Sharp-Healy Family

The Story of the first two Generations

Eileen Sharp 1913 - 2010

Eileen Sharp.

Eileen Sharp was born on 4 July 1913 at St Helen's Hospital, Caversham, Dunedin. She is recorded as starting school at Kyeburn on 3 March 1919. As the oldest child of seven and a daughter, a lot of responsibility fell on her shoulders helping with the younger children and the everyday running of her parents' hotel in Green Island, Dunedin while she was growing up.

The early years

Eileen relates the story of how, when she was just 7 months old, that a fire destroyed the family business and she was rescued by her mother Margaret. You can read that on Margaret's page. The photo below shows Eileen Sharp, 3 months, with Phyllis Johnson, 2 years, taken 1913, Dunedin.

Then about when Eileen was about 9 months old, fate struck again, she contracted poliomylitis and was immediately admitted to hospital, spending several months there receiving treatment. The Te Ara website tells you all about the polio epidemic.

Eileen was admitted to hospital again just before her fifth birthday to have surgery on her right leg due to her polio, and eventually she had a few months in hospital, "and then father received a bill from the hospital. So father went down to see the chairman of the board and in those days you had to list when you were admitted to hospital, all your assets, so he was told that he owned two houses, he would have to sell one of them to pay the hospital bill. He explained that he didn't have the ready cash and a fourth child on the way, and must have asked for credit of some sort. However the chairman didn't have much sympathy for him so he had to sell the cottage to pay the bill."

Eileen Sharp, 3 months, with Phyllis Johnson, 2 years.Also about that time Grandad Healy had died suddenly in Dunedin hospital (10 August 1918), her first brother Denis was born on 30 August 1918, a small but healthy baby, and that her uncle Denis was killed while serving in France (16 October 1918), so the family had their problems at that time. Soon after that the great influenza epidemic struck New Zealand, and as grandmother Healy was now living in Naseby, the family homestead at Kyeburn was empty, "so father persuaded mother to have the children and go up and live there for a time until the plague was over."

Joan and Eileen were enrolled in 1919 at the Kyeburn school. "Soon after, the school board at Hyde wanted someone to board a new lady school teacher who was coming to teach at the school, and they offered mother free rent of the school house if she would board the school teacher, so as the school was about 4 miles from the homestead, they moved into the schoolhouse and boarded the teacher. We remained there for about two years and during that time Miss Hughes was being courted by a young farmer Harold Strode and they were eventually married. Father did well at his rabbit shooting, and was well liked, and made a lot of money as rabbit hides were receiving a good price on the markets."

In 1920, we were still living at Kyeburn, mother used to take us down to the river, about a mile from where we lived, to the Taieri river, and quite often father would be out on his rounds, and we would go down to the river for a picnic. Mother would pack a nice lunch and we enjoyed the outings.

Eileen reports that her mother went down to Dunedin to see the Prince of Wales who was on tour. "But shortly after she arrived home, mother suddenly became very ill and was taken back to Dunedin to find she had contracted smallpox, which was a worldwide epidemic at the time, and she was also four and a half months pregnant. This pregnancy ended and we never knew the sex of the child. Grandma Healy came down to look after us while mother was sick in hospital."

Then about 1921 they decided to go back to Hague Street in Dunedin, and were ready to set up in business again, with the money father had made rabbitting. So they went back to Dunedin but there was no work for them, so by chance, he was able to buy into the Hyde Hotel, in Central Otago. It was called the Otago Central Hotel. He sold the Hague Street home and was also able with the help of other money, was able to finance himself into the hotel, so we started off on a new life.

Eileen was back in hospital at the time, and Joan and Doreen were enrolled in the Hyde School, and Denis was enrolled in 1923 when he turned five years of age.

