Arrival in the Colonies must have been exciting although the environment was primitive by today’s standards.    May McCulloch (nee Gaffaney) told us that the Coughlan boys headed for the gold fields upon arrival in New Zealand.  The two boys came to Lyttleton and walked to Gabriels Gully in Otago.  We do not know exactly what year they travelled from Australia to New Zealand but we do know that they both eventually settled in Kakahu, near Geraldine.   The year they arrived in New Zealand was likely 1855, after John Brown (Simon’s step father) died in Australia.   After being in the goldfields, one of the boys evidently went back to Australia to bring Bridget and the rest of the family to New Zealand.  There is one story I read that says that the brother was anxious to get back to Australia because his mother was thinking of getting married again.

Simon Coughlan (1.1) married Mary Barrett in 1871 and settled in Kerrytown.  Bridget Brown, Simon’s mother,  and Julia Barrett, Mary’s mother, settled in Temuka.  

Where is Kerrytown?

Kerrytown was a very small settlement in Seadown riding (riding is a very old word for an administrative division of land) of the Levels county in South Canterbury.  It’s population in the year 1901 was 156.  It was really a community rather than a town.  The residents were farmers and it was a small settlement.  The district is about ten miles from Timaru and Temuka respectively, and about three miles from Pleasant Point.  Logically, Kerrytown takes it’s name from the number of residents who originally came from County Kerry.  It was quite a surprise to find that the Coughlan family came from County Offaly.  Nonetheless, Mary Coughlan, nee Barrett, did come from Tralee, County Kerry, so they did have that Kerry link in the family.    The community had a post office and it was run by Mr. Hugh Brosnahan - a well known family in Kerrytown.   There was no pub.  One was built but never did get a license.

Simon Coughlan’s home was directly opposite Baldy (it is misspelled in the illustration below) Fitzgerald’s spread.  Simon Coughlan’s daughter, Bridget, (1.1.2) married Baldie (W.D. Fitzgerald) and the families remained very close over the years.  I remember my mother referring to various members of the Fitzgerald family; her first cousins. W.D., as Baldy was otherwise known, was named co-executor of the Simon and Mary Coughlan wills.   Jack Coughlan ( told me that in his later hears, after church, every Sunday, W.D. Fitz would go to the Coughlan house in Temuka.   I imagine there was quite a social gathering there on Sunday morning after Mass.  (Such a gathering is commonly known as "eleven'es".

In addition to this property, Simon Coughlan owned a property in Seadown and it was sold after his death in 1906.  From the Timaru Herald, dated July 22, 1896.

“Mr. S. Coughlan has purchased from Mr. Hugh Corbett his farm of 103 acres at Seadown, at 16 pounds per acre.  A good stone house and all necessary out-buildings are erected on the property.   Previously to the purchase, Mr. Coughlan was the lessee of the farm.”

This a layout of Kerrytown farms, (courtesy of the St. Joseph’s School, Kerrytown Centenary booklet.)

There was little left to even mark the place where this Kerrytown community existed.  A plaque has been erected to mark the spot where the St. Joseph’s convent school was.  On the map above it would be marked “Convent School 3”

It reads:  “This is the site of the Kerrytown Convent and School.  The Sisters of St. Joseph taught here until 1946.   Here for 39 years the Catholic Community gathered each Sunday for the worship of God.  Holy Mass was last offered on 18th June, 1967.  And this plaque was erected that all might remember these years with gratitude to God.  1884 - 1967”


I will encroach again on the “St. Joseph’s School, Kerrytown, Centenary” booklet to relate how the Convent and School got started in Kerrytown.  It was written by folks who attended the school in the 1900’s.  It is important to preserve such words.

“In the late 1860’s immigrants from County Kerry, Ireland, bought 20 acre blocks of land in the Levels Plain from Wilson Road to Levels to Mill Road and the Opihi River and this area they called Kerrytown.  Even to this day, many folk innocently inquire “Where is the town?”  Strangers express surprise when told there never was a town, not even a store, but there was a hotel which never gained a license  and so could well have been called ‘the pub with no beer’.  The hotel was later destroyed by fire.

