Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969

By Bernard Wight B.A.

In response to a request from the Historical Society I have written down some details concerning our large pioneer family as recorded in my grandmother's diary. She and my grandfather, Robert Allan Wight were married in England in l848 and their first child, Margaretta (later Mrs. G. F. Thorp) was born there. Shortly afterwards they went to Melbourne where they had two more children - Robert, who was to be a farmer and businessman at Coromandel, and Flora, who became Mrs. A. Douglas (and then Mrs. J. Sweet) in New Zealand. They all came to this country in 1854.

Grandfather was the first owner of the Molyneux Station, Dunedin and the family again increased by two - Jessie (Mrs. Lionel Hanlon, Whangarei) and Charles, later a grain merchant in Western Australia. Another move was made to East Tamaki in the late 50's and seven more children were born there - Lucy (Mrs. H. Browne, Clevedon), Catherine (who never married), Albert, John, Arthur, Walter and Mary, all of whom were well known in Ohinemuri. In l882 the family came to Totara Point, Thames and in l884 to Komata, near the Thames Road end of what is now Hubbards Road. We still have a photograph of the substantial 'Komata House' built there, (it has since been renovated and is now the home of Mr. Colin Hubbard).

In November l889 the homestead (and block of land) was sold to Mr. J. C. Hubbard and the Wights left to occupy the second 'Belmont' house which had been built by Mr. Joshua Thorp on Puke Road. (A picture of this was shown in Journal 8). It was on the site where my cousins Joan and Claude live now. They and their sister Margaretta (Mrs. W. Higgins, Waihi) and Muriel (Mrs. G. H. Bennett, Tauranga) were the children of John Wight. He married Miss L'Armour Corbett of Taranaki in 1911 and lived further up Puke Road before taking over the Belmont property where the present house was built.

Many of the family had dispersed when grandfather died in 1896. He was apparently of world repute as an Entomologist and published numerous papers. David Miller, Assistant Director of the Cawthorn Institute, Nelson, wrote in 1944 -

"Mr. Robert Allan Wight was a big figure in economic entomology in the 80's and 90's. He was associated with Koeble and corresponded with him and with Riley of Washington U.S.A."

The members of his family best known in this district were the younger six. Albert established a fat cattle business in Waitekauri in 1896 and two years later moved to Karangahake. His home was on the right side of the road between the Mackaytown Hotel at the foot of the Rahu Road, and Turners Hill. His wife was a daughter of Mr. T. Gibbons of Onehunga and they had two sons and two daughters. They farmed later in the Te Aroha district. John, I have already mentioned and Arthur who married Miss C. F. Noble of Waikato in l895, was my father. He was the first European owner of the land at Komata North which now consists of three farms, one owned by Mr. E. Berry, the second by Mr. Ralph Kilgour while the third is still retained by my elder sister Hazel (Mrs. N. W. Stephenson of Auckland). In addition, he played a major role in the opening up and development of the Hauraki Plains where we still own land. He and my uncle Walter did considerable stock-dealing in the Komata-Paeroa district. Walter owned property on Thames Road (one farm later being bought by Mr. Colin Wood). As he had no children he left another farm (on which Mr. T. Lowe Snr. was sharemilker for many years), to my sister Ina Noble Wight who lives with me in Auckland. Incidentally, she was the first Auckland woman to fly an aeroplane and to gain her "A" licence as a pilot (17-6-30). She was at once offered and accepted complimentary membership of the "Women's International Association of Aeronautics".

Mary, the youngest of the original family, lived in Paeroa most of her long life. She married Edwin T. Conolly who was on the staff of Paeroa branch of the National Bank. He was the sixth son of the Hon. E. T. Conolly, Judge of H.M. Supreme Court and being a keen all-round sportsman played a prominent part in the sporting life of the district. He was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Their son Jack who has now retired from professional life and is farming at Te Puke, became the most widely known descendant of Robert Allan Wight.

Editor's Note:

Brigadier J. Conolly B.Sc. D.S.O. E.D. , was educated at the Paeroa District High School and graduated B.Sc. at Auckland University, later having a distinguished career both as a teacher and a soldier. From 1945-1950 he was Head Master of John McGlashan College, Dunedin, and in 1966 retired from the Headmastership of Dilworth School, Auckland, having rendered outstanding service to Education, the community and the Church as well as having earned a proud Military record and being a noted sportsman (Rugby Rep).

His association with the Army began when, as a teacher at Whakatane High School he was asked to form a school Cadet Unit. He was Territorial Force Officer with the Hauraki Regiment until the outbreak of the Second World War and in 1940 went overseas as a platoon commander with the twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment, with the rank of Lieutenant. Seconded to the British Army Brigadier Conolly spent eight months as Chief Instructor in infantry weapons at the Middle East Weapon Training School in Palestine. In 1941 he rejoined the twenty fourth as a Captain, later becoming Company Commander with the rank of Major. Subsequently he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and was Commanding Officer until 1944. He was twice wounded in the North African Campaign, and awarded the D.S.O. for outstanding leadership, being several times mentioned in despatches. Brigadier Conolly went on to command the battalion in Italy until after the battle of Cassino. He was A.D.C. to H.E. Lord Freyberg V.C. and has had several post-war appointments. When the Auckland and Northland regiments amalgamated he was made honorary Colonel to the new third battalion (R.N.Z.I.R.).