Arthur John Rafferty (1862-1924)
Leila Norah O’Neill (1888-1979)

Jump down to the list of their children

Leila Norah O’Neill, known as Norn, was the eighth of fourteen children of John O’Neill & Amelia Crimmins. She born on 13 Jul 1899 in Metz, where their parents ran one of the hotels – Metz was a small mining about 30km east of Armidale on the opposite side of the gorge on which Hillgrove stood.

Arthur John Rafferty was born in Armidale on 10 Apr 1890 (as entered on his enlistment papers) to John Joseph Rafferty & Adeline Louise Lees.

His father John Joseph Rafferty was a pharmacist in Armidale for many years, although he had a brief stint in Sydney: from The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser on Fri 27 May 1887:

FAREWELL PARTY – A social dance, organised by the friends of Mr. J. J. Rafferty in honour of his departure for Sydney, came off in the old Town Hall on Friday night last. The room was crowded with friends of the guest of the evening, and several visitors, including the Mayor, were also present. Mr. Cooper’s band discoursed good music, and Messrs. J. Rampling (Sec.), R. Mills (Treas.), and A. G. Harper (M.C.), with the other members of the committee, saw that everyone was well attended to during the evening. At about 10 o’clock the Mayor appeared on the platform with Mr. J. J. Rafferty, for the purpose of presenting the guest of the evening with a very handsome gold locket, suitably inscribed, and also an illuminated address from old friends of Mr. Rafferty. The address read by the Mayor was as follows:- “To Mr. John J. Rafferty, Armidale. Dear Sir and Friend – We, the undersigned, hearing, with regret, of your intended departure from Armidale, take this opportunity – on the occasion of a farewell party given by your friends – of showing our appreciation of your many good qualities and actions, both as an acquaintance and as a promoter of enjoyment, especially in the way of parties and picnics, while being in our midst, and therefore beg your acceptance of the accompanying locket, as a slight token of our great esteem for you and the deep interest we take in your welfare. Wishing you every success, prosperity, and enjoyment in life, we remain, dear sir and friend, your sincere friends and acquaintances.” (Here followed the signatures.) In presenting the address, the Mayor said he had much pleasure in attending, with others, as a compliment to the eldest son of one of his most esteemed friends in Armidale, Senior Sergeant Rafferty. (Cheers.) He had known Mr. John J. Rafferty from a boy, and he was sure he had the good wishes of all in Armidale. He had ever found the guest of the evening a manly, kind, and generous young fellow, and he joined in wishing him every prosperity. (Loud applause.) Mr. J. J. Rafferty, who appeared much affected, replied in a brief and feeling speech, in which he remarked that, if anything were required to bind him more closely to his native town, it was the warm-hearted reception accorded him that evening by his old friends. He should ever treasure the handsome locket and the address as mementos, when absent from Armidale, of the many pleasant days spent among his friends and the good feeling which had always subsisted. Cheers were then given for the Mayor and Mr. Rafferty, and the company sang “He’s a jolly good fellow.” Dancing was kept up till about 2 a.m., and all present appeared to thoroughly enjoy the evening. Mr. Rafferty started for Sydney on Monday morning, a number of friends accompanying him to the railway station.

They were soon back in Armidale, establishing a chemist shop in Beardy St, as reported in the same newspaper on Fri 11 May 1894:


John J. Rafferty & Co.,
BEG to inform the Public of Armidale and Surrounding District that they have opened their
Chemists’ and Druggists’ Establishment
In those Premises situated in Beardy street, almost opposite Kickham’s Imperial Hotel.

The new Firm desire to announce that they have secured the services of Mr. James Dolman Speckett, D.D., S.M.D., who has had 27 years’ experience in Surgical and Mechanical Dentistry, and was formerly Despenser for the late Dr. Segol, and held the position of Surgeons’ Assistant and Dispenser at the Narrabri and Mudgee Hospitals, and lately carried on the business of his profession in Sydney.

Drugs, Patent Medicines,
Druggists’ Sundries.

