The STRONGs of Ulster, Ireland, Chapter 6
The "STRONG Family" section of this site is divided into 13 chapters and 9 appendices. Please read in sequence by following the links at the bottom of each page or use the "Quick Nav" at top right. If you wish to select individual chapters, please click on the top left link to the "Sitemap" page. Note that the chapters develop the story of our family and the appendices contain supporting data… for example the Descendancy Report in Appendix 1 with BDM records and photos of family members.
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Robert STRONG’s daughter: Mary (Minnie) STRONG
Mary (Minnie) STRONG was born on 4 Dec 1872 in 108 Dover St, Belfast, Co. Antrim, Ireland i), ii) . The informant of her birth was her mother's sister, Sarah Ann LANE, who was probably also the midwife i) . Mary emigrated with her family to New Zealand in 1874 iv), xiv)… (b), xv), xvi), and lived with her family at least until she was 18, when their home was at Victoria Ave, Eden Terrace . Her father Robert entered a family census in the family bible on 5 Apr 1891, showing that three children still lived at home ..... Mary (aged 18), William (aged 16), John (aged 10) ii).
Mary was the only surviving daughter of Robert's second family and he might have been quite protective of her when she was young. The family story is that Mary was forbidden a relationship with George GEE and was sent nursing (training?) in NSW Australia to end the romance v), xxviii), xxix). The first record found of Mary as a nurse was in the 1896 electoral roll when Mary (aged 24) was an asylum nurse at Point Chevalier (Auckland) vi).
When Mary was aged 25, she married John MEEKAN at her family home at Eden Terrace, Auckland, on 5 Oct 1898 vii). The picture above shows Mary & John MEEKAN, 1898.
Her brother, William A. STRONG, Saddler of Coromandel was one of the witnesses. Their children were: Robert Samuel (1900-1900) viii), Josepha Marie (Dolly) (1901-1974) ix), Margaret (1902-1985) x). John was a warder at time of his marriage, and then was an asylum attendant at the time of his death (perhaps at the same asylum where Mary was a nurse). John died of "enteric fever" in 1904 in Kingsland, Auckland xii), xiii). He was buried in the Waikumete Cemetery with his son… see a labelled satellite view here. His grave is in the Anglican section, row D.5 plot 29 iii)… (a) . The headstone reads:
In Loving Memory of John
Beloved husband of Mary Meekan
who died on 17 May 1904, age 29
Also dear little Robbie iii)… (b)
When Mary was aged 33, she married a widower, Alfred KENNEDY on 7 Feb 1906 at the house of the bridegroom, Hobson St, Auckland (see image below). The witnesses were her stepsister Agnes NEILL and Agnes' husband Alexander NEILL xxxvii) . The 1908 Electoral roll gives Alfred Kennedy (bootmaker) and Minnie Kennedy (married) living in Arthur St, Onehunga vi).
The KENNEDYs subsequently moved from Onehunga to Tahaia (see image below). An obituary for their son Norman KENNEDY describes their early life in Tahaia: ..... they were:
"the first white family to settle in the Tahaia district........ having won a government ballot farm that was previously unfarmed Maori land. It was another ten months before other settlers arrived. They had left an eight-roomed house in Onehunga and travelled by train to Otorohanga with their possessions and one cow named Belle, to live in very primitive conditions and to start a new life of farming with five heifers that the government allotted to each ballot farm. These were hand milked, and after milking, hand separators were used to separate the cream, which was then taken by horse, and cart to the rail and then by train to the Frankton Co-operative Dairy Factory. The milk was used to feed the calves and pigs. They made their own butter with hand churns. The land was swampy and covered with ti-tree, fern, rushes, raupo and cabbage trees. This land was cleared and drained by hand to turn it into farming land. There were no roads, only surveyor's pegs. These, the early settlers were to make their own roads with the aid of gangs, from ti-tree and clay, using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows and horses and drays to pack it down. They felled cabbage trees to make bridges also using ti-tree and clay. Fence posts were cut from the Kaikatea bush and the fern was cleared by scythe and burned to plant rye grass for the cattle.
