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Sergeant Major Thomas O'Grady: Father of the New Zealand Police Force
by Ann O'Grady

Thomas O’Grady’s Career in the New Zealand Police Force
Heathcote Valley, Ferrymeade, Rangiora, Leithfield & Lyttleton Police Stations

The following are Thomas’ police appointments over 41 years in the Police Service

Heathcote Valley Police Station 1863
Thomas in charge 1863. Heathcote Valley police station opened in 1861 and closed 1867.

Heathcote Valley

Timaru Herald 11 June 1864
Supreme Court. Sergeant O’Grady was called. “On 22nd last I was in the Heathcote Valley. I saw prisoner Williams in the bar of the Valley Hotel about 8p. m. I asked him if he had any watches on him. He said he had none. I took him into a room in the hotel and searched him. I found a silver watch. No. 14,398, this corresponded with the number of a watch stolen from Mr. Tayler’s store in Lyttelton. I then charged him with breaking into Mr. Tayler's store and stealing. I produce the watch I found on prisoner Williams. I also found on prisoner Williams six silver chains, a silver Albert chain, two hair guard chains, three gold rings, a locket, a scent bottle, a silver brooch, a watch key, and some printed ballads”. His Honor sentenced Williams to two years' imprisonment with hard labor, to commence from 1st June.

Ferrymead Police Station 1866
Thomas was in charge during 1866 and 1867.

Ferrymead police station and gaol
Ferrymead police station and gaol – far left of photo. To the right is the Ferrymead
Hotel and Railway Station connecting Lyttelton and Christchurch township.

Press 7 September 1864
Resident Magistrate's Court. The following evidence was taken.
Thomas O’Grady called and sworn. I am a Sergeant of Armed Police. On Thursday 1st instant I received intimation of the wreck of the schooner Fawn at Sumner. On Saturday last about half-past four p.m I saw a man coming up from Sumner in a boat. I stopped him at Ferrymead. He came ashore. I found three empty barrels in the boat. The man was prisoner Thomas. I asked him where he was taking them to. He said he was taking them home, and that he had picked them up in the river. I told him that they were not his, and that I should take possession of them, as they were a portion of the wreck.
I proceeded to a house at the Ferry road next day which belonged to prisoner Williamson. Prisoner Thomas came in a minute or two afterwards. I asked for Williamson. He was out. I then went to Sumner and proceeded on board the Lizzie, where I arrested prisoner Williamson. I told him that I had found a quantity of property belonging to the wreck of the Fawn in his house.

After hearing the evidence, the Resident Magistrate dismissed the case, cautioning the prisoners that in future they should be very careful how they meddled with property found from a wreck. They had received the benefit of the doubt and he hoped it would act as a warning to them and others who might be tempted into a similar error. Prisoners were then discharged.

Rangiora Police Station 1867-1870
The Rangiora police sub-district included the borough and the surrounding settlements. The station was in Percival Street and included a concrete seven-roomed residence and office with stables and a lock-up containing two cells. An officer had been stationed in the district since about 1860. Sergeant O’Grady was in charge from 1867 to 1870. From Thomas’ diary entries it wasn’t unusual for him to work seven days a week with only the occasional few days leave of absence. He patrolled on foot and on horseback and was required for duty at events in Christchurch such as the races and the flower shows. He would cross the Waimakariri on horseback as there was no bridge.
Harry was born in Rangiora.

The original police station in Rangiora
The original police station in Rangiora

Press 5 July 1867
Inquest. Thomas O’Grady, Sergeant of armed police stationed at Rangiora stated that from information received of the accidental drowning of Henry Loffhagen, at eight p.m. on Monday evening, he proceeded to the ford where the accident had happened, and found the mare which the deceased had been riding standing in the water. He noticed one of the stirrup leathers was missing. In company with others he examined the banks of the river, and searched till ten p.m. without any success. Next morning he went again with Mr Schmidt, and after searching about two hours they discovered the deceased about a mile down the ford lying in shallow water on a spit. The body was on its back with the arms extended and the head up. He was quite dead when found. The body was removed to the Lion hotel. No appearance of violence was about the body. He was about twelve years of age.