Image of a family outside Hyde Hotel. The Hyde Hotel (pictured*) was a big rambling wooden place, one of the first hotels built in Central Otago and was divided in the bar and business side and household side of the hotel. What comes to me about this was the fact that their 35 years successful hotelling was that father ran the bar and business part of the hotel, and mother ran the household side of the hotel. It meant that mother employed and discharged and engaged and controlled the household side of the hotel, and never interfered with father's business, they talked about it though. Also attached to the hotel was a store, which catered for equipment, shoes, clothing and boots for the farmers, and had the post office and full grocery and part of the butchery all connected. So during the day father had quite enough in the store to keep him busy and most of the bar trade was done from 4 pm when the farmers and wives would come in from their day for drinks and socialising. Mother was trained in Dunedin by the Post Office how to run a country post office before going up to Hyde, so she had to answer all the telephones which were manual to the homes, all the telegrams and parcels going in and out of the post office. So to help her with that part, Bill Foley, a young plumbing apprentice came up and took over the post office to help.

Children outside Hyde Hotel. Then in the Autumn of 1922, when Eileen was 9, her mother Margaret woke during the night with severe bleeding and threat of a miscarriage, which meant it was urgent and very serious. Somehow they got in touch with the doctor from Middlemarch Hospital and he spent several hours with her until the train came through in the early hours of the morning and mother was stretchered onto the guards van, as her life was in danger. The doctor stayed with her until she was admitted to Middlemarch hospital, and a Matron Paddock looked after her until she finally miscarried twins at about 5 months. They believe they were boys. Margaret then spent quite a long time regaining her strength after the great loss of blood she had.

Grandma Healy arrived prompt haste at this time to look after the family but mainly to take over household duties and staff at the time as father wasn't a very good housekeeper.

There were three large paddocks attached to the hotel, one for growing oats for the animals. We ran two cows, two horses, we had sheep, we had hens and ducks and geese, and a pigsty which we kept one sty for the breeding sow having her young and the other for the older pigs.

Hyde was a little country town and there were about half a dozen or more railway houses which housed the men who controlled the goods trains coming and going, and men who were employed on the railway lines, along with an inspector on a trolley who used to peddle up and down to check the lines to make sure there were no broken lines. There was one particular family of Smiths, Lillian was the oldest, then there was Sandy and Fred, who we were most attached to. They had a couple of dogs, and a Spaniel, and two ferrets.

So there was the Smiths, the Sharps, and one or two other older children from some of the other houses, and away up the hills we would go rabbitting. We wouldn't take any lunch but the boys would have nets, and tonnyhawks and grubbers to dig into the rabbit burrows to rescue their ferrets, because very often the ferrets would find a happy family inside and promptly go to sleep. So we would block up the entrances to the burrows with nets and rocks, and down the hole the ferrets would go. Sometimes the rabbits shot out and sometimes we would wait and wait, and the ferrets would find the young nest of rabbits and would tuck in. So we would gather dead grass and twigs and green ones to create smoke to smoke out the burrows to get the ferrets out. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it didn't and very often we'd arrive home late, very hungry and tired, but no rabbits.

Another time mother would want mushrooms in the autumn, so off we would go on a mushroom trip, we'd walk for miles picking up mushrooms. There were the very large horse mushrooms, and the smaller white ones with pink underbellies. Anyway we got to this paddock and found some huge horse mushrooms and filled up all our bags, feeling very proud of ourselves. When we got home mother would say oh no they are poisonous, and we'd have to throw them out.

We had about a mile and a half to walk to school so we took our lunches with us, but quite often in winter we couldn't go to school because of the frosts and snow, but it was lovely in summer. Quite often on our return from school in early autumn we would go into the farmers garden and paddocks where they used to grow swedes and pick some to chew on our way home. It was great life at Hyde for a young family. On Friday afternoons we used to have the afternoon sports, running, in the winter it would be football and in the summer cricket or running races, and that is where Doreen got her taste for sports because she always used to win, no matter what she did, she was one of the best.

On one sports day she was locked in the schoolhouse for doing something naughty, but Doreen wasnt having any of that, so she decided to climb out one of the windows and go home. It was quite high and took off home, and when we went to let her out, Doreen had disappeared. She always enjoyed sport and brought up her three children up liking sport as well.

