Philip Callan - Early settler of Birkenhead and Northcote
Philip Callan and his wife Jane arrived in Auckland via New South Wales in 1840. They came from Ireland, both Roman Catholics and their immigration record shows that he was a farm labourer and she a farm servant.
Philip soon entered public life. In 1841 he was one of a committee calling itself The Friendly Labourer and Burial Society which set up a meeting for 'interested persons' and in the same year was named as a trustee for the raising of funds to build a Roman Catholic Church in Auckland.
The first indication of their life on the North Shore comes from the 1843 Police Census for the ' North Shore of the Waitemata' when they were listed as occupants of a raupo hut probably at Duck Creek. Maybe there was a group of early settlers who made their way over to the North Shore who were Irish Roman Catholics for they were described as such in the Police Census and several had Irish surnames. Philip Callan was cultivating wheat, barley and potatoes thereabouts but was not a land owner at the time. He began buying land in Birkenhead from 1845 and along with one Richard Riding was described by Margaret McClure in her book "The story of Birkenhead" as a land agent. However in listing his occupation for Jury Lists and Electoral Rolls he either described himself as a farmer or a brickmaker. But certainly over a period of nine years he bought and sold four Lots along Birkenhead Avenue and around the foreshore adjacent to where the Chelsea Sugar Works now stands.
In the Jury List of 1847 he called himself a brickmaker and a draft map of historical sites in Birkenhead and Northcote produced by Land Information New Zealand records and shows that Philip Callan had a brickworks at Duck Creek at that time.
The Auckland Provincial Gazette includes Philip Callan's name amongst others tendering for jobs i.e to build a bridge over Waikoukou Bridge and form causeways between Waitemata and Kaipara Rivers and in June 1856 to build a new road from Parnell to Mechanics Bay. Neither tender was accepted but in August of the same year his tender to build a landing stage at Stokes Point (now Northcote Point) for three hundred and twenty eight pounds was accepted. Not surprisingly his name appears among 60 others in a petition given to John Williamson Superintendent of the Province of Auckland in 1857 asking for the establishment of a daily ferry service between Stokes Point and Auckland.
In 1852 and 1856 he had already purchased land at Northcote Point and had set up a brickworks on the foreshore of Beach Road (then named Callan Road) from where he made the bricks for his North Auckland Hotel built where the present Northcote Tavern now stands. But life was not all plain sailing for Philip and Jane Callan. Back in 1851, Philip Callan's son from an earlier marriage arrived in Auckland. Philip Callan junior aged 18 on arrival first appears in the Auckland Electoral Rolls for 1854 with his 'calling' listed as farmer and his qualification as 'freehold estate'. That same year he was admitted to the Lunatic Asylum at Carrington as an epileptic 'in a state of drunkenness. His father a well off farmer refuses to support him'. Bishop Pompallier had recommended his admission. He died there 21 years later at the age of 45.
Probably because of this, Philip Callan senior was moved to make over to the Bishop three acres of land from Lot 152 which comprised 79 acres that he had purchased in 1853, for a Roman Catholic Cemetery. The land was made over to Bishop Pompallier in 1861 for the nominal sum of ten shillings. The Cemetery stands on the side of Birkenhead Avenue opposite Pupuke Road. Only a portion has been used as a cemetery, the rest becoming the Pompallier Reserve.
Photo of the plaque erected in the Birkenhead Cemetery, Pupuke Road. Only a small area of the original 3 acres is retained for a cemetery.
The remainder, still in bush was named Pompallier Park . The plaque reads:
On 13th November 1861, three acres of land here was sold by Philip Callan of Stokes Point to JEAN BAPTISTE POMPALLIER, first Catholic Bishop of Auckland, for ten Shillings.
A part of the land was consecrated as this cemetery.
On 30 September, 1989, a ceremony was held to mark the formal transfer of the full three acre block to the Birkenhead City Council, to be held in trust for the people of Birkenhead.
The Catholic Bishop of Auckland was represented by Monsignor Philip Purcell Vicar General of the Auckland Diocese, the Mayor of Birkenhead by the Deputy Mayor, Peter Thomas.
