The story of the Healy family begins with Thomas John Healy, who was born on 18 June 1840, in County Galway, Ireland and christened a Roman Catholic. He was named after his father, and his sponsors were John Healy and Sarah Gormerly. It appears he had a chequered life, peppered with court cases, farming, coal or gold mining, and fires, as well as fathering ten children.
His father was Thomas Healy, a farmer in the village of Menlough (Menlo), three miles from the City of Galway, with estates in Londonderry, Ireland, and his mother Bridget Connell. Thomas was what was then often called "an educated man", an unusual factor in those early days, as the ruling English oppressed the Irish to the extent that few Irish people received any scholastic education.
Thomas and Bridget Healy had five children that we know of:
Research into the families of the first four Healy children is ongoing, with Honora Healy being identified. Our direct family line begins with the fifth child, Thomas Healy.
Thomas Healy Snr died either on 11 August 1873 or 18 August 1875 (records are unclear), and Bridget died on 27 January 1856.
A visit to the cemetery by Desmond Sharp in April 1997 failed to locate headstones of Thomas and Bridget as the old section at Menlough was severely overgrown and the sandstone headstones badly weathered or illegible.
Apparently Thomas was a tall, very dark, very handsome man who loved horses. It was believed by family members that Thomas was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (which at that time was controlled by the English) as a Mounted Policeman prior to emigrating to Australia with an aunt who required a male escort at the time. She decided to settle in Australia, but was unhappy at Tom's decision to go to New Zealand, and rumour has it that she vowed to disinherit him.
However research by Desmond Sharp in Ireland in 1998 found that birth dates and service dates do not agree. It was also believed that Thomas served in the Victorian Mounted Police and was involved in the capture of Ned Kelly and the gang on 28 June 1880 (he was hanged in November 1880 in Melbourne Gaol). A letter from the Victoria Police Historical Unit says that it holds no "record of this gentleman ever having been a member of the Victoria Police". Also, we know that Thomas was farming in Central Otago, and that Thomas married Margaret Gallagher on 5 July 1881 in Dunedin. It therefore seems most unlikely that he was involved with Ned Kelly a year earlier in Australia - a family myth put to rest at last.
In 1866, learning about the gold rush in Naseby, Thomas set forth on the sailing ship "SS Gothenberg" from Melbourne to Hokitika on the west coast in late 1866-early 1867 (although shipping and newspaper records are unable to confirm this).
All of Grandfather Tom Healy's activities at Kyeburn and Naseby are not known, but we do know he held a position of managing shepherd for Alexander McMaster of East Kyeburn Station (sheep). Alexander McMaster, a Scotsman born at Stranraer, emigrated to Australia in 1842, thence to Otago in 1856.
Thomas was married by the Rev Father Walsh to Margaret Gallagher, also Roman Catholic, on 5 July 1881 at St Joseph's Cathedral in Dunedin. His occupation was noted as manager of the East Kyeburn Station. (Mt Ida Chronicle). He was 34 and she was 25 years of age.
Thomas placed a notice in the local newspaper advising people not to trespass on the land he was managing. [Reference: Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume XXI, Issue 1076, 19 July 1890, Page 1]
In August 1882, Thomas Healy was involved in a court case concerning the killing of sheep and stealing of the skins. You can read this lengthy court record on the Papers Past website. [Reference: Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume XII, Issue 672, 19 August 1882, Page 2]
Where others are recorded as leasing land, he bought "freehold" in 1893, owning at least two sections of land on one of which he later built a hotel, and named it the "Victoria". Records also show that this hotel was later destroyed by fire. Apparently though, he leased a further 78 acres at Kyeburn. Among his other activities, he owned the old Melbourne Hotel at Naseby which was pulled or burnt down to recover gold which lay beneath it; sold coal from a mine he operated in the foothills of the Kakanui Mountains, and was a goldminer.
There is a lengthy newspaper article on 28 January 1892 outlining the accusation against Thomas Healy of sheep-stealing. See the Otago Witness , Issue 1979, 28 January 1892, Page 19. It was extensively reported with quotes such as "Dunedin, Jan 22: Thomas Healey, settler, Kyeburn, has been committed for trial on a charge of stealing 29 sheep, the property of Alexander Anthony and Ronald McMaster, Oamaru district."
