Burial register ID: 4711
Surname: BROWN
First name: JESSIE
Middle names:
Gender: Female
Age: 39 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 30-Jun-1886
Date of burial: 03-Jul-1886

Block: 190A
Plot: 6

There is no monument or headstone at this grave.

Bio contributor: Pauline Ireland-Kenny

Jessie Ireland 1844–1886

The story of Jessie Ireland, the second daughter of Peter and Isabella Ireland, is a saddening one. Her life was punctuated with the birth of twelve children and financial strain which caused the loss of both parents and contributed to half the family emigrating to Australia. Isabella’s third child, she was born in 1847 and christened Janet after her paternal grandmother Janet Christie.

In 1855, when she sailed to Tasmania, Jessie Ireland was about ten years old. She would probably have remembered this voyage, just as she recalled the crossing to Port Chalmers in 1861, when she was about fifteen. In the same period, her future husband Alexander McLaren Brown would have arrived in Dunedin too. It is possible that he had sailed from Scotland for the gold rushes in Victoria, Australia, with his brother John Brown in about 1856, since John Brown’s death certificate states that he had lived in Victoria for 27 years on his death in 1883. The couple married in 1865. The 9 January “Notice of Intent to Marry” states that Jessie had lived for three years in New Zealand, as had her intended Alex (sic) Brown.

The marriage took place on 13 January 1865 at Peter Ireland’s house in Dundas Street. Jessie was aged 18 and Alexander Brown, entered as “Alex”, was of “full age” (actually 32, since he was born in 1833). According to his granddaughter, Evelyn Ferguson, Alex Brown was a carpenter, joiner and violinist. He was in demand to play at dances and the more he had to drink, the better he played. Understandably, his youngest daughter Nellie would never allow drink in the house. Clearly, both Jessie and Alex came from large families and intended to keep traditional names in the family, perhaps in memory of those they had left in Scotland. Their children were: James (1865); Peter Ireland (1867); Alexander McLaren (1869); Isabella (1870); John (1872); Jessie Ann (1874); Jane (1876); Mary Dewar (1878); David Ireland (1879); Agnes Valentine (1881); Annie (1884); and Nellie (1885).

The house that Alex built for his family was in Grange Street; it may have been either 50 or 55 Grange Street, since Alex owned sections at both addresses. There are records from the nearby Albany Street School showing that some of the Browns attended it. According to the 1882 New Zealand Freeholders Register, Alexander McLaren Brown was a joiner, and owned property worth £325. The Dunedin East Electoral Roll records Alexander McLaren Brown as a carpenter; he is still living at Grange Street, but this is the last known electoral roll entry for him. The financial strain on this growing family was considerable.

On 27 May 1885, only thirteen months after her previous childbirth, Jessie bore her twelfth child Nellie, possibly prematurely since her other children were born about eighteen months apart. This birth was not registered, perhaps because the baby was not expected to live. The birth must have triggered the stroke which was to incapacitate Jessie. On the same day the eldest daughter Isabella died of epilepsy, aged 15. She was buried on Saturday 30 May in Class 2, Lot 6, Block 190a in the Dunedin Northern Cemetery.

Now Alex Brown had buried his eldest daughter, had seen his wife crippled by a stroke, and was facing bankruptcy. On 19 October 1885 the house at 50 Grange Street was sold for £175, considerably less than the valuation of £325 in 1882. Clearly, Alex Brown needed to make a quick sale in the face of bankruptcy. It is likely that the Browns, namely Jessie and at least eight children, continued to rent the property from the new owner William Goodlet until Jessie’s death. This sale is the last recorded mention of Alexander McLaren Brown. Alexander quite simply disappeared. Rumour has it that he walked out into the sea, but there is no death certificate to confirm this. He would have been aged 55. On 30 June 1886, Jessie Brown died at Grange Street, aged 39, the cause of death being recorded as “pamplegia” (double stroke, causing paralysis). Of the twelve children, at least six emigrated to Melbourne. Some of the youngest were fostered. Jessie Ann, aged twelve, went to live on the Mount Cargill farm with Granny Isabella Ireland.

What kind of life Jessie had is all too easy to imagine. Feeding, clothing, cooking and washing for twelve children, not to mention twenty years of wet nappies, would have been incredibly strenuous, even with today’s technological help. Marrying at 18, with 20 years of pregnancies, would have taken their toll on Jessie. Her death at 39 was a catastrophe for the Brown family. With the loss of their mother and their father’s disappearance the family split forever. It has been left for later generations to try to gather up the threads and piece the family together again.

Note: The cemetery record giving the location of Jessie Brown’s grave as “Class 2, Lot 6/7, Section 4, Block 198a” appears to be a misprint since there are no other burials recorded for Block 198a, nor does this block appear on the cemetery plan. It should read “190a”, indicating that Jessie was buried with Isabella. The lot is a double one.

Others buried here: Jessie’s daughter Isabella.

See also:

1. Jessie’s parents Isabella and Peter Ireland (at Block 37 Plot 5).

2. Jessie’s brother Thomas Ireland and his family (at Block 104 Plot 14).

3. Jessie’s sister Isabella (Annie) Heads and her family (at Block 27 Plot 9).

There are 2 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
BROWN ISABELLA 15 Years 27-May-1885 30-May-1885
BROWN JESSIE 39 Years 30-Jun-1886 03-Jul-1886