Topic: James Michael Hagerty

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James Michael Hagerty (Service no. 7/64) was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton

James Michael Hagerty James Michael Hagerty was born in Timaru, Canterbury, New Zealand. He was the youngest child of George Hagerty and Eliza Ridgeway, who were married in Timaru in 1874. Their other children were Mary Ann (born 1874),  George William (1876), Alice (1877), Lizzie Maria (1878), Maude Eliza (1879), Eliza Gertrude (1881), Hannah Edith (1883), Leonard James (1885) and twins Lily and May (1887).

Eliza Ridgeway and her younger sister Ann Maria came to New Zealand on the ship Pleiades in 1872. They are both recorded on the passenger list as single woman servants from Staffordshire, England. Leonard Hagerty became a race winning jockey in New Zealand and Australia and younger brother James started out as a jockey too. Leonard eventually lived with his wife and two children at 39 Racecourse Road, Upper Riccarton. Sadly Leonard died suddenly at age 35 from spinal meningitis. He is buried in St Peter's churchyard, Upper Riccarton. Leonard and James must have been close as Leonard was his brother's boxing coach. The brothers both played rugby as well; James for the ? and Leonard for the RIccarton Football Club. JIM HAGERTY, The Feather-weight Champion Of New Zealand. NZ Truth, Issue 377, 14 September 1912

James Hagerty was an amateur boxer who turned professional. There are numerous descriptions, in contemporary newspapers, of Jim or Jimmy Hagerty's boxing matches all around New Zealand. He was also called "Ironbark Jimmy". James was amateur featherweight champion of New Zealand, amateur featherweight and lightweight champion of Australasia, professional lightweight champion of New Zealand. He was only beaten once in his professional career. He had a reputation for being a gentleman and a good sport.

James was living at 5 Hugh Street, Timaru and working as a labourer for J C Grigg when he enlisted in the Army on 18th August 1914. By this time his father, George, had passed away in 1892 in Timaru and his mother, Eliza, had moved to Christchurch and was living at 260 Worcester Street. He was given the service number 7/64. James was described as having grey eyes, a fair complexion, brown hair, being 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 140 pounds. The description on his army record doesn't indicate the physical fitness that James must have had to pursue his sporting interests of horse riding, rugby and professional boxing.

James left New Zealand with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles in late 1914 and arrived in Alexandria, Egypt on 3rd December 1914. From there he went to Turkey to fight against the Ottomans on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He was killed on 27th August 1915 during the battle to eject the Turks from their trenches on Hill 60. On that day the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles attacked the Ottoman trenches and captured part of the Hill. James was one of many New Zealand casualties that day.

James' death was lamented in many New Zealand newpapers with friends, colleagues and fellow soldiers coming forward to praise him as a good son, a cheerful, kind, honest, charming and trustworthy man. This poignant account of James' last battle was published in the Timaru Herald; 

"He survived the first two weeks heavy August fighting, and seemed likely to go right through. But the deadly Maxim had marked him for its own. The last charge of the Mounteds on August 28th saw the end of our little champion, and a right gallant end it was. He had charged with his mates over two rows of Turkish trenches, and had just reached the third and last trench forming the objective, when the fatal bullet found him. Poor Jimmy had sprung, with a chuckle of exultation, on to the parapet, but the chuckle was stopped half way, and the brave boy fell, inert and helpless, to the bottom of the trench. One bullet had passed through his shoulder and another through his body. From the latter wound there was no recovery. Hagerty lived only a few minutes, and then one of his mates reverently closed his eyes, and covered him up to take his last long sleep. He had fought his last glorious fight, and in dying so nobly had put the seal upon his fame. He now lies upon the spot where he fought so well with the "W" hills rising up in front as his eternal monument. The setting sun throws the shadow of the Chocolate hills as a shroud upon his resting place, whilst on the right, Sari Bahr, grim, towering and unconquered frowns darkly over all".

In November 1915 local Timaru sportsmen set up the Hagerty Memorial Committee to raise funds to gift a permanent bed and endowment to the Timaru Hospital to pay for the medical treatment of returned soldiers. The Truth newspaper publicised the appeal and collected donations nationwide. "The proposed memorial is intended to commemorate not only his skill as a boxer, but also his record as a clean living, honorable lad, a good sport in the very best sense of the term".

James Michael Hagerty is remembered on the Hill 60 (New Zealand) Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula, the Geraldine Cenotaph, the Timaru Cenotaph, a plaque at the Timaru Hospital and on the Roll of Honour at the Upper Riccarton Memorial Library.


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James Michael Hagerty

First Names:James Michael
Last Name:Hagerty
Place of Birth:Timaru, Canterbury, New Zealand