Another episode at Hyde was Sunday School, it was the first time I can remember gong to Sunday School, I dont know what happened in Dunedin, because I was too young to go at that stage. But anyway the railway master would hold it at the railway station for the children around the area, and we all went, and in the summer time we'd be dressed up in our best dress with hats, looking very posh. After we came home one day, father said go out and look in the pig sty, so out we go, and Doreen was quite short for her age and she had to lean well over into the pigsty to see the mother and her new babies, and the first thing that happened her hat dropped into the sty, and of course, the pig, chewed it up immediately. Doreen attempted to climb into the sty to retrieve her hat and Joan rushed off to the house to say Doreen was in the pigsty, but we rescued her with only a few bumps and bruises.

There was so much to do around the farm, feeding the hens, trapping the mice in the loft, and we enjoyed our life there at Hyde.

Another time while we were at Hyde, the circus came to town, it camped in the large section across the road from the hotel. In the morning after it had arrived, when we woke up it was there. Father took us over to visit the circus, it was a highlight of our day, and on Saturday afternoon all the children from far and wide arrived to visit the circus. He enjoyed it as much as we did as children.

Move to Alexandra

We left Hyde Hotel about the middle or end of 1923 and funnily enough in 1925 the Hyde Hotel was burnt to the ground*, and some years later Raymond and I went to a trip through Central Otago, and stopped where the hotel was but there was no trace of it, nor the town hall which was next to the hotel. They had big functions, balls, and dances at the town hall. Quite often mum and Dad would get dressed up and go to the ball at the town hall. They enjoyed the interlude of social occasions like this.

*HOTEL BURNED. Auckland Star, Volume LVI, Issue 200, 25 August 1925, Page 9. WITH STORE AND HALL. DUNEDIN. This day. The Otago Central Hotel, with store and hall attached, an old landmark at Hyde, was destroyed by fire this morning.

I don't know how it came about but apparently the Caledonian Hotel in Alexandra was up for lease and father signed up. During these gaps between moving to one place to another, a few months here or there, Joan and Doreen and I usually ended up with either Grandma Healy or Mrs Strode, we called her Aunty Strode. We shared our holidays with them when we were on the move. Aunty Strode remained a family friend until her death in the late 1930s. She had one daughter named Mary who at 13 died of tuberculosis. They were also farmers who had a herd of cattle which she milked and sold the cream and milk. It made Joan and Doreen and myself more important to her as she liked our company, but she had 5 sons also, and one of her sons married Mabel Hughes.

At Alexandra, it was quite a nice hotel, partly wood, and brick, so Dad apparently got the lease of the hotel for three years. In those days the hotels were owned by widows or families and hotelkeepers paid a lease for so many years, it was usually three to five years. We left Alexandra in the spring of 1925.

It was a nice place, Alexandra is a town quite different to Hyde, it was a big commercial farming area, with gold dredging in the Clutha. We enjoyed the different atmosphere, compared to Hyde, which was quite unique and quiet, but Alexandra had a bigger shopping area, and businessmen, two or three banks, huge post office, doctors and dentists. It was surrounded by huge rocks and trees and surrounded by rivers, very warm, a good fruit growing place, and was the centre of the area's business.

While we were living at the Caledonian Hotel, electricity was switched on one night with great joy and celebrations, and some of the engineers and electricians who helped put the electricity through were contracted to live at the hotel. Before that there were just the ordinary iron street lamps which were lit just before dusk.

Back to Dunedin

The family moved back to Dunedin in 1925. The twins, Desmond and John were born on 1 December 1926, when Eileen was 13. She would have been very helpful to her mother at that time, with two new babies in the house, and being the oldest, and a girl. You can imagine what responsibility fell on her shoulders during this time.