The early settlers earned a meagre living from the light stoney soil while providing a pool of labour for the surrounding district.  Only two sod houses remain in a livable condition today (written in 1984) and only a few crumbling walls left standing remind us of the early settlers.  The names of Murphys, Breens, Leonards, Scannells, Scanlans, Driscolls, Foleys, Stacks, Heffernans, Keifs, O’Connells, Fitzgeralds, Coughlans, Kellys, Naughtons, Days, Flemings, Sullivans, Scollords, Coffeys, Nolans, Kynes, O’Keefes, Hanifins, Brosnans and Brosnahans remain in South Canterbury to point to the contribution which Irish immigrants made to the district’s pioneer days.   At its peak in the late 1880’s Kerrytown had no more than 200 residents.  There were gay, rumbustious times, too, along Kerrytown road, which would bring a smile to those who remember.  But its distinctive personality came straight from the fields of County Kerry as Irish as the periwinkles and pig trotters in basins at Killorglin’s Puck Fair near Tralee.

In 1883 Father Fauvel, the first Parish Priest of Temuka decided to establish a school and convent in Kerrytown.

In 1884 Mr. Richard Hoare presented the present church property of 4 acres to the Temuka Parish.

Father Fauvel then wrote to the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, an Australian congregation founded by Mother Mary of the Cross, for two Sisters to teach at the Kerrytown school.  On 6th May, 1884, two Sisters arrived at Temuka to commence their duties at Kerrytown on 12th May - this extracted from the Temuka Leader.  

The convent of four rooms, the building which was given by Mr. Hoare, was ready for them on arrival.  

The Kerrytown School

Thus commenced an illustrious period of religious teaching in this country district, one which was in later years would leave behind indelible marks on the lives of many who were privileged to attend.

This is the Standard 6 Certificate of Proficiency for Helena Coughlan (1.1.13)

In the St. Joseph's School, Kerrytown, Centenary Booklet, Helena is shown photographed in the Music Class of 1911 and 1912.  In that booklet also, there is a recollection written by Kathleen Brosnan.  It refers to my mother, known as “Lena” and my beloved Clare Coughlan (  It reveals a life in Kerrytown which, while full of religious observances, for the children who lived in Kerrytown, it was a joyous experience.  Pieces such as this are precious jewels of a age and innocence lost to us in this time.

" In my school days in Kerrytown I used to wait at the gate for Agnes and Cis Fitzgerald, Lena and Clare Coughlan, and we would all walk to school together.  We played many games, hopscotch, knuckle bones, and rounders.  Sisters Seraphim and Bega were our teachers.

First Fridays of the month were always something special.  We had Mass at 8  o'clock.  Having had no breakfast we would take extra lunch and Sister would make us a cup of cocoa.

When we made our First Holy Communion, the Sisters and ladies put on a great feast for us.  It was held in the buggy shed which was cleaned out for the occasion.

I can well remember the pub and the social gatherings that were held there and the send off they gave for the Pub Brosnahans.  They were presented with a gold watch from the local residents.

"Lena" in this photo is Helena Coughlan (1.1.13)

"Clara" in this photo is Clare Coughlan  (1.1.12)


This Irish community exhibited an irrepressible sense of joy.  From the school came innumerable concerts.  There were concerts and end-of-term celebrations. For the children the feast day of St. Joseph was a great celebration - no lessons that day.   All were orchestrated by nuns, with the help of parents, for their pupils and community.  There were many such days of celebration in Kerrytown and Temuka and these days were anticipated with joy by both the adults and the children, but especially the children.   You will note that all these celebrations were intermingled with prayers and religious rites.  

St. Joseph’s Day

This is the day the children looked forward to every year.  St. Joseph’s day occurs on April 19.  Here is a commentary from the Temuka Leader dated April 9, 1886.  