The next newspaper item states: "On the 20th inst, at Naseby, Thomas Healey, a settler on the Kyeburn Hundreds, was charged before the Resident Magistrate, on the information of Sergeant Green with stealing 29 sheep, the property of Alexander Anthony and Ronald McMaster, of Oamaru district. A number of witnesses gave evidence, and after a hearing lasting two days the accused was committed to take his trial at the Supreme Court, Dunedin, on the 7th March. Mr Kerr conducted the prosecution and Mr McCarthy represented the accused. Bail was fixed at L500 – accused in L200 – and two sureties in L150." [Otago Witness , Issue 1979, 28 January 1892, Page 18]
Supreme Court, Dunedin, March 9. The Jury, in the case of Thomas Healey, charged with sheep stealing, retired to consider the verdict at one. [Star , Issue 7226, 9 March 1892, Page 3]. In the Otago Witness, a lengthy report details the in-court discussions between the judge, prosecution and defence about the whole affair. [Otago Witness , Issue 1985, 10 March 1892, Page 26]
Dunedin, March 10. The Jury in Thomas Healey's case, sheep stealing, were unable to agree, and a fresh trial is now proceeding. [Star , Issue 7227, 10 March 1892, Page 3]
The new trial began immediately, and the order of business is described in the Otago Witness article. [Otago Witness, Issue 1986, 17 March 1892, Page 16]
Eventually Thomas Healey was acquitted. "Dunedin, March 10. At the Supreme Court the second trial of Thomas Healey, farmer at Kyeburn, of stealing sheep, was concluded tonight. The jury retired at 6.40 and returned at little after 9 with a verdict of Not Guilty, and accused was discharged." [West Coast Times , Issue 9272, 11 March 1892, Page 4]
The Otago Witness summed up the trial and acquittal in an editorial later in the week. [Otago Witness , Issue 1986, 17 March 1892, Page 25]
Later that month, Thomas Healey found himself back in court for the following crimes: "At the Naseby R.M. Court on Friday, Thomas Healey was charged by W.A. Scaife, inspector of stock, with wilfully removing more than one-third from the ears of 12 sheep found in his possession on January 8, 1892. The evidence (says the local paper) was similar to that adduced in the case of alleged sheep-stealing recently preferred against accused in the Supreme Court, Dunedin. His Worship reserved judgment. Two other charges were brought against Healey by Sergeant Green – one for cutting out the brands of a number of sheep and the other for polluting the Kyeburn river by depositing carcases of dead sheep therein. Judgement was also reserved in these cases." [Ashburton Guardian, Volume XIII, Issue 2634, 5 April 1892, Page 2]
SHEEP RETURNS. Maniototo County. The following are figures showing the number of sheep owned by the various owners on 30th April, 1909, and 30th April, 1910: Thomas Healy Kyeburn 238, 269. [Reference: Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume XL, 16 December 1910, Page 4]
Four tall poplar trees on the Kyeburn property still remain today and are known by locals as the "Healy Trees".
The two hundred freehold acres were sold to A B Hore in June 1913 as Thomas was by then in ill-health. The remaining leasehold property near the Kyeburn River was transferred to W D Hore in 1928.
An excerpt from "Gateway to Maniototo, A History of Kyeburn and Kakonga Districts", summarises the sale:
In June 1913, for "reasons of ill-health and old age", Thomas Healey advertised for sale his freehold land of 200 acres acquired in 1893, and his leasehold land, upon which were erected a four bedroomed house, shed and other buildings. The area, all of which had been cultivated, was divided into eight paddocks and could be irrigated with a right to three heads of water. A.B.Hore bought the freehold, but the leasehold near the Kyeburn River remained in the Healey family until it was transferred to W.D.Hore in 1928. Prior to taking up land, Thomas Healey had been in the position of managing shepherd for Alexander McMaster and at one time had responsibility for 10,000 sheep. He was also instrumental in opening up a coal seam on a lower spur of Mt Pisgah.
(Reference: page 40, Gateway to Maniototo, A History of Kyeburn and Kakonga Districts, Compiled by N S MacKenzie ISBN 0-473-00882-3. Budget Print Ltd, 7 Bath St, Dunedin. Copy owned by Desmond Sharp).
Eileen tells the story on her tape that when her Aunty Jean was about 12 years of age, she helped her mother deliver a baby. Apparently Grandad Healy had gone mustering in the hills in the late autumn and Grandma Healy went into premature labour. The midwife in those days was not expected so early, so Jean had helped to deliver the baby. Fortunately everything went well and the baby survived (possibly Patrick, born 1895). This tells you how things happened in the country in those days where young children had to help their mothers with the delivery of babies when the father and midwife were unable to attend.
