Moses Henry O'CONNOR of Uralla and Armidale
Moses Henry O'Connor was the youngest child of John O'Connor and Mary Murphy. He was born at Uralla on 22 May 1868. His mother began his education at an early age and then he went on to the local school. He followed his brother, John Francis into the building trade and there are many homes in Uralla that are the work of his hands. On 4 April 1 894 he married Mary Josephine Hyde. The Border Post of April 7 reports the event:
ORANGE BLOSSOMS - On Wednesday a very pretty wedding ceremony was performed at St. Joseph's Church by the Rev. Father Davadi, when Miss Minnie Hyde, daughter of Mr. Dennis Hyde, of Sugarloaf, and Mr. M.H. O'Connor of Uralla, NSW, were united in the bonds of holy matrimony. The wedding was a very popular one among the residents of Sugarloaf, where the family of the bride have resided since the very early days. The party arrived at the Church from Sugarloaf about 11 a.m., when the ceremony was performed. Miss B. Hyde, cousin of the bride, assisted as bridesmaid and Mr. M. Hyde performed the duties of `best man'. The wedding was celebrated at the residence of the bride's parents and over thirty friends sat down to the wedding breakfast, which had been prepared in a very tasteful manner. The health of the newly-married couple was proposed in eulogistic terms and drunk with enthusiasm, to which Mr. O'Connor responded. The remainder of the day was spent in amusement, and in the evening a large number of friends were invited to a dance in honour of the occasion. Dancing, interspersed with songs and games, was kept up till daylight on Thursday morning. We wish the young couple a bright and prosperous future.
Moses brought his bride home to the house he had built in Woodville, Uralla. Their first daughter Eileen Mary was born on 14 February 1896, then two years later Emily Josephine was born 18 June 1898. Gold was discovered at Hillgrove and Moses went to build shops and accommodation for the miners. Then he moved his family there and went into the mining business, which was much more sophisticated than it had been when his father commenced at Rocky River nearly fifty years ago. At Hillgrove the tunnels were long and deep and needed a solid wooden structure at their entrance. Moses also constructed an almost perpendicular tramline for hauling the ore from the mines to the top of the cliff for sluicing. Because of the depth of the mines there was considerable trouble with the poisonous gas that so often occurs underground. It was the presence of this gas that eventually caused the closure of the Ellanora Mine and Moses used to claim that there was still plenty of gold in there if only they could overcome the gas. Another of his feats of this era was building the hydro-power station. This is recalled in "The Armidale Express" nearly forty years later, about 1944.
OLD STYX HYDROELECTRIC SCHEME.
Mr. M.H. O'Connor tells of 1907 feat.
The proposal by the Armidale City Council electrical engineer (Mr. S.D. Berry) that the Styx River be harnessed to provide electric power for Armidale and district has reawakened memories in 76-year-old Mr. Moses O'Connor, ex-Mayor of Hillgrove and Armidale.
In the days when Hillgrove was at the peak of its gold production and a thriving town of about 7000 inhabitants, Mr. O'Connor was commissioned by the gold mining company, in whose employ he was mines' foreman, to tackle the job of constructing a hydroelectric power plant and dam the Styx to provide electricity for the mines. Interviewed yesterday, Mr. O'Connor said:
"I started the job with 12 men on January 22, 1907. On December 22 of the same year the mines were using power from the river.
"The job was inspected after completion by the then Minister for Mines, who told me that if he hadn't seen it he wouldn't have believed it.
"It was considered then the best job of hydroelectric installation in Australia.
"And I was not an engineering expert," Mr. O'Connor emphasised, "but a mines' foreman and builder.
"A group of Swedish electrical engineering experts visiting Armidale some years ago asked to see me and when I asked them what they wanted they told me they wanted to take off their hats to the man who had put in the Styx River Hydroelectric plant. And they did!