“Yesterday being the festival of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the Temuka and Kerrytown Schools, their annual treat and display of work in connection with these schools were held.   The children with several of their parents and other members of the congregation, assembled in the church, where Mass was chanted, and between 50 and 60 of the children received Holy Communion.  After Mass about 160 of them them were treated to an excellent breakfast in the schoolroom, to which they did full justice.

Breakfast over, they retired to the playground, where all kinds of juvenile games were indulged in.“  There were prizes provided for winners of races, wrestling (for the boys of course), and other activities. Prizes consisted of every description, books etc.  Actually the children would adjourn to the two adjoining paddocks;  the boys to one paddock and the girls to another.  The boys usually trained with gusto for these sports. “At 3 o’clock they attended Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the church, after which they returned to their homes highly elated with the day’s amusements.

The display of work was really excellent, and showed that great care had been bestowed on their training.  Four nicely-framed pictures occupied a prominent position.  The pictures were done in a mixture of crewel, wool and bead work, and were really well done.”

Many of the other works of art on display were reported in the paper with the names of the creators of these beautiful pieces.  It was pretty typical of the Temuka Leader to report on the children’s activities that occurred on Feast Days.  Newspaper reports were quite detailed and included how the altar was decorated, what hymns were sung, and the composers of the Mass liturgy.   Mass was usually a High Mass chanted by the priest in Latin.   The above was typical of these reports.

One report of a special children’s presentation caught my eye.

A Special Presentation by the Children to Fr. Fauvel S.M.

From the Temuka Leader:  April 1886.

“A very interesting ceremony took place yesterday afternoon, in St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Temuka, when the Rev. Fr. Fauvel was presented with a beautiful pastoral stole by the children attending the schools.   The stole is very handsome, and is beautifully ornamented with gold and precious stones.  At two o’clock the children assembled in the schoolroom and the following address was read by Miss Mary Hoare, of the Kerrytown School:

-Reverend and Dear Father -

We your loving and devoted children, the pupils of St. Joseph’s Schools, Temuka and Kerrytown, gladly avail ourselves of this favorable moment to express to you our earnest and heartfelt gratitude for the kind interest you have always taken in our temporal, as well as our spiritual welfare and we pray that the dear Saint Joseph may obtain for you the choicest and richest blessings of heaven on this his great Feast Day.  Dear Father, please accept this little souvenir, with the best love of your devoted and faithful children, praying that you may never be removed from amongst us until you go to receive your eternal reward.  Recommending ourselves, our parents and teachers to your holy prayers - we remain your faithful children, The Pupils of St. Joseph’s Schools.”

Fr. Fauvel’s response to the children is unusual but rather touching.

“The Rev. Fr. Fauvel said this was a great surprise to him.  He was far from suspecting the business for which they had sent for him.  He thanked them most heartily for their beautiful present.  He could not find words to express his gratitude to them for it, and for the beautiful address they had just read.  He felt sensible of their attachment to him and he could assure them that he was equally attached to them, but of course if it was so ordained that he would be removed, there would be nothing for it but to obey.  Still he hoped that he would be amongst them for many of year yet, as he would greatly regret to leave children to whom he was so much attached.  He had nothing to give them in return for their beautiful present, but he would play for them a chime on the bells, and he would wear their beautiful present at Benediction that evening.

Fr. Fauvel was a remarkable pastor.  He and St. Joseph's Church in Temuka will be future subjects for this web site.


To complete this page, I would like to take the liberty of reproducing from The Timaru Herald a well written piece entitled “SEADOWN.”   I include it because it gives the flavor of the area as nothing else could.  “SEADOWN” appeared on May 22, 1895.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

