today on the state of my room so my work is repaid.

My salary now is seventy pounds a year, of this I give forty for board and washing of course in N.Z is ruinous – as is dress- Do you think of coming out?  Let me know first I want to send some money for you to bring me out something.

It was while teaching in Thames that she met and married Sidney Percival Evans, a locomotive engineer. Sidney's father was the Rev William Evans who had charge of the Presbyterian church in Cambridge and his brother was Frank, a minister at St George's church, Thames.

Sarah and Sidney had 2 children, Sidney Theodore and Dorothy Augusta Caroline. In 1893 the family were living in Meredith Street, Sydenham, Dunedin and Sidney was workshop manager at the Hillside railway workshop at that time. It was here that Sarah signed the Women's Suffrage Petition. Sidney had interests in literature as well as being a good amateur artist and inventor.  In 1904 her son Sidney Theodore fell ill with pneumonia and died aged 18.  She never overcame her grief and took her own life the following year on the 24 November 1905.  She is buried in Purewa cemetery, Auckland.


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

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