• Map 4496-11 courtesy of Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection, Callan's Point (later Northcote) in 1871.

Philip Callan: Birkenhead and Northcote settler

Baptised a Catholic on 11 November 1805, a son of Patrick Callan and Anne (nee Duffie), Philip Callan grew up in County Waterford, Ireland. Around 1838, he married Jane Mingy, a daughter of Patrick and Catherine Mingy from County Meath. She had been baptised a Catholic on 7 August 1811. On 16 May 1840, he and Jane arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, as bounty Immigrants. The colonial government bounty went to those who arranged the immigration.

At that time, Philip was described as a labourer who could read and write “a little”, while Jane was described as a “farm servant”, unable to read or write.  By the end of 1840 they had moved to Auckland, in the new colony of New Zealand.  Philip soon entered public life as in August 1841 he was a member of a committee setting up the Friendly Labourer and Burial Society and later one of the trustees for fundraising the building of the Church of St Patrick and St Joseph in Auckland, which opened in January 1843.
In 1844 Philip cultivated two acres of wheat, barley and potatoes, most likely in Birkenhead as in September 1845 he took out mortgages to purchase 56 acres in what is now the Huka Road area. In 1851 he also purchased around 16 acres in the Lower Rawene Reserve leading down to what is now Chelsea Bay, near the sugar works. He established a brick works on that site and for a time the bay was known as Callan’s Bay.
In 1852 Philip also took out mortgages to purchase around 27 acres on part of what is now Northcote Point, from Bartley to King Streets.   In 1853 and 1854 he purchased 76 acres in what is now the Recreation Drive area to the west of Birkenhead Avenue and 84 acres in the Highbury area around Mokoia Road. He was a member of the local Hundred of Pupuke in 1856 and also purchased then around two acres on what is now Northcote Point from King Street southwards. He was also contracted to build a wharf where Onewa Road meets the Onepoto Stream. Little wonder that the Point was for a time known as Callan’s Point, along with Stokes Point and then finally as Northcote Point from 1880.
From 1851, Philip and Jane were joined by another Philip Callan, born around 1833 and an epileptic. That Philip died in the Whau asylum in 1875.
Philip Callan senior is best remembered as the landlord of the first Northcote hotel. He held a ‘bush licence’ from 1858 to 1865 for the North Auckland Hotel, built from his own brickyard and a little distant from the existing wharves at Onepoto Stream and Hall’s Beach.   The wharf at the Point dates from the early 1860s. His hotel opened in 1859, with six rooms on the ground floor and five on the upper, including a large ballroom. There was also a stable, outhouses, cowshed, stockyard, a well for drinking water and a garden, close to his other brickyard and pugmill (a machine for mixing and working clay) on Sulphur Beach.
In 1861, he sold three acres of his land opposite what is now Pupuke Road to Bishop Pompallier for ten shillings for a Catholic cemetery on that site.
However,he was still heavily mortgaged. From the mid-1860s, Auckland suffered an economic downturn and he began to sell off his assets. By December 1871 his remaining land was lost in a mortgagee sale. He had been the landlord of the Ferry Hotel on the Point from 1870 to 1871 and in 1872 he briefly ran the Traveller’s Rest, but ended up with just a cottage opposite the hotel, in his wife’s name. His brick hotel was pulled down in 1882 in favour of the present wooden building.
In 1875 his cottage suffered a fire. Jane died 13 July 1881. She was intestate and her small estate was passed to Philip. Despite advertisements for a housekeeper and assistance from other local residents, he deteriorated further and was admitted to the Auckland Provincial Hospital on 16 August 1882. On 11 January 1883 he was transferred to the Old Man’s Refuge at the Whau asylum, suffering from dementia, and died there 17 January 1884.
My thanks to Brenda Knight for her diligent research on Philip Callan.


Issue 131 June 2022