Margaret Gunn was born 26 February 1819 in Auchingill near Wick, Caithness, Scotland. She was the daughter of Donald Gunn (1783 – 1870), a farmer, and Alexandrina Manson (1786 – 1881). She was baptised in 1819 by the Reverend James Smith of Canisbay; the witnesses were William Gunn, farmer, Auchingill, and Margaret Miller, Auchingill.

Old parish register image retrieved from


Auchingill was a coastal village in the parish of Canisbay, ten miles north of Wick. (Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Auchingill from John Bartholomew, Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) retrieved from The village is not found on modern maps such as Google maps.

Margaret was the seventh of nine children born to Donald and Alexandrina. 

On 17 June 1840 Margaret married Kenneth Budge, a seaman, at South Leith parish church, Edinburgh.  Both were living at South Leith at the time.

Old parish register image retrieved from

In 1841 the Budge family were living in Staxigoe.  Kenneth was a fisherman and their son Donald (also sometimes known as Daniel) was two months old at the time of the census on 6 June 1841.  He was christened at Wick on 4 June.

Staxigoe is a former fishing village two miles east of Wick.  In the mid 1800s it was the largest herring salting station in Europe. (Staxigoe, Ports and Harbours of the UK )

Staxigoe harbour 1890s from the Johnston collection ( Comments associated with the photograph noted that all the buildings along cliff top were demolished and used as hard core for the runways of Wick Aerodrome.

At the time of the census in 1851 on 31 March Margaret was living in Breadalbane Terrace, Wick. Her husband was away and she was recorded as a sailor’s wife.  With her were three children: Donald aged 10, Kenneth aged 8 and Margret aged 5.

Breadalbane terrace in the 1920s from the Johnston collection.

There had been another child, Alexandrina, christened on 26 September 1844 and born on 26 June.  Death records for Wick before 1855 are not available.  There are also no relevant headstone records.

On 4 May 1851 Margaret and Kenneth’s fifth child, again called Alexandrina, was born at Wick.

By 1851 it seems that Kenneth was master of the vessel “Sisters “ which was involved in coastal trade and whose crew apparently sometimes included his brother-in-law William Gunn. (Information from Deborah Patterson, a descendant of William Gunn)

In about 1853 Kenneth Budge, seaman died. I have not found any records of his death, death records for Wick before 1855 are not available and there appears to be no headstone in the cemetery. Update: thanks to a newspaper article found by a very distant cousin I now know he died at sea of cholera in August 1852 – see my later blog post on his death.

Margaret remarried on 10 June 1854 at Wick to Ewan Rankin, a carpenter of Pulteney Town, Wick.

Old parish register image retrieved from

On 15 July 1854 Margaret, Ewan and Margaret’s children set off from Liverpool on board the “Dirigo” bound for Australia. A cholera outbreak on board forced the ship to turn back from Cork to Liverpool. The voyage recommenced on 9 August and they arrived in South Australia on 22 November 1854. It seems that the ship was new.

DIRIGO from 1858 Lloyds Register Rigging: Ship; sheathed in felt and yellow metal in 1858 ; fastened with iron bolts Master: Captain White Tonnage: 1,152 tons Construction: 1854 in New Brunswick, using Tamarack, Oak, Pine & Birch ; some repairs in 1856; repairs to damages in 1857 Owners: Coltart & Co. Port of registry: Liverpool Port of survey: Liverpool Voyage: sailed for Australia

Rankin Ewen 29 Carpenter – Caithness
Margaret 35
Daniel 12
Kenneth 11
Margaret 9
Alexandrina 2

from The Ships List

Ewan Rankin was among 118 passengers who signed a memorial concerning the cholera outbreak:

To the Government Colonial Land an Emigration Commissioners.
The Humble Memorial of the Passengers per Ship Dirigo.
Most humbly showeth,
That we consider the ship Dirigo quite unfit for us passengers to proceed in, as she is at all times damp, and very much given to leakage. We have the opinion of many of the sailors as to the above-mentioned fact, together with our own experience. We were on board for 14 days, and during that length of time she was constantly wet ; and we consider that the damp state of the ship tended greatly to the progress of the disease we had amongst the passengers.
Memorialists are ready to give their sworn testimony as to the facts stated in this memorial.
The passengers beg leave to state that our medical attendant allowed diseased passengers to come on board, which we consider was the first and principal cause of the fatal disease that swept so many of our passengers to an untimely end, as the passengers up to that unfortunate day were free from any infectious disease.
Many of the memorialists further beg to state that the doctor wilfully neglected to attend many of the dying when called upon to do so, he not being occupied at the time more than walking on deck. Memorialists have many minor complaints to make that they consider too numerous to put here, as they hope for an inquiry into the whole case.
And memorialists, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.

