Samuel McLERNON (1854-1926)

Samuel McLernon, born in 1854 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 aged 21.  He became a successful jeweler, with a business initially in Hamilton, and subsequently in Gisborne and then Napier.  He died in Napier in 1926. Samuel is my great-great-uncle.

Picture of Samual
Samuel McLernon

Samuel was the second son and fourth child of James McLERNON and Ann McCOMB from Carmavy near Belfast.  According to the The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1908) James McLernon was a builder. Samuel was educated at Coleraine and Belfast, and became a manufacturing jeweler.  In 1875, aged 21, he obtained an assisted passage and emigrated to New Zealand on the ship Dunedin. He gave his occupation as mechanic. On arrival in Auckland, Samuel obtained work with Henry Kohn, an Auckland Queen Street Jeweler.

Image of Dunedin
The Dunedin in 1876, with the colours of Shaw, Savill & Albion Line of London. Painting by Frederick Tudgay.

A description of the voyage to Auckland was published in the Evening Star (subsequently Auckland Star) on 19 May 1875, the day after the ship arrived in Auckland.

Captain Whittson declares the voyage as having been a very pleasant one. Gravesend was left on the 13th February. Light winds with foggy weather were experienced in the Channel. The trades were met in 25 NT., and the Equator was made on the 11th March, only 20 days out. The S.E. trades were carried to 21 S and were very consistent. Variable weather to the Cape, the meridian of which was crossed in lat 41.30 S., on the 7th April. The ship made fine running across the Southern Ocean, her speed for weeks together averaging 10 knots. Tasmania was passed on the 10th inst, and the Three Kings on the 17th. Fine weather with showers at intervals down the coast. Three cases of typhoid fever occurred on the passage, one of which proved fatal on the 8th April. Two births took place. An accident happened to one of the crew on the 14th April. He fell from aloft while making fast the spanker, but luckily was not much hurt. Dr Flood comes in charge of the immigrants.  Owing to the unsettled state of the weather the landing of the immigrants has been delayed til tomorrow.

The Dunedin was an iron clipper passenger ship built in 1874, designed for transport of 400 passengers. She was 230 feet long on the keel, and nearly 250 feet overall; 36 feet in her extreme breadth, and 21 feet deep from the top of the floor.  She had accommodation for 28 first class and 20 second class passengers.  The Dunedin was famous in New Zealand for starting the frozen meat trade from New Zealand to Britain following a refit with a refrigeration plant. On 15 February 1882, the Dunedin sailed with 4331 mutton, 598 lamb and 22 pig carcasses, 250 kegs of butter, as well as hare, pheasant, turkey, chicken and 2226 sheep tongues.


In April 1876 Samuel moved to Hamilton and opened a Jewelery shop. He advertised first class workmanship, punctuality, and attention to business. He  repaired watches and clocks, providing a warranty they would keep correct time for 12 months.  Jewellery was repaired. He advertised an assortment of clocks for sale. Agents in Cambridge, Ngarawahia and Hamilton East could send clocks and jewellery for repairs.

In August 1876 Samuel married Mary Jane SOMMERS in Auckland. Mary was the youngest daughter of John T. C. Somers of Dromore, Mallow, County Cork and niece of the Ralph Somers, Government Inspector of Telegraphs in Belfast. The couple had six children while living in Hamilton between 1877 and 1886.


Samuel purchased and opened a watch and jewellery business in Gladstone Road, Gisborne in December 1884.  The Hamilton business was closed in November 1888 and the family then moved to Gisborne.  Samuel and Mary had three more children while living in Gisborne.

In May 1890 Samuel was elected to the Gisborne Borough Council and he remained on the council until moving to Napier. During 1894-1896 he was a member of the Waiapu Licensing Bench, a body that administered hotel licenses to sell alcohol in the Gisborne district. Samuel was also on the school committee for the Gisborne District High School.


The McLernon family moved to Napier about 1897 after Samuel McLernon purchased a Napier jewellery and watch business in August 1896. He continued to operate the Gisborne business with a manager after moving to Napier.   In 1903 he erected a new building in Hastings Street for the Napier business. The Gisborne and Napier jewellery businesses continued to operate until 1920.

In February 1898 Samuel was elected to the Hawke’s Bay Education Board and represented the Northern Ward that contained the Gisborne and district schools for several years. He was also chairman of the local holiday association for several years, and at different times took part in the management of various public bodies.

Samuel’s wife, Mary McLernon, was widely known as a valuable and untiring social worker, and was associated in an unostentatious manner with many Napier organisations for the promotion of social welfare. She was a zealous church worker, who gave of her time unstintingly, notably in connection with St. John’s Cathedral in Napier.

Samuel died in 1926 and was buried in the Park Island Cemetery, Napier.  Mary died in Gisborne while at her daughter’s residence in 1937.

Family Tree

Details of descendants of Samuel McLernon can be seen on Rootsweb where a family tree is maintained. Details of one of Samuel’s sons, John Ross Somers McLernon can be seen on an earlier posting.


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