Sitting comfortably amongst the high-profile championship golf courses in the Queenstown area is the picturesque and challenging Arrowtown course. The course is cleverly laid out with the fairways following the narrow drifts left behind from the gold dredging days. The views from all aspects are breath-taking, encompassing the Remarkables to the east and Coronet Peak to the west. The continuous sound of the water rushing down the Arrow River is a feature of the 2nd nine.
Sited on the border of Hole no 10, named ‘Shanahans’, is the relic of an original sod and shale cottage built by John Shanahan and his brother in 1875. It had two rooms, a thatched roof and was valued at 7 pounds!
John & Daniel Shanahan from the Irish village of Shanagolden arrived in Arrowtown around 1874. John’s wife, Ellen and their 3 young sons, sailed out from Ireland on the ‘Zealandia’ in 1875. Once settled in Arrowtown, the couple went on to have three more sons. Daniel built and lived in a small cottage nearby – he never married.
As well as raising the 6 boys in the cottage, John and Ellen took two girls into their care. Although documentation is scant it would appear that the girls were Ellen’s nieces. Their mother, Mary Nolan died when digging a well on her and John Nolan’s property. She left behind two young boys and two girls aged 3 years and 6 months (Norah & Louisa). Their father couldn’t bring up the four young children on his own.
John Shanahan was a stonemason by trade and worked throughout Central Otago. He died in 1890 at the relatively young age of 51. Ellen lived until 1915 and they are both buried in the Arrowtown cemetery.
Obviously, the Shanahan family were not prominent or wealthy as they had left for NZ to escape the travails of economic despair prevailing in Ireland.
However, many of the family that followed John and Ellen gained distinction in their chosen fields – Boer War service, the Western Front, Police Superintendent, an OBE, Auckland Law, Asst Secretary to our War Cabinet, diplomatic postings, NZRAF service, United Nations, swimming in the Commonwealth Games, a burial in the US Arlington Cemetery – only reserved for war heroes to mention just a few of this outstanding families achievements. From that very humble beginning, this family has achieved much on the national & world stage.
Sadly, the cottage suffered from the effects and ravages of time but a determined effort by members of the Arrowtown Golf Club worked to stabilise and preserve the cottage ruins to be enjoyed for posterity. This work was subject to stringent Historical Site laws affecting anything constructed before 1900 and close involvement of Heritage Conservation Advice, Otago University Archaeology staff, green keeping staff, a dedicated stone mason and many others facilitated the restoration programme. Shanahan family members were consulted throughout and contributed to the process.
The extended Shanahan family have had a long association with the club and for 23 years have sponsored the Shanahan Tournament held annually on a date as close as possible to St Patrick’s Day. This year, 2019, while a family member played in the tournament, John Shanahan, great, great grandson of the original John, and his wife Tonia manned the refreshment bar based at the newly restored cottage site.
The Shanahan family members are very fortunate to have such tangible evidence of their own history, a reminder of the sacrifices made by John and Ellen for their benefit. As well, the determination of the Arrowtown Golf Club members to restore the cottage to its present state demonstrates the special and unique relationship between the Club and the family.
Patricia O’Brien (nee Shanahan)