Irish swagman, known as “Ned the Shiner”.
A new biography of Slattery, Edmond appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.dmond Slattery was born in 1840 in County Clare, Ireland, of hard-working Irish farming stock and he spent his early life there as herdsman and ploughman. For the time he had a better than average education, but neither a stern upbringing nor the example of a hard-working father could wean him from a care-free attitude to life. In 1869 Ned Slattery emigrated with his family to Australia where he was attracted to the goldfields. About 1873, however, he arrived in New Zealand and, although he was considered a good harvester and reliable all-round farm hand, he preferred a swagman's life on the road. In his prime Slattery was over 6 ft in height, straight and rawboned, with a long tireless stride and vigorous step. And even in old age he looked an impressive figure with a trimmed white beard and tightly buttoned coat. Unlike many of his fellow swaggers, Slattery set considerable store by appearances and was generally neatly clad and well shod. His territory was a wide one ranging from South Canterbury to Otago and Southland. Everywhere he went he was accepted as an honest man, in spite of a limitless repertoire of tricks and devices which he employed with great success in his efforts to do as little work as possible for the rewards offered. Slattery had an insatiable thirst that dated back to his poteen days in Ireland, and he displayed as much resolution in securing for himself supplies of whisky as ever he used in the avoidance of unnecessary work. By nature he was an inveterate joker and thought little of numbering among his victims both friends and benefactors, but there was no malice in him and not the least of his better qualities was a love of children. For over 40 years he timed his visits to Oamaru to coincide with the Caledonian Society's sports, held on New Year's Day, and he never failed to demonstrate his proficiency in the Irish jig, one of the features of a programme including piping, dancing, and athletics.
The Shiner was blessed with a wonderful constitution. Out in all weathers and certainly not over-clad, he continued to roam the dusty roads from Timaru to Gore long after he had passed the allotted span. He died on 11 August 1927, aged 87, at the Benevolent Institution, Caversham, Dunedin, and was buried at the Anderson's Bay cemetery.
by Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.
- Otago Daily Times, 15 Aug 1927 (Obit)
- Shining with the Shiner, Lee, J. A. (1944)
- Shiner Slattery, Lee, J. A. (1964).