The only important event in our district since my last contribution has been the holding of one of our winter concerts in aid of the school funds.  Unpropitious weather ushered in the concert, for Thursday last was decidedly wintry and chilly.  Not only had we a rather gusty whiff from the vicinity of the South Pole, enough to freeze one’s marrow, but Jupiter Pluvius had evidently a new man at the pumps, for it rained in earnest as well as blew.  With such unfavorable elements the committee did not look for a bumper house, but were quite satisfied to see the spacious school room nearly full.  The chair was taken by a member of the Board, Mr. John Talbot, who made some very apt and happy remarks as an introduction.  The majority of the performers were from the Temuka portion of the district, but Kerrytown and the Levels were not unrepresented, as was Timaru, owing to the inclement weather.  The following ladies and gentlemen took part in the performance, which was by the audience voted a very good one.  Misses Quinn, Campbell, Stevenson, Connolley, Coughlan and Messrs J. McCaskill, H. Barrett, Kirk and Owers.  Comic songs are evidently much to the taste of the Seadown audience for Messrs Kirk and Barret, who essayed them, were loudly encored.  Miss Connolly took the pride of place among the ladies and her rendering of “Holy City” was a musical treat.    After the concert the room was speedily cleared, and nearly stopped “to trip the light fantastic toe” for a couple of hours to the excellent music discoursed by Messrs Owers.  The only drawback was that owing to the sloppy state of the ground without much dirt and mud were carried in, and made the dancing somewhat awkward.   The committee, I think, with tickets sold and money taken at the door secured over 13 pounds, which will leave a good round sum to credit over expenses.

The country at the back on the ranges looks indeed beautiful as viewed from this vicinity.  The mountains, clothed in pure white, when lit up by the morning sun form a splendid panorama.  The snow is especially low down for this season of the year, and may be looked upon as a winter covering.  Looking south, one can see the harbour and shipping quite distinctly, the large flour mills and other noticeable landmarks, and also the vessels entering and leaving the roadstead.

This indeed was country life entertainment at the end of the 19th century.  Concerts, dances, bizzars, stock shows, flower shows, art unions, fund raising, sports and competitions.  I do have to wonder about the author though.  Where did he sleep that night or did he just dance till dawn.


Kerrytown did not have a liquor license.  But a piece in the Temuka Leader of March 27, 1884 caught my eye.  It was entitled:'


"At the R.M. Court, Timaru, on Tuesday last, Hugh Brosnahan, of Kerrytown, was charged under section 159 of the Licensing Act with selling a glass of Beer to Richard Hoare, on the 9th inst., he not being duly licensed to sell liquors, Inspector Broham conducted the inquiry and Mr. Hamersley appeared for the accused, who pleaded not guilty."

Now this news article is quite lengthy but the crux of he matter is that Mrs. Brosnahan gets blamed for serving the beer.  Dennis Hoare testafied that he never saw Brosnihan - though it is highy unlikely that he would have been drinking with the Mrs alone.  Hoare paid the Mrs for some harvesting work and called for drinks.  His drink happened to be beer.  

Mr Hamersley, the attorney, "made a long address for the defense."  His Worship, bought none of it and inflicted the  fine of 20 pounds.

Those of you who are familiar with Kerrytown will recognize the Hoare and Brosnihan names as being those of the very first settlers of Kerrytown.  Great old Irishmen they were.


Things did not always go smoothly at the Kerrytown school.  The school was subject to inspections by the Borad of Education and most every report that I read of the school was excellent.  However, there was one note of interest.   This report in the newspaper leaves the impression that there was some bias against the "Roman Catholic" schools.  In the Temuka Leader, September 10, 1896,  it said that the school had passed a good examination, but the number of absentees from standard classes - 15 out of 75 - was excessive.  And then, later in the newspaper article it reported that Mr. Talbot had said that there was a peculiarity about the figures of the Kerrytown school; a great number absent who should have been present.  As a rule the children turned up on examination days.  That left the school under the suspicion that the absentees were asked to keep away.  Mr. Salmond said the Temuka RC school was pretty much the same but the chairman said that "sort of thing" was not unknown in their own schools.

My thinking is that, since the kids knew it was examination day, the simply stayed away.  I am sure the nuns did'nt tell them to.

There was another instance where the South Canterbury Board of Education considered a letter from Fr. Fauvel requesting that examinations not be held in the Kerrytown and Temuka Catholic schools because of the very short time between one examination and the next.  (The board had evidently put forward the dates for the next examination.) The suggestion was voted down. ( Temuka Leader April 3, 1987).