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The First European Settlers at the Eyebright Site

Jean Maybin,: Great, Great, Great Granddaughter of Clara McShane

The first European settlers on the Eyebright property were Alexander and Clara McShane.  Clara came out on the Fifeshire in 1841. Alexander arrived two days later on the Whitby.  He was appointed surgeon for the new Nelson settlement.  His marriage to Clara, a pharmacist, was the first official wedding in Nelson. 

Clara and Alexander’s  great, great, great granddaughter called in the other day.   She knew nothing about Clara and was more interested in Alexander.   I was more interested in Clara; a woman and her child who traveled from the UK as a solo mum.   She had a profession, something uncommon for nineteenth century Englishwomen, made remarkable by her also having a child, and extraordinary that she was then inclined to emigrate to the other side of the world.  She was a without a doubt a formidable woman.

After Alexander’s death by consumption at an early age she was left to carry on at what is now the site of Eyebright.  Then her house burnt down.  Her travails were relentless.


Jean Maybin, Clara’s great, great, great granddaughter was born in Auckland, spent nearly forty year working Fiji, twenty of those as a Marine Biologist with the University of the South Pacific.  She now lives in Perth.  I didn’t interview her extensively, but could tell by her no nonsense manner that doing so would yield matter- of- a- fact replies.   She walked with a stick, so rather than take her to the place where I kept the buckets of artefacts collected from the old house site, her son- in- law and I went and fetched them.  I asked her how the experience of being here (standing under the oak tree that Alexander almost certainly planted, and handling the same bits of crockery that Clara would have used) affected her.  Her reply belay no emotion, she simply said she felt more connected.  Perhaps I am a romantic but for me It was easy to imagine that Jean Maybin, a formidable woman, is a facsimile of her great great great grandmother, Clara  McShane.


Nov 03, 2016 • Peter Owen

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