Eileen also relates the story told by her Uncle Tom of an incident that happened in Kyeburn. Apparently when her Aunty Jean was about 15, her parents had gone on business to Dunedin for a few days. Jean was of a domineering personality and wanted to know what her father had kept in his large locked travelling trunk. In those days they were big trunks made of part iron, part steel, and he apparently kept this trunk locked and threatened everyone not to open it for any reason.
But Jean was curious about what was kept in the trunk, so she forced it open. When her father came home and found that the trunk had been tampered with, and the contents rummaged through, he was "absolutely furious" and he ordered Jean out of the house. The contents were a special coat tail suit, grey trousers and topper hat and cane, and all his documents and papers he had brought from Ireland. It is believed that after this incident, Thomas never locked anything away again, and after his wife Margaret died, most things disappeared, including these valuable documents.
There is an Application for a Lignite Licence Bed of Kyeburn River - Thomas Healy, dated 1901-1907. From records obtained from Archives New Zealand, Thomas applied in December 1901 for the granting of a licence to raise lignite in the bed of the Kyeburn River. In a memorandum to the Under Secretary, Mines Department, Wellington dated 22 January 1902 from the Office of Inspector of Mines, Southern District, the Inspector states that he "visited the locality on the 13th inst, saw Mr Healy in Naseby on the 15th inst, and beg to report as follows: The sketch supplied by Mr Healy is in a general way fairly accurate but in detail it does not give a true description of the area applied for, for instance, the river is shown 5 chains wide whereas the stream is not 5 yds in width and is not in Healy's application at all the river or creek being, as I have since found out, included in an area applied for and granted to one Stephen Peer. As I surmised when offering no objection to Healy's application in minute of 16th December last, Mr Healy proposes to work a small seam which outcrops on the river bank and is high and dry above present river level but being of a highly sulphurous nature is very unpopular and will only find sale when other and better coals are not obtainable. The river bed it should be stated is the ancient bed of ages ago, the present water course being a mere trickle in comparison with the great volume of water that at one time poured down the valley."
An Application for Coal-Lease dated 9 February 1905, under Section 5 of the Coal-mines Act 1891, received by the Warden at Naseby on 24 February 1905 shows that Thomas Healy applied "for a license of the lands hereunder mentioned for the purpose of mining lignite: Precise locality - Kyeburn Survey District, in the bed of the Kyeburn River bounded on all sides by Crown Lands. Area of ground applied for: 10 acres. Term for which licence required: 3 years."
Following this application there was a series of letters over the next few weeks between the Inspector of Mines in Dunedin and the Warden at Naseby questioning the exact location of the lignite licence area as "the applicant is somewhat undecided as to the actual area of the ground applied for by him. The boundaries are not defined other than 'about one chain from McCready and Coomb's Lease'." In a memorandum to the Under-Secretary of Mines in Wellington, the Inspector of Mines stated that "the sketches accompanying the application were very rough and the area was inadequately indicated. I am of the opinion that a survey or, at any rate, reliable plan should be sketched on the back of the licences prepared for reference to should such become necessary so that in the event of another applicant appearing for an adjoining area there would be no trouble. There have been two if not three separate holders of licences on this coal area, at the same time the whole thing is not worth disputing about."
Finally on 7 June 1905 the Inspector of Mines received a letter from the Under-Secretary stating, "I have now to inform you that the Hon Minister of Mines has consented to the issue of a Lignite License over 10 acres in the Kyeburn Survey District, in favour of Thomas Healy" This was acknowledged on 24 July 1905 and on 30 July 1906 Thomas Healy submitted a Return for the half-year ending 30 June 1906 stating, "I beg to inform you that I have not made a start yet with the prospecting for the want of sufficient funds to carry the prospecting to a successful issue."
On the Return for the half-year ending 31 December 1906, Thomas's handwritten remarks state: "I beg to state that I have not made a start yet prospecting for the coal." The Return shows that the Output, Coal Sold and Number of Persons Ordinarily employed were "Nil". A further handwritten note dated 21/1/07 says: "Next time this person applies for Lignite License, bear in mind that he does no work on the area."
A typed note on the file before it was closed states: "Copy of remarks by Thomas Healey, holder of Lignite License, Kyeburn, on form of Return of Coal Output for half year ending 31.12.1907: I have nothing to say, only for want of funds. Owing to the severe winters and dry summers I have not been so successful in my farming pursuits as I expected. Therefore as this is about the last statement I will be called upon, as the license expires soon. I will not ask for a renewal until such time as I will have sufficient money in hand to thoroughly prospect the ground. In the course of a few years if I have the means and no one else takes up the ground I may try the place again."
