Monday, December 29, 2008

Founders of the Avondale Jockey Club: The Publican

Michael Foley comes into the picture as effectively an employee of Hancock & Co, and therefore closely associated with its managing director, Moss Davis. Second publican of the new (1888) Avondale Hotel (after, briefly, Daniel Arkell), Foley was to be a signatory to land transfers from both Hancock & Co (1899) and Charles Burke's estate (1904) which saw the still-new Avondale Jockey Club gain much of its land for the racecourse. He was overshadowed, I feel, by the more flamboyant Harry Hayr. Still, he had four mentions in Eliot R. Davis' memoirs, A Link With the Past:
Mick Foley of the Avondale Hotel was the first man to form the Avondale Jockey Club. He was a great friend of the Dad [Moss Davis] and myself. I remember him teaching me to inhale when smoking cigarettes. He was a really good sort and after a Prohibition vote had closed the Avondale Hotel we sold him the Tuakau Hotel, very much to his advantage.
From his obituary, NZ Herald, 3 October 1922:
Mr. Michael Foley, who died on Sunday evening at his residence, Ardmore Road, at the age of 68, was well known throughout New Zealand. For some time he was the licensee of the old Avondale Hotel, and in more recent years of the Tuakau Hotel. Mr. Foley, who retired from business some years ago, was formerly a member of the New Zealand Armed Constbulary, and was present at the taking of Parihaka in 1881. He took an active interest in all forms of sport, excelling in his earlier days at tennis and cricket. He was the founder of the Avondale Jockey Club, and was its president at the time of his death. He also helped to found the Northern Boxing Association, of which he was one of the first presidents. Mr. Foley is survived by his widow and nine children.
He was buried, after Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Church, at Waikaraka Cemetery.

Back in the late 1990s, when a large part of the former racecourse land was sold off and subdivided, a couple of new roads were formed. A member of the local community board at the time asked me for some options to forward to Auckland City Council for names for the new roads at the end of Wingate Street, and amongst the list I provided, with highest rank as far as associations with the racecourse was concerned, was Michael Foley. Michael Foley Place was formally so-named in 1998.

I didn't realise then that Foley had dual associations with both the New Zealand Armed Constabulary and what was basically the last major event of the Land Wars, the attack on Parihaka. We've since lost the names of other streets which had associations back to the Taranaki and Waikato wars of the 1860s (Cracroft, Blake, Browne, etc.) -- how odd that in 1998, we unknowingly name a street after a veteran from the 1880s conflict.

Updated: 1 June 2011.


  1. And the name of Moss Davis pops up again. Very cool post on Foley Ice. Catching up with your posts. Sad they had to chop up the racecourse grounds but that's progress for you. Me I've been digging into the history of a tree..mutter. Township is hopping up and down about an Oak Tree at the primary school that is about to meet it's maker. Some said it had no history but yes I went digging and sure enough found something. It's all your fault I got hooked into this history stuff...thanks Ice

  2. There was a M. Foley who was part of the Armed Constabulary at Waihi Redoubt, near Normanby, South Taranaki c. 1879. We have a photograph of him and others at Aotea Utanganui Museum. He was a very good cricket player and often took part in matches. This may be the same person as the Michael Foley of Avondale.