The land outside the cemetery was renamed POMPALLIER PARK in recognition of its historic identity.
With his Hotel open in 1858 Philip Callan became its licence holder. He was owner and publican for the next nine years. The hotel became a focal point and meeting place. Northcote and Devonport were the only two stopping points for anyone travelling from the North to Auckland at that time. And the North Auckland Hotel, later named the Ferry Hotel provided stabling, accommodation and fellowship for commuters. Northcote Point which had been named Stokes Point in 1848 after Captain J.L. Stokes who carried out a survey of the coastline was often now referred to as Callan's Point and appeared as such on some early maps.
Northcote Hotel built about 1884. Earlier names were North Auckland Hotel and Ferry Hotel. Also known in Philip Callan's time as licensee as Callan's at Stokes Point. Now called Northcote Tavern.
He put the Hotel up for auction in 1861 along with 22 acres of land 'the greater part fenced and cultivated' and it was advertised in "The New Zealander" as 'a good hotel on the principal terminus of the Great North Road where there is a first-class opening as passengers to and from Auckland would be sure to go by this route. For private residences the position is most eligible from its proximity to Auckland (to which place there is a regular ferry) - from its pure and healthy atmosphere and from the advantage it offers of bathing, washing and fishing. The North Auckland Hotel is a substantial brick building, containing six rooms on the ground floor and five on the upper, one of them being a large ballroom. A stable and outhouses, cowshed and stockyard and a splendid well are within a convenient distance of the House. The ground surrounding the House is divided into a large garden, well cultivated and stocked with fruit trees, shrubs and flowers'. Included in the sale was 'a brickyard and pugmill conveniently situated on the beach.
It could not have sold for Philip Callan's name still appeared in the Auckland Provincial Gazette as the Licence Holder. Nothing more is heard of him until in December 1871 an advertisement appeared in the "New Zealand Herald" stating 'by order of the Mortagees (the Auckland Savings Bank) the township of North Auckland, the Hotel, dwellings and shop, stable, cowshed and fowl-house, vegetable garden and paddock will be put up for sale'. Lot 152, the land adjoining the Cemetery in Birkenhead Avenue was also included in the sale. For a man who had achieved so much to be declared bankrupt must have been a bitter blow.
Poster for mortgage sale of lots 30 and 31 in 1871 following Philip Callan's bankruptcy. His house bought back by his wife in 1872 is shown on the map at the bottom left.
On the day of the auction Jane Callan was able to buy back their home opposite the Hotel. One feels for her. No doubt much of the work that went into establishing the fruit, vegetable and flower gardens was hers. She had no children and the only mention of her name appears when she donated one pound for the building of the Anglican Church that opened in 1860 in Church Street Northcote, apart from being involved in some of the land transactions carried out by her husband. She died in the winter of 1881 at the age of seventy. Held at National Archives in Auckland is an administration bond stating that having died intestate the effects of Jane Callan amounting to less than sixty five pounds were to be passed over to her husband Philip Callan.
A year later he was found to be living in 'a miserable plight' at Stokes Point and on the recommendation of William Hammond a well known architect and surveyor of Birkenhead was admitted to Auckland Hospital. In 1883 he was transferred to Carrington Hospital suffering from senile dementia and died there on 17 January 1884.
An extract from the" Freeman's Journal" a week later reads 'the Very Reverend Father Walter McDonald in asking the prayers of the congregation for the repose of the soul of Philip Callan alluded to 'his long residence at Callan's Point and his arduous struggles in the early days of the colony for its advancement. He had now gone to his long account where he hoped that God in his mercy would grant him peace'.
Northcote Hotel in the 1920s
No photographs exist either of Philip or Jane Callan nor of the early hotel. Having no descendants means that few fragments of their lives remain. But Ireland can be proud of these two settlers who left the misery of existence in the terrible years of famine to make a new life in New Zealand. They made an early and notable contribution to the successful settlement of Auckland's North Shore.
Brenda Knight 2003