James Henry O’Neill (1861-1936)
Elizabeth Hagon

Jump down to the list of their children

James Henry O’Neill was the 4th oldest of 12 children of Patrick O’Neill & Elizabeth Lulham. He was born on 12 July 1861 in the district of Clarence Town, probably at Brookfield, since his father, an innkeeper at Brookfield, was not declared insolvent until 2 Oct 1861. James is the author’s great-grandfather.

Elizabeth Hagon (Lizzie) was born on 16 May 1864 in Queensland (registration details 1864/C/1147) to Charles Thomas Hagon and Catherine Flannagan. Charles was born in England in 1842 and Catherine had married in 1863 in Queensland (registration details 1863/B/618, Catherine’s surname in that record spelt Flanigan). By 1868 the family had settled in Tea Gardens, some 70 km north of Newcastle, New South Wales. Elizabeth was the eldest of a family of probably 9 or more children; the NSW birth registrations spell her surname in various ways: Hagon, Hagen and Hagan. Catherine Hagon (née Flannagan) appears to have died in 1885 (there is a death registration, 9927/1885, in Stroud). Charles appears to have then married Sarah Wills in Newcastle in 1898. Sarah Hagon died in Wallsend in 1924 (registration 726/1924) and Charles Thomas Hagon in Hamilton in 1930 (registration 20351/1930).

In 1884 Charles opened a wine bar, replacing it with a two storey building he named the Port Stephens Hotel (now called the Tea Gardens Hotel). James was a signatory to the liquor license, a framed copy of which still hangs on the walls of the hotel. Click here for more information, with photos, of the Tea Gardens Hotel on a website maintained by Brian A Engel. Initially the family lived in the house that can be seen to the left of the hotel (P105, Tea Gardens – Hawks Nest and Northern Port Stephens by Brian A Engel, Janis Winn and John Wark):

hotel stage 1

Charles retired about 1917, giving it to his son Edward. However Edward leased the hotel to his sister Annie and her husband Bernard Doherty, who extended it in 1924. There were many subsequent owners, the original hotel being demolished in 1956 and replaced by:

Below are Hagon family photos courtesy of the Tea Gardens Historical Society. 1. Edward Hagon & Alice Fenn; 2. Maggie Hagon & Harry Holloway; 3. Annie Hagon & Barney Doherty.

James and Elizabeth married on 02 Jul 1883 at Bulahdelah.

James was described as a Harbour Master in some family records, but we know he worked on dredges and was a ship’s captain on Newcastle Harbour. He and Elizabeth appear in two electoral roll records for NSW (1930 and 1936), in both years living at 9 Sneddon St, Merewether; James is described as a “dredge employee” and Elizabeth “home duties”.

The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate on Wed 21 Jul 1915 mentioned James in a coroner’s report on the drowning of a New Zealand man near Carrington, NSW:


Mr. C. Hibble, district coroner, held an inquest at the Newcastle Courthouse on Monday into the death of Bernard Carles Lovett, a fireman employed in the Government Ferry Service, who was drowned in was drowned in the harbour Basin on Sunday.

Sergeant Pemberton, who watched the proceedings on behalf of the police, deposed to being called to the Basin at Carrington, about one o’clock on Sunday, and removing the body to the morgue. Deceased, whom he had known for about 12 months, was employed on the Government ferry Terara, and witness understood he was discharged on Saturday. He was addicted to drinking. His people lived at the Bluff, New Zealand, and according to his papers he was 33 years of age.

James Henry O’Neill, coxswain in the dredge service, said he was on duty on the dredge Samson, and saw deceased who had evidently been drinking, about 1.30 p.m. on Sunday, and advised him to have a sleep before going aboard his vessel, but deceased said he would go aboard. About a quarter of an hour afterwards he was attracted by a crowd, and saw deceased taken from the water. The Terara was lying on the western side of the Dyke at a dolphin, and there was a good gangway with side ropes attached leading to it.

Y. Furuya, a greaser on the Japanese steamer Harima Maru, deposed that whilst fishing near his vessel shortly after 1 p.m., he saw deceased, whilst going along the gangway, fall into the water. Witness swam out, and catching the man brought him to a sunken lighter. He could see that the deceased had been drinking; he was in the water only a few minutes.

