Helena Caroline KEEGAN (9)
Helena Caroline KEEGAN was born 26 August 1879 at The Kiak, Akaroa, Bank’s Peninsula, New Zealand.
Birth Certificate gives Helena’s mother’s name as Alice DOBSON.
28 January 1880 St Peter’s Church, Akaroa, New Zealand
Birth and Death of Brother
Helena’s brother Charles William KEEGAN was born in 1881 and died the same year.
Birth of Siblings
Abt 1885 – 1890 Borough School, Akaroa, Bank’s Peninsula, New Zealand. Top of the class in standard 3
Birth of Sister
Helena’s sister Jessie KEEGAN was born in 1885 when Helena was six years old.
Death of Sisters
Helena’s sister Sarah Annie KEEGAN died in 1888 aged three when Helena was nine. Five years later in 1893 her sister Jessie KEEGAN died aged 8 when Helena was 14 years old. Her eldest sister Alice KEEGAN died aged 28 when Helena was 17 on 9 January 1897
Death of Father
Helena’s father Patrick Martin KEEGAN passed away 7 May 1897 at the age of 75
Moved to the North Island of New Zealand
1902 Moved to Hawkes Bay in the North Island of New Zealand with two of her sisters Agnes (Gertie) and Ellen (Nell).
Marriage of Brother
27 September 1903 at the Home of Miss N Keegan, Tennyson Street, Dannivirke, New Zealand. Helena was 24 years old.
1905 – 1906 – Horoeka, New Zealand
Helena’s only son Jack Heaton THOMAS was born 29 January 1906 at Horoeka, New Zealand
1911 Purangi, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand
1914 – 1919 Douglas, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand
The Six O’clock Swill
Helena Caroline Keegan would likely have witnessed “The Six O’clock Swill” in Taranaki in 1914, a time when bars in Australia and New Zealand were ordered to close at 6 pm. nightly.
Helena’s son Jack married Jessie HALLAM, the daughter of her sister Agnes Gertrude HALLAM nee KEEGAN. It was during the courtship of the two cousins that it was revealed that there was illegitimacy in the family. The two sisters never revealed any more than that. The most likely story is that eldest sister Alice found herself pregnant and the child was brought up int he KEEGAN family but we don’t know for sure.
1928 at Frankley Road, New Plymouth, New Zealand
22 February 1935 New Plymouth Hospital, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Cause of Death
Aortic regurgitation and mitral stenosis. Cerebral tumour (brain tumour)
23 February 1935 Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Story contributed by Patricia WOOD
Helena Caroline KEEGAN (my Grandmother), was born on 26th August 1879 at Akaroa. Her parents Patrick and Sarah KEEGAN, are also the parents of my other grandmother Agnes Gertrude KEEGAN. According to their birth records, they are both legitimate children in that family, though my grandmother Agnes told my father that one of them was illegitimate, which is the reason why my parents were able to marry each other.
Helena’s marriage certificate however, to my grandfather Joe THOMAS says that her mother was Alice (nee DOBSON). So there is some speculation as to whether her older sister Alice gave birth to her, using her mother’s maiden name, which was DOBSON. Neither of my grandmothers would ever reveal the secret, and they were both very good friends.
Both Helena (known to all as Lena), and Agnes (known to all as Gertrude), grew up in pioneering Akaroa, and it seemed they new the THOMAS family well throughout their childhood, and loved to reminisce. There were 12 children in the family altogether. Lena was the 8th and Gertrude was the 10th arrive 3 years later. They both loved music and singing, so both eventually became piano and singing teachers, and both greatly loved theatre. They were in great demand singing soprano and alto duets in concerts, also playing accompaniments, and were both active in their church choir.
Helena married Joe THOMAS on 27th September in 1903 and the wedding was held in Dannievirke. She then settled into back-black areas in Taranaki, farming very rugged country in Purangi and in Douglas. (Gertrude and her husband Herbert HALLAM started in Palmerston North, but his employment took him to Paeroa briefly, and then to Auckland, so the two sisters parted).
