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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


BURN, Margaret Gordon



A new biography of Burn, Margaret Gordon appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Margaret Gordon Burn, née Huie, was born on 22 March 1825 at Edinburgh, Scotland, the eldest of eight children of Alexander Huie, a public accountant, and Eliza Gordon, née Edgar. Although her earlier education was gained at home from private tutors, she was permitted as a special favour to attend the senior classes in some subjects at Dr Reid's school in Circus Place, Edinburgh. For the next four years (1847–51) she was governess to Sir William Jackson's family at Liverpool. In 1852, following the death of her husband, the mother brought the children to Geelong, in Victoria, and from 1852 until 1857 Margaret Huie conducted a small school there. In the latter year she married Andrew Burn, who later became headmaster of Geelong Presbyterian School. In 1864, when her husband's health failed, she established a private high school for girls at Geelong. She conducted this, which was modelled on the Circus Place institution, until 1870, when she was selected from a large number of applicants to become the foundation Principal of Otago Girls' High School. In 1871 she arrived in Dunedin where, in addition to organising and teaching the first public school for girls in New Zealand, she also ran the school's boarding establishment. The constant pressure of work gradually undermined her health, with the result that in 1884 she was obliged to resign her position. In September 1887 she accepted an appointment as headmistress of the newly opened Waitaki Girls' High School at Oamaru. She retired in 1892 and, during her later years, lived with various members of her family. She took a few pupils for tuition in English and French and maintained her interest in the education of girls.

Margaret Burn died on 8 December 1918 at 19 Hart Street, Roslyn, Dunedin, leaving two sons and one daughter. Her younger son, David William Murray Burn (1862–1951), was a popular poet in Dunedin about the turn of the century, and under the pseudonym of “Marsyas” he contributed verses to the Otago Witness for many years.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Golden Jubilee 1887–1937, Waitaki Girls' High School (1938)
  • Evening Star (Dunedin), 9 Dec 1918 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.