Dr. John Harris, Government Medical Officer, deposed that when he arrived, in response to a summons, the police were endeavouring to restore respiration, but the man was dead. The cause of death was drowning. In the condition deceased was in very short immersion would bring about death.

The coroner, in returning a verdict of death, by drowning, said the action of the .Japanese in so promptly going to the man’s rescue, was one which the community appreciated, and he would take steps to apprise the Japanese Consul-General in Sydney of the facts.

Then, on Saturday Sat 18 Oct 1919, we read this:

Breach of Harbour Regulations.
Charge Dismissed.

… John Thomas Garnham, master of the s.s. Waraneen, was proceeded against by Inspector J. W. Walker, in that, as master of a vessel, crossing another vessel, he did not keep out of the way of the vessel. Mr. Darcy Irvine, of the Crown Law Office, prosecuted, and Mr. T. D. O’Sullivan appeared for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty.

James Henry O’Neill, master of the steam tug Cardiff, stated that he was in charge of the vessel on August 19, and about 5 p.m. was going from Walsh Island to No. 4 jetty, North Stockton. The witness pointed out the position of the steamer Waraneen, which was on the starboard side. As the Waraneen continued to come over, witness could see a collision was likely to occur. He blew two whistles, to indicate that he was altering his course to port, to bring his boat end on as much as possible, so as to make a sliding blow in the event of a collision. He next blew three blasts, denoting that he had put his vessel full speed astern. The Waraneen struck the Cardiff near amidships on the port side. There was a strong ebb tide. The collision could have been avoided by the Waraneen. To Mr. O’Sullivan: Witness had on board over 300 passengers, returning from their work at Walsh Island. The Cardiff was about the best vessel in the harbour to steer. It was a fast boat. From the time he sighted the Waraneen to the moment of the impact was about a minute. The time between the blowing of the two blasts to the impact was about eight or ten seconds. The three blasts were blown about three seconds later. There was a considerable ebb tide. He could not swear that the Waraneen did not sound three blasts. He did not hear them. There was naturally a bit of noise on board. The steamer Walhorn was at the No. 4 buoy, and she was swinging round with the ebb tide.

Captain T. O. Davies, Edward C. Hudson, E. Hutchins, and E. Devereux, called for the prosecution, also gave evidence.

John Thomas Garnham stated that he was master of the Waraneen, and had held a master’s certificate for 13 years. The Waraneen was proceeding from Morpeth to Newcastle with a cargo of hay. The vessel was well loaded, but his view was not impaired in any way. He was just past the ferry wharf at Stockton, when he first saw the Cardiff, which was coming from Walsh Island. He heard two blasts of the Cardiff’s whistle. This conveyed that the Cardiff had altered her course to pass under the Waraneen’s stern. When defendant saw that the Cardiff was still coming across his bow he blew three blasts to denote that his engines were going full speed astern. The two vessels were about 80 or 90 yards apart when the Cardiff’s two whistles were blown. There was plenty of time for the Cardiff to pass under the Warraneen’s stern. The Warraneen was 70 or 80 yards from the Stockton shore. Witness was on the bridge from Hexham, and never left it.

To Mr. Irvin : You admit you were on the wrong side?

Defendant: I was in the Stockton channel. I do not know about the wrong side. It is an open roadstead.

Mr. Irvine: Do you remember an inquiry held by Captain Newton in which you made a statement.

Witness: Yes.

Mr. Irvine was proceeding to cross-examine the witness on his inquiry answers, when Mr. O’Sullivan said, “Your Worship knows these men are brought before the Superintendent of Navigation, and then some form of second or third degree is gone through.”

Mr. Irvine: I ask my friend not to chip in, and not to infringe the rules of the Court.

Mr. O’Sullivan: You infringe the rules of etiquette.

The witness, under cross-examination by Mr. Irvine, said that he remembered saying he was about 70 yards out. He remembered Captain Newton asking if he was on the wrong side. He did not say “Yes.”

Mr. Irvine: Did you not say, “Yes, according to the rules of the road.”

Defendant : I may have.

The defendant said that the Warraneen collided with the Cardiff, which came across his bow.

