Topic: Who was John Donnelly

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Bank of New Zealand Cheque  

This Bank of New Zealand cheque was written in 1881 by the Tauranga Jockey Club and is signed by J. Horne and David Asher, Treasurer and Secretary of the Club. It is a piece of Tauranga’s banking and racing history and a link to influential early settlers and the development of the township in the 1880s. It also raises the simple question of why did the Jockey Club owe John Donnelly £7.4.0?

John Donnelly was well known as a local contractor who specialized in fencing and roading and it is for this that the cheque was almost certainly written. While race meetings in Taruanga were well attended complaints were made about the facilities and thick dust which settled on everything including race goers picnics! The Club resolved to spend £700 to improve the situation. In October 1880 Donnelly is recorded as tendering for fencing the racing reserve and although his tender was unsuccessful it is not difficult to imagine that the Club hired him for other work.

Donnelly came to Tauranga in 1865 as a Private in the 1st Waikato Regiment and was to settle in Greerton. Originally from Ireland he maintained an interest in his homeland and is recorded in the Bay of Plenty Times as an expert potato grower and contributor to the Irish Relief Fund. A generous man Donnelly also made a financial commitment to the construction of the Anglican Church at Gate Pa in 1884. No doubt the memorial to fallen British soldiers was close to his heart. Donnelly died suddenly in May 1893 after returning home from a hard day working on the Oropi Road. He was 60 years of age.

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