The O'Neils

Catherine’s second husband, John O’Neil, was born in Ireland around 1811 and was almost certainly another former soldier. A man of this name served in the 4th Regiment of the British Army during its deployment in Tasmania from 1832 to 1837.

After the wedding they lived in her house at 11 Forrest Rd. West Hobart. An indenture in the Hobart Land Titles Office shows that the house had come to Catherine and her daughter Sarah Ann (by then Mrs Edward Lucas of Franklin) and the document formalised the situation following the death of Edward Healey. The house was on the northern side of Forest Rd. just before the junction with Frederick St. At this time it was the last house in the street: perhaps it allowed space for John’s dealing business. After their son John was born in 1854 a daughter, Jane Mary, arrived a year later; Rosetta was born at Forest Rd. on 5 December 1857. At this time there may have been up to eight of Catherine’s children living in the Forest Rd house. Perhaps John and Catherine saw no purpose in going all the way into town to register the birth of John and Jane Mary. St. Joseph’s may have been too far away for baptisms. However Catherine and Edward Healey had at least three of their eight children baptised there and when Rosetta was baptised by Charles Woods in January 1858, her aunt, the 17 year-old Mary Ann Healy was the witness. Perhaps the records were lost.

In 1861 Mary Ann moved to Bairnsdale in Victoria and married in January 1862. Her elder brother Edward joined her and between 1874 and 1881. Their younger brother George had moved to Campbelltown where he married Elizabeth Horfell in Jan 1863 and their first eight children were born in Tasmania before they moved to Gippsland in 1876. On 2 January 1864 Catherine, the sixth child married Aaron Simmons was a 21 year old blacksmith at 94 Argyle St., the residence of the Methodist Minister Rev Miller.

At the beginning of 1879 Catherine was 65 and John O’Neil 68. They still lived at Forest Rd with her daughter Catherine and son-in-law Aaron Simmons, and John 25, and Rosetta 22 fathered by John O’Neil. Jane Mary O’Neil had married James Leigh Hughes in November 1875 of that year at St Joseph’s by Father Charles Woods. Her brother-in-law Aaron Simmons and her sister Rosetta were the witnesses. When he married James Hughes said he was a glass engraver but later he said he was a steward. His father, of the same name was a gentleman from Avelock Place Shelton Stoke-on-Trent who had died of tuberculosis in 1872. His mother had returned to England to live and died at Aston in Birmingham in January 1874. James Hughes senior died when he was 41 and his wife when she was just 43.

Also in the house were five of Catherine’s children ranging in age from a baby to 12. It appears that she cared for her parents during their final years while also rearing her own six children.

The Simmons family

It seems that Catherine Healy/O’Neil lived in the house that is now 51 Forest Road from 1849 until her death forty-seven years later. She suffered from chronic bronchitis in her old age and died at her home on 22 November 1896 aged 82. John O’Neil had died there of old age five months earlier on 13 July 1896 aged 86. His occupation was recorded as ‘office attendant’, and Dr Butler attended his death.

After Catherine O’Neil died he daughter and son-in-law Aaron Simmons lived there until Catherine the younger died in December 1917. Although Aaron began his working life as a blacksmith he probably began working with his father-in-law. He is also referred to in some land deeds as ‘a smallgoods man’. In 1898 their only son Joshua bought out the interests of his surviving aunts and uncles and a mortgagee William Doyle, for £70 and acquired sole ownership of the family home.

Joshua had married Mary Sexton at St Josephs in April 1911. Peter Dwyer, Joshua’s grandson, recalls -

“When my mother (Jean Mary Simmons) was born in Dec 1913, my family were at 51 Forest Rd. My grandmother told me that Aaron walked up Forest Road to see the new baby and said he did not think he would be well enough to make the journey on foot again. (It is not clear where he then lived.) He died in August 1914, of “valvular heart disease.”

Joshua (known to friends and family as Jos, not Josh) began his working life as an apprentice hairdresser and his occupation is given as “hairdresser” on the certificate of his marriage to my grandmother on 11 April 1911 at at St Joseph’s, a church she liked. He had a bad heart for most of his life and for this reason failed his medical for the army in World War I. This did not stop him from being a dedicated amateur boxer and, for a brief period when the sport flourished professionally here, boxing professionally. (I have a few reasons for suspecting he was a manager rather than a fighter). At this time my grandmother told me the pugilistic fraternity gathered regularly at their place on a Friday night. Later in life he taught boxing to boarders at St Virgil’s College for sixpence and threepence a lesson.



He seems to have been very much motivated by the accumulation of material wealth. During his married life he added several West Hobart dwellings to his property portfolio. He abandoned his trade and went labouring whenever there was a shortage in Hobart, because it paid more. My grandmother recalls taking his lunch to him, in Liverpool Street (near what was later the Odeon Theatre) when he was working with a pick and shovel for the Hobart City Council installing sewerage mains. Not many years before he died his health forced him to return to hairdressing, but he still obtained labouring work on farms in the Taroona area during weekends. During these years my mother told me she once came home from school and found him on the floor – suffering severe pain from angina.