The main street in Otorohanga was then only a wagon track and there was a grocery, fruit shop, a saddler, blacksmith, Post Office and Railway and a Boarding house. Two orders a year were made at the grocery for flour which was bought in 100 pound bags, and rice, rolled oats and sugar in 50 pound bags. Vegetable gardens were grown but menaced by quail, pheasants and pukekos which were frequently on the dinner table, as were rabbit, chicken and pork. The Kennedy family went to Tahaia School, which had about 20 pupils. Initially a large canvas tent served as the school.....a classroom was built about 1911.... A Post Office was established at the Tahaia Junction about 1920, at the time the Tahaia coal mine was working." xvii)
Their children were: Ruby (1907-1985) xviii), Pearl (1907-1938) xix), Norman Edward (1908-1982) xx).
Granddaughter Dorothy PRATT (née KENNEDY) said that the KENNEDYs' first home in Tahaia began as a lean-to or "whare" on a rocky hill on their property until they built their first house. This house burnt down and the family then lived in the implement shed until their second house was built. This happened prior to 1937 xxviii).
Pictured at the right is Margaret FREW (née MEEKAN) Photo courtesy of Marion Lissington. Margaret FREW (née MEEKAN) was the source of the story of Mary's initially forbidden love for George GEE xxi), xxviii) xxix), and she also told the story of life with her mother in Tahaia and Otorohanga in an article in the Waitomo Times, April 1984:
"The Kennedys were the first white settlers in the Tahaia district. After the comparative luxury of an eight-roomed house in Auckland and three women in the house to assist, Mary and little Margaret came to live in a lean-to in Tahaia. Even this was better than most other settlers who lived in tents with the cookhouse outside. The Otorohanga of those days was very different from today. Maniapoto Street was just a waggon track with a stable from which horses could be hired. It was commonly known as "many-a-pothole street." Mrs. Frew said there were two hotels, one where Curtain House is now, was known as the brown hotel (operated by Mrs. Davey Ormsby), and the Commercial Hotel. A Miss Corban, who afterwards became Mrs. McColl, who was the mother of Andy McColl of Otorohanga, operated a small fruit shop in the town. There was also the well-known firm of Green and Colebrook, which stocked everything.The services of her mother, a trained nurse, were in keen demand in the district. Margaret also helped in this capacity. It was her love of horses, which found her the job of conveying her mother in a gig to where maternity services were required. This was no easy task with no roads, and the area covered with scrub and the only signposts being survey pegs. Many well known local farmers were brought into the world by her mother." xxii)
Alfred had a well-publicised end xxxvi). His fatal accident was reported in both the NZ Herald and the Auckland Star as follows:
COLLISION AT CROSSING. - GIG STRUCK BY TRAIN. - DRIVERS CONDITION CRITICAL. A collision between a mixed train and a gig occurred at the Otorohanga level crossing this morning. The driver of the gig, Mr Alfred Kennedy, farmer of Tahia (Tahaia), received serious head injuries, including a fracture of the skull. Mr Kennedy, who is 50 years of age, was driving to the Otorohanga sale and the train was proceeding northwards to Frankton. The gig was considerably damaged and the horse was so seriously injured that it had to be destroyed. Mr Kennedy's condition is critical. xxiii)
He was buried in the Otorohanga Cemetery with his son… see a labelled satellite view here. His grave is in section 2, block 2, plot 147 xxiv). Alfred’s headstone reads:
Loved husband of Minnie Kennedy
Died 26 Feb 1930
Age 61 years xxxviii)
Alfred's estate was valued for probate at £1,472. It was left in trust for Mary, to receive an income during her lifetime. Minnie and son Norman were the trustees. The will provided that when Mary died, Alfred's children Norman and Pearl were to receive equal shares of property and income. It would appear that daughter Ruby missed out since she was married and thus was the responsibility of her husband. Pearl died in 1938, unmarried and without children, thus Norman was the ultimate beneficiary after Mary's death. The Trust was designed to ensure that the operation of the farm was unhindered xxv).