Frederick Schmidt, a farmer living at the Ashley deposed. He knew the deceased. They were returning home on Monday and had crossed the river. They had crossed it many times before on horseback and in a dray. The river at the time was very high and the ford had shifted. They had got to within a chain of the opposite bank when he saw that the horse of deceased was swimming and going down the stream. He told the deceased to try and turn the mare round as he could not get out. The mare was then swimming underneath the bank. He then heard a scream but could not hear what deceased said. He lost sight of deceased but saw the mare standing in the water. It was dusk at the time. He went to George Cones for assistance and sent for the police. He corroborated the former witnesses' statements about finding the body. George Cone deposed that he had been informed of the accident and assisted in the search. It was impossible to find the body as the water was very high. He had known deceased some time, and he was on good terms with Schmidt. He was quite sure it would be impossible for Schmidt to have rendered any assistance. The jury found a verdict that deceased had been accidently drowned."

Press 22 June 1869
Resident Magistrate's Court. Resisting Police and Rescuing a Prisoner.
G. E. Martin, J. Wheeler, and T. D. Nicholas brought up in custody from Rangiora were charged with this offence. T. O’Grady Sergeant of mounted police stationed at Rangiora deposed that on Saturday evening last he went to the Junction Hotel Rangiora about five minutes past eleven and told the barman to clear the house; he did so. All the persons went away except the prisoners and some others who kept standing about. He went and urged them to go away, and a man named Rule also came up and asked prisoner Martin to go away. O’Grady told prisoner if he did not go away he should have to lock him up. Prisoner pushed Rule down, and also struck O’Grady in the mouth. O’Grady then arrested him, when a number of persons set upon him and got him down with prisoner uppermost on his chest. He afterwards got up when assistance came, and was taking prisoner Martin to the lockup when the other prisoners kept following. O’Grady had some difficulty with Martin, who refused to go to the lock-up, and resisted very violently. He called on several persons "in the Queen's name," but only a man named Burt and the barman of the hotel, with Mr Rule would assist him. When near the school-house a cry was raised, and the prisoners Wheeler and Nicholas with others succeeded in rescuing the prisoner Martin. James Rule, veterinary surgeon at Rangiora corroborated these statements. Thomas Burt stated he was called upon in the Queen's name to assist the Sergeant on Saturday night in getting prisoner Martin to the lock-up. The prisoner went quietly for a bit but when near the school house he became violent, and a scuffle with him and others, among which latter were the other two prisoners, ensued. Burt got a black eye in the affair and a bruise on the forehead. It was a moonlight night. Had it been dark witness thought the sergeant and his assistants would have fared worse. Burt tried to induce persons to assist, but they would not. Before leaving the witness box the Bench complimented Mr. Burt very highly on his conduct in assisting the polic especially as being an old man, and they only wished younger and more able persons had been as ready to assist the authorities in their duty. Another witness named Sinclair was examined.

Prisoner Martin complained about his arm being twisted out of joint. He had one arm out of the coat sleeve.

Sergeant O'Grady—I used no violence to the prisoner. In fact I had lost my whip, and besides keeping others away should have got the prisoner safely to the look up if I had it. I have not been examined by a medical man, but I believe I have received internal injuries besides bruises from the kicking and struggling with prisoners. None of them bear too good a character. Their conduct is generally very loose.

His Worship sentenced the trio to seven days imprisonment with hard labour. He would make a note of the disorderly conduct taking place in a licensed house as it ought not to occur. He would remind the police that a penalty be attached to persons who refused to assist when called on in the Queen's name, and perhaps it would be better to make an example of some one of those who had refused.

