O'Donnells of Auguillies, Templecrone, Co Donegal

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James O'Donnell & Bridget Gallagher

James, the eldest son of John O'Donnell and Anne Gallagher, was born about 1836 in Augullies and named for his grandfather, as was traditional. James married Bridget Gallagher, born about 1842, a daughter of Anthony and Ellen Gallagher of Croaghnamaddy. The marriage took place in the Roman Catholic Chapel in Dungloe on 31 May 1864, with Daniel Houston and John O'Donnell (my gr gr grandfather) as witnesses. They left Donegal at the beginning of 1865, Bridget pregnant with their first child, sailing first to Plymouth where, on the 3rd February 1865, they boarded the 'Empress' bound for Auckland, New Zealand. On the same voyage was a girl named Jane Murphy, born 1836 in Carntown, Drogheada, Co Louth, the eldest daughter of Nicholas Murphy and his wife Judith Berry.............but more of her later.

They arrived in Auckland on 15 May 1865 after a 95 day voyage. A transcript of the newspaper report of the arrival can be read here. It is not known if Bridget was ill when they arrived, but 8 days later, on 23 May 1865, she delivered of a still-born infant. There is no record of the sex of the child, nor a death certificate - this information came from the St Patrick's Cathedral archives in Auckland, from their deaths register. Unfortunately, there followed in the register, a week later, the death of Bridget, daughter of Anthony and Ellen, wife of James, at only 23 years old. Bridget would have been buried within a day or so of her death - her death certificate states that the burial Minister was H D'Akermann, St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland, so she is probably buried in St Patrick's cemetery. The child, being still-born and unbaptised, may be in a section of the same cemetery, put aside for those types of burials.

Absolutely nothing was known about Bridget until 3 Nov 2004, when a friend, Angela Kirk, sent me the details of James and Bridget's marriage. Although the descendants of James have compiled a good family history for him, produced a book (a copy is held at the Kaikoura Histroical Society District Museum & Archives) and have held a couple of very large family reunions here in Kaikoura, no-one had heard of James's marriage to Bridget. Because of this, I have decided to add a small section/link to James's story, outlining what is known of Bridget and her family in Donegal. It can be read here.

James O'Donnell & Jane Murphy

Nothing is known of the movements of James after Bridget's death however, in late 1866, land was being opened up in Kaikoura. James apparently travelled down to the South Island, to Blenheim, with Jane Murphy, where they signed up for some land. They then returned to Auckland where, on the 16 November 1866, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland, they were married by Patrick O’Reilly, the Officiating Minister. There do not appear to have been any family members present, as the witnesses were H. Murdoch and Julia Henry, both of Auckland. They were both 30 years old and James’ occupation at that time was noted to be farmer.........and a bachelor, instead of what he should have been recorded as - a widower. Soon after the marriage, they took up land in an area of Kaikoura, called Suburban (and also Donegal Flats), where they had three children: John Joseph, Mary Anne and Margaret.

In April 1876, James became ill and was admitted to Christchurch Hospital, where he was attended by R. Robinson, the House Surgeon, for Polyaemia. Two weeks later, on the 6 May 1876, James died. His death certificate noted that he was a 40 year old farmer who had been in New Zealand for 11 years. It was very difficult to find when and where James was buried, due to his death certificate not being compiled until a month after his death - the informant was the house surgeon from Christchurch Hospital, not a family member, which added to the lack of information. Recently the place of his burial came to light, by chance, from old partial records held at the Canterbury Library in Christchurch - he is buried in the Catholic Section of the Barbados Street Cemetery. This section has very few standing headstones and even fewer ones which have readable inscriptions. The Council records were destroyed decades ago in a fire, so the exact location of James's grave within the cemetery will never be known.

There are no photographs of James O’Donnell, but there are a number of his second wife Jane:

Jane Murphy circa 1880 Jane Murphy circa 1910

 Jane continued on at their farm, proving to be very capable, though her life was not not without more drama - their son, John Joseph, a Smith's assistant, died of an enlarged spleen 16 Mar 1887 - he was only 19 years old. On 28 Feb 1889, their daughter Mary Ann married Bernard Mackle, two days after her 19th birthday. Bernard was 35 years old, a native of Creagh, near Toombridge in Co Derry. Mary Ann and Bernard had 12 children (all single births) and lived with Jane, who was no doubt kept busy helping with the children. Mary Ann died in 1942, aged 71 years. James and Jane's third child, Margaret, became a postulant on 15 Jan 1893 for the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions and eventually Sister Mary St Blandina - she lived nearly 94 years, 72 of them in religion.

Bernard and Mary Ann

Mary Ann, Jane, Bernard and 11 of the 12 children


Jane's name appears on the Ashley Electoral Roll in 1893, making her one of the first women in New Zealand to have the right to vote.


On the 11 December 1916, Jane died of arterial sclerosis at the age of 80 years, Jane died. She is buried in the Kaikoura Cemetery, with John Joseph.


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Lindel Buckley

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