Tom Fogarty, born at Rosebrook near Belfast (now Port Fairy) Victoria in 1859, was the first son and eldest child of nine children of Irish born immigrants Patrick and Bridget Fogarty. The family moved from Victoria to the South East of South Australia during the construction of railway lines at Naracoorte and Millicent.
During the early 1880’s they were on the move once again. This time they crossed Bass Strait to Tasmania. From there Tom eventually made his way to Adelaide where he was apprenticed to drapers John Martin & Co, Rundle Street. Tom later moved to Oodnadatta where he married Jessie Grimes at the home of Mounted Constable Albert Williams in November 1894.
Jessie was born in London in 1869 and migrated with her parents to Australia in 1876. Her father William was a publican and lived at Semaphore in Adelaide. Tom and Jessie had two sons and a daughter but only their second son Ambrose (1896-1930) survived infancy.
Tom & Jess Fogarty managed Mansfield’s Oodnadatta store from 1894 until 1902 when Tom bought the business of Alex Ross and operated as J. Fogarty & Co with Frank Stuart Jones as their manager. Tom Fogarty died on 16 June 1905 and was buried at Oodnadatta. Newspaper obituaries reported that ‘businesses were closed, flags flown at half mast, and his funeral attended by practically every resident. Tom Fogarty was … highly respected, an expert salesman, shrewd businessman, prominent in every movement for the advancement of the North West and one of the most able and energetic men in Central Australia’.
The Advertiser of Monday 26 June 1905 stated, Mr Thomas Fogarty, ‘one of the oldest and most highly respected residents of Oodnadatta managed Mr. Mansfield's business in Oodnadatta for a number of years, and in 1897 he went into the storekeeping business for himself, and met with much success. Mr Fogarty came from Tasmania in his teens and was apprenticed to Messrs John Martin & Co., drapers, with whom he remained for a number of years’. He was considered an expert salesman. In every movement for the advancement of the north-west he took a prominent part, and he was one of the most able and energetic men in Central Australia. He left a widow and one son.
The Southern Cross Catholic Newspaper of 30 June 1905 wrote, ‘In the death of Mr Thomas Fogarty of Oodnadatta, the Far North has sustained a severe loss. He was a shrewd and able business man, a tactful adviser, and a true friend. An old resident of the North who knew everybody, he was immensely popular with all classes. He carried on business in Oodnadatta as a general storekeeper and forwarding agent.
Mr Fogarty belonged to a good Catholic Irish family. His death has caused great regret in the district. His funeral took place on Saturday 17 June and was attended by nearly every resident. The business places were closed and the flag was half masted. In the absence of a priest Mr. Murphy read prayers before the coffin left the house, and also at the grave, where general grief made the scene impressive. Mr Fogarty has left a widow and one son, for whom the deepest sympathy is felt.
After her husband’s death, Jessie, who already had made her marks at Oodnadatta, became even more involved in business and local affairs. On 8 September 1905 the Northern District Licensing Branch, chaired by Mr. M E Hinds, amongst applications for Publicans Licences granted the transfer of a Storekeeper's Licence to Jessie Fogarty, holder of a Special Magistrate's Licence, from Thomas Fogarty, deceased, Oodnadatta. She was assisted by Frank Jones and successfully continued to operate the store and expanded the business.
Frank Jones later entered a partnership with Jessie Fogarty and they bought Mansfield’s store in 1917. In 1924 J. Fogarty & Co merged with F.B. Wallis & Co, another general store at Oodnadatta, to become Wallis Fogarty Limited “Walfogs” and the business continued in Alice Springs until 1961. Frank Jones returned to Adelaide in 1929 and worked for Harris Scarfe Ltd.
Apart from being a business woman, Jessie also was an excellent piano player and singer, prominent in social functions and often sponsored local horse racing. She was actively involved in local tennis and supported school activities. On 6 December 1905 the Oodnadatta School Concert was held and Jessie Fogarty looked after the musical portion of the entertainment. A year later, on 3 November 1906 during the school’s Visiting Day a special prize, presented to the 4th class for spelling by Jessie Fogarty, was won by Coral Ferguson. A week later, during the school concert, Jessie Fogarty provided the music.
On 6 July 1907 Jessie Fogarty sang at the Oodnadatta Tennis Club social. It was not just singing, Jessie also played tennis with creditable results. On 2 September 1907 a tennis match was held at Oodnadatta between members of the local club, one side styled themselves The Saltbushes and the other The Geraniums. Mrs Mahony & Mrs Fogarty (Geraniums) lost to Mrs Mack & Miss Casey (Saltbushes) 5-6.......Mrs Fogarty & Mrs Williams beat Mrs Mack & J Murphy 6-3..... overall The Geraniums scored 7 sets 63 games and The Saltbushes 6 sets 57 games.
On Saturday evening 19 November 1907, a dance was arranged by some of Jessie’s friends as a farewell as she planned to leave by Thursday's train to spend a year or more in the city. Messrs. L Underdown and Trite voiced the sentiments of all present in expressing their appreciation of Mrs Fogarty, who had always been an active worker in connection with everything of a social and charitable description. Mr Frank Jones responded on behalf of Mrs Fogarty.
After her return to Oodnadatta she again involved herself in the business and social activities of the town. On 1 March 1913 Jessie’s Publican's Licence was renewed. During these years her son Ambrose attended Christian Brother’s College in Adelaide before obtaining his tertiary degree in accountancy. Ambrose later became an hotelier in various country & city locations of the Northern Territory and South Australia.
From 1933 until 1938 Wallis Fogarty Ltd on Railway Terrace was managed by Frank Albert Wilkinson. Jessie Fogarty finally retired to Adelaide. She died at Calvary Hospital in 1945 and is buried at West Terrace Cemetery, with her son Ambrose and his wife “Mamie”. Fogartys Claypan, north of Oodnadatta and Fogarty Street in Alice Springs are named in their honour and also records their business connection with the Northern Territory.
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