FOR a Leeton family with Irish roots, it was only fitting to come together on St Patrick’s Day to celebrate their 125-year reunion.
Held on March 17, the descendants of John and Mary Ann Hehir gathered in Leeton to mark the huge occasion.
John Hehir and Mary Ann (nee Thynne) were both originally from neighbouring villages in County Clare, Ireland.
John worked for Mary Ann’s family as a horse groom.
They both travelled to Australia separately in the late 1860s, but met up again and married just north of Bendigo in 1874. The couple went on to have seven children between 1875 and 1891.
John Hehir and his brother, Michael, had worked in the Colinroobie district (to the north of Leeton) when they passed through with horse teams in the early 1880s.
It was after this that John purchased the property – “Hillview” – where the recent reunion was held. The property is located 15 kilometres north east of Leeton and it was here he built a pine log cabin with his brother, two eldest sons (Michael and James) and his brother-in-law James Lee.
John returned to Bendigo to bring Mary and the younger children back to Hillview along with their cattle, horses and possessions.
They arrived on St Patrick’s Day, 1893, but it wasn’t easy going for the Hehir clan at their new property.
They had to clear land, fence, build dames and wells, as well as plant crops.
Tragedy has plagued the family throughout the 125 years.
Two of the girls died in infancy earlier on in Victoria and another girl, Ellen, died at the age of four in 1895.
Eldest son Michael was accidentally killed when he was dragged by a horse on the way home from Narrandera in 1897 at the age of 22.
John’s brother Michael also met an unpleasant fate, dying of thirst while on a droving expedition in the Northern Territory near Daly Waters in the 1902 dry season.
Despite all of this, the remaining family continued on working and improving the property.
Building a solid future
John and sons James and John Joseph supplied horse teams and worked on the construction of the main canal for the region.
James married Vera Trethewey and moved to the neighbouring property Bonnie Doon and Clifton, which remained in the family for many years. It was worked by their sons Jack and Leigh until 1996.
John Joseph married Vera’s sister and stayed on at Hillview, later acquiring Millbank and an irrigation property.
Their son Clem operated these properties with the assistance of his brothers and cousins.
Delamere was added and all four properties are now run by sons Barry and Peter, along with Borderline, which was acquired in 1979.
A love of Leeton
Members of the Hehir family have been well-known in the Leeton and Colinroobie districts since they first settled in the area.
They are known for having a strong community spirit, a love of nature and of sports.
Their reunion on the weekend was well attended by the family on the Hillview and Millbank properties.
Many wore green to recognise St Patrick’s Day and the family’s association with the date.
A barbecue was enjoyed, as well as bush walking, sight seeing around the hills, creeks, caves and perpetual water holes and catching up with each other.
Descendants came from all over, including NSW, Victoria and Queensland to enjoy the day.