OLD MAN LOSES HIS LIFE. (From Our Own Correspondent.) NASEBY, March 12. Last night Naseby was awakened by the fire bell shortly after 10 p.m., and on the brigade appearing on the scene of the outbreak, the residence of Mr Dugald Sinclair (one of Naseby's oldest residents), was found to be on fire. The water supply at this part of the town, being on a high level, is very poor, the first jet throwing the water only a few yards. Captan Marslin, who was somewhat shorthanded, owing to several members of the brigade being at the fire brigades' demonstration at Auckland, then had a lead brought from the main supply of water, which threw a much better stream of water, eventually putting the fire out. After the flames had been extinguished the remains of the owner were found near the door in a terribly charred state. It was evident he had made an attempt to escape. The body was chaired beyond recognition. Mr Thomas Healy, Kyeburn, who was in the house at the time the outbreak occurred, managed to get clear of the flames. [Otago Witness, Issue 2870, 17 March 1909, Page 37. ]
THE INQUEST ADJOURNED. (From Our Own Correspondent.) NASEBY, March 13. The inquest on the body of Dugald Sinclair, who was burned to death in his dwelling at Naseby on Thursday night, was held at the courthouse, Naseby, yesterday, before Mr H. A. Young, coroner. Thomas Healy, of Kyeburn, deposed, that he had known deceased for many years. He had been in the habit of calling on deceased at his house when he came to Naseby. He called on deceased on Wednesday last, and was with him on Thursday. On Thursday morning witness bought a bottle of beer and shared it with deceased. Witness had three "portergaffs" that day. In the evening he gave deceased 1s 6d to purchase three bottles of beer, which deceased purchased and brought home to the house. They each had a cupful out of one of the bottles. About 10 o'clock that night Mrs Healy (witness's wife) called and took the remaining two bottles away. After this witness went to sleep, and was awakened shortly after by the intense heat. Witness tried the doors, and called to deceased, who was lying on the kitchen sofa. He pulled deceased off the sofa, and got the door open. He tried to pull deceased out, but could not stand the heat. Witness then ran to the fire brigade station and gave the alarm. On returning to the house no one could get near it on account of the flames. Witness had no idea what caused the fire. The lamp was burning when witness went to bed. It was standing in the kitchen on a small table near a partition. He had no reason, to believe that fire was caused other than by pure accident.
Constable Lemm deposed that he had known deceased for the last 11 years. During that time the deceased resided in the house that was burned. Deceased was 78 years of age. About 8 p.m, on Thursday witness called at the house, which was then in darkness. Deceased was lying on a sofa in the kitchen, and Healy was in bed in the bedroom. Both were fully dressed. Both were under the influence of liquor. Witness left shortly after 8 p.m. Deceased, who had lighted a candle, came to the door to show witness out. The house has three rooms. There was a lot of soft woollen stuff and rags about. At 10.30 p.m. witness saw the house on fire, gave the alarm, and rushed to the house. He broke a window over the sofa, but the deceased was not there. Witness opened the back door, but it was impossible to gain an entrance. Witness believed the house was accidentally burned. He did not know if it was insured, but ho believed there was no insurance either on the house or the furniture. The deceased had been refused an old-age pension because of his intemperance. He had a little property, but it was not of much value.
The coroner adjourned the inquest till 11 a.m. on Saturday, in order to obtain the evidence of Mrs Healy, she being the last person in the house before the fire. [Otago Witness, Issue 2870, 17 March 1909, Page 37.]
BURNED TO DEATH - Per Press Association. DUNEDIN, March 16. At the inquest on the body of Dugald Sinclair, who was burned to death at his residence at Naseby on Thursday evening, Margaret Healy, of Kyeburn, gave evidence that on Thursday evening she went to deceased's house about nine o'clock. Her husband, who was staying with deceased, and deceased, were in bed. A light was dimly burning in the bedroom where her husband was sleeping. Deceased was lying on the sofa in the kitchen. Both were dressed. She requested her husband to come home. He said he would. Witness left shortly after. Before doing so she removed a bottle of beer, and took it outside. Deceased was certainly the worse of drink. Mr Healy was sober, though he may have had a few drinks. The lamp was quite safe. There was no fire in the stove. She had no words with deceased or her husband. Her husband and deceased were very friendly. Witness had no reason to believe that the house was other than accidentally burned. The coroner found that deceased was burned to death at his residence through his house accidentally catching fire.
