CAREY, JANE ELIZABETH nee O'NEILL
Jane O'Neill was born at Cherrybank, Wanganui in 1862. She went to school at Okoia, Wanganui, though briefly and with little effect it seems, for her writing skills were developed after she was married with the help of her husband, Matthew Carey, whom she married in 1884 in Patea.
Jane's life of over 65 years in Patea was one of hard work and dutiful service to a large family. Yet in retrospect it was an unfinished mosaic seen only in fragments, clues and snatches; largely anonymous and reflected in the lives of others. Her needs were secondary to those of her family. Her children, while acknowledging their dependence on her, could scarcely tell much about her private hopes and wishes. Yet small incidents give sudden flashes of illumination. For example, her husband would have allowed his four daughters to enter domestic service if necessary. Mum Carey, as the family knew her, said "No! Never". They would have the dignity of a trade training - in tailoring mainly, and they did. And when her husband, who had come to Patea as an infant in 1864, wanted to make a last pilgrimage to Australia where he was born, Jane produced a secret cache of sovereigns from a hiding place in the piano. They both went.
Jane had eight children, the eldest dying at home in 1901 from the effects of a cold drenching in Christchurch where he was one of the New Zealand-wide cadet contingent on parade for the tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. The Carey children were keen on sport, following their father who achieved a certain fame as Taranaki's first representative fullback in 1885, as a crack rifle shot, prominent bowler and a party to his family's desperate exploits in the Maori troubles of 1868, when they were burnt off their land at Manutahi.
Jane was scarcely acknowledged until the couple's 50th wedding anniversary in 1934, when the local press said she was "of a very quiet and unassuming disposition" who gave excellent service during the First World War as one of the seven members of the Patea Ladies' Patriotic League, "working indefatigably on behalf of the men at the Front" who included one of her sons. The other six members were Mesdames C A Larcombe, Powdrell, Kenworthy, L T Adams, J J Holtham and E F Hemingway. Jane was also an active member of the ladies' committee of the Patea Fire Brigade.
Jane Elizabeth Carey died on the 10 August 1941 at Patea, aged 79 years and is buried in the Patea cemetery. Her lifetime saw Taranaki progress from a muddy, hostile wilderness where life was hard and physical, to a place of prospering towns and modern transport. Her gravestone in the Patea family plot says, "Loved by all."
Jack Leigh, Auckland (grandson)
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