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Image The emigrants, 1844

TLF ID R1740

This is a painting purporting to show the wealthy MacKay family gathered on the shores of their Scottish Highland home. English artist William Allsworth (c1825-c1865) was commissioned to commemorate the family's emigration to New Zealand. In the background is the ship they have chartered to take them, the 'Slains Castle'. The party's leader, James MacKay Snr, the brother of the local laird, stands at the back. His wife, Anne, is seated near him, along with their six children, two of their nephews, various livestock and luggage.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset may well portray a mythical family history - it is now thought that James MacKay Snr was from an Aberdeen merchant family called Mackie, he spent most of his life in London and all his children were born in London.
  • It presents false evidence - it is now known that the 'Slains Castle' never sailed from Scotland; it left Plymouth in 1844, and although the MacKays were undoubtedly wealthy, it is unlikely they chartered the ship for themselves, as the ship records list other passengers.
  • It suggests that social standing was important, even in the remote colony of New Zealand.
  • It shows what a family of wealth would have brought with them to the colonies.
  • It is a good example of a family portrait of the time, illustrating the patriarchal family structure.
  • It demonstrates how artwork can present a skewed viewpoint.

Other details

  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1844
  • Name: William Allsworth
  • Remarks: artist
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 27 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
Access profile
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Learning resource type
  • Image
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Operating systems
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  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements