Sandy emigrated to Nelson, New Zealand, sailing from London on "Sir Allan McNab", arriving 8 August 1855.
His first job was to help a bricklayer build a chimney at Riwaka School.
He and "Uncle Jim" were among those who worked on the 6-foot-wide ditch (later washed out wider and deeper to 10 times that width) that the New Zealand Company designed to drain the Moutere Valley, which "in its natural state was very wet and swampy with the river meandering back and forth across the valley in a course so crooked that rain in the upper reaches took a day or two to reach the sea".
Most, if not all, of the children were born at Riwaka, as were some of their eventual spouses. Riwaka was in the Nelson Province until provinces were abolished in 1876, replaced mostly by counties, all but one of which were abolished in 1989.