"That was the greatest compliment I've ever been paid", Mr. O'Connor added. The power from the Styx scheme was used solely for the Mines. Mr. O'Connor said, "Hillgrove obtained its lighting from the Gara River hydro plant". He saw no reason why the Styx could not be successfully harnessed to provide electricity for Armidale at the present time. It would be necessary to have a reserve storage as a precaution against the river level dropping sharply in dry seasons.
Moses Henry served Hillgrove as an alderman for 16 years when it was a thriving mining town, during 1909 and 1910 he was Mayor. The town was well supplied with electric power and lighting, had a good water supply and most conveniences of the time.
It was during this time that Moses and Mary's third daughter, Kathleen Mary was born 3 October 1909. Their other girls were doing well at the local Convent School as reported in the newspapers: of 13 Feb, 1915:
FROM "THE ARMIDALE CHRONICLE"
13 February 1915
News from Hillgrove.
In connection with the recent examinations of the London College of Music, the prize competition for "Beginners Only", the results for N.S.W. were:- (Hillgrove centre) First prize, value £5, won by Miss Emily O'Connor, pupil of St. Joseph's Convent, Hillgrove- passing Elementary Grade with honours (89 marks out of 100). First prize, value 3 pounds won by Miss Eileen Ryan, St. Joseph's Convent, Hillgrove - passing the Primary Grade with honours (91 marks). Such results reflect great credit on the teacher, who is to be congratulated.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sisters of St. Joseph's Convent are to be congratulated on the excellent result attained by their pupils at the recent Theory of Music examinations. There were twelve candidates and all passed, three gaining the highest possible marks. The pupils sat under the supervision of the Rev. Father M. Foley
Eileen O'Connor 99 marks Alice Morrow, 99 marks
Elsie Smythe, 99 marks Lizzie Haren, 97 marks
Vera Dickson, 97 marks Daisy Goodwin, 97 marks
Kathleen Pinto 97 marks Bertha Curry, 96 marks
Mary Logan, 93 marks Eileen McMillan 89 marks
Dorry Ryan 7 5 marks.
After the closing of the mines and gradual moving away of many of the townspeople of Hillgrove, Moses and Mary and their family moved to Armidale in 1920. Moses found employment with G.F. Nott a popular and busy builder at that time. Among the buildings he worked on were the Ursuline Convent Chapel and The Armidale High School.
Dear Aunt, Just a line to let you know I received your letter alright and was pleased to hear you are all quite well. I was in Malta Hospital for a while but I am in the best of health at present. Well Dear Aunt Hillgrove must be very tame now that all the mines have closed down. I have very little space for news but I will drop you a line later on so Good bye. I remain your fond nephew P. Hyde.
I would be very pleased to get a line from Eileen or Emily.
Moses Henry was not long in Armidale when he was elected to the City Council and served there for twenty years, five of those years - 1933 to 1937, he was Mayor. Much progress came to Armidale during the years that Moses was Mayor, one of the most important, and which affected the greatest number of people was the sewerage system. This and the improved water supply raised the standard of living in the City. The newly opened Teachers' Training College brought many people and then the establishment of the University College began that steady increase in population that has grown to several thousands now at the University of New England. Another important step in modernising the City was the opening of Radio Station 2 AD. In his first year of office the Great Northern Road was redesignated The New England Highway and has been continually widened and improved ever since.
Of seeming little importance at the time, and of no great cost was the opening of the Municipal Museum. There are many today, researchers and others, who are now grateful to the Civic Fathers for this foresight and promotion. Armidale's new Hospital was built near the end of Ald. O'Connor's time as Mayor. This was a welcome step forward in the care of the people of the City and district of that time. Even though it has had to have further improvements and enlargements, each is a step forward in the growth of the City.
Moses was always a keen rifle man and enjoyed this as the only sport in which he took part. Perhaps a few extracts from the local newspapers will show us something of his sharing in this sport, about 1937.
