Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Gallagher connection

Image from NZ Observer and Free Lance, 17 January 1891, via Papers Past.

A very tragic story, which took place in the Taranaki district town of Waverley at Christmas in 1890 has, quite possibly, links with Avondale’s history.

Charles Gallagher, who lived in Thames, Te Aroha, New Plymouth and Waverley during his time in New Zealand, was born in County Donegal, Ireland. As a youth, his family seems to have made the journey across the Atlantic to the United States, where he and his brothers became involved in mining. He fought on the side of the Union during the American Civil War, and after the conflict became part owner, along with his two brothers, of some lucrative Nevada silver mines. They all became wealthy men.

Gallagher returned to Donegal and married Margaret Walker, and then emigrated to Australia. In Sydney, Mrs. Gallagher became unwell, so they journeyed further, to Te Aroha for the benefit of the baths. There, in 1886, they built a house close to the Domain, with water piped straight from the Domain’s supply. Gallagher also registered a mining claim, “Bonanza” (possibly after the Nevada mine “Great Bonanza”.) He was looking for silver once again, and is said to have specially imported expensive machinery to undertake the mining. He had brought £33,000 with him to the colony, a princely sum in those days, which was his share of the sale of the “Great Bonanza” in Nevada. Most of his assets were vested in his wife.

Things between Mr. and Mrs. Gallagher, however, were strained. Gallagher pointed a revolver at his wife during one argument at Te Aroha, according to her later testimony. He apparently became jealous of a friendship she had with Catholic Father Cassidy at St Joseph’s parsonage in New Plymouth. On 19th December 1888, the family travelled to New Plymouth for the break-up of St Patrick’s Boy’s School, and stayed at the parsonage. While there, Gallagher made threats to shoot Mrs. Gallagher, after an afternoon spent drinking and deep in a morose mood. He even went so far as to strike another priest, Father O’Donnell. Unfortunately for him, both Father Cassidy and Father O’Donnell were not above defending themselves with their fists. The police court judge just bound him over to keep the peace, on payment of sureties.

After this, the couple separated, Mary Gallagher going to live in Waverley and Wellington. Somehow, by Christmas 1890, they thought they might pull the marriage back together. This, as in turned out, was a tragic mistake. After one final argument in a hotel there where they were staying, Gallagher shot his wife dead, and then turned the rifle on himself, initially only wounding himself then, after reloading cartridges before horrified witnesses, shot himself twice more. He died hours later.

Why is all this connected with Avondale? I spotted the following paragraph today in the Taranaki Herald of 30 December 1890, via Papers Past, which led me to track through and discover the rest of this tale.

“It is not of course known who Gallagher spent the large sum acquired for his Nevada mining interest, but when he made the settlement on his wife, she only received £2000, that being all that remained of it. There was a rumour that he had come into a fortune of £3000 a year, but this Mr. Craig assures is unfounded. Gallagher’s two brothers are now in California, but one of them resided for some time at Avondale, where he acquired some property, which he still owns, but about two years ago he left Auckland for California with his wife to join his unmarried brother there.”
This sounds like Patrick Gallagher, the owner of Stoneleigh Estate which became, after his death in 1901 and sale to the Crown, the Methuen Hamlet. This would explain why John Bollard was the executor – in Patrick Gallagher’s absence from c.1888, Bollard may well have been his agent, leasing out the property. If Patrick Gallagher is one of the Gallagher Brothers of the Nevada “Great Bonanza” silver mine, this would also explain his grand ideas back in the early 1880s to have his Avondale farm become a brickyard. Ideas which, like those of his brother Charles, came to nought here in New Zealand.

1 comment:

  1. That is a fascinating story Ice. Oh by the way..I have something taking form in my visual diary. There was a certain photo sent to pencil demanded it be used...wonder what it's been drawing........heh heh heh heh