William Murrell, fireman on the Waraneen, also gave evidence.

The case was dismissed.

Mr. Irvine asked on what grounds the case had been dismissed? The magistrate replied, “On the evidence.”

The Dungog Chronicle, reporting on Fri 07 Jul 1933, described their golden wedding anniversary celebrations:

Mr. and Mrs. J. O’Neill

On Saturday last, at Newcastle, the golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. James O’Neill was celebrated. The O’Neill clan is one of the best known along the Central Coast. Amongst the members of the family present were the brothers Messrs. P. J. (Kempsey), Herb. (Taree) and Alf. (Wingham). All Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill’s children were present, as well as Mrs. O’Shannessy (sister of Mr. O’Neill).

Mr. P. J. O’Neill was best man 50 years ago and the bridesmaid, Mrs. Geo. White (née Mary Hagon) was also at the unique ceremony.

On their return Messrs. P. J., Herb. and Alf. called in at Dungog to see Mr. Pat. O’Neill of the Bank Hotel (son of Mr. and Mrs. Herb. O’Neill). They were met by many old friends and happy reminiscences were exchanged. Their parents lived at Brookfield in the days of long ago, and “P. J.” was born there. He relates the interesting history of the house in which he was born. It was built of brick by his father for use as a public house. Later it became a private dwelling. Then its big dining room was used as a school. Dances were also held there and Mass was said in it (there being no Church). Later it was bought by the Catholics of the parish, and the bricks were used to build the convent. “P. J.” says he was born in it, went to school in it, danced in it and his daughter was one of the sisters of St Joseph who taught in it when it became a convent – a remarkable history.

Amongst those who renewed old friendships was Mr. Gus Carlton of Pinebrush. He and Alf. had a great yarn about old racing days. Gus owned many horses (and still breeds some) and Alf. used to ride and train for him. Those were the days.

There are not many towns from the Hunter to the Macleay in which the O’Neill’s have not, at some time or other, been in business, and they are always assured of a warm handshake when ever they pass through.

The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate also carried a report on the event on Tue 11 Jul 1933 and copied in The Catholic Press on Thu 20 Jul 1933:

Celebration at The Junction

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their wedding, Mr. and Mrs. J. H. O’Neill, of Sneddon Street, The Junction, were entertained by their family and relatives at a banquet and social in the Masonic Hall, Cooks Hill.

The hall and banquet table were effectively decorated for the occasion, and a very happy evening was spent by 60 guests.

Recollections of the wedding day, when Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill were married in the little church at Markwell, near Bullahdelah, by Rev. Father Morrissey, were made more vivid by the presence at the function of the best man, Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey, and of the bridesmaid, Mrs. George White, of Bondi.

Among those present were – Messrs. P. J. O’Neill, (Kempsey), H. O’Neill (Taree), A O’Neill (Wingham) and Mrs. M. O’Shannessy (North Sydney), brothers and sisters of the bridegroom; Mr. E. Hagon (Mereweather) and Mesdames D. Doherty (Hamilton) G. White (Bondi) and H. A. Holloway (Hamilton South), brother and sisters of the bride.

Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill were the recipients of many beautiful presents from their friends and relatives, including a pair of lounge chairs from their sons and daughters.

The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser ran a 50 year retrospective series on some of the residents who had lived in the district. On Tue 11 Jul 1933 this report appeared:

On the 1st July, 1883, at Bulladelah, James O’Neill and Lizzie Hagan were married. They went to live at Hawkes’ Nest, Port Stephens, where Mr. O’Neill was engaged in the dredge service. Later on he was moved to the Richmond River, and back to Newcastle, where he retired some five years ago and took up residence at Merewether. On Saturday week the family entertained the old couple at the golden wedding festivities, the chairman being the oldest son, Mr. Jms. O’Neill, jun., who has had exceptional advancement in the service of the Education Department. He never attended college or training school, yet from a small country school he rose to be headmaster of Cook’s Hill Public School, with 36 teachers under him.

James died on 13 Nov 1936 in Newcastle (causes given were cachexia (irreversible weight loss, pyloric obstruction and carcinoma of stomach) and is buried in Sangate Cemetery. Elizabeth died in 1945, her death registered in Merewether.