I think you will find that my grandmother, Mary Simmons (Sexton) sold 51 Forest Rd circa 1939 and helped my parents build the house at 360 Park Street New Town where I grew up. At that time she did retain ownership of several other titles in West Hobart. (In the 1940s she married John Forsyth, who died circa 1952).”

'Aunt Rose'

My grandmother Mary Jane Harrison (nee O’Neill) was very vague about her father but very accurate about everything else. She did say that her father had a sister who married Capt. Hall of the
Warrentina and they lived at the bottom of Quayle St. It is certain that a master mariner Captain Robert A Hall lived in a house called Rubyville at 2 Bath St., at junction of that street and Queen St., Battery Point from 1901 to 1915. He was born on the Isle of Sheppy in England 17 June 1829 and came to Hobart as a boy seaman on the Cornhill. The vessel, which arrived in Hobart in March 1854, was owned and captained by his Uncle John Austin. Captain Austin bought a property on the wharf near Gibson’s flourmill and began business as a ship’ chandler. He employed the young Robert Rex and when Austin died Rex took over the business and his family ran it until the 1980s. Robert Hall was known and much respected on the Tasmanian seas with his fore and aft schooners St. Helens and Robert Burns. Before then he served as second officer and then chief officer on a number of vessels trading between Hobart and New South Wales and Victoria. He pioneered a shipping service to St. Helens and aided in the first survey of the Bay by Lt. Booker. The St. Helen’s was wrecked near Swan Island and his new vessel. Hall lost another vessel, and money, when the Starling sank in a gale off Bicheno. But in 1883, with the aid of a loan from the VDL Bank he commissioned James Mackay to build a steamer, the Warrentina, at a cost of £6500. She was launched later that year and displaced 162 tons and was 11 ft. long with a figurehead of an eagle with outstretched wings. The Warrentina traded from Hobart along the East Coast to Launceston and occasionally to Strahan. In 1902 Captain Hall sold the vessel to William Holyman. (Robert Hall photo at AOT NS 544/2/p81.)

Robert Hall married Isabella Ann Matches on 31 Dec. 1857 at the residence of a Matthew Olaltheus. At that time both were said to be living at Old Wharf. Isabella was born in Hobart on 2 August 1838 to James Matches (b. c 1805 d. Sep. 1886) and Elizabeth Gore (they were married on 11 July 1837). In 1860 Matches had a house and shop at 57 Old Wharf and ran the Steam Packet Inn. Isabella had a sister, Margaret, born 26 August 1840, who later married James Windham. Robert and Isabella had no children. Although my grandmother said her aunt’s name was ‘Rose Hall’, Rose or Rosetta O’Neil was never married to Captain Hall. But it appears that they began a de facto marriage around 1880 and shared the house in Bath St. until Hall’s death in 1916.

Captain Hall prospered after he retired from the sea. Between 1900 and 1905 he acquired six properties in the Queenborough district and drove around the town in a phaeton. Following his death on 16 August 1916 he was buried at the Queenborough Cemetery. His will suggests the nature of the link between Rosetta and Robert Hall. When it was written, in May 1915, Isabella was not living with her husband and we can assume that she had gone to live with her niece some years before. It provided little for Isabella - 10 shillings a week and £10 for funeral expenses from a £600 Trust Fund to be created from the sale of all his property. Isabella Hall died in Hobart two months after her estranged husband at her niece’s home and was buried at Cornelian Bay. She shares a grave with her niece Elizabeth Ann Collidge - born in Launceston 17 March 1853 to Thomas Bennett and Rose Smith (b. c1815 d. 1878).

The will shared Hall’s household effects between his two daughters Kathleen, then 22, and Florence Ruby, then 21, which were living with him at the time. A further £100 was set aside for any medical costs incurred by the daughters during the three years after his death. Whenever each daughter ‘shall be covert from the debts control and engagement of her husband’ i.e. protected from his use, they were to share the income from the Trust Fund. If they died and no children survived to be twenty-one then the balance passed ‘to my adopted daughter Rosetta Packman for her personal use and thence to her children. Rosetta Packman also received the property known as Rose Cottage, 2 Wells St. Sandy Bay. This house was situated on the northern corner of Wells St. and Sandy Bay Rd., and occupied by a tenant, Mr. J. Cross.