The majority of the 118 who signed the memorial re-embarked on the Dirigo. (from )

South Australian Register Thursday 23rd November 1854 Wednesday, November 22nd :-

the ship Dirigo, 1,282 tons, Trevellick, Master, from Liverpool August 8th 1854 Passengers:— Mrs. Mulville & Misses Ann, Ellen and Mary Mulville, and Master D. Mulville in the cabin. — 26th ship from England to S.A. with 484 government passengers for 1854 ; 12 births and 14 deaths on the passage ; William L. Echlin, surgeon-superintendent. ship Dirigo … sailed from Birkenhead in early July 1854, but was forced to go into Queenstown (Cork) due to cholera aboard. The ship was towed back to Liverpool by the steam vessel Minerva, arriving there on July 10th 1854. Arrangements were made to fashion a temporary hospital but met with resistance from local people. Of the 518 passengers and 51 crew-members, there were 44 deaths recorded as of July 11th. …

The Dirigo . . . Arrived from Liverpool on the 22nd November, after a passage of 107 days. She landed 482 immigrants. Fourteen deaths and twelve births took place at sea. This ship arrived in a very excellent order. The cleanliness, general management and discipline of the people reflected the highest credit on Mr. W.L. Echlin, the surgeon-superintendent. The ship itself was of a first class character for emigrants, having ample room and height between decks, and was well ventilated. The male and female hospitals were large and convenient. The Surgeon-superintendent speaks highly of the efficient support and co-operation he received from the master and all the officers of the ship. The mortality, with one exception was confined to young and delicate children, and was caused by diarrhoea.

The Surgeon-superintendent seems to have had more trouble with enforcing the regulations among the single men, than all the others on board. He speaks highly of the conduct of the single women, who were a well selected set of persons, and adapted for the requirements of the Colony.

In this ship the baking succeeded better than usual. the size of the oven precluded the possibility of baking twice in the week, a sufficient to supply all the emigrants with soft bread twice a week. The yeast used was made by using what the surgeon called porter bottoms, and answered well. The form and size of loaves found the best, were those baked in square tins, containing 2lbs each, supplied by the Commissioners for the use of emigrants. The oven contained twenty six tins and the time required for each batch was about two hours; the 12oz. of flour yielded about 14½oz. of bread. I have been thus particular in describing the system of baking adopted on board the Dirago because in all other ships the baking of soft bread has turned out quite a failure. The first requisite to ensure success is to appoint a man as baker who is properly qualified and who ought to prove his efficiency by baking good bread before the ship is despatched to sea; and sufficient space should be given so that his work may be done properly. The surgeon-superintendent suggests that one or two extra floor plates for the oven should be sent, as the first, from continual use, is burnt through before the ending of the voyage. I think that in all respects the Dirago was the model of an emigrant ship.

I uncovered the remarriage of Margaret and her emigration with her children under the surname Rankin due to a report of a plaque on her grave:

Murray Pioneer, Friday May 6, 1994; – COUPLE UNCOVER HISTORIC PLAQUE: – A brass plaque of historical interest has been discovered by a Berri couple. – Mrs Sue Laidlaw and husband, Tim, when cleaning a block of land north of Berri recently, came across a plaque which dated back to 1863. They communicated their discovery to Riverland historian, Ms Heather Everingham, who quickly realised the importance of the Laidlaw’s find. The plaque reads – “Presented by EWIN RANKIN in memory of his beloved spouse, MARGARET GUNN, who departed this life at Bookmark on the second day of Sept 1863. Aged 41 Years. Oh Death where is thy Sting. Oh Grave where is thy Victory.” It had been stolen from the tombstone of one of the first woman settlers in the Riverland. Ms Everingham said the plaque had been missing from the grave site since the early 1950’s. The historic grave was situated between Dishers Creek and old Calperum Station. About one and a half kilometres from the river, above the floodplain, in an area of red sand and hop bushes. The grave was originally enclosed by a wrought iron fence, which was also stolen more than a decade ago. All that remains at the site today, are some chiselled stone blocks which once formed the base of the fence. The plaque discovery sparked an investigation into the identity of Margaret Gunn and her husband. Renmark Historian Mr Brian Glenie, obtained a death certificate, lodged at Adelaide, which stated the woman died of liver disease. Also, a newspaper report at the time read;- RANKIN, On September 1, at Bookmark, River Murray, Margaret Gunn, daughter of Daniel Gunn, Staxigoe, Wick, Caithness, Scotland, the dearly beloved wife of Ewin Rankin, of the same place, aged 41 years. Much regretted by all who knew her. – Ewin Rankin was apparently the overseer of Bookmark, at the time, when that property belonged to John Chambers.

The plaque has been restored by Ms Barbara Smith of the Renmark National Trust, and will take pride of place at “Olivewood”, the Chaffey Brothers historic homestead/museum, at Renmark.

from Lonely Graves in the Murray Valley

Death notice in the South Australian Register of 7 October 1863 on page 2

I have not found any details of the death of Ewan Rankin.

Margaret Gunn was my third great grandmother.