A younger photo of Lizzie Hagon, courtesy of the Tea Gardens Historical Society, a photo of James and of the couple. (See also photos of various generations on James Edward homepage.)

James & Elizabeth’s family:

01. James Edward (b. 1885, d. 19 Mar 1964)

02. Catherine (b. 1886, d. 1979)

03. Charles Patrick (b. 1888, d. 27 Apr 1980)

04. William Vincent (b. 1891, d. 1970)

05. Lily May (b. 1892, d. 14 Apr 1953)

06. Gertrude Maud (b. 14 May 1898, d. 1973)

Generation 2

02. Catherine O’Neill (Aunt Kate) cared for her elderly parents and inherited the house in Sneddon St (pictured below), one of 3 homes built within a block of each other, the other two being the homes of Uncle Bill and Uncle Charlie. Kate married George Thorley in 1939 when she was 53, and died in 1979 leaving the house to George’s son.

03. Charles Patrick O’Neill (Uncle Charlie) married Bridget Hickey (b. 1891) in 1916. Bridget died in 1945. Charles then had a friendship with a married women, Eva Wood Gregory, which became public when both Eva and then-husband sued for divorce. From The Newcastle Sun on Wed 01 Oct 1947:

Wife Says Husband Said
She Was ‘Not Suitable’

Her husband, after 27 years of married life together, told her she was not a ‘suitable wife’ and had left her, Mrs. Eva Wood Gregory, of Buchanan Street, Junction, said in Newcastle Divorce Court today.

Her husband, Victor William Gregory, railway engine-driver of Brisbane Water Road, Adamstown, petitioned for a divorce from her on the ground of her adultery with Charles Patrick O’Neill, of the corner of Burwood and Sneddon Streets, Merewether.

In a cross petition, Mrs. Gregory sought a divorce from Gregory on the ground of desertion.

The hearing began yesterday before Mr. Justice Bonney.

Today Mrs. Gregory said that their marriage, which took place in 1917, was a success for a number of years. The first shadow against it came about November, 1943, when they were living at Poltrel Street, New Lambton. About that date her husband began staying out at night. Sometimes he would not return until midnight or 1 o’clock In the morning.

She was told to mind her own business she said, when she questioned him.

He asked for a divorce, telling her that she was not a suitable wife, but she refused, saying he had no ground whatever. She told him: “There will never be another Mrs. Gregory while I’m alive.”

He continued to ask her for a divorce. When their house at New Lambton was sold she went to live with her daughter and then moved to her present address.

By consent an order was made in the Children’s Court for her husband to pay her £2 and her child 15s. That order was still in force.

Smacked Woman’s Face

On one occasion, she said, she saw her husband in the company of another woman, and she had smacked the woman’s face.

Although the woman and her husband said they would take out a summons against her, this did not eventuate, said Mrs. Gregory.

Her husband had told her he would come back if she could get a house, said Mrs. Gregory. At Broadmeadow she secured rooms, but her husband told her he had “changed his mind” and was not coming back to her.

She said they had not lived together since June, 1944, even though she had been willing to make a home.

She said that on one occasion her husband caused a “terrific scene” when he saw her with O’Neill in her house. She said she had invited O’Neill inside to have a cup of coffee. She said she had known O’Neill for somewhere about 10 years. She had known his wife before she died. They had attended ‘housie’ parties together. The friendship was quite an innocent one.

The next proceedings were reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate on Sat 04 Oct 1947:

Judge Criticises Evidence Of inquiry Agent

Evidence given in Newcastle Divorce Court yesterday by Donald Rees, private inquiry agent, was criticised by Mr. Justice Bonney.

He dismissed the petition by Victor William Gregory, railway engine-driver, of Brisbane Water-road, Adamstown, for divorce from Eva Wood Gregory, formerly Grant, of Buchanan-street, Junction, on the ground of adultery with Charles Patrick O’Neill, corner of Burwood and Sneddon Streets, Merewether.

The case was part heard.

Decision was reserved when Mrs. Gregory sought divorce from her husband on the ground of desertion.

Gregory was ordered to pay his wife’s and O’Neill’s costs.