At the time of her receiving her bequest ‘the adopted daughter Rosetta’ was a 37-year old married woman. She was born in her grandmother’s house in Forest Rd. Hobart on 3 January 1878 the birth certificate records her mother as Rosetta O’Neill. When she married Daniel Edward Packman at the King St. Church, Sandy Bay on 16 October 1899, in the presence of her mother. Her ‘father’ was recorded as the late Arthur O’Neill, a clerk, and Rosetta and Daniel gave their addresses as ‘Sandy Bay’; Sarah Winch of 9 Hunter St. and E W Richie of Sandy Bay witnessed the wedding. Packman was a clerk born in New South Wales to Henry, a wickerwork manufacturer and Elizabeth Caroline (nee Lee). It seems that Daniel may have come to Hobart with his brother Richard who lived for some years at 13 Queen St. Sandy Bay. Both mother and daughter seemed to have signed their own name in good script. When Rosetta registered her daughter’s birth in February 1878 and when Rosetta was baptized at St. Joseph’s on January 5 she made no mention of Arthur O’Neill nor any other father. Her parents witnessed the baptism. The maiden name, ‘Healy’, she provided when witnessing her baby’s marriage 20 years later was not her’s but that of her mother. Edward Healy had died in 1849 eight years before Rosetta’s birth was registered. So it appears that when Rosetta had the chance to make a good marriage for her daughter some creative genealogy was thought necessary. Both her parent’s were now dead and her future depended on continuing her relationship with Robert Hall who probably supported the wedding.

In addition to her namesake, Rosetta had seven or eight other children in her mother’s housebut five of them died as infants.

Name Born Died
Robert George 2 October 1883
Robert John 15 September 1885 12 January 1886
Robert 11 March 188811 November 1888
George 4 December 1889 22 February 1890
Douglas 7 February 189130 April 1891
Kathleen 15 January 1893
Florence Ruby 25 July 1894
Thelma 11 September 1896 1 January 1897

Rosetta gave no name for the fathers except in the case of Robert George where ‘Robert Hall’ was entered but later crossed out. In his will Hall acknowledges both the living girls, Kathleen and Florence Ruby, as his natural daughters. The last child, Thelma, might have been the younger Rosetta’s child for her mother would have been well over 40 years old. The fate of Robert George is unknown.

Douglas and George were buried in Queenborough Cemetery with a Benjamin Hall who may have been a man of the same name who was born in England in 1811 and married Bridget Knight in Franklin in 1856. He had died in 1881 and might have been Robert Halls’ father or brother.

It was natural for my grandmother to refer to Rose O’Neill as the wife of Robert Hall. At her visits to Rubyville around 1905 she would have met Hall, then 75 years old, Rose Snr., then about 55 and her 27 year old daughter. In addition there were the Hall’s two daughters Kathleen, 12 and Florence Ruby, 11. When and why did Robert Hall adopt Rosetta O’Neill? It seems likely that Rosetta O’Neill was Robert Hall’s mistress and he had forsaken Isabella for her. The Captain was fond of the younger Rosetta and being unable to make adequate provision for her mother in his will, ‘adopted her daughter’.

The Packman’s had three daughters in Hobart – Lucy born in 1900, Eileen in 1902 and Kathleen in 1904 before moving to Rockdale in Sydney. There they had three more daughters – Noeline, b. 1912, Joan, b. 1914, and Lola b. 1917. Daniel died there in 1941. When the tenant of the house in Wells St. died in 1987 Robert Hall’s will could be finalised. The executors distributed shares to some of Rosetta’s children so we can assume that Rosetta Packman had already died. A search was made for two more daughters – Thelma II (Mrs Mathison) and Betty (Mrs McInlock), but, up to 1999, they could not be traced. We now know that Betty, married in 1940.
Daniel and Rosetta had nine girls and one boy, Robert.


Kathleen Packman married Leslie Hubert Holden in St Marks church at Darling Point, Sydney on 3 June 1924. Les was then 29 and had a distinguished war record with the Australian Flying Corps. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to Captain. After the War he joined the family firm, Holden’s Motor Body Builders that had been founded by his uncle. But in 1928 he returned to flying operating charter flights from Mascot. In September 1932 he died when the plane he was a passenger in crashed near Byron Bay.


Rosetta O’Neil and her two daughters by Robert Hall seem to have disappeared after his death. Perhaps they went to his family in England.


O’Neil and Bevis


Rosetta’s brother
John (Henry) O'Neil said he was 31 years old when he married the 27 year old Maria Bevis at Chalmis Free Presbyterian Church in Bathurst Street Hobart on 17 April 1886. (The marriage was witness by T.E Bagley and Emily Holloway. ) Assuming he gave his correct age this indicates that he was born around 1855 but his birth was not registered nor was he baptised at St. Joseph’s . If he was Rosetta’s brother I can find no explanation for this other than the fact that his grandmother registered only one her nine children.

It seems Maria had left Swansea about 1875 and moved to Hobart with her parents that Mary and Henry Bevis.
The Bevis family lived in Bathurst Street. We don’t know how Maria and John met or anything of the relationship between Maria and Rosetta but from my grandmother’s attitude it seems that Maria kept the O’Neils at a distance. My uncle, John O’Neil Jnr, told me that Mary’s brothers feared their father and regarded him as a tough man.