Topic: The Foley Family by Christine Clement

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Edmund Foley arrived in New Zealand in 1839. The story of Edmund and his descendents is the subject of Christine Clement's entry in the 2011 Memoir and Local History Competition.

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Edmund1 Foley and his wife Winifred O’Shanassy were both born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and arrived in Sydney, New South Wales in 1837 on board the Andromache.

Edmund Foley first came to New Zealand from Australia in 1839 and later returned with his family to the planned settlement of Cornwallis on the Manukau Harbour, Auckland. However, the elaborate plan to settle the 3000 acres never eventuated and the settlers eventually moved on. The settlement however did boast a licensed hotel, the Bird in Hand, which was managed by Edmund Foley.

In 1843 the family moved to Auckland and Edmund commenced business as a butcher. By 1849 Edmund was publican of the first licensed hotel at Otahuhu, Foley’s Flagstaff Hotel and by 1851, he was the publican of the Sir George Grey, Otahuhu. From 1859-1861 Edmund was a Member of the Auckland Provincial Council and during the Waikato Land Wars had commissariat contracts for the troops. He was said to have been at the Battle of Gate Pa in Tauranga in 1864.

Edmund’s sons James and Denis Foley were operating as storekeepers at Maketu in 1864, though some reports give them as being in charge of the military canteen. It is not known exactly how long the Foleys remained in business as storekeepers at Maketu, possibly until the military forces were withdrawn around the end of 1866. They possibly sold the business to Te Puna Frenchman, Emile Joseph Borel (1814-1885) who was advertising his store in Maketu in May 1868.

In May 1866 Edmund Foley and Ralph Simpson both made applications for hotel licenses for Te Papa (Tauranga). The Daily Southern Cross of 18th June 1866 reported that, “As matters now stand, we have literally no accommodation for gentlemen who are constantly visiting our port, or for those parties who may be inclined to come down to select lots at the approaching land sales.”

Edmund Foley later reported to the Bench of Magistrates saying that he had not yet built his hotel due to the unaccountable delay in the sale of the town allotments. He had plans and specifications and was prepared to commence erection “…if assurance could be given that he would be able to purchase the allotment at the general sale of the town…”2 The Bench did not accept Foley’s application and Te Papa’s first hotel, the Masonic opened in October 1866.3

The Daily Southern Cross of 28th September 1870 reported that, “A hotel, at Bowentown, Katikati is shortly to be opened by Mr (Charles) Harley of Tauranga. A large building of eleven rooms is now erected and the plan has received the approval of the Bench, so that a license will in due time be granted. Messrs Foley and Harley have also commenced to run boats twice a week from Te Papa to Bowentown where they intend to keep saddle horses for travellers by the overland route.”

Presumably this is the hotel later operated by James Foley. On 21st May 1873, The Bay of Plenty Times advertised:



James Foley

Still alive, and can supply his customers, wholesale and retail,

with the Best Brands of spirits, etc.

Cash on delivery for Gum, Flax or any other produce.

N.B Travellers are requested to telegraph the day before when requiring a horse.


On 25th September 1875 The Bay of Plenty Times advertised that “Mr James Foley, the pioneer Katikati settler has disposed of his property to W A Clarke, Esq, and is about to leave the Katikati district. Friends are requested to meet at (Alfred) Faulkner’s Hotel, Katikati on the evening of the 16 October 1875 to wish Mr Foley farewell. Signed Finlay McMillan and Alfred Faulkner.”

James returned to Auckland and was accidentally killed by a train in 1878. He had been a member of the Auckland Provincial Council representing the Pensioner Settlements (Howick, Panmure, Otahuhu and Onehunga) between 1861 and 1866.

By October 1867 Denis Foley was operating the first hotel at Maketu, the Travellers Rest. Maketu was an important stopping place for travellers along the beach from Tauranga and Opotiki, and was the gateway for tourists to the Hot Lakes (Rotorua) region. The hotel was taken over by Edmund Foley in 1870. On 28th December 1869 Denis married Jane Russell at Maketu. Jane was also known as Heni Te Kiri Karamu and after her marriage as Heni Pore (Foley).