Mr. J. P. Fitzpatrick, instructed by Mr. G. W. McDonald (Messrs. Johnson and McDonald) appeared for Gregory; Mr. J. Braun, instructed by Mr. N. D. Wheeler (Messrs. Harris, Wheeler and Williams) for Mrs. Gregory and O’Neill.

The Judge said he regarded Gregory as a very jealous man liable to be a victim of a lively imagination. So far as he could see, neither before or on the date of the raid, was there any guilty association between Mrs. Gregory and O’Neill. Last Easter, Mrs. Gregory, her 14-year-old son, and O’Neill stayed at the same residential in Sydney, but in different parts of the building. The evidence showed there was no more than social association.

Conflict in Evidence

On Gregory’s own evidence, said the Judge, there was conflict between himself and Rees. He had no hesitation in rejecting the evidence concerning the charge of adultery on November 28.

Referring to the raid at Mrs. Gregory’s home on the night of December 11, the Judge said it was fantastic to try to believe that Mrs. Gregory and O’Neill were embracing on the verandah, when they had seen two men walking about the place, and were suspicious that they were being watched.

His Honor said he was afraid he could not take a benevolent view of a mistake by D. Rees, inquiry agent, that Mrs. Gregory and O’Neill were seen lying on the settee when other witnesses in the raid said they had seen them sitting on the settee. Was it likely, said the Judge, that two people would act in such circumstances when they had an idea they were being watched.

The result was that in that respect, he could attach no importance to Rees’s evidence, he added.

It had also been stated, said the Judge, that O’Neill was seen adjusting his clothing when the raiding party entered the house. He thought it would be the last thing a guilty person would do to switch on a light while adjusting clothing.

The relationship, however, became a serious one, and in 1948 Uncle Charlie married Eva Wood Gregory (née Grant, b. 1894 in Wickham).

Uncle Charlie was described as a labourer in the early electoral rolls, however between 1949 and 1972 he is described as a chainman.

Eva died in 24 Dec 1975 (record 100056/1976). Uncle Charlie had no children with either spouse.

04. William Vincent O’Neill (Uncle Bill) married Eva Tait (b. 1894 in Wickham, Newcastle, d. 1960) in 1922. They had one son, Reginald William, who married Gwenyth Catherine Walker in 1945. Although Eva died in 1960, by 1971 probate of her will had not be completed and her son applied to the Supreme Court of NSW to have his recently deceased father replaced as Executor to the will.

05. Lily May O’Neill was born in 1892. She married William John Hargreaves (b. 12 Feb 1890) on 20 Dec 1919 and died on 28 Jan 1969 at Kogarah. They had four children, William James (b. 31 Jan 1921, d. 20 Oct 2013), Lorna (b. 31 Oct 1922, d. 14 Aug 2005), Myris (b. 18 May 1926, d. 2008) and Colleen (b. 04 Apr 1932, d. 14 Apr 2015).

06. Gertrude Maud O’Neill (Aunty Gert) married Leslie Sylvester Turvey (b. 16 Sep 1896 in Wellington, NSW, d. 07 Oct 1972). The Newcastle Sun reported on the couple’s wedding on Sun 29 Jul 1926 (and note the spelling of O’Neill):

Turvey – O’Neil

At St Joseph’s Church, Merewether, on June 26, Gertrude, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. O’Neil, was married to Mr. Leslie Turvey, of Sydney. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Father Costello.

The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a frock of ivory and silver, and trimmed with chantilly lace. The train of georgette, which hung in folds from the shoulders, was mounted in rose pink satin, and caught with silver and pink roses. A soft tulle veil was held in place by a coronet of pearls and orange blossoms. The bridal train was carried by little Lorna Hargreaves, who wore a frock of lemon colored georgette and lace, with hand-made flowers and veil. Miss Kate O’Neil, sister of the bride, who acted as bridesmaid, was gowned in. a frock of apricot colored georgette, and wore a bandeau of tulle. She carried a bouquet of pale pink. Mr. C. O’Neil was best man.

After the ceremony the bride’s parents held a reception at Way’s Cafe. Mrs. O’Neil wore an ensemble gown of brown ottoman silk, embroided in light fawn, with a smart hat to match. When leaving for the honeymoon, which was spent at Brisbane and Orange, the bride wore a smart ensemble gown of bois-de-rose, trimmed with fur and cornelli work, with a hat of burnt umber.

