Sharp-Healy Family

The Story of the first two Generations

Joan Sharp 1914-1975

Joan Sharp

Joan Sharp was born at St Helen's Hospital, Caversham in Dunedin on 1 December 1914, the 2nd eldest daughter of John Bentley and Margaret Sharp. Apparently she was a small but healthy baby at 4 and a half pound.

The family moved to Kyeburn to escape the influenza epidemic raging across New Zealand in late 1918. Hundreds of people were dying in Dunedin, so John Bentley had ordered the family into the countryside. Margaret took the four children (Eileen 6, Joan 4, Doreen 3 and Denis 6 months) and moved into the old family homestead at Kyeburn since Grandma Healy was living nearby in Naseby. At the time the only way to avoid catching the virus was by keeping out of contact with other people. There were no flu vaccinations available, and no antibiotics for those who fell ill. You can read more about this on the Christchurch City Libraries website, and Te Ara. The newspapers of the day are full of lists of the dead in the major cities, and the government ordered an inquiry into the cause and course of the epidemic which resulted in new laws and a Health Act.

Luckily, the Sharp family escaped the epidemic. Joan was enrolled at Kyeburn School on 10 November 1919 when she was nearly five. Eileen recalls: "In 1920, we were still living at Kyeburn, mother used to take us down to the river, about a mile from where we lived, it was the Taieri river, and quite often father would be out on his rabbitting rounds, and we would go down to the river for a picnic. Mother would pack a nice lunch and we always enjoyed the outings."

Then about 1921, John and Margaret 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, but by chance, he was able to buy into the Hyde Hotel, back in Central Otago. It was called the Otago Central Hotel, in Hyde. John sold the Hague Street home and was also able with the help of other finances, was able to finance himself into the hotel, so the family started off on a new life back in Central Otago.

Life in Hyde

Eileen says that Hyde was a little country town in those days, 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.

Eileen says: "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 didnt and very often we'd arrive home late, very hungry and tired, but no rabbits."

"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."

Off to Alexandra

"About 1923 we moved from Hyde to Alexandra. 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."

"Father of course was very fond of live theatre and when we lived at Hague Street, Dunedin, it was always a pleasure for father to take Joan and I down to see the vaudeville shows to get Joan and I out of the house to give Mum a rest. He had great pleasure in taking his family everywhere, he was a great father, not a demonstrative person, they kept their emotions very much to themselves, in their private life."

"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

"In 1927 Father became concerned about his daughters' education, but the boys were expected would go on to secondary school and on to a career or a trade because he always felt it was more important to have a good education because they would be the future breadwinners of the family, but the girls usually married quite early between 19 and 25 and had families."

"Mother had also come into a small inheritance from the estate of her mother, and I think she put that money into the education of her daughters, and she decided to put that into Archerfield college, and there was the case of outfitting of the girls with uniforms in 1928, Joan and Eileen started 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 dont 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 we were living near the Kaipara stream it was very low, and 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 my health had improved greatly, mother came and picked me up and I returned to Archerfield to continue my education."

"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. "

Meeting young men in Dunedin

Joan Sharp aged 15.Phyllis 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 my partner. Bill Blackie's sister was chief bridesmaid. At the wedding 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.

Joan never went to work as she helped out at the hotel in Green Island. She contracted rheumatic fever when she was 17 and spent most of the winter in bed. Tane spent a lot of time sitting with her and reading to her as everyone was so busy with the hotel. He was working for a finance company at the time they were courting [so old fashioned] and boarded out at Green Island.

Eileen recalls: "Father bought a car when the twins Des and John were born in 1926 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."

Joan Sharp - 1932."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 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. She did eventually go to dances but I don't remember much of Doreen enjoying them as much as Joan and I did."

Joan Marries

On 4 September 1934 when she was just 19 years old, Joan married Joseph Lancelot Tane Braithwaite (known as Tane) (aged 27), an Accountant, in Dunedin. Tane was born on 1 June 1907.

Tane and Joan Braithwaite on their wedding day.

John Howell Braithwaite was born on 11 October 1936 and Margaret Joan Braithwaite arrived on 13 July 1938, both in Dunedin. Sadly John passed away in Christchurch in 2009 after a short illness and his wife Sheila passed away on 12 August 2013 aged 70 years.

Margaret says: "After Dad came back from the war, he went to university and sat for his accountancy degree and became a chartered accountant which was pretty hard going as he was invalided home from the war and found it pretty hard to settle back into life with a young wife and family. Dad always said to me 'if it wasn't for your Mother sitting with me at night while I studied I would never had got there'. They also had John to look after and that was a full time job on its own. After Dad came home I would say to Mum 'who is that man and why is he living in our house' I don't remember any of this as I was only about 4 but I think it did hurt Dad but not for long because I soon came round and I adored him and he was a wonderful Father to John and myself. "


Joan died suddenly in Dunedin on 29 April 1975. She was 60 years of age.