Helena’s husband Joe, had been many years at sea, and had served at the Bower War by the time they got married, so he had some difficulty settling to farm routine and accompanying budget. He had learned to drink heavily at war, had flirted with women and generally led a tough existence.
Helena gave birth to Jack – her only child, in 1906, though it is understood she had a number of miscarriages. Naturally she had a very fond relationship with Jack, and almost raised him single-handedly, as Joe headed overseas again when World War I begun, so she struggled with farm milking and chores for several years alone. Eventually, they bought a farm in Barret Road, nearer New Plymouth, and later again they shifted to another farm in Hereford Road. Joe continued to gamble after the war, and to stay out most of the night, so Helena quietly managed the farm chores and saw Jack through his schooling. She was a very staunch Anglican – never missed a service.
Helena is described by all who knew her as a very lovely woman, devout in her Church and her home, hard working, but always with beautiful singing.
By 1935, Jack and Jessie had joined Joe and Lena to work on the farm. They had lived in their home with them for a short while, and then had moved into a small cottage next door. Suddenly Lena took ill with a brain tumour and was admitted to New Plymouth Hospital. She died very quickly, aged 56. Joe was devastated and disappeared. Jack saw to the funeral and buried his mother, then left the farm and his wife and two children for a month to go and look for his father. He finally found him in Manurewa, Auckland. Joe did not want to return, so Jack took over the farm (and it’s debts), and Joe lived out the rest of his life as a recluse, returning in a yacht to the sea which he loved.
Parentage of Helena Caroline KEEGAN contributed by Patricia Wood
Alice DOBSON was born on 23 September 1868 on board the boat ‘The Wainui’. Her parents were Richard (a shepherd and Mary Jane, with the surname presumably DOBSON. Her name first surfaces when she is baptised at St Peters Anglican Church in Akaroa, by the Rev Aylmer on 17 November 1868. The baptism was sponsored by Elizabeth Phillips and William and Amelia GREEN who were among the very earliest settlers on Banks Peninsula. this seems to be the Alice DOBSON who was raised by Patrick and Sarah KEEGAN. (Sarah’s maiden name was DOBSON) having been born before Patrick and Sarah were even married. She therefore became the eldest of their 12 children, though she was not born to them.
A puzzle occurs when Patrick and Sarah’s daughter Helena is baptised in 1880, for this takes place at the Kaik, the maori Marae near their home, unlike all of the other baptisms which are at St Peters. Whilst Helena is baptised as daughter of Patrick and Sarah, Patrick did not sponsor this baptism as he did the others. And when Helena eventually married Joseph THOMAS in 1903, she lists herself as being the daughter of Alice DOBSON. Could it be that she was the daughter of her sister?
Alice died young in 1897. A report in the ‘Akaroa Mail’ dated 8 January 1897 says: – “We regret to record the death of the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs KEEGAN who has been long ailing. The funeral will leave Mr KEEGANs residence at 3pm for the Church of England Cemetery.”Why was there no funeral at St Peter’s Church
Note from Louise Dixon
The scenario presented by Patricia Wood may have happened but it raises a few questions:
- Alice KEEGAN would have only been about 11 or 12 years old when Helena was born
- We don’t know for sure that Alice DOBSON born 23 September 1868 was the mother of Helena Caroline KEEGAN
- We don’t know how Helena got to be brought up in the KEEGAN family
- Looks like this secret got taken to the grave
1.3. Joseph William THOMAS and Helen Caroline KEEGAN New Zealand Marriage Certificate
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Birth Certificate
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, Borough School, The Akaroa Mail – Akaroa and Banks Peninsula Advertiser. Date 20 December 1893. Volume XXIII, Issue 1807, Page 2
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1905 – 1906 Taranaki, Stratford
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1914 Taranaki, Stratford
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1919 Taranaki, Stratford
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1928 Taranaki, Egmont
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Death Index 1848 – 1966
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, New Zealand Death Certificate
9. KEEGAN, Helena Caroline, Death Notice, Akaroa Mail and Bank’s Peninsula Advertiser, Vol LVI, Issue 5974, 1 March 1935
9. KEEGAN, Helena, Caroline, New Zealand Cemetery Records 1800 – 2007