My mother’s maternal grandfather John O’Connor came from the townland of Ballyguiltenane, near the border between Counties Limerick and Kerry, and just near the towns of Glin in Co. Limerick and Tarbert in Co. Kerry. John’s parents were James O’Connor (1810-1890) and Margaret Flahavan (1815-1895), who had at least five children:
- Mary (1843-c.1920), married Patrick O’Connell, remained in Ireland.
- Thomas (1846-1906) married Mary Sheahan (1854-1897) in Ireland in 1879, and remained in the family home in Limerick.
- Kate (1848-1915) married John Geoghegan (1855-1891) in Glin in 1880. They emigrated to Ansonia, Connecticut, in the 1880s.
- John (mentioned above) (1850-1896) emigrated to New Zealand, possibly on the same ship as another of my great-grandfathers, John O’Neill, in 1877. He married Catherine O’Connell, from the same area in Ireland as himself, at Lincoln, Canterbury, in 1878. When I visited Limerick in 1991, I heard a story of John’s ghost returning to Ireland after his death in 1896, long before the official news of his death reached Ireland. See separate page for more detail about this family.
- Michael (1856-1931) emigrated to New Zealand in 1876, and married his first cousin Catherine Lynch at Christchurch in 1877. See separate page for more detail about this family.
About 1967, Dad took notes from his mother-in-law Catherine Nicholl about the O’Connors’ early days in New Zealand:
Mother [Catherine O’Connell] came out on the same ship as Tommy McCartney. Landed at Bluff, went to Canterbury. Mrs Harry Windle was a shipmate, and Jim Holland, and Tom Holland father and Tommy Ambrose. Worked for a Mrs Cartwright [at] Lumsden Hotel, she boozed, said husband boozed but they eventually woke up to her; left, went across road and went to Christchurch next day to Mulvihills Christchurch—she got great shock, thought they were in Ireland. When married lived together with Windles and O’Connors in Lincoln, then came to Gore and got house together there…
Catherine Nicholl also wrote a letter along the same lines about the same time:
As near as I can remember Grandmother [i.e. her own mother] came out about 1877 and I think she must have got married 2 years after. I think they landed at Bluff. She and Mrs Windle worked for a while in a Lumsden pub but the Mrs used to booze so they left one morning and went up to Mulvahilles.
The Mulvihills in question were undoubtedly closely related, and were most likely John and Joanna Mulvihill, who arrived in Christchurch in 1876.
The families of John and Michael O’Connor remained close in New Zealand, as the brothers farmed together at Kingston Crossing from the early 1880s to 1908. And they also kept up their links to Ireland, with visits by soldiers during the First World War. In 1950, my mother Elizabeth Nicholl visited Limerick as part of her Holy Year pilgrimage, and then visited Rome with two of her second cousins, Delia and Philomena O’Connor. Mum wrote regularly to their sisters Kathleen O’Connor and Phine Connolly for decades, and visited them again in 1985 and 1991. I myself visited them in 1987. Around 1982, Mum send a copy of her sister Margaret Walsh’s typescript O’Connor Family Tree to Phine Connolly, and this prompted Phine’s son Mike to get interested in family history. Mike has since done a huge amount of research into the related families from Glin and Tarbert—O’Connor, Lynch, Flahavin, Sheahan—but as yet it has not been converted into shareable data, and so only a few snippets are present in this website. Carole Perwick, from Gore NZ, as well as my late cousin Colleen Dwyer, have also researched these families. One day I hope to incorporate their research into this website.
A collection of First World War correspondence between the families of John and Michael O’Connor was donated to the Hocken Archives in Dunedin, New Zealand in 2016. See a partial transcript here.