Headstone - Joan and Tane Braithwaite

Her death notice reads:

"Braithwaite, Joan, on April 29, 1975 (suddenly), at Dunedin, dearly beloved wife of Tane, 28 Mount Street, Waikouaiti. Loved mother of John (Nelson), Margaret (Mrs A Bremner, Dunedin) and loved grandmother of her grandchildren. A Service will be held in the Andersons Bay Crematorium Chapel at 11.15 am on Friday May 2. No flowers by request. Messages to 66 Ravelston St, Tainui, Dunedin. Hope and Sons Ltd, funeral directors."

Joan's husband Tane remarried several years later. He passed away on 8 June 1991 in Dunedin at a hospice. His ashes are buried in Andersons Bay Cemetery (Block 23, Plot 0043) together with his first wife Joan. A memorial plaque has also been added to the Sharp family plot for Joan.

Death Notice: Braithwaite, Joseph Lancelot (Tane), 25449, 2nd NZEF, of 35 High Street, Mosgiel - On June 8, 1991, at Dunedin, dearly loved husband of Mavis and the late Joan, much loved father and father-in-law of Joan and Sheila (Invercargill), Margaret and Allan Bremner (Dunedin), dearly loved friend of Kim, Mary and Joanne and dearly loved grandpa of all his grandchildren and his great-grandson; aged 84 years. "At Peace". Tane's service will be held in St Luke's Anglican Church, Gordon Road, Mosgiel, tomorrow (Tuesday), June 11 at 11 am, followed by private cremation. In Lieu of flowers, donations to the Otago Community Hospice would be appreciated and may be left at the service.

Obituary: Joseph (Tane) Braithwaite

Mr Joseph Lancelot (Tane) Braithwaite, of Mosgiel, who died in Dunedin on Saturday, was a long-standing member of the Dunedin Returned Services Association. During the Second World War he served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Greece, Crete and North Africa, until he was wounded in 1943. He was an executive member of the RSA and in 1954 helped establish, and was the first president of, the Dunedin RSA Tin Hat Club, a social entertainment group. He was also a member of the Mosgiel RSA. He was born in Dunedin in 1907, and educated at Otago Boys High School and Otago University. He became a chartered accountant and was a fellow of the New Zealand Society of Accountants. In 1944 he joined the Milburn Lime and Cement Company (later Milburn Cement Ltd). He retired in 1972 as deputy general manager. He served a term as chairman of Wilsons Distillers Ltd and was a past president of the Rotary Club of Dunedin, and a member of the Mosgiel Probus Club. Mr Braithwaite is survived by his wife, Mavis, two children, seven grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Memoral Plaque - Joan Braithwaite.
Plaque on Sharp Family plot, Andersons Bay, Dunedin. Headstone photos taken by Margaret Bremner of Dunedin.
Family Group - Joan's Funeral
This family group photo was taken on the day of Joan's funeral. They are from left: Daughan Sharp, John Sharp, Desmond Sharp, Margaret Sharp, Eileen Sharp, Loretta Sharp, Doreen Morrison.

Band History by Tane Braithwaite

The Dunedin RSA Tin Hat Club Sextette was formed in 1954. There were 6 vocalists, a pianist, banjo, double base and drums. The six vocalists were all members of the well known Dunedin Returned Servicemens Choir, and the instrumentalists were all members of the Dunedin RSA. To be a member of the Tin Hat Club you had to be a member of the NZRSA so it was quite an exclusive club. OUr first appearance was at Ladies Night on December 1954 and so well received by the audience that we decided to carry on for a year or two. We finally decided "to call it a day" in 1986 as we were all into our sixties and seventies so over a period of 32 years we entertained not only in Dunedin but in Gore, Clinton, Invercargill, Mosgiel, Oamaru, Christchurch and other places that I have forgotten. Civic receptions in the Dunedin Town Hall we relished very much because the refreshments were free, and sometimes fairly strong. Also they paid us a fee which over a period of time we acculumated and then we had a "bust up". It was wonderful while it lasted, and I think I can safely say that no other group will see the same personnel, either professional or amateur, had had such a long uninterrupted connection. Through music we became great friends and still meet on occasions such as weddings, funerals and birthdays. The last meeting was on my eightieth birthday and a great time was had by all. The vocalists were: Tenors (3) Les Wallis, Dick Stevenson, Tane Braithwaite, and three baritones Bert Claridge, Bill Reid and Noel Felton. The pianist (who also wrote all our parts) was Arthur Dixon. The Instruments were: Banjo - Jack Picaard, Double Bass - Wally [no surname], Drums - Rupert Winter.


Notes taken from transcripts of tapes by Eileen Sharp, and memories from Margaret, as well as official records and online resources.