The new Firm trust that by strict attention to their Business and Moderate Charges to merit a share of Public Support.

John J. Rafferty & Co.,

John was very active in Armidale and was especially involved in cycling; he was the Hon. Secretary of the League of Wheelman (see, for example, his letter to The Editor of The Daily Telegraph on Wed 24 Feb 1904).

John’s death was announced in The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser on Fri 24 Apr 1942:

Mr. J. J. Rafferty

The death occurred yesterday of Mr. John J. Rafferty, a well known chemist, of Armidale, at the age of 77, at his residence in Taylor-street, after a short illness. A widow and two sons, Arthur and Harry, survive. A sister is Mrs. J. Donohue, of Sydney. The late Mr. Rafferty was in business in Armidale as a chemist for about 40 years. He retired a few years ago, and had been living in Armidale since then. The funeral took place this after- noon after a service conducted by the Rev. Father McGrath, at St. Mary’s Cathedral. The pall bearers were Messrs. Cummings, Ward, J. Mitchell, George McMillan, S. Burton, and Kevin Donohue. Messrs. T. Crowley and Son had charge of the funeral arrangements.

In the 1913 electoral rolls Arthur john Rafferty was listed at his parents address as a chemist; also as a witness at the trial of a man accused of using a forged cheque to obtain money and goods from the pharmacy he was described as an “assistant-chemist, employed by J. J. Rafferty” (see The Armidale Chronicle on Sat 11 Oct 1913). Then when WWI broke out he went to Newcastle and, on  17 Aug 1914, enlisted into the AIF. His service record (23 pages) can be viewed here. A summary follows.

Arthur embarked for Egypt on 25 Jun 1915 with 18th Battalion and remained there until 24 Jul 1915. From 28 Jul 1915 to 22 Aug 1915 he served at Gallipoli. There he was wounded at Hill 60; the report on 14 Sep 1915 from the London General Hospital states:

Gunshot wound left forearm
21 Aug 1915

On the above date he received a gunshot wound left forearm. The bullet entered over the external condyle of the left humerus and the exit wound being over the middle of the ulva. Both bones of the left forearm completely shattered the position of the forearms bad both wounds are healed. The arm was reset under a general anaesthetic yesterday. General health much impaired.

However, on 22 Dec 1915:

Since he was last examined by a Medical Board the left arm has been amputated. There is still some discharge.

Arthur was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on 16 Feb 2015 and promoted Lieutenant on 27 Aug 1915. On 26 Aug 1916, following convalescence, he was attached to B. Records, AIF Headquarters, Horseferry Rd, Westminster, London. He returned to Australia on 21 Nov 1917 and was discharged medically unfit on 25 May 1918, having qualified for the award of the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals.

On Sat 26 Jul 1919 The Armidale Chronicle described Arthur as the Secretary of the Land Sub-Committee looking into suitable land for soldier settlement:

SOLDIERS’ LAND.—A meeting of the Land sub-Committee of the Armidale Repatriation Committee was held on Thursday afternoon, to furnish a report to the Lands Department as to the suitability for soldiers’ settlement of the 18th section country on Westbrook and Tilbuster, approximately 10,000 acres. The committee reported favorably upon the three lots, providing they were made available in living areas. On 10thi and 11th instant, the sub-committee, consisting of Messrs. A. Glass, K. Pearson, W. T. Moffatt, C. L. G. Fielder, A. J. Hack, and the Secretary (Mr. A. J. Rafferty) motored to the locality. They were accompanied by the District Surveyor (Mr. Bishop). The whole of the country was inspected on horseback, and two days were occupied in the work. Excellent maps were provided by the Lands Department. The inspection and the compilation of the report was a job which entailed no little trouble, and the committee deserves credit for the thorough manner in which it went into the matter.

Arthur married Norn at Newcastle in 1920 (record 3395).

On a visit to Sydney in 1923 Arthur was a witness to a young woman jumping off The Gap, a well-known suicide point. From the Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser on Mon 19 Nov 1923:

Girl Leaps Over Gap.