"The Armidale district contains two veteran riflemen, whose record at the sport should take some beating throughout the State. One is Bill Morgan of Hillgrove, who is well over the allotted span and is still an active participant at shoots throughout the State, and is a regular at the big N.R.A. meeting in Sydney. The other is "Mo" O'Connor, Mayor of Armidale, and secretary of the Armidale Rifle Club. Mr. O'Connor has completed over fifty years of almost continuous rifle shooting, and that his eye and hand have not lost their cunning is evidenced by the fact that, at the end of the Armidale Club's year, he was well up in nearly every competition. His consistency is shown by the fact that he won the trophy for the aggregate for the best score of 22 shoots out of 24, and also the trophy for the best 16 shoots (four each at the 300, 500, 600, and 700 yards ranges).
On Easter Monday, 51 years ago, the Mayor of Armidale, Alderman O'Connor, popularly known throughout the Northern rifle circles as "Mo", won his first prize shoot. On Saturday he won the Armidale Club's shoot at 300 yards with 45 out of a possible 50.
The name of M.H. O'Connor, Armidale's chief citizen, is missing from the results of the weekly shoot at the Armidale rifle range on Saturday. The reason is that his Worship, after 51 years of active service with rifle clubs, has found it necessary to retire. Despite the fact that he will not breast the mound, his interest in the sport will not slacken. It is interesting to recall that in over half a century of shooting, he has on only two occasions scored less than 40 with ten shots."
When Moses retired from the Municipal Council in 1940 he was 72 years of age, his wife was ill and his brother, Patrick Michael was staying with him in between periods in hospital. Patrick died in the Armidale hospital 23 February, 1940. Mary Josephine died 5 June 1942 and Moses was left with his daughter Emily who cared for him lovingly and faithfully for the remaining five years until his death on 17 August, 1947.
When the family had moved to Armidale from Hillgrove and Moses had started building with G.F. Nott, Emily began work in the office of Nott's which was at that time mainly the brickyards but was to grow, over the years, to own the timber yards and cover the whole of the building industry. Emily worked in that office and for the company as it grew, for fifty one years so she saw many changes and probably knew more about that business than any one else in it at the time of her retirement in 1971.
The following lines were addressed to Mr. O'Connor by Father Hiscox on the occasion of the death of Mrs. O'Connor.
The moment that must come to all
Crept in all silken shod;
A sudden change, a heaving breast;
Her soul had gone to God.
And so the Book of Life is closed
And sealed by angel's hand,
The journey's O'er, the race is run
Across life's lonely strand.
And as I sit in pensive mood
Tonight, I thank the Lord
That angels hovered round the bed
To break the quivering cord.
And so it surely must have been
For with a faith that's true
She loved her God and served Him well
As do the faithful few.
We miss her from our lonely home,
We miss her from the pew
Where she used kneel in humble prayer
Her fervour to renew.
The flowers that stand with drooping head
Out in the garden there
Would make one feel that they, too, miss
The sweet maternal care.
The garden which she loved to tend
Bore oft a scented gem,
But sweeter flowers she never grew
Than Eil, and Kath and Em.
The home is not like home tonight,
For from that vacant chair
A lonely silence seems to peep
Suggesting blank despair.
But then my soul dispels the thought,
Unworthy would I be
Of Him Who gave His life for men
And died upon the tree.
And so I join my heart with His
And bravely face the loss;
I'll steel myself with earnest prayer
And with Him bear the cross.
Frank and Eileen Hiscox, of Bridge Street, Muswellbrook, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last Monday when relatives and friends from Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth, Inverell, Bega and Armidale travelled to Muswellbrook to celebrate the occasion.
Frank Hiscox, the only surviving child of the late Mr. and Mrs. William Hiscox of Armidale, married Eileen, the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. M.H. O'Connor of Armidale, at St. Mary and Joseph's Cathedral, Armidale on September 8, 1930.
The Hiscox's have three children, Kevin (Sydney), Gerard (Canberra) and Michael (Coffs Harbour), and eight grandchildren.