In June 1932 when Mary was 59, she married George Douglas GEE, a baker xxvi) (pictured below). George was the man forbidden to her by her family when she was a young woman xxi), xxviii) xxix). When George was young, he was made bankrupt in 1904, and was discharged from bankruptcy in 1905. He had entered into a bakery business with no capital and an old debt of £25. The business only lasted 15 months xxvii). Perhaps this was the reason for the STRONG family disapproval? Victorian attitudes were rather severe on bankruptcy. Pictured below is a photograph of Mary & George GEE. Photo courtesy of Marion Lissington.
Mary and George commenced their marriage living on the Tahaia farm, until Mary's son Norman KENNEDY married in 1937. Mary and George then moved to their jointly owned 20 Thornton Road, Cambridge NZ, leaving Norman to manage the family farm, though Mary as the other trustee maintained an interest in the farm xxviii).
The Farm Continues
Norman took over the running of the farm fter his father's tragic death in 1930. His wife Dorothy helped him after they married in 1937. Norman continued to break in the ti-tree and gorse covered land, approximately 120 acres to achieve one of the best farms in the Tahaia district milking approximately 80 cows, rearing 15-20 calves each year, and running around 300 ewes. All Norman's children grew up on the farm. He died (in 1982) from a heart attack on the farm land that he loved." Dorothy PRATT forwarded a statement from the NZ Cooperative Dairy Co detailing the supplementary butter payment, season 1940/41. This demonstrated the farm's productivity giving a year's total of 14,419 pounds of butterfat. Marion LISSINGTON said that the farm was sold about 1990..... our father lived on it all his life. Norman's obituary referred to his continuing to develop and improve the land and build up a fine dairy herd, supplying cream in cans to the dairy factory, until changing to whole milk and tanker supply. Norman also ran sheep on the hills; many of the lambs became champions and prizewinners at school lamb-club days, with both children and grandchildren. He saw many changes as progress was made in farm development, in buildings, machinery, power and telephones. In later years he gave up dairying to graze run-stock and settle into a semi retired style of life. He loved his land, and this was his home. During the war, Norm was a member of the Home Guard at Otewa. He was keenly interested in the events of the district and Otorohanga and played indoor bowls at Otewa for a number of years xxviii), xxix), xxi), xxx).
Dorothy PRATT recalls Norman's love for his horses and his harnessing them up with big heavy collars and reins. Her favourite horse was Tiger, which was a quiet horse ridden by the children. Tiger used to drink the skim milk from the trough, which Norman used to feed the pigs. Dorothy said that Norman's children were given second names after family as follows: Rita Mary after his mother Mary, Dorothy Pearl after his sister who had died just shortly before, and Albert Christian after his half brother Albert who was killed in the war xxviii).
Life at Cambridge
Rita NEVE and Dorothy PRATT remember visiting Mary's Cambridge home, pictured at the right, photo courtesy of Marion Lissington. Rita NEVE says:
"I remember my grandmother well. We used to visit two or three times a year in an Austin car. It was a long drive in those days, but it was always a Sunday so it was up earlier than usual to milk a herd of about 80 cows, having killed a lamb off the farm the night before so we could take her a leg of lamb and some lamb chops. My mother, Dorothy, always had a large vegetable garden and orchard, so produce from both were always welcomed.
I remember the trip for another reason as well - I was always carsick. I also remember the park across the road from her house at 20 Thornton Road, Cambridge. It had a huge lake and we always fed the ducks, and played on the swings. I remember her as a very dignified lady, always well dressed with beautiful pure white hair, which was always immaculate. She lived with Margaret STRONG and Dolly SHONE. Margaret STRONG was Minnie's sister-in-law (William Aberdare STRONG's wife ... see the following web page) and Dolly SHONE was one of Minnie's daughters from her marriage to John MEEKAN. After George GEE died the three women were always referred to as the 3 widows of Thornton Road. I always knew she (Mary) had outlived 3 husbands, and that she was a maternity nurse and well regarded in the Tahaia area where they had their farm."xxix).
