Friday, 21 December 2018

Patrick Freeburn Keenan and His Family - Book Review

Patrick Freeburn Keenan and His Family by Patricia Brooks
Edited by Sophie Levestam, Design by Donella Jones
ISBN 978-0-473-45792-1, Kale Print, Tauranga
Softcover, 84 pages

Review by Lee Switzer

The author is clear. The book is about her grandfather, whose biography is only printed here in great detail because so many family members from the past collected stories, newspaper reports and photos.

The book is filled with family photos and multiple quotes from original letters describing family members and their activities. Patrick Freeburn Keenan (1872-1955) is the grandfather of author Patricia Brooks. She is named after him, and like Patrick, nicknamed ‘Paddy.’

The book is generally well referenced. However, no source is given for this statement: “By 1915 Tauranga was the first town in the world to have electric street lights and an all-electric home.” p41.

Keenan Road, Freeburn Rd and Molloy Rise are named after families who lived in the area off  Pyes Pa Rd.

The organisational layout of the book must have been a mind swirling jigsaw of placing families, individuals and events into a coherent whole. In large part, the author has succeeded well in providing lineages backward and forward within the contexts of distant relatives, their 1800s activities in Ireland, and voyages to Australia and New Zealand.

As expected, New Zealand history is an integral part of the family history. Patrick Keenan was born to Francis and Sarah Keenan in Greenstone, New Zealand, a town  across the river from Kumara, midway between Greymouth and Hokitika.

After working in several different gold dredging operations and marrying Mary Jane Walsh  (1872-1944) in 1904, Greymouth, they moved to North Island towns. The couple and 4 childrern; Thomas, Ellen Sarah (Nell), Pat, and Alice eventually landed, fully, and finally in Tauranga, 1918. With farms in Pyes Pa, various other family members worked the land, took children to school first in Greerton and later to other schools.

The authors’ parents, Ellen Sarah Keenan (1910-1970) and Brian Patrick Molloy (1911-1979) were married in 1936. Six siblings arrived from this union: Mary Elizabeth, Margaret Winifred  Patricia Alice, Marc, Terence Michael (currently a Tauranga City Councillor) and John Joseph.

Patricia Keenan married Norman Brooks in 1961. Brooks provides details about living on the farm, Greerton School history and other aspects of Grandfather and Grandmother Keenan and Mother Molloy’s life with animals, town and country organisations, friendships, kinships.

There are many anecdotes in the book and several little-mentioned events in New Zealand history such as the Battle of Addisons Flat, 1868 one of the first riots on the West Coast, and the “Douglas Movement” referring to the Douglas Credit Party in the 1930s.

The book is loaded with individual facts, dates of birth and death, often burial locations. On a final note, near the end of the biography there is an unsuspected puzzle piece with twists to finding relatives. It has to do with DNA, a photograph, an unwed mother who gave her twins up for adoption, and who would not tell the adult women who their father was. The answer is in the book. (Hint: their new brother was very happy to discover his sisters.)

Closing the Keenan saga are numerous pages with diagrammed genealogical branches.

1 comment:

  1. I will be most interested to read this Story of PATRICK FREEBURN ...I immediately thought of KEENAN ROAD...

    2019 I will complete My Story of MAUNGAWHARE in Otumoetai ..
    My thanks to the Historical Society for all the information provided 2018
    Alys Ingrid Wicksteed (Revfeim)