This dress belonged to Mary Souness, née Meiklejohn, of Purekireki, South Otago. She was born at Cowdenbeath, Fifeshire, Scotland and emigrated to Otago as a sixteen year old on the Arima in 1863. From the Immigration Barracks she took a job as maid to Jane Bannerman, daughter of the Rev Thomas Burns. Jane’s husband, William Bannerman, was the pioneer Presbyterian Minister at Puerua. Mary became an integral part of the Bannerman family and was married from the manse when she wed Andrew Fleming in 1866. Her husband died in an accident five months later, leaving a pregnant Mary as a very young widow. In December 1875 she was remarried to George Souness, a sawmiller from Puerua, and had a further five children. The couple later developed a farm at Purekireki. Mary died in 1937 aged 90.

This dress is a good example of the full rounded crinolines of the early 1860s. It has drawstrings to lift the skirt clear of the mud when crossing the street, which work rather like a roman blind and were a very handy device in colonial conditions. It too is a good example of the bright colours that became possible with the new synthetic dyes from 1856. This is a very fashionable bright blue silk taffeta with a black check. It has little additional decoration apart from on the sleeves, which have a vertical row of beading front and back and are ruched between the rows. It has boning at the front and under the arms and is constructed using both hand and machine stitching. We can imagine the young Mary Meiklejohn perhaps wearing this dress or one like it as she made her way south by coach to Romahapa in 1863. It is harder to see how she managed to ride a horse on the last stage of the journey to Puerua, especially since this was her first ever ride on horseback.