Miss Helen Bishop, aged 24, of Bembridge Street, Carlton, leapt over the Gap on Tuesday.

Her escape from instant death was remarkable.

The woman stopped at three different places, and looked over the barb-wire fence on the edge of The Gap, before she reached a spot where there was a hole in the fence.

She stepped through, put a handbag she was carrying on the top of the cliff, stood upright, and leaped over the side.

Mr. A. J. Rafferty, an ex-lieutenant of the A.I.F. and a visitor from Armidale was the closest of the four eye-witnesses of the sensational leap. He said “It all happened before I had time to realise what, she was going to do. I thought she was going to sit on a grassy patch inside the fence, and, as I was only a few yards away, could have stopped her. But it all happened so suddenly”.

That the young woman did not meet with instant death – the fate of all others who had made the mad leap – was the amazing feature of the incident.

In her 200 feet fall she missed the rocks protruding from the edge of the cliffs, and the tide was high enough to stop her body from striking the jagged rocks at the foot of The Gap.

Two old Italian fishermen who were a short distance away, faced the danger of having their frail craft shattered on the rooks by the boiling surf, and rescued the young woman, who was taken to hospital in a serious condition.

In the 1932 electoral rolls his parents address was 131 Beardy St Armidale, Norn’s was the corner of Rusden St and Taylor St; there was a Mary Rafferty at 68 Rusden St. In 1932 he was appointed a part-time health inspector; from The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Wed 21 Sep 1932:

That the action of the Mayor in temporarily engaging the services of Mr. A. J. Rafferty as acting health inspector for two days per week at £1 per day be approved. That notwithstanding the foregoing, which shall take effect as from September 1, 1932, Council reserves the right at any time and without notice to cancel, alter or amend such temporary appointment.—Adopted

From 1934 to 1943 Arthur was listed as a grazier, Taylor St, Armidale: the loss of his arm prevented him from working as a chemist. His entry in A Land Fit for Heroes? A History of Soldier Settlement in New South Wales reads as follows (the numbers refer to dates in the Returned Soldiers loan files, see the website for details):

Arthur Rafferty was a fully trained Chemist before enlisting. At the time of his application for his loan he was receiving a weekly pension because of the loss of his arm. He applied for his Advance on 7 December 1919 and his loan was approved on 2 March 1920. His original block consisted of 4070 acres in the Country of Clarke, Parish of Bigg Hill, Land District of Armidale. His address was Top Creek, Upper Macleay, via Armidale.[1]

In time he was to have two Homestead Farms:

    • HF 19.7 – confirmed 9 Dec 1919 – 4446 acres (increased acreage from 4070??)
    • HF 25.2 – confirmed 28 Jul 1925 – 4851 acres

On 15 May 1920, he wrote requesting progress payments for ringbarking at the rate of £25 per month, so that he could pay the four men working for him.[2] Before payment could be made an inspection of the work was required by the local Armidale and Dumaresq Shire Repatriation Committee. They complained about this stating that “the property is a long distance from any person who would like to inspect this” and the “country is very rough travelling”.[3] The property was over 50 miles from Armidale. The Committee considered it unfair to ask any person to inspect every £25 worth of work done. Because of these difficulties, the inspection was eventually undertaken sometime around 24 June 1920 by PA Wright, a “government nominee” who lived in the vicinity.

On 25 November 1920, Rafferty wrote to the Director of Soldier Settlements stating that, “it was almost impossible to purchase stock at market value as the majority of people do not wish to deal with the Repatriation … or else up goes their price”.[4] Early on, despite only having one arm, a Department of Lands inspector reported gave Rafferty a positive report. “It is wonderful the amount of strenuous work he is able to perform, such as fencing and ringbarking. He is very energetic and constantly at work”.[5]

There is mention in the file of a Colonel Sadler, who apparently owned the adjoining homestead farm. Around October 1921, Sadler and his wife were sharing with Rafferty the only small residence on Rafferty’s property. The residence needed enlarging, but there was no road from Georges Creek “whereby a vehicle could travel” and Rafferty was unable to get the necessary timber and iron to his property.

