Turning the clock back
Contributed by Len Riggir

As mentioned in an earlier article James Ritchie (Snr) left Scotland for NZ in 1863.

One must ask why?

A study of Scottish history during the period of 1800 – 1860 reveals that there were many crofters – small farmers farming small blocks of leased land.

The landlords realised that farming sheep was more profitable than leasing the land.

They evicted the crofters and took the land back.

Not only did the small farmers lose their livelihood but trades people and businesses that relied on these farmers for work also lost their source of income.

It is very likely that James Ritchie was one of these and New Zealand was being promoted as a land of opportunity particularly Dunedin.

The family relocated to Dunedin and eventually to Cromwell where he found work as a stone mason and mined for gold.

The family believes he must have been successful as a gold miner as he turned his attention to purchasing land, something he could never have done in Scotland.

In August 1882 he applied to lease Shannon Farm in Ripponvale, an area of approximately 79 hectares for Agricultural Purposes.

Shannon Farm
Shannon Farm – circa later 1800’s. Source Ruth Draaijer

This was granted in September 1882.

In later years he leased additional land and it is understood the total area at one stage exceeded 1500 hectares.

James bought the freehold titles to Shannon Farm in 1915.

This stayed in the Ritchie family ownership till 1944 when it was sold to the Crabbe family. The family understands that James did not like farming and left the management of the farm to his wife and two of his sons and went back to work as a stonemason and gold miner.

In 1893 as an outlet for the stock the family were raising on Shannon Farm, he bought the Free Trade Butchery in Cromwell from Thomas Mitchell.

In 1901 he took his son Malcolm into partnership in the business. More on this in a later article.