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KENT, JOHN

John Crossley was born in 1824 and was christened at St Mary’s Church in Monkstown, Dublin, Ireland on the 7th March 1824. He was the third eldest child in a family of 8 children.

On the 30th October 1848 at St Mary’s Church in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland John married Maryann Hardy, aged 25, daughter of William and Elizabeth Hardy. Maryann was born in Long Melford, Suffolk, England and was christened on the 26 November 1823.

They had three children, a daughter born 1849 (who possibly died at birth), John Palmer Kent, born 1853 and Henry William Kent, born 1856.

Shortly before the birth of Henry, John & Maryann, left Ireland to take up residence in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. From here they purchased a house in George St. As John and his brothers had learnt to read and write, they had no trouble gaining employment. On 4 June, 1857, John was appointed a position with the Customs Department working for the Colonial Government. On the 1st July 1857, he was appointed a second class clerk. At the time his younger brother Charles was already in employment with Customs and may very well have been of influence in John acquiring a position there. Palmer had also been employed by the government, working as a storekeeper and clerk for the Launceston Gaol (female factory) in Bourke St. There he earned himself a meagre salary of 150/-.

Sometime in 1861 John left his wife and boys in Launceston and came out to New Zealand.

It was not long before he had purchased a house in Arthur St, North East Valley, Dunedin, and got a job, once again as a mercantile clerk. He then sent for Mary and the boys.

They departed from Melbourne on the 10th June 1862 aboard a small barge, the Benjamin Heape. It was long, rough and dangerous passage, owing chiefly to the drunken character of the captain and his first mate. Neither of them were ever perfectly sober from the time they left until land was reached at Port Chalmers. The ship was saved once or twice, and at length, operated, by one of the passengers who had been a sea captain

In a new land with new hopes and dreams, Dunedin held promise for John and his family. Although only a few years later, with money paramount on his mind and a thirst for greed he let his actions nearly destroy everything he had worked so hard for.

On the eve of a hard days work in February 1865, there came a knock at the door. John excused himself from the room to answer. What greeted him was not at all what he wanted but truth be known it was only a matter of time. Detective Francis John Weale arrested John on the charge of ‘conspiracy to defraud’. He stood trial in the Supreme Court of Dunedin on the 1st day of March 1865 and was sentenced to one month’s hard labour.

Having put the events of 1865 behind him he continued working as a clerk. He was a very lucky man, to be trusted again after having completed the punishment of hard labour. By this time they had sold their house in North East Valley and moved to Dowling Street, the first house between Smith Street and York Place. It wasn’t long before he moved again, next to Filleul Street, between Cargill and London Streets, the third house from London Street. By 1867 he had purchased a house in St Andrews Street, Dunedin.

John was also enlisted on the Milita Roll. In 1867 at 50 years of age the only available position for him was to serve on the ‘reserves’.

By 1887 they had moved back to North East Valley, to Arthur Street. Their house was the 3rd house from the end.

Once the options of continuing employment as a clerk were no longer available to John, he became self employed as a gardener, making a humble living.

There is no available information or death record regarding Mary Ann Kent available in New Zealand. The tombstone records have no mention of her either. She possibly returned to Tasmania on her own and lived there until her death.

In 1884 John’s youngest son Henry passed away at the age of 26 from consumption. He had been a French Polisher and resided at St Johns Wood. Six years later John had to survive the death of his eldest son John Palmer.

In 1902 he moved to a flat in Adelaide Street, South Dunedin. This street no longer exists, as it was demolished to make way for industry. Today Mitre 10 accommodates the site.

John was a very agile gentleman and enjoyed the outdoor environment. For this reason he continued to work as a gardener until the very end. He passed away on the 20th November 1904, having survived all his children, aged 80 years. He died of the Influenza, which he had contracted a month earlier.

On John’s death certificate, his marital status is not recorded. Listed however as his wife was Jane Coates – his son’s wife’s mother. The only assumption is that upon Benjamin Coates’ death, Jane went to live with John, as much for comfort to him as it was to her. She later returned to England.

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