The anniversary was celebrated with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. James Church, Muswellbrook, with the concelebrants being Fr. Brock (Muswellbrook), Fr. Woods (Denman), Fr. Hornery (Swansea), Fr. Hughes (Waratah) and Dr. Macpherson (Inverell).
A renewal of marriage vows were exchanged by Frank and Eileen and Fr. Hughes conducted the Presentation of the Papa Blessing. Father Brock spoke feelingly on the virtue and the exemplification of love.
After the Mass of Thanksgiving a celebration luncheon was held at Skellatar House.
Over 70 people attended the luncheon and the chairman was Kevin Hiscox.
Toasts were proposed to the guests of honour, the guests and the St. James Parish.
Telegrams were received from Father Nugent, (holidaying in Ireland), Prime Minister Malcolm Frazer, Governor and Lady Cutler, Mr. Frank O'Keefe, Mr. Colin and Mrs. Fisher, and Mr. Neville Wran (Premier).
Also a congratulatory letter was received from Sir James Cardinal Freeman.
DEATH OF A CHARITY WORKER
An Armidale woman, well-known for her years of charity work and her support and sympathy for the aged and sick, died recently.
Miss Kathleen Mary O'Connor, or Kath as she was known to her many friends, worked diligently for the Catholic parish in Armidale.
She was an early member of the Catechist's group and she belonged to the Legion of Mary Society.
Miss O'Connor was instrumental in modernising the Cathedral Hall kitchen and meeting room and she worked with the Parish caterers for many years.
Her hospital and home visits were famous. Before the Second World War, she was an employee at Richardsons.
During the war, she joined the army and afterwards joined the staff of the Department of Agriculture where she worked until a couple of years ago.
At the time of her death, Miss O'Connor was treasurer of the St. Patrick's Home Auxiliary.
OBITUARY:- After a long illness, during which she received every possible kindness and attention from relatives and neighbours, Mrs. Denis Hyde, on Tuesday morning last, died at her residence in Stella Street; otherwise remarkably robust in health for her age, Mrs. Hyde succumbed to the attack of an internal complaint, the result of which was only too painfully apparent to her friends for some little time past. Deceased had reached the good age of 57 years, and the large attendance of townspeople at her funeral, which took place on Wednesday afternoon, was a fair token of the respect in which her memory was held.
OBITUARY:- The grim King of Terrors has been busy in this district during the past week, and removed from our midst three of our oldest inhabitants. On Thursday night week Mr. D. Hyde who has been living with his son, (Mr. M. Hyde) at Sugarloaf died very suddenly. During the day Mr. Hyde complained of feeling unwell, but towards evening he appeared to get better. He went outside and laid down on the grass in the cool to have a smoke, and shortly afterwards his daughter-in-law went out and discovered that he was dead. Death was due to a general break-up of the system. The Deceased had been a resident of the district since the earliest days of the tin mines and leaves a grown up family of sons and one daughter, who is married, and lives in New South Wales. The funeral took place on Saturday and was largely attended. Deceased was 68 years of age.
OBITUARY:- We regret to report the death of Mr. Thos. Hyde, which sad event took place at the local hospital on Sunday morning last, the cause of death being pneumonia. Deceased who was only 43 years of age, complained of feeling unwell during the week, and finally consulted Dr. Parramore, who ordered his immediate admission to the hospital, consequently he entered the institution on Friday -but unfortunately the dread disease had made too much progress and he passed away as stated at 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. He leaves a sorrowing sister, (Mrs. M.H. O'Connor, of Hillgrove) and two brothers, residents of Stanthorpe. Mr. Hyde was an old resident of Hillgrove, having arrived here over 16 years ago, since which time he has followed the occupation of a miner and prospector. The remains were interred on Monday afternoon in the Roman Catholic portion of the local cemetery, the Rev Father Foley officiating at the graveside, and despite the inclement weather a large number of people paid the last tribute to the departed. Mr. R.W. Morrow had charge of the funeral arrangements.
"The Armidale Chronicle". 17 May 1908.