St Joseph’s students find New Zealand soldier’s links to school

Ryan Philp and Eric Asomah give a Remembrance Day tribute to Skipper Brennan.
Ryan Philp and Eric Asomah give a Remembrance Day tribute to Skipper Brennan.

Four St Joseph’s Y5 students have prepared a Remembrance Day tribute to a Kiwi First World War veteran.

Ryan Philp, Eric Asomah, Dean Brien and Pratik Seegoolan participated in the 2017 Graves Project researching the the lives and service histories of veterans buried in Mount Isa. 

​When researching Thomas James “Skipper” Brennan, born December 16, 1894 in Wellington, the students found links with their own school, with a great-great-granddaughter, Sarah Pierce, a Year 5 student in their own class.

Skipper Brennan enlisted in the New Zealand Defence Force aged 22 and served in Egypt before going to France in November 1916. He suffered a shrapnel injury on October 4, 1917 and was moved to the England where he married Mary Elizabeth Viney. They had a son called Albert.

After the war, he became a coal miner in NZ, becoming supervisor for a mining crew.

In 1934 Skipper moved to Mount Isa with his family and his entire mining crew.

They were employed by Mount Isa Mines as Hard Rock Mines, with Skipper as supervisor. He played rugby league for the Black Stars Rugby League Club and was elected to the Cloncurry Shire Council. His grandson, Mick, was born at the time of Skipper’s death in November 1949.

Great grandson David Thomas Brennan and great granddaughter Meagan still live in Mount Isa with their families. His great great granddaughter Sarah Pierce is a student at St Joseph’s in Grade 5 Green.

The Holy Water font at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, still used today, was donated by Mary Brennan, wife of Thomas.

The St Joseph’s School Year 5 students told Skipper Brennan’s story at the Sunset Cemetery flag-raising ceremony on Saturday.

The enthusiasm of the students will hold them in good stead as next year they will mentor a new research team transitioning from Year 4 into Year 5.