Burial register ID: 8279
Surname: CURLE
First name: DAVID
Middle names:
Gender: Male
Age: 80 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 16-Jul-1899
Date of burial: 18-Jul-1899

Block: 181
Plot: 7

Bio contributor: Amanda Kennedy

Captain David Curle 1819-1899

David Curle was born in 1819 at Troon, a small coastal village in Ayrshire, Scotland. After serving an apprenticeship in the Glasgow shipbuilding firm of Barclay, Curle and Co., where his brother was a partner, he obtained his Master Mariner’s Certificate and became a captain.

David married Elizabeth Watson about 1846 at Glasgow, when he was 27 and she was 25. They had three children. Their two sons were Robert (died 1895), and James (died 1926). The youngest child was a daughter, Margaret Elizabeth (1854-1942). In 1855, when he was 36 years old, he sailed for Melbourne, leaving his wife and children for six years while he searched for a new life in Australia. He ran a ferry in Melbourne on the Yarra, and made a living in the shipping trade, building and repairing trading ships.

In 1859, he brought the iron hull, boiler and engines of a 25-ton screw steamer, the Victoria, across the Tasman to Port Chalmers aboard his 100-ton schooner the Pride of Yarra. The Victoria was used as the harbour steamer between Port Chalmers and Dunedin, and later sailed between Queenstown and Kingston on Lake Wakatipu ’till she sank a mile from Queenstown in 1868 with one drowned’. Other ships owned by Curle were: the Elizabeth Curle, the Margaret Elizabeth (named after his daughter), the Ruby (one of the first steam ships on Otago Harbour), and the William and Margaret (named after his daughter and son-in-law, William Cowie). The ships were built at Arden Bay on the Otago Peninsula.

Curle’s wife and children joined him after he bought a property in Scotia Street in 1862. His daughter, who had been only a year old when he had last seen her, was now eight. The family settled at Curle Point near St Leonards, where David became a farmer and helped establish the primary school in St Leonards. He farmed until his death in 1899 ‘at the sprightly age of eighty’. His wife, Elizabeth, died two years later. His remains lie in the Northern Cemetery, in a family grave surmounted by the funerary urn set there in memory of his elder son, Robert, who died in 1895.

The Pride of Yarra shipwreck

In 1863, one of David Curle’s ships, the Pride of Yarra, was involved in a tragic accident in Otago Harbour off Blanket Bay (now Sawyers Bay). Curle was not aboard at the time. The Pride of Yarra was carrying fifty passengers, most of whom had just completed the three-month journey from England on the Matoaka, from Port Chalmers to Dunedin. The cold and foggy night had driven most of the passengers below decks. There was not enough room in the cabin, so many women were in the hold and steerage compartments. Most of the men were on deck. The other vessel involved was the Favourite, a powerful paddle steamer used to tow ships. Visibility was poor, and the Favourite was going very fast. The Pride of Yarra tried to alter course and reversed her engines, but it was too late to avoid a collision.

The Favourite struck the Pride of Yarra on the port bow. According to a contemporary report, ‘The two vessels collided with a violent impact, for a few seconds they appeared to cling together, and as the water rushed into the hold of the stricken steamer all who were on deck or could by any means reach it rushed to the point of contact and endeavoured to climb on board the Favourite. In a very short time the water in the sinking vessel was breast high, and she turned over on her side’.

On board the Favourite, there was confusion and dismay at the sudden appearance of the other steamer. Because most of the passengers on the Pride of Yarra were below decks, they received no warning of the collision. The people in the cabin had no idea what had happened. Those nearest the door were helped out by the captain, but there were twelve people who were in the back of the cabin and were unable to get out in time. The steamer went down in a matter of minutes.

The Rev. M. Campbell, newly arrived in Dunedin to take up the post of Rector of Otago Boys’ High School, his wife, their five children, and their two maidservants, were among those who died in the tragedy. The public funeral for the twelve victims, who were buried in a single grave with a monument over it, was attended by about 2,000 people, almost the entire population of Dunedin at that time.

Captain Adams, the master of the Favourite, and his mate were found guilty of manslaughter. Captain Spence, the master of the Pride of Yarra, was censured for driving his ship at an excessive speed. The Pride of Yarra had been badly damaged in the accident and was condemned as unseaworthy.


— Obituary, Otago Witness, 20 July 1899

The Curle family: Family reminiscences, compiled by Linda Miles.

Nothing like a dame, by Molly Anderson, Hazard Press, 1998.

Early New Zealand steamers.

New Zealand shipwrecks.

— Other burials recorded at the same site:
Robert CURLE d. 1895,
Elizabeth Watson CURLE d. 1901,
William COWIE d. 1911,
James CURLE d. 1925,
James Arthur COWIE d. 1926,
Margaret Elizabeth COWIE d. 1942,
Adeline COWIE d. 1952,
Irvine Watson COWIE d. 1956,
Elizabeth Curle KREFT d. 1963,
and Martin Albert KREFT d. 1965.

There are 11 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
COWIE ADELINE 64 Years 19-Aug-1952 20-Aug-1952
COWIE IRVINE WATSON 74 Years 09-Feb-1956 10-Feb-1956
COWIE JAMES ARTHUR 36 Years 28-Apr-1926 29-Apr-1926
COWIE MARGARET ELIZABETH 89 Years 22-Jun-1942 24-Jun-1942
COWIE WILLIAM 71 Years 22-Nov-1911 25-Nov-1911
CURLE DAVID 80 Years 16-Jul-1899 18-Jul-1899
CURLE ELIZABETH WATSON 84 Years 18-Feb-1901 20-Feb-1901
CURLE JAMES 74 Years 03-Aug-1925 04-Aug-1925
CURLE ROBERT 21 Years 10-Nov-1895 12-Nov-1895
KREFT ELIZABETH CURLE 80 Years 10-Jul-1963 12-Jul-1963
KREFT MARTIN ALBERT 80 Years 24-Aug-1965 26-Aug-1965