Pictured above are the 3 widows of Thornton Road: (from L to R) Mary MEEKAN/ KENNEDY/ GEE, Margaret STRONG and Dolly SHONE Photos: Courtesy of Marion Lissington, Rita Neve, Marion Lissington (from L to R).
Dorothy PRATT also recalls the big house at 20 Thornton Rd "with a large verandah where Grandma and great aunt Margaret used to sit". (The photograph to the left shows Mary in her old age. Photo courtesy of Marion Lissington.) "Grandma did beautiful crochet and I have doilies and a crochet edge handkerchief which she gave me as Xmas gift with a card "To Dorothy from Grandma Gee". Dorothy also has an autograph from her great aunt Margaret "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be!". She also remembered their visits during each school holidays and her father Norman taking freshly killed mutton to Mary and George, as well as the park and the ducks.
Dorothy goes on to recall that "Aunt Dolly always cooked the dinner and all the family sat around the big table with white tablecloth and napkins in the dining room. Each of the three widows had very white curly permed hair." xxviii).
Minnie (Mary) died on 23 April, 1955, at the age of 82 xxxii), four years after the death of her husband, George GEE xxxi). She was buried at Hautapu Cemetery… see a labelled satellite view here, thanks to KiwiCelts. Her gravestone was on lots 192, 193, 194, row G xxxv). See the Cemetery Database on the Cemetery page of Waipa District Council for a view of their grave site… what marvellous use of technology xxxv)! The gravestone was a 4 sided granite column, with engravings on 3 of the 4 sides. It was heavily encrusted with lichen… see this image before this was carefully removed to show the inscriptions. See the photogallery for images of the inscriptions.
In loving memory
dearly loved Daughter and Step Daughter
of Minnie and George Gee
Died 6th Oct 1938
Aged 30 years.
In loving memory of
beloved Husband of Minnie Gee
died 15th Jan 1951
aged 87 years. Image
In loving memory of
loved Wife of George Douglas Gee
died 23rd April 1955
aged 82 years. Image
Mary and George made identical wills with the same solicitor in July 1949. They appointed Josepha Marie (Dolly) SHONE (née MEEKAN) as the executor of their respective Wills, with their estates held in Trust. The jointly owned principal residence, furniture and contents were left to the surviving partner until he/she died, when this passed on to Dolly. A similar arrangement held for the rest of the estate, which finally passed in equal shares to Margaret FREW (née MEEKAN) and Ruby FINCH (née KENNEDY). All the final beneficiaries were Mary's daughters xxxiii), xxxiv).
Minnie's death notices read:
GEE, Minnie. On April 23, 1955 at her residence at Thornton Road, Cambridge, beloved wife of the late George Douglas GEE and loved mother of Dolly (Mrs SHONE, Cambridge), Margaret (Mrs Frew, Otorohanga), Ruby (Mrs Finch, Putaruru), Norman Kennedy (Otorohanga), and the late Pearl; aged 82 years. Interment took place yesterday.
GEE, Minnie. On April 23, 1955 at her residence 20 Thornton Road, Cambridge. Loved sister-in-law of Margaret STRONG. xxxii)
i) Birth of Mary STRONG. Certified Copy of Register, District of Belfast , Urban No. 5, Bk 13, Entry# 319.
ii) STRONG Family Bible, held by Philip Strong.
iii) Waikumete Cemetery: (a) Former Waitakere City Council cemetery search. See here.
