Burial register ID: 4987
Surname: HEPBURN
First name: WILLIAM
Middle names:
Gender: Male
Age: 53 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 29-Sep-1887
Date of burial: 03-Oct-1887

Block: 8
Plot: 11

The site includes four plots (10, 11, 15 and 16) in Block 8. There is one large monument, now damaged, with inscriptions on each side (1–4). Also a shield (5), now lying on the ground in several pieces, but perhaps originally attached to a smaller headstone still standing beside the main monument.



By his

Sorrowing wife & children

In loving memory of


Who died 29. Sep. 1887.

Aged 53.



Wife of the above

Who died Aug 24. 1901

Aged 62 years.

And with the morn those angel faces smile

That I have loved long since & lost awhile.



Also his son


Who died at Melbne.

July 1st 1899

Aged 34 years.

Interred at St. Kilda Cemetery

Dearly loved. Deeply mourned




Beloved husband of


Died 24th July 1918

In his 49th year.




Beloved husband of


Died at Waimate Janry 25th 1913.

Aged 35 years


In loving memory of


Accidentally killed at

[Port Chalmers?]

27th March 1916

Erected by his work-mates

Bio contributor: Don Hutton

William Hepburn (1834–1887)

William Hepburn, born 2 May 1834 in Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland (ref: Scottish Old Parish Records), was the eldest son of George Hepburn and Rachel Paterson. As there are no other known records of young William until his father wrote a diary on the voyage to New Zealand in 1850, it is assumed that he received his education in the town. On Saturday 30 March 1850 we first hear of him on board the ship Poictiers when George wrote about some sailors who caught a shark and said, “William has the fins keeping.” When the young man turned 16 on board ship, his father noted that William “treated us to a bottle of porter” and “it was very good, but little of it when eight of us had a tasting of it.”

The day after the Poictiers arrived in New Plymouth, New Zealand on 30 June 1850, William and George “went ashore with the first boatful of luggage … and were landed just on the beach and carried ashore on men’s backs in the old Kirkcaldy style.” The return journey from the ship cost five shillings each to “put our foot again on terra firma.” Within a short time they were ashore again to search for a friend of another passenger who lived “in the country.” After travelling about seven miles over fern land they found his friend and, as it was too late to return to the ship, stayed at “a neighbouring house, a joiner, where we were kindly treated with supper and breakfast and a good bed for nothing.”

At the next port-of-call, Nelson, William accompanied his father “out in the country seeing Mr. McHardy, for whom I [George] had a letter from the Rev. Mr. Black of Kirkcaldy.” As the McHardys had no room for guests in “their very humble mud cottage,” they “put up at an inn about one and a half miles off … and spent a happy evening.”

Records of his first years in Otago make few mentions of William, but it appears that he worked on the land and had a cattle-run in the Maniototo near Ranfurly, for which he obtained a 14-year licence in 1858. At about this time, he joined the firm of James Paterson and Co., and continued with his father and uncle at the time they took over James Macandrew’s business in 1859. He took a partner, Alexander McMaster, on the pastoral run after he “came into town” to work, eventually selling out his share to McMaster. In his Reminiscences (1870), George wrote, “The auction business which Mr. Macandrew carried on was continued, and ultimately my son William took up the hammer for us and continues to wield it in his own firm, McLandress, Hepburn and Co., till this day with success.”

William made two voyages back to Scotland in 1856-57 and 1876. On the return journey in 1857, he sailed on the George Canning with his 80-year-old grandfather James Paterson, uncle David Paterson, uncle and aunt Andrew and Jeannie Hepburn, and cousin George Sinclair, his wife Margery and their two daughters, all of whom settled in Dunedin.

After marrying the widowed Margaret Dunbar Ross née Marshall in 1863, William built a large house at Halfway Bush which he named “Athelstane”. The location was close by “Wakari House,” the home of his father. They had a family of eight children to add to the two from Margaret’s first marriage to George Ross Sr, so extensions were needed in the 1870s.

William was recorded on the Electoral Rolls of Dunedin City, Roslyn, Manuherikia, Mt. Ida and Westland from 1858, which indicates he owned land or resided in these locations at different times (ref: NZSG Index CD 2003). The Caversham Electoral Roll of 1878 notes that his property qualification for the City of Dunedin Electorate was “Joint Leasehold; Manse Street, auction rooms, part Section 30, Block 6, lease expires 1877” (NZSG Index CD Version 4 2005). The leasehold appears to have been in partnership with his father.

Despite the unexpected death of his associate in 1865, William’s business was extremely successful and an office was opened in the boomtown of Hokitika. The Freeholders’ Register of 1882 records that he owned land worth £200 at Waikouaiti, £8500 at Roslyn, £3200 at Maori Hill, and £8250 in Dunedin. Unfortunately, the great successes of two decades led to the taking of risks in the “prevailing epidemic” of speculation and the company lost heavily in 1885. Although his creditors showed much goodwill, and he started again, the strain was too much and William’s health deteriorated.

William Hepburn died in 1887 of bronchitis (four days) and tuberculosis (one year) at the early age of 53. He had survived his father by less than five years. According to Wise’s Directory he was residing in Clyde Street, Dunedin at the time of his death. The officiating minister at his burial was the Rev. D.M. Stuart who had also married William and Margaret in 1863. His monumental inscription at the Northern Cemetery reads: “Died 29 September 1887 aged 53 years. Erected by his sorrowing wife and children.”

— Other burials recorded at the same site (Plots 10, 11, 15 and 16 in Block 8 form a single grave):
Margaret HEPBURN d. 1901,
Charles Herbert GUTHRIE d. 1913,
William Leslie HEPBURN d. 1916,
Walter John GUTHRIE d. 1918,
Margaret Marshall GUTHRIE d. 1955,
and Margaret Isobel GUTHRIE d. 1955.

There are 2 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
HEPBURN MARGARET 62 Years 25-Aug-1901 27-Aug-1901
HEPBURN WILLIAM 53 Years 29-Sep-1887 03-Oct-1887