The inspector went on,

This is very annoying, and I maintain something should be done to give proper access to these soldier settlers. I am of the opinion that this soldier has every prospect of being successful in his undertaking, provided he is favoured with ordinary good seasons and the cattle market improves.[6]”

On 2 July 1923 Rafferty requested the balance of his loan for improvements and stock. He stated that he did not owe any money, except what he had received for his advance and had no mortgage to any one.[7]

Around February 1926, Rafferty contacted the Department of Lands stating that he would not be able to meet his arrears until the end of September 1926. These amounted to £71.14.6. On the 31 January 1927 a further amount of £69.16.4 would also become due. [8] Around July 1927, the Department of Lands wrote to him stating that they believed that he had sold his first holding to meet his debts.[9] Rafferty angrily denied this.

In November 1927 Rafferty converted his Homestead Farms to Crown Leases.

    • HF 19/7 to CrL 27/4
    • HF 25.2 to CrL 27/5
      He also owned another piece of land – Special Lease 20/17 of 50 acres.

Floods caused him severe losses in 1929 preventing him meeting his repayments again and because of this he received time to make the repayments. Between 1929 and 1932 he received many letters requesting repayment of his arrears which to a large extent he ignored. Although he did state on 9 July 1931, that he intended paying half of his arrears in October of that year.[10]

On 30 June 1932 he stated that he would be able to send along a few pounds during October toward the rent and the Loan.

“But should you see fit to forfeit my holding would you advise me by return mail. I have written many letters explaining the situation before, but I do not seem able to make myself understood – to answer the correspondence I would require a secretary.“[11]

There were also problems with insurance as Rafferty’s house was destroyed by fire. As the Department of Lands held the mortgage, he wanted them to support him in a claim against the Insurance Company – they refused. In March 1933 he applied for a revision of indebtedness on the grounds of loss of stock through drought, sickness and the effects of the depression. By December 1933, he had disposed of all his cattle and his stock was on agistment.

On 19th July 1934 the Under-Secretary for lands wrote to Rafferty outlining issues and problems they were having with him, in very stern terms.

I have to inform you that I have personally looked into your case and find that you have yourself entirely to blame for any threat of consideration of termination of your occupancy. You have failed to answer quite a number of letters this year and I am sure you will agree on reflection that the Department cannot be expected to allow this condition of affairs to continue.“[12]

Throughout much of 1934 after finding a buyer for his property, Rafferty continued to have problems, not only about a fair sale price but also in regard to money he still owned for his advance, land arrears and shire rates. After all arrears were assessed, the Dept of Lands were questioning if it would be acceptable to write off the £809 due to the Crown. This amount appears to have been reduced to around £685.

The property was transferred to a Mary Gertrude Fitzgerald sometime around February 1935.

The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser had an article on the Rafferty family on on Wed 2 Jul 1952:


When Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rafferty left Armidale this week to enter on extended leave before settling in another centre, they severed an association that the Rafferty family had had with this city for more than 100 years.

Mr. John Rafferty, a great-great-grandson of the first Rafferty settler in these parts, said yesterday that his family had been in Armidale for 104
years. That takes the family back to 1848.

A son of the pioneer Rafferty became sergeant-in-charge of the police district with headquarters at Armidale, but which then extended throughout the New England area.

Sgt. Rafferty’s son, John Joseph, conducted a chemist’s shop here for 54 years. He lived for many years in a house where Mr. E. Hardman’s home now stands. He died in [1943] at the age of 79.

John Joseph’s son, Arthur, was meant to follow in the footsteps of his father. He qualified as an analytical chemist, but in service in World War I he lost an arm and could not practice. For 17 years he followed grazing pursuits on the Upper Macleay. Then, in order to educate his son and daughter, he moved to Armidale in 1930 and built a home at 121 Taylor Street.