(b) Waikumete, Anglican Headstones transcripts. New Zealand Society of Genealogists.
iv) Assisted Emigration to Auckland. National Archives of NZ; File 1m 15/19.0
v) Pers. comm. Jill Cargill.
vi) Postal directories & electoral rolls.
vii) Marriage of John MEEKAN & Mary STRONG. Reg# 1898/5115. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
viii) Birth of Robert Samuel STRONG . Reg# 1899/18097. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
ix) Birth of Josepha Marie MEEKAN. Reg# 1901/2677. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
x) Baptism of Margaret MEEKAN. DOB 29 Dec 1902. Register Book of Baptisms kept at Primitive Methodist Parsonage Franklin Rd.
xi) Birth of John MEEKAN. Reg# 1875/2879. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xii) Death of John MEEKAN. Reg# 1904/264. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xiii) Obituary of John MEEKAN. Auckland Star; 18 May 1904.
xiv) Ship 'Baron Aberdare'. Jubilee Reunion. Auckland Star; (a) 17 Mar 1925: 3. (b) 20 Mar 1925: 10. (c) 16 Mar 1935: 11.
xv) Immigrants expected: immigrants per Baron Aberdare. Daily Southern Cross; 24 Feb 1875: 2.
xvi) Port of Auckland: Baron Aberdare. Daily Southern Cross; 20 Mar 1875: 2.
xvii) Original Tahaia settler dies: Norm KENNEDY. Unknown newspaper; May 1982.
xviii) Birth of Ruby KENNEDY. Reg# 1907/20086. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xix) Birth of Pearl KENNEDY. Reg# 1907/20085. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xx) Birth of Norman Edward KENNEDY. Reg# 1908/25969. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxi) Pers. comm. Jean Frew.
xxii) Margaret Frew. 60 year bond to continue. Waitomo Times; Apr 1984.
xxiii) Farmer badly hurt: gig collides with train. Auckland Star; 22 Feb 1930: 9.
xxiv) Pers. comm. Otorohanga District Council.
xxv) Alfred KENNEDY’s Will and Probate file from the Hamilton High Court. Agency: BCDG. Series: 4420. Box/ Item: Box 130. Record: 2694. Held: in Auckland archives.
xxvi) Marriage of Minnie KENNEDY (née Mary STRONG) & George Douglas GEE. Reg# 1932/8767. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxvii) Auckland bankruptcy files: George Douglas Gee - Baker. Agency: BBAE. Series: 5628. Box/ Item: 12/. Record: B2/1904. Held: in Auckland archives
xxviii) Pers. comm. Dorothy Pratt.
xxix) Pers. comm. Rita Neve.
xxx) Pers. comm. Marion Lissington.
xxxi) Death of Minnie GEE. Reg# 1955/20810. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxxi) Death of George Douglas GEE.1951/18138. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxxii) Death of Minnie GEE. Death notices. New Zealand Herald; 25 Apr 1955.
xxxiii) Hamilton Probates. GEE Minnie -Cambridge -Widow. Years: 1955-1955. Agency: BCDG. Series: 4421. Box/item: Box 27. Record: 155/1955.
xxxiv) Hamilton Probates. GEE George Douglas -Cambridge -Retired Baker. Years: 1951-1951. Agency: BCDG. Series: 4420. Box / item: Box365 / Record no.: 8474.
xxxv) Waipa District Council cemetery database. See here.
xxxvi) Death of Alfred KENNEDY. Reg# 1930/1050. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxxvii) Marriage of Alfried KENNEDY & Minnie Meekan. Reg# 1906/1586. Registrar of BDM, NZ.
xxxviii) Otorohanga cemetery headstone transcriptions. New Zealand Society of Genealogists.
I am most grateful to Mary's KENNEDY grandchildren, Rita, Dorothy, Marion (d. 29 Jul 2008) and Maureen as well as Mary's MEEKAN grandchild, Cliff and his wife, Jean. My cousins have freely shared their photos, news clippings and detailed knowledge of Mary's life. Many thanks to Annette Byron & Jennifer Howard, who as a "random act of genealogical kindness" photographed Mary’s Hautapu gravestone.
The Story Continues
- Chapter 7 The life and descendants of Robert STRONG's son William Aberdare STRONG.