Eventually Joan and Eileen started at Archerfield School in the February of 1928. It was a private school where girl students went on to qualify for university entrance, or matriculation, "but Joan and I didn't have that education, mother thought we would marry early and I don't think we had the brains for it anyway, we were just ordinary teenage girls. We travelled to school each day in the Brighton Bus which picked us up from the hotel, it was a long day, leaving at 7.45 am in the morning and returning around 5 pm. " But during March Eileen became ill and was sent away to Auckland to regain her health. The doctor thought she was going into decline, and the family were living near the Kaipara stream, it was very low. Matron Paddock was leaving to take up a position at a girls orphanage in Auckland, so Eileen went with her. "We arrived in Auckland stayed with Aunty Fanny out at Dominion Road in Mt Roskill for a few days, and Mrs Paddock took up her position". Eileen was three months in Auckland, and she went over to stay with her at the girls home, meeting the girls and getting an insight into the life at a girls orphanage. When in August her health had improved greatly Margaret went up to Auckland to collect her and she returned to Archerfield to continue her education.

"I had lost about 18 months of education during my trips to hospital in early school life, and as I had been back in hospital for several months, so I was a bit late leaving school."

"Joan and I both sat our proficiency exams and were quite successful. We entered into life at the hotel, there was no talk of going out to work or into any special career at that stage. Also in 1929 Denis was taken from Green Island school and send to Fairfield school. I don't know what actually happened but Mr Hildendorf who was the headmaster was rather strict, and gave Denis quite a beating, and he came home with dreadful red marks around his legs, and mother thought that wasn't fair, so he didn't return, but went to Fairfield School. Later Desmond and John also joined him at Fairfield when they began school in 1931.

Denis seemed to do well at Fairfield and on leaving he went to Otago Boys High School. After leaving school, Doreen was able to get a position as sales position in the DIC in George St, Dunedin, a large drapery, mens and womens clothing shop, a well known shop throughout New Zealand, and she remained there until her 30s.

When Eileen was 16, around 1929 she says life continued much the same at the hotel, comings and goings, daily life, daily routine, "we didn't have very many guests, just from time to time we had friends around." There were also her twin brothers, now aged 3 to help look after, as well as her sisters Doreen and Joan, and brother Denis who was 11.

How we got to know young men in Dunedin

Phyllis (Eileen's first cousin) and Bill Blackie were engaged to marry, and later married in the spring of 1930 at St Paul's Cathedral in Dunedin. Eileen was a bridesmaid along with other attendants. Tane Braithwaite was Bill Blackie's best man and Bunny Evans was the groomsman, who was Eileen's partner. Bill Blackie's sister was chief bridesmaid. At the wedding her sister Joan met Tane Braithwaite, and after the wedding there was a small function at Aunty Rose's home to farewell the couple on their honeymoon back to Suva. He had qualified for a British Government colonial position as a scientist in Suva. Joan and Tane were able to get to know each other at this function and from then on a courtship developed and in time, they became engaged in 1932 and were married on 4 September 1934 at St Paul's Cathedral. Eileen was her Matron of Honour.

Earlier, in 1931, mother was pregnant again and on 30 June Norwood Alexander Sharp was born, weighing about 6 and a half pounds, a healthy boy, with fair hair and blue eyes. "Now we are a family of seven, and later we had a nursemaid to help. Over the next two to three years Norrie grew to be a difficult boy and mother decided to put him into an academy with the sisters to teach him to settle down because in a year or so he would be entering school, but he remained there until he was older, then moved to other schools as mother and father moved around." You can read Norrie's story on his web page.

Things we did in those days

Eileen with Desmond, 1929.(pictured: Eileen with Desmond, aged 3, 1929). Father bought a car when the twins Desmond and John were born because he realised he would have to have some means of getting around with a family, as he enjoyed going out on Sundays for picnics, so he bought an American Dodge. It was a huge car, it would take the four children on the back seat, and loaded with two extras as well when we went on these Sunday excursions into the country. We'd take enough food for two or three meals, sliced cold meat, salads, cake and a thermos to boil for the billy. During that time Tane was courting Joan and he would come out and stay at the hotel on Friday and Saturday night and away we'd go on Sundays when the older men would go and shoot rabbits. Other young men Tane knew would come out on the Sunday as well.

We'd also go on fishing trips out to Outram Glen and the Clutha and sometimes up north to a place called Waitati, and go inland there to the Waitati Steam or river, and to the fisheries where they were cultivating and experimenting with trout which were later released into the rivers in the Otago area.

