Topic: Okey Lane (TDN 19/10/2019)

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Okey Lane 

Okey Lane in Bell Block was named after farmer and politician Henry Okey.

Born in New Plymouth in 1857, Henry James Hobbs Okey was the son of an ironmonger who had recently emigrated from Gloucestershire. The family owned a farm on Frankley Road but had to move into town in 1860 during the Taranaki Wars and did not return to their land for a decade.

Henry left school at age 13 and eventually bought his own farm, also on Frankley Road. His older brother Edward won the New Zealand Rifle Association’s champion belt (later known as the Ballinger Belt) in 1880 and was described in his obituary, published in the Taranaki Daily News, as “one of the finest rifle shots in the Dominion”.

Henry was a member of the Taranaki County Council, and served as its chairman between 1896 and 1905.He was also elected vice president and then president of the Taranaki Agricultural and Pastoral Society, and served as a director of both the Taranaki Petroleum Company and the Moturoa Freezing Works. In 1907 he won a by-election in the Taranaki electorate and held the seat for the rest of his life.

Henry married Louisa (known as Louie) Morey in 1884. The couple had five sons, three of whom fought overseas during the First World War. Sydney died at Gallipoli and Lionel was killed during the Battle of the Somme in France. Both are listed on the New Plymouth Boys' High School war memorial gates.

Okey died in New Plymouth Hospital on 13 September 1918. His funeral was described as one of the largest ever seen in the city and was attended by the Acting Prime Minister, Sir James Allen. The hearse was covered with flowers as the procession went along Devon Street, and crowds of people lined the footpaths in silence, all businesses having closed for the occasion.

Henry Okey is buried in Te Henui Cemetery.

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