Gert died in 1973. She and Les had two children, Geoffrey George, b. 19 Apr 1928, d. 05 Aug 2014) and Judith (b. 17 Nov 1938). Geoffrey married Marjorie Nola Watson in 1953; they had two children.

We believe Les worked as a shunter on the railways as he was involved in an accident when he became wedged between a carriage and an engine. This accident was mentioned when Les was charged with drink-driving; from the Nepean Times, 28 Nov 1946:

Ran Into a Bridge

Mr. A. G. Morgan, P.M., at Penrith Police Court on Friday, continued the hearing of evidence in cases that were part heard by him at the court of 7th inst., in which Leslie Sylvester Turvey (48) was charged with driving a car in High St., Penrith, on October 5, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, and Edward Richards (42) was charged with driving a car on the Great Western Road, Faulconbridge, on October 5, also while under the influence.

The two charges being related were, by consent, taken together.

Mr. Clemens, instructed by Mr. C. P. White, appeared for defendants, who pleaded not guilty in each case.

At the hearing on 7th inst Sergt. Hardy gave evidence that he saw Turvey in front of Penrith Police Station in a car about 7.30 p.m. on October 5; witness noticed that defendant staggered when he got out of the car. Asked did he have an accident on the way down Turvey said, “Yes, we ran into a bridge at Faulconbridge.” Defendant Richards was in the car. He admitted that he was driving it at the time of the accident. When Dr. Barrow arrived the defendants did their tests well, said Sergt. Hardy.

When the hearing was resumed last Friday defendants gave evidence.

Run Over by Locomotive.

Turvey stated that he resided at 1 Linthorne Avenue, Enfield. He suffered an injury to his nose on 3/11/43. He suffered a fractured spine and had been in a bad state of nerves ever since. He was run over by a railway locomotive. On October 5, the day of the alleged offence, he had his first drinks (middies) at 11.30 a.m. at Burwood. The next drink was at approximately 1 p.m. at St. Marys. He had three drinks (about 6oz. ones) at Katoomba trots — one about 2.30 p.m. one about 3.30, and the third about 4.50. Between the time of the last drink and the time he was arrested he did not partake of any intoxicating liquor. He was used to consuming beer. Witness picked Richards up in witness’s car about 12 o’clock. Richards had three glasses of beer at Katoomba trots. On the way down from Katoomba that night it was raining and misty. The accident at Faulconbridge occurred about 6.45 p.m. Witness was not driving at the time. After the accident witness drove off toward Sydney. The accident held them up about 15 minutes. He tested the car before he attempted to drive it off. They left the scene of the accident about 6.45 p.m.

The car had two bent wheels and one bent axle, Turvey added: that made it awkward to steer; it caused the car to zig-zag a little.

“Knocked Stupid.”

“Richards could not handle the car because he was knocked stupid” said Turvey. “He was not stupid before the accident. It was not right that he had had too much to drink to drive the car.”

William Johnson stated that he was in the car with the two defendants. Neither of defendants was under the influence of liquor that day.

Defendant Edward Keith Richards said that coming down the mountains that night he drove Turvey’s car. They had an accident at Faulconbridge. It was a very misty night. Coming to a sharp right-hand turn the headlight left the yellow lines momentarily and before he could straighten up there was a bump.

Richards said he had three drinks (small beers) – at Katoomba trots – the third at 4.45. That day he was never under the influence.

His Worship dismissed the charge against Richards of driving while under the influence of liquor, without counsel needing to address him, stating that he was not morally certain that Richards at the time was under the influence of liquor.

Mr. Clemens said that Turvey had a long and excellent record in the public service.

The charge again Turvey his Worship found proved, but in view of defendant’s good character and the extenuating circumstances he discharged Turvey on his entering into a bond of £30 for two years.

Each of these defendants was also charged with dangerous driving, but the police offered no evidence in Richards case and he was discharged. Turvey’s case was adjourned to December 20.

Grandsons Jack and Eddie O’Neill (2nd & 3rd from left), Jack’s sons Brian (left)
and Colin (4th left), alongside grandsons Geof Turvey & Bill Hargreaves

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