We also had many trips to the beach for swimming, we had lots of picnics, it was great relaxation for father. Father also found relaxation going off with two or three of his men friends and they would go off fishing way down the harbour fishing for blue cod.

But we always had plenty of food and there always seemed to be something going on, someone wanting food, it was a very enjoyable life at Green Island, and the boys joined in everything, and Joan, Doreen and I were making friends locally, and with Tane, there was a group of young men around, and we had church dances at the Church of England once a month during the winter from Easter to Labour Day. We congregated together as a group at these dances, also the tennis club dances. Then there were balls which came and went, the brass band ball, the football club ball, and they were held in the big town hall next to the hotel, and there were bus loads of people who would come out from Dunedin, it was a novelty coming out in the bus to the country balls.

We'd spend days before these balls decorating the hall and making the sit-down supper, and at some balls in town we'd partner young men in town. The gun club, the military ball, the navy ball, the golf ball, the hunt ball, it was really a very pleasant time, but good things come to an end.

Tane Braithwaite, Bunny Evans and Bill Blackie were actually cousins through marriage, so it made it quite a family affair the Johnson-Blackie wedding, and also while at Archerfield Joan and Eileen learnt the violin and elocution. Eileen could play the piano as well, and later years enjoyed spending many hours playing. The three girls were also taught elocution by Mrs Eastgate. Doreen didn't seem to be interested in music at all but was more interested in sport according to Eileen. "She did eventually go to dances but I don't remember much of Doreen enjoying them as much as Joan and I did." But when Joan married at 19, Doreen was still only 16, and Eileen was getting restless thinking of her future. She didn't want to spend the rest of her life housekeeping for the family.

Eileen and husband Bill Baker. Eileen remembers: "By chance mother and father had a week or ten days holiday in Christchurch at the big race meeting, and while they were there they approached friends of theirs, the Gregorys, and they ran a restaurant in the centre of town. It was a big place, upstairs was a huge kitchen, and a ballroom, and a smaller room with its own smaller kitchen, a conference room, and they held dances upstairs regularly. It was a leading place for social life in Christchurch."

Working in Christchurch

Eileen and Gladys went to Christchurch for a holiday and "I was told to go there and make myself known and I would be made welcome, it was towards the end of November 1934, and Mrs Gregory asked me if I would like to take up a position with them as their office girl was getting married. I said yes even though I knew nothing about typing, so we hired a typewriter and I got a few lessons, and in the new year I went up to Christchurch to take up the position."

"I remained there for a year and during this time mother and father had decided they wanted to get out of the hotel, the lease had been 10 years, and as it was a family trust hotel, even though he had asked to purchase it a few times. I did return in October the same year, father and mother had moved out of the hotel and were renting a house in Andersons Bay, Doreen was still at the DIC, Joan had her first baby (Margaret) during that time, and I returned to Dunedin with the sole reason or purpose of caring for the family while mother and father went to the Melbourne Cup in the first week of November. It was always father's great wish and dream to go to Australia, as he had friends in Sydney he hadn't seen in a few years, so I encouraged him to go and take mother for a surprise. They were away for about two months, tripping around Australia, ending up in Sydney to see their friends." The twins would have been 11 about this time, and Denis a young lad of 17.

But when they came home Eileen got itchy feet again and spent the next few years doing seasonal work at hotels in Auckland, Rotorua and the ski fields in the North Island. Eventually she didn't return to Dunedin for seven years.

Nursing training in Australia

Eileen Sharp as a Matron. Apparently Eileen had always wanted to be a nurse and after leaving the security of her home and family in 1935, she travelled to Auckland and worked in a silver service restaurant as the dining-room manageress to make enough money to travel by ship to Sydney, where she did her maternity training in the Mater Hospital and graduated as a fully qualified Midwife.

