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O’HARA, Henry Michael (1853-1921)

O’HARA, Henry Michael (1853-1921)

Henry Michael O'Hara, surgeon, racehorse owner and raconteur, was a popular figure in Melbourne at the turn of the nineteenth century. He gained early fame following the Jolimont Railway Accident of 1881 when the Brighton train was struck. He featured in several civil actions against the Victorian Railways developing a reputation as an expert medical witness and laying the foundations of his Brighton medical practice.

The son of a merchant, Henry O’Hara and Anna nee Macoboy, he was born at Cork, in Ireland on 29 September 1853 and the romance of his life makes a fascinating saga. His mother, Anna Macoboy was the sister of Judge Michael Macoboy, two of whose sons also attended the College.

The College Enrolment Register records his date of birth as '29 September 1852' rather than 1853. Most other sources suggest his birth date as 1853.

He appears in the 1871 enrolment list though he is believed to have entered Geelong College by 1868 as he appears in the Annual Report prize lists from 1868 to 1871 as follows:
1868 - 2nd, Latin, 3rd Class.
1869 - 1st, Drawing, 2nd Class.
1871 - 1st Algebra, 4th Class.

Pegasus recounted the following in August 1921: 'A famous Old Collegian died at Portsea on April 7th, 1921. Henry Michael O'Hara was born at Cork, in Ireland, in 1854. The romance of his life makes an interesting study. He was educated at Stonyhurst College in the North of England (Lancashire), before coming to Australia, which was about 1865. He entered the Geelong College in 1866, and was here for five years (until 1871), during which time he gave indications of being the possessor of the beautiful voice and histrionic talent which were later developed. He took a leading part in the College Dramatic and Musical Entertainments which were frequently held at that time. He entered heartily into sports and games when at school, and in his last year here, 1871, he captained the Cricket XI. ... and winning the Geelong College Cup for athletics in 1869. Matriculating in 1871, O'Hara went to the Melbourne University to study for a medical degree, and thence to Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, in 1877, obtaining his fellowship in the following year.

He made a romantic marriage to a beautiful girl, the daughter of Mr Edward Klingender, a well-known Melbourne solicitor, following her from Australia to England. After gaining experience there, he returned to this country (1878), and, settling down at Brighton, jumped into notoriety through the great Brighton Railway accident, which was the introduction to the large practice in Brighton he subsequently attained. Later on he purchased Mr Beaney's residence (Cromwell House), in Collins St in 1892, and carried on a Private Hospital there until about 1911. For many years he was on the honorary staff of the Alfred Hospital. He was a splendid amateur singer.

As a young man, Dr O'Hara was a fine athlete, and a thorough sport. He owned race-horses with varying luck, and was reputed to be the owner of 'Ben Bolt' when that horse won the Caulfield Cup in 1886. In 1898, when Messrs, Neil Campbell and Stanley Calvert inaugurated a movement to perpetuate the memory of Dr George Morrison, O'Hara formed one of the Committee. The movement resulted in the George Morrison Memorial Library.

Dr O'Hara was married three times, his second wife being the daughter of the late Jas. Osborne, of Elsternwick; and his third wife, who survived hims, was also a Miss Osborne, a cousin of his second wife. He had eight or nine children.

Dr O'Hara was, in later life, a splendid advertisement for golf, which transformed him from a prematurely old man to a juvenile for several years. Genial, generous, kind-hearted, a thorough gentleman, he is a distinct loss to the community.'

His first wife, Ernestine Kingender who he married in 1876, was killed in a buggy accident in 1883. His second wife, whom he married in 1885, Isabella Jane nee Osborne, the daughter of James Osborne of Elsternwick was also killed in a buggy accident in 1887. In 1888, he married the cousin of his second wife, Nina nee Osborne.

His brother, William James O'Hara (1854-1905), and son, Myles Osborne O'Hara (1892-1955) were also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Ann M. Mitchell, 'O'Hara, Henry Michael (1853 - 1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, Melbourne University Press, 1988, p. 72; Obituary-Pegasus August 1921 pp 32-33.
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