Sergeant O'Grady. I intend, your Worship to summon them but there has not been time.

The Evening Post. Monday, April 13, 1868
The peaceable inhabitants of Rangiora were aroused, a day or two ago, by the intelligence that four members of the criminal class has arrived from Christchurch. It appears that after a few unsuccessful attempts to induce storekeepers to supply them with goods, they tried the public houses. Selecting the Plough Inn they ordered tea and a quantity of grog, which they distinctly refused to pay for stating that they did not intend to pay anything in this ‘expletive’ place. A little caution was administered by Sergt. O’Grady and the fellows left for Oxford at an early hour next morning. A man named Mead, who is at the head of the gang swore they would not leave the plains without something. It may be well for station owners and farmers to look out for these men as they are supposed to be armed. On their arrival at Rangiora the storekeepers and publicans were put on the alert by the police. Lyttelton Timer.

Thomas’ other responsibilities
Press 3 July 1867

A Provincial Government Gazette issued on the 1st instant contains notices of the following appointments: Sergeant Thomas O’Grady to be inspector of slaughter houses for the Rangiora district.

Star 19 May 1871
A Provincial Gazette, issued yesterday, contains a notification to the effect that the following are places where dogs may be registered. The Police Stations at Christchurch, Lyttelton, Akaroa, Kaiapoi, Rangiora, Leithfield, Hurunui, Oxford, Bealey, Selwyn, Malvern, Ashburton, Arowhenua, Timaru, and Waimate. The following are duly authorised to perform the duties of registration…Thomas O’Grady…

Press 23 March 1871
In connection with the police department, we hear that Sergeant O’Grady lately stationed at Rangiora is removed to Leithfield.

Leithfield Police Station 1871
Sergeant O’Grady was in charge from 1871 to 1874.
While in Leithfield Thomas also held the positions of Secretary and Treasurer of the Leithfield Cricket Club at some time.

Press 22 November 1872
Larceny. Thomas Russell was charged with stealing a ham from Mr Baldwin’s smokehouse at the Royal Hotel on the 20th instant, value 20s. It appeared from the evidence that Russell was seen in the garden at the back of the Royal Hotel and about thirty yards from where the ham was taken. He was lying amongst some broom with the ham on the ground about two yards from him. Mr Baldwin sent for the police and the offender was locked up. Accused called Sergeant O’Grady as to character, who stated that Russell was always looked upon by him as an honest man but a very foolish man when in drink. The Bench dismissed the case with a strong caution to accused as to his future conduct.

Newspaper clipping

Star 18 May 1874
A champagne luncheon was given at Baldwin’s Royal Hotel, Leithfield on Saturday evening last, to Sergeant- Major O’Grady who for a number of years was stationed at Leithfield but who recently has been removed to Lyttelton. There were about sixteen persons present, and advantage was taken of the occasion to "present" Mr O’Grady with a handsome silver tea and coffee service which had been purchased by subscriptions collected in the district. Mr W. A. Benn occupied the chair and made the presentation on behalf of the testimonial committee: He tire w attention to the fact that Mr O’Grady had, through his obliging and gentlemanly conduct, earned the respect and esteem of all the residents in the Leithfield district whilst he resided amongst them and held the office of Sergeant of Police for so many years. Mr O’Grady had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant-Major a few months ago and was removed to Lyttelton, but his old friends were determined to show their appreciation of him by asking him to visit them on the present occasion for the purpose of receiving the testimonial which he now had the pleasure of presenting. Mr O’Grady returned thanks to the chairman, and the gentlemen who had subscribed to the handsome testimonial which he had that night received. It was certainly more than he ever expected at their hands, but it would remind him of his old friends in the North, and the many pleasant days he had spent amongst them. He hoped the district would continue to prosper as it had done, and he could assure those present that nothing would give him greater pleasure than being again stationed in the Leithfield district. A number of songs were sung during the evening, and the company thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The testimonial was purchased at the establishment of Messrs Peterson and Co. Christchurch
and the following inscription is engrave upon the tray- To Sergeant Major O’Grady from a few of his Northern friends in token of their friendship and respect. Leithfield Canterbury 16 th May, 1874.