Eileen enjoyed her life in Sydney very much and would have stayed there, but because the Japanese had invaded Sydney Harbour during the 2nd World War, all New Zealanders were evacuated back home. She settled in Nelson, where her parents then owned a hotel, met her husband (Bill Baker) and married on 12 November 1943 in Nelson. She had two children, Lenore born 1944 and Raymond born 1946. The marriage only lasted 5 years and when Eileen and Bill separated, she returned to Dunedin as her parents were now living back there.

Life for Eileen was hard in those days, there was no DPB and separated and divorced women were not regarded kindly. Thankfully her nursing training came to her stead and she was employed at the Cottage Hospital in Palmerston South as the matron. She was a very dedicated and professional lady who put her patients and the babies she delivered into this world above all else. At the same time she brought up her two children, showing them the simple pleasures that life has to offer, like the great outdoors, fishing, swimming, playing and picnicing as well as the finer things like art, music and ballet. She was very involved in the community and often hosted cocktail parties for the various professional people of the town.

Eileen with Raymond and Lenore and husband David Duffy.(pictured: Eileen with Raymond and Lenore and husband David Duffy).

When Eileen retired, she joined Toastmistresses, the Art Society and Birthright and played bowls and bridge, but she eventually moved to Levin to be near Raymond. In Levin she played bridge, joined the Art Society which has a painting of hers on display and also the Rose Society. Her garden was a treat to behold and she enjoyed entertaining her friends for bridge evenings.

Eileen lived a full and rewarding life. She was born before her time, before the time of "women's liberation," but she got on with life and showed those around her that she had the strength and tenacity to rise above her misfortunes and make her life count. She will always be remembered as the very special, caring matron of Palmerston Hospital and any patient she nursed or any baby she brought into this world were indeed very fortunate. Those babies could not have had a better start in life and she will be remembered with affection and warmth.

Duffy family. Duffy family photo taken 2010: Back row: Stella and Michael Duffy, Curtis Miller, Maddox Duffy/Miller, Stephen Duffy and his partner Karron Forrester. Front row: Samantha and Melanie Duffy, Mikala Duffy/Forrester.

Documenting the family history

Eileen and Dale

Eileen was very interested in documenting the family history for the benefit of future generations, as she was the one who knew the most about their early lives. She was visited by her neice Dale Hartle in February 2007 (photo above) to gather information for this family website. She provided photos from her personal album, and had dictated some tapes several years ago which has also provided valuable information about the history of the family. These tapes have now been transcribed and their stories incorporated on the pages of this website. This website has the story of her own life, and parts of it are repeated on other pages. She also compiled a family tree as she knew it which has been invaluable in piecing together the family and filling in the gaps, and the family should be indebted to her for preserving this information.

She said in a Christmas letter to her brother Norrie in 1982 that she was working on documenting the family tree. "Am still working on the family tree and history of our forebears early NZ life, did some research in Naseby recently but have to go back to research further in the New Year. One thing of interest - Grandma Healy's house frontage has been preserved by the Historic Places Trust at Naseby."

More photos of Eileen can be found in the online family photo gallery also on this website.


Sadly Eileen passed away on Saturday 16 January 2010 in Levin aged 96 and a half years. She was in good health right up until a sudden fall preceded her death. Her funeral was held in Levin on Tuesday 19 January, and her ashes were buried in the family plot in Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin on 27 March 2010. Several members of the family attended the interment, including her brother Desmond Sharp, nephew Peter Morrison from Perth, and newly-found cousins Lesley MacClure and her cousin Barbara, made possible by her precious tapes.

Family Group - Funeral - Eileen Baker.

Family group photo at funeral. From left at back: Raymond Baker, Karron Forrester, Desmond Sharp (Eileen's brother), Lenore Duffy, Dale Hartle, Stephen Duffy, Barbara Tucker, Kaia Brunning. Front: Karen Parker, Joanne Duffy holding Maddox, and Mikala Duffy-Forrester.

Headstone plaque - Eileen Baker.

Eileen's memorial plaque, Sharp family plot, Andersons Bay, Dunedin.


Information for this page was taken from Eileen's tapes, family records, newspaper records, *and the image of the Hyde Hotel was found on the Otago Rail Trail website (but it is yet to be identified and correctly captioned).