He and Mrs. Rafferty had resided there until this week. The son, John Rafferty, was working for the C.S.I.R.O. at Chiswick when he won a soldier settler’s block at Matheson, between Glen Innes and Inverell. The daughter, Mrs. V. R. Murray, now resides at Katoomba, where her husband is an accountant in the Commonwealth Bank.

Mr. John Rafferty said yesterday that his father and mother would go on an extended holiday, probably to the Barrier Reef, and would later settle in either Glen Innes or Inverell.

The length of the Raffertys’ association with Armidale renders impracticable anything but an outline of their activities. Suffice to say that no family could live and prosper in a community for more than 100 years without making a major contribution to its advancement.

The 1958 electoral rolls have Arthur and Norn at 161 Coronation Ave, Glen Innes. Arthur died there on 28 Mar 1964, Norn on 28 Oct 1979 at Tweed Heads, NSW.

Arthur & Norn’s family:

01. Joan (b. 13 May 1920, d. 28 Sep 2010)

02. Arthur John (b. 24 Aug 1921, d. 1997)

The next couple of photos are courtesy of members:

L to R: (Arthur) John & Joan; Arthur & Norn

Joan with L to R: Arthur, Arthur’s father John and John’s mother Mary (née Brien)

L. Norn on the right in 1919/20, with her sister Bunty and brother Mick, at one of their parents funerals

R. Norn on the right in 1940/41, with Mick, her sister Bunty, her brother Cyril’s wife Mary (née Mowle) and McQuade & Kirkby children

Joan Rafferty & Victor Roland Murray in 1945

Norn on the right in 1940/1, with Mick, her sister Bunty, her brother Cyril

01. Joan Rafferty married Victor Roland Murray in Armidale in 1945. Victor was born on 09 Apr 1909 in his parents being Roland Patrick Murray & Catherine Agnes Burraston. Catherine was named as Victor’s next of kin when he enlisted in May 1940 at Paddington – Service Number NX16879. His army records can be viewed here. Appointed a Lance Sergeant, Victor spent 1,953 days in the army, all but 49 spent on active duty. He was reported missing in action and possibly wounded on 04 May 1941; this was confirmed in June by the Red Cross. Victor was interned in a POW camp in Italy before being transferred to Stalag XVIII-A in southern Germany (December 1943). He was freed mid-May 1945 and arrived back in Sydney on 08 Aug 1945.

In the 1930 electoral roll Victor lived at 57 Coogee By Rd, Coogee; he was then described as a clerk. In 1933 he lived at 1 Gunyah, Pine Ave, Waverly. In 1936 he shows up as a bank officer living at Shannonview, Commercial Rd, Murwillumbah. That address remained in the electoral rolls during the war years. In 1949, after his marriage to Joan, the couple lived 146A Marsh St, Armidale. In the newspaper article on Wed 2 Jul 1952 that was quoted above it is clear that for some years in the 1950s Joan and Victor had lived in Katoomba where Victor worked as an accountant with the Commonwealth Bank.

They were at 146 High St, North Sydney in a 1958 roll; another 1958 electoral roll, as well as the 1963 roll, show that they had moved to 3 Wallace Pde, Lindfield. By 1968 their address was 21 McLeod Ave, Roseville; however another 1972 entry has them living at 3/18 Pacific Highway, Roseville. In their retirement years they had moved to 51 Tahiti Ave, Palm Beach (Coolangatta, QLD). Victor passed away there on 17 Dec 1986 and is buried in North Ryde.

Joan herself was appointed the first woman to be employed as a teacher in the Junior School of St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, Sydney. She taught there from 1958 to 1972.

Following Victor’s death Joan moved back to Sydney and lived in Epping. When she was in her early 80s she enrolled in a PhD with the English Department at Macquarie University and completed it in minimum time, a remarkable feat! Her thesis was Words, rhythm and music in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. [I haven’t got past Page 2 of this book! Ed.] Joan continued to attend academic talks at the University. On one occasion in 1910 she tripped going down the stairs of the lecture theatre and thought little of it. However she soon realised she was unwell and was admitted to hospital. She passed away on 28 Sep 2010.