What else was going on in Christchurch in 1872?
Press 12 April 1872

Newspaper clipping
Newspaper clipping

Lyttelton Police Station 1874 -1880

Lyttelton Police Station
Lyttelton Police Station, New Zealand's oldest working Station completed in 1880,
now damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and closed/demolished.

Press 16 June 1875 Lyttelton
Lydia Mondolosua, arrested by Sergeant-Major O’Grady was charged with drunkenness. The sergeant stated he found prisoner in front of the Saxon Hotel surrounded by men, and incapable of taking care of herself. Prisoner said she had had a bad cold, and had taken some brandy as a remedy; she promised to leave the town at once if discharged. Case dismissed. Fined 10s and costs.

Press 26 October 1876
Lyttelton Cricket Club—a meeting of gentlemen interested in forming a cricket club in Port, was held at the Mitre Hotel, Lyttelton, on Tuesday night. About twenty gentlemen were present, Mr W. H. Byes occupying the chair. Messrs F. Ward and Sergeant-Major O’Grady both of whom have taken great trouble in this matter, spoke at length of the possibility and advisableness of establishing a club, stating that nearly forty gentlemen had promised to join, and there was every prospect of being able to obtain suitable ground at the Heathcote Valley or its neighbourhood.
It was then proposed—"That a Cricket Club be formed, to be called the Lyttelton Cricket Club Carried. Messrs F. Ward, W. H. Eyes, and Sergeant Major O’Grady were then appointed a preliminary committee (Mr F. Ward to act as hon secretary pro tern.) for the purpose of ascertaining particulars re ground and transit to valley, and also to prepare draft rules to report to a meeting to be held at the Mitre Hotel on Friday, 27th instant. An adjournment then took place

Press 29 March 1875

Newspaper clipping

Star 25 April 1879

Newspaper clipping

Auckland Star, 13 May 1880

Newspaper clipping

Star 6 May 1880

Newspaper clipping

Star 26 February 1878

Newspaper clipping

Press 22 May 1880
Several friends of Sergeant Major O’Grady who has been in charge of the Lyttelton Police District for some years, met yesterday afternoon to present him with a souvenir on the occasion of his leaving for the Bay of Islands district. Mr Thomas Merson was selected to make the presentation, which consisted of a very handsome clock and a purse of sovereigns. Mr Merson, in making the presentation, referred to Mr O’Grady’s long connection with the police force of Canterbury, and to the just and impartial manner in which he had at all times carried out the duties of his office without any undue harshness. He regretted his removal from Lyttelton, where he had made many friends, and he trusted that Mr O’Grady would be able to look back with pleasure on the time he had spent amongst them. In the name of the subscribers he begged his acceptance of the present and hoped they would help, if help were needed, to remind him that he left Lyttelton with the hearty good wishes of many friends for his future prosperity. Mr O’Grady in acknowledging the handsome present thanked those friends who were present on the occasion and those who were absent. He assured them that he should ever remember with the warmest feelings of gratitude the many acts of kindness and courtesy he had received at their hands. He much regretted leaving Canterbury, where lie had he know many friends, but he hoped at some future time to be able to return. He should value the present given him most highly and assured them that it would be handed down as an heirloom in his family. Others present having made some suitable remarks on the occasion, the proceedings terminated. The clock which was purchased from Messrs Peterson and Co., is a very handsome and massive one, framed in black marble, relieved by grey marble columns at the sides. It bears the following inscription: Presented to Sergeant Major Thomas O’Grady by his Lyttelton friends on his leaving the district. May, 1880."


Sergeant Major Thomas O'Grady
Bay of Islands