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Sergeant Major Thomas O'Grady: Father of the
New Zealand Police Force
by Ann O'Grady
Russell, Bay of Islands Police Station 1880
Press 22 May 1880
Timaru Herald 26 October 1880
Auckland Star 28 October 1880
‘The Thames’ District Police Station
‘The Thames’ was initially built during the gold rush which began in 1867. Land was rented from local Maori for mining purposes for the sum of 5,000 pounds per year, a colossal sum and a source of great envy by other iwi. Towards the end of the 19th century Thames was the largest centre of population in New Zealand with 18,000 inhabitants and well over 100 hotels and three theatres in 1868. Many people migrated to Thames and it became the second largest city in New Zealand.
Manawatu Standard 28 February 1884
Detective Farrell v Sergeant Major O’Grady
Greymouth Police Station 1881-1883
Richmond Quay, Greymouth, circa 1890
Marlborough Express 18 December 1884
There were many commissions of enquiry into the workings
of the New Zealand Police Force during the time that Thomas worked in
Evening Post 10 May 1884
Hawera & Normanby Star 19 May 1884
(By reference to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand inflation
Napier, Byron Street Police Station 1885
Sergeant Major O’Grady v ‘Mad Man
Evening Post 9 February 1887
North Otago Times 17 February 1887
Oamaru Police Station 1887
Royal Commission Oamaru District Police force
The book ’A Century of Service’ by D A Thomson and H Kagei describes Thomas as “one of the more interesting and intriguing characters” of the enquiry.
A letter to the editor in support of Sergeant
Major O’Grady, also serving as an interesting summary of Thomas’
previous policing in New Zealand.
O'Grady was of material assistance to Commissioner Shearman and Inspector Pender in establishing an efficient police force in Canterbury and I could give names of most daring criminals brought to justice by his efforts, as also some gallant acts, one only of which will be sufficient to mention, viz., the rescue from the river Avon in a flooded state on a dark night of a young woman, now mother of a large family. For this O'Grady received the thanks of the public through the Press and a general notification was issued to the police of his “humane, gallant, and fearless conduct" of which an entry was made in his meritorious conduct sheet. This sir is only one of several such entries on the police records to the credit of O'Grady.
He was in 1863 placed in charge of the Heathcote Valley station where he had to contend during the construction of the Christchurch-Lyttelton tunnel with some of the worst characters in the district. From Heathcote he was promoted and sent in charge of the Rangiora police district, and when again promoted and transferred from there to the Leithfield district he was presented by the inhabitants of Rangiora with a substantial testimonial.
On again being promoted he was transferred to Lyttelton
and was presented by Leithfield people with a valuable testimonial and
general regret was expressed at his departure.
He was in charge of the Bay of Islands for six months whence he was transferred and had charge of the Thames for about three years. While there Sergeant-Major O'Grady very properly reported his subordinate, Detective James Farrell for a most cowardly and unmanly assault on a man whose name I cannot remember. For this Farrell was dismissed the service and retaliated by bringing a series of charges against O'Grady, all of which were dismissed and no taint attached to him. In one case the evidence for which had to be raked up from the diary or black book kept by Farrell, the alleged misconduct dated back eighteen months. The chief witness stated on oath that she had no charge to prefer, that Farrell had offered her £25 to lay information, and £50 if O'Grady were dismissed the service, and that she refused and the information was laid by a detective. The R.M., the late Warden Kenrick dismissed the charge and informed O'Grady that he left the Court without a stain on his Character, a decision which was received with enthusiasm and cheers by the people.
Eighteen months later there occurred a suspicious fire
and O'Grady found a quantity of goods buried in a garden and arrested
the owners. On their trial the men owing to the disagreement of two juries,
were admitted to bail to appear when called upon. They then took action
against the insurance companies for the recovery of the amount of insurance.
Shortly after he was charged at the instance of the Land League with having said eighteen months previously that that association had retained a solicitor to defend Donoghue. As this, even if proved, disclosed no offence against the regulations, the informants withdrew their case, employed a solicitor, and applied for and obtained a Royal Commission to inquire into the allegations. The evidence admitted into the case was mainly hearsay and the Magistrate who was the Royal Commissioner, reported to the Defense Minister, who in reply to a question in the House said there was nothing in the report sufficient to suspend O'Grady. Later, by resolution the report was laid on the table of the House. It is a matter for regret that the report was published without the evidence in the Tablet and other papers.
However it would seem that due to pressure O'Grady's
transfer was ordered to Wellington, subsequently altered to Masterton
and afterwards to Napier. The last order I believe, O'Grady endeavored
to have rescinded but to no purpose.
Now sir, all this sketch of his career during a great
portion of which we were intimately associated, I have given a few instances
of his zeal, and nothing extenuated on the other side. Does anything therein
show unreliability? O'Grady was never fined, nor till now punished. I
believe he has had no opportunity of defending himself- indeed does not
know with what he is charged more than “unreliability" whatever
that may mean. It is to be hoped that as an old public officer he may
have a public inquiry in the fullest sense, and I am only one of many
who trust you will use your efforts to this end. I am, &c, Fair Play.
Napier, October 11, 1888.