Victor and Joan had five children, fifteen grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren.

Joan Murray, 1994 O’Neill gathering, Dungog

Joan with John Rafferty, … and John with Mary Rafferty

Joan with Tricia Whittle (née O’Neill); Peter Rafferty (John’s son) on the right

02. Arthur John Rafferty, known as John, was born in Armidale on 24 August 1920. In 1941 he was a student at the New England University College at Armidale (then part of the University of Sydney): the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported on Wed 26 Mar 1941 that he was one of four students injured when “the bus in which they were travelling to the college crashed through the railing of a bridge in Niagara Street”. The following photo shows John in the back row (fourth from the left, standing alongside the coach) of the New England University Rugby Team 1939 (two of John’s first cousins, Paul and Brian Johnson, played for the Australian Wallaby team a few years later):

Photo courtesy of Paul Barratt

John had enlisted at Kempsey on 14 Sep 1939 and was called up on 18 Dec 1941 as a trooper in the 12th Motor Regiment, giving his occupation as a Vet. Field Assistant, having gained honours in mathematics in the Leaving Certificate and having wool classing expertise. His service record (20 pages) can be read here. He served on Thursday Island and with the 2nd New Guinea Infantry Battalion. He was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant on 16 April 1946.

In the 1949 electoral rolls John is described as a field assistant living with his parents. A run-in with the police is quite instructive about his movements at the time; from the Glen Innes Examiner on Wed 18 Jan 1950:


Arthur John Rafferty, of Glen Innes, was released on a bond by Mr. M. J. McCauley, S.M., in Glen Innes Court of Petty Sessions on Monday, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of liquor.

Sergt. M. J. McMahon said Constable D. Mogan saw Rafferty on December 24 driving a utility northerly along Grey St., Glen Innes, at about 30 m.p.h.

Constable Mogan followed the car on a motor cycle and saw Rafferty turn into Meade Street. In making the turn, the utility ran into the northern side of Meade Street and continued on. The utility then returned to the left hand side of the road, crossing a bridge on the incorrect side.

Speed of the vehicle would then be about 50 m.p.h.

According to Sergt. McMahon, Rafferty was driving in a very unsteady manner and was veering from one side of the road to the other.

Constable Mogan eventually stopped the vehicle and Rafferty got out of it. He was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were red and bloodshot, and he smelt of intoxicating liquor.

Rafferty had said to Constable Mogan: “What’s the matter with you?’

Constable Mogan had said, “Why were you driving? You have been drinking.”

Rafferty then asked Constable Mogan if he had been driving in the correct manner.

Rafferty said he had only had a couple of small drinks. He was a returned soldier and had a returned soldier’s block 20 miles from Glen Innes. At the time of the alleged offence, he was accompanied by his parents.

Sergt. McMahon said he had known Rafferty previously and he was a good type.

Mr. Q. A. Biddulph, Armidale (for Rafferty) said Rafferty was a single man. He had enlisted in the forces in 1939 when he was 18.

At that stage he was too young for the A.I.F. but was subsequently transferred to the A.I.F. He completed 1,692 days in the army, eleven months of which was spent in New Guinea. He had reached the rank of Lieutenant.

After the war, Rafferty had rejoined the C.S.I.R, at Armidale, but had won a ballot for a soldier-settlement block at King’s Plains.

He was batching and working on the block.

On Christmas. Eve he had gone to Armidale to bring his family to stay with him to see the result of his work.

John married Joan Carroll at Glen Innes in 1950 (record 25626). Between 1953 and 1963 he and Joan remained at Kings Plains. In the 1968 electoral roll John is decsribed as a wool buyer and the couple then lived at 14 MacArthur Ave, Botany. Later he is listed as a manager – in 1972 they lived at 5 Roy St, Lithgow, and in 1980 at 28 Sandford Ave, Lithgow. The couple had rgeww children. John passed away in 1997.

Please note that we do not include names of living people unless they appear in a public or official document. If any family member can help with photos or stories please contact

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