The life of Amelia Fennell,(known as Amy), like that of her sister Ellen is shrouded in more than a little mystery. Born Amelia McRa, the eldest child of Jane Middlebrook and James John McRa, She was born apparently in Tararu Creek Thames in 1869, however as there is no registered birth for her ( nor for her sister Nellie) we only know this , as it is what is stated on her marriage certificate. Even then,it may not be factual, but it is the truth as she had been told.
We know nothing of Amy’s childhood. She first appears in written family history at around age 19 in 1887, when her uncle Welsh McRa writes to Amy’s mother Jane, suggesting that her current working position with another Uncle and Aunt is possibly not working out to Amy’s best interest, and he removes her from there and returns her to her mother in Opua. (Though it isnt completely clear, it appears Amy’s sister Ellen (Nellie) may also have been with her at the time.
It sems Amy stays in Opua as she appears there in the 1893, and 1896 electoral rolls as a Domestic Servant, but it isnt until the 2nd October 1902, aged around 35 that she married Patrick Fennell, in Russell Bay of Islands . It seems a strange match. Patrick, a widower, is aged 73 at the time of their marriage. A huge age gap by any standards.
Amy and Patrick remain living in Opua. They went on to have two children, Nicholas John Charles Fennell (known as Charlie) born 1905 (Amy would have been 39 and Patrick 76) and seven years later George Duncan Fitzroy Fennell ( at this point Amy would have been aged 43 and Patrick a venerable 83 year old!!) Good things were not to come for the Fennell family.
Northern Advocate 4th February 1916
THE OLD MEN'S HOME.
SHOULD CANCER PATIENTS BE RECEIVED THERE?
CASE OF MR P. FENNELL.
In Wednesday's "Advocate" we published some comments made by Inspector Skynner to the Bay of Islands Hospital Board.-The report dealt with the case of an old man, Mr P. Fennell, of Opua. Fennell was a cancer patient and Inspector Skynner complained that he had been driven from pillar to post. Describing the case the inspector continued:—"First he was taken to the Old Men's Home at Whangarei; thence to the Knox Home for Incurables at East Tamaki, and at the instance of the trustees of that institution back to his home a Opua. I consider it my duty to point out in the strongest language. I possibly can that I consider the whole position a most disgraceful one, and if such institutions, as the Costley Home, the Knox Home for Incurables, and the Old Men's Home at Whangarei will not provide a resting place for our''aged poor”, whose days are probably numbered through suffering from some incurable disease, I consider it is your Board's duty to suffering humanity to bring the position under the notice of the Hon. Minister for Public Health."
Northern Advocate , 8 May 1917, Page 2
In comment on the lack of an essential provision the "Luminary" has the following:—"There is no institution North of Auckland set apart for the care and treatment of persons suffering from incurable diseases, and the Knox Home for Incurables, in Auckland, refuses to receive patients from this district. These facts were brought out at the meeting of the Hospital Board on Friday, owing to a letter received from the house manager of the Auckland hospital asking the board what it was going to do with Mrs Fennell, a resident of Opus, Bay of'-Islands, now lying in the Auckland institution suffering from an incurable disease. It will be remembered that in 1915 Mr Fennell, of Opua, was found to be suffering from cancer. He was 84 years of age and was in a deplorable condition with the disease. The poor old man was sent to the Old Men's Home, Whangarei, which refused to keep him, so the Board sent him to the Knox Home for incurables, Tamaki, Auckland; but even there he was not allowed to rest and was packed back to Opua. The local Board then placed him in a shanty in the hospital grounds, where he soon after died. Now his wife is afflicted with the same disease, and it looks as if the poor woman is to be driven from pillar to post like her dead husband was.
Amy died on May 4th 1917, and it seems the 2 boys, Charlie aged 12 and George aged just 5 were split up. George was bought up by his maternal uncle, John Roderick McRae who was a bootmaker in Paptoetoe. George went on eventually to take on the same trade. Charlie though, aged 12 went elsewhere. By 1923 he was in Awakeri, Bay of Plenty. He remained in the Bay of Plenty area for the rest of his life.