There are several separate, and apparently un-related families of the name Murrell in New Zealand. The family of which we are descendants can trace it’s origins to Kent in England, by way of Australia and Manapouri in New Zealand’s Fiordland.
Robert Murrell, known in later years as ‘Old Bob’, to distinguish him from his son, ‘Young Bob’ was the first of ‘our’ Murrells to arrive and settle in New Zealand. He was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England in 1818 to Robert John and Sarah Murrell. Iris Murrell believes he spent his early years at Victoria Terrace in Tunbridge Wells, although this, like much of the Murrell early years, is as yet not adequately supported by documentary evidence.
He is believed to have spent time in Australia. Jack Murrell, of Manapouri, believes he served in the household of Sir John Franklin, who served as governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) from 1836 to 1843. Again, there is no evidence advanced to verify this claim.
In or about 1854 he married Elizabeth Anderson. Interestingly, there are only two known children from this marriage, Robert (‘Young Bob’) born in 1865, and Alexander born in 1869. That indicates there were no children born during the first 10 years of their marriage - unusual given the absence of any effective method of contraception at the time.
What does seem more readily verifiable is that in the early 1860s Old Bob travelled to the deep South of New Zealand. He apparently was employed as a shepherd in western Otago or northern Southland and spent some months here before returning briefly to Australia. It is commonly accepted that he travelled in company with James Scott as a companion.
Obviously part of the reason for this initial trip was to ‘survey’ prospects in New Zealand. Because Old Bob returned to Australia, collected his wife and returned to Southland.