In 1870 Denis and Jane moved to a farm at Rereatukahia, Katikati. On 9th August 1876, The Bay of Plenty Times printed a letter to the editor from Denis: “The Te Mania Creek – Sir, I wish to call your attention and that of the public, to the state of the road through the Katikati block. I had occasion to ride up to Tauranga today, and in endeavouring to cross the Te Mania creek, my horse got bogged, and I succeeded after much difficulty, in getting him and myself out. Such occurrences happen daily; in fact it is dangerous to cross that creek especially after a day’s rain, and unless there is some way made across it, lives will be lost. Travellers by night should be cautioned against going across it as they would certainly lose their lives in the attempt. Even the orderlies carrying the mail have to apply to me for assistance to enable them to get their horses over. By kindly giving insertion to this letter you will much oblige me – I am, etc Denis Foley, Rereatukahia, August 3rd.”

On 5th October 1876 the Foleys’ whare burnt to the ground when one of the daughters struck a match which fell on some rubbish outside. The whare caught fire instantly and nothing could be saved. However, the family stayed on the property and on 4th September 1878 Denis Foley applied for a license to keep a slaughter house on his section.

On 29th May 1900 The Bay of Plenty Times reported on Denis Foley “…as a very old resident of Katikati (who) left the hotel there shortly after eight o’clock intending to go home. He did not reach there, however as there was no sign of him in the morning of Wednesday search was made by Constable Dunne and others and his hat and lantern were found in Mr. Lockington’s paddock on the banks of the Uretara river. Yesterday morning the body of the unfortunate old man was found in the river about half a mile lower down and he appeared to have met his death by drowning.”

Denis Foley was buried in the family plot at Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland.

Jane Foley was said to have helped in the building and defending of Gate Pa, Tauranga. As Heni Te Kiri Karamu she, at risk to her own life, is said to have given water to the gravely injured Colonel Henry J P Booth and several other wounded men during the battle on the 29 April 1864.

However, there has always been much controversy regarding Hine/Jane’s story. On 3rd May 1864 The New Zealander newspaper carried an eyewitness account of the recent battle at Maketu and included the following paragraph - “Major Colvile while engaged in the action on the 21st (April) became very thirsty, and asked the friendly ones (Māori) to fetch him some water, but to this there was not one that was disposed to assent, when Mr Dennis Foley, who was nobly assisting the forces, volunteered and in the midst of a shower of balls which were passing around him, risked his life in order to relieve the wants of the gallant major and fetched the water.”

Others who have been credited with the water story include Te Ipu (Ngaiterangi) and Henare Wiremu Taratoa (Ngaiterangi). No contemporary letters or diaries make mention of any water being brought to Colonel Booth during the battle. He died of his injuries on 30th April 1864 and was buried at the Tauranga Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pa).

Denis and James Foley’s brother, Thomas, built the Shakespeare Hotel in Albert Street, Auckland in 1898. It is still in use in 2011. Thomas was said to have been born in the original Shakespeare Hotel in Wyndham Street, which had been owned by his parents at the time.



1.    Also often recorded as Edward Foley.

2.    Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2779, 22 June 1866, page 4.

3.    Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXII, Issue 2884, 23 October 1866, page 5.



Alister Matheson (Tauranga).

Ellen McCormack (Tauranga).

Lee Switzer (Tauranga City Library).

Don Stafford Collection – Rotorua Public Library.

Daily Southern Cross.

Bay of Plenty Times.

Oliver, Steven. 'Te Kiri Karamu, Heni 1840-1933' IN Dictionary of New Zealand.


Schofield G H (ed.). ‘Foley, Edmund (1811-1884) IN Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs, 1940).

Laing Norman. The Settlement of the Huia (Auckland: 1985),


‘The Foley Family’ was written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers.


Archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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