THE NASEBY FATALITY. NASEBY, March 15. At the adjourned inquest on the body of Dugald Sinclair, who was burned to death at his residence at Naseby on Thursday evening, Margaret Healy, of Kyeburn, deposed that on Thursday evening she went to deceased's house about 9 o'clock. She had known deceased for 37 years. Her husband, who was staying with the deceased, and the deceased were in bed. A- light was burning dimly in the bedroom where her husband was sleeping. Deceased was lying on the sofa in the kitchen. Both were dressed. She requested her husband to come home he said he -would. Witness left shortly afterwards. Before doing so she removed a bottle of beer, and j put it outside. Deceased was certainly the worse of drink. Mr Healy was sober, though he may have had a few drinks. The lamp was quite safe. There was no fire in the stove. She had no words with deceased or her husband. Her husband and deceased -were very friendly. Witness had no reason to believe that the house was other than accidentally burned.
The Coroner found that deceased was burned to death at his residence, through the said residence accidentally catching fire. [Otago Witness, Issue 2870, 17 March 1909, Page 52]. Also reported in Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXIX, Issue 7747, 17 March 1909, Page 4; Evening Post, Volume LXXVII, Issue 64, 17 March 1909, Page 3; Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume LX, Issue 9322, 18 March 1909, Page 4; Manawatu Standard, Volume XLI, Issue 8825, 17 March 1909, Page 8.
Thomas died of a heart attack in Dunedin aged 78 years on 10 August 1918, and was buried on 12 August in Plot 55, Block 24, at Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin. His death certificate states that he was a Farmer, native of Ireland.
A death notice in the "Otago Witness" on 14 August 1918, page 32, column 2 states:
HEALY - on August 10, 1918, at Dunedin, Thomas, dearly beloved husband of Margaret Healy (late of Kyeburn, Central Otago); aged 78 years. R.I.P. Private interment. A S Archer and Co, undertakers.
It appears that Thomas Healy died intestate which was not unusual in those days. An Application for Letter of Administration of the estate was filed by Margaret Healy on 27 August 1918.
In the documents there were 9 children named (although we know there were 10 children; Denis, who died in 1917 is not listed):
The documents stated that Margaret was unable to find a will: "I verily believe that the said deceased died intestate and that I am his widow." The estate was believed to be under the value of 300 pounds.
Administration was granted on 25 October 1918 by Judge in Supreme Court of Otago and Southland District.
On 17 December 1918, further application for "Motion of Re-grant of Letters of Administration". On 18 February 1919 a further application for the Re-grant of Letters was approved.
Three years later, on 26 January 1922 a judge noted that "Before a re-grant is made there must be some explanation of the long delay since the re-grant in February 1919".
An explanation was filed with the court on 9 February 1922 stating that "one of the sureties on behalf of the intended administratrix of the said estate left the local district and did not return the Bond and Affidavit sent to him for execution" and that "Margaret Healy, the widow of the abovenamed deceased who has applied for Letters of Administration was also away from her home for some considerable time during which period she sustained an injury and was confined to a hospital".
On 16 February 1922, Margaret Healy was required by the court to present "a true and perfect inventory of all the estate effects and credits of the deceased" by 11 May 1922.
However, on 3 March 1927 there was an order by the Supreme Court in Wellington "to the Public Trustee to administer the estate of Thomas Healy, late of Kyeburn, in New Zealand, Farmer, deceased, remaining unadministered."
This was because Margaret had died on 4 April 1926, at Naseby. At this stage the estate of Thomas had still not been finalised.
The document lists only nine children (again Denis is not mentioned):
The request to the Public Trustee to administer the estate was made by Bridget Jane Norwood, Rose Anne Johnson, Fanny Bryant and Margaret Sharp.
At that stage the Public Trustee estimated the net value of the estate to be under 415 pounds.
In March 1920, Thomas Healy is remembered as being an early settler at the Naseby Early Settlers Reunion who had passed away since the last reunion in 1915. There was a dinner to returned soldiers and a dance and concert in the evening. [Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume XLV, 5 March 1920, Page 3].
Thomas John Healy was a true pioneer of Central Otago - a sheep farmer, gold and coal miner, and father of 10 children. His descendants number over 120.
|This photo of Desmond Sharp and his family was taken at the grave of Thomas Healy in January 1976.|
|Dale Hartle visits Thomas and Margaret Healy's grave at Andersons Bay, Dunedin, December 2019|
Thomas John Healy was a true pioneer of Central Otago - a sheep farmer, gold and coal miner, and father of 10 children. His descendants number over 120.
Work is ongoing to identify and trace the siblings of Thomas Healy. There was a Patrick Healy prominent in Central Otago in the early years - was this Thomas's older brother? And what happened to his 3 sisters. Contact me if you have any information on this.