Taggart clan: Four generations reunite to celebrate 100th wedding anniversary

Four generations of the Taggart family reunited at South West Rocks on Saturday July 7 to celebrate the marriage of John and Leeta Taggart, who spent three decades raising their family in the Macleay.

The family festivities commenced on Thursday evening and went through to breakfast on Sunday. The culmination of festivities was the celebration lunch at the South West Rocks Surf Club.

A special family fruit cake was baked by John and Leeta’s eldest grandchild, Robyn Gale, who had the recipe passed down to her from her mother Val Lancaster and was originally from her great grandmother Edith Uren.

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The family cake was used in the past at weddings and christenings.

The cake was cut by the eldest living sibling, Marge Harding.

It was the first time the cake had been cooked in many years.

Family stories and the history of the Taggart clan were shared, compiled and printed into a booklet and copies were presented to senior family members.

An aerial photo was taken of the family, which showed more than 60 members had attended the reunion.

A special Logo was designed for the event, as well as posters and a series of five placemats were designed and printed for the lunch. 

The Taggart family grew up in the Macleay Valley and still have descendants living in the region today.

John married Leeta, who grew up in Kempsey, on July 30, 1918.

John was born in Northern Ireland and his path to Leeta began when he travelled to Australia in 1914 at the age of 16. 

John’s family settled in a house built by his father in Newcastle.

After marrying, John and Leeta resided in Newcastle until the hardships which came along with the depression forced the family to relocate to Willawarrin and live with Leeta’s parents William and Edith Uren on the Upper Macleay.

The Taggart family then moved to SWR where the family fished and collected periwinkles to help with the costs of a growing family.

The couple had 11 children, eight boys and three girls, it was the start of a great Taggart clan.

As the children needed further schooling and SWR only had a primary school, they moved to central Kempsey in the early 1940’s. 

Leeta and John remained in Kempsey until their passing. Leeta sadly passed away on November 17, 1960 aged 61 while John passed away on September 7, 1965 aged 66.

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Three of John and Leeta’s children remain. Ray Taggart OAM and Bethel Hughes reside in SWR while Marjorie Harding lives in Brisbane.

Their eldest son William John served in Second World War, being a Lancaster pilot flying missions over Europe. For his service, William was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and qualified for the 1939-45 Star, Aircrew Europe 3 Star and Clasp, Defence Medal and War Medal. He received the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for the coolness and efficiency he showed in the face of heavy defences during an attack on railway sidings in France during May 1944.

His name is on the cenotaph  and he has a street named after him in SWR.

The couple’s second son Neil Taggart left school at 14, due to family hardship. He enlisted in the Army at 15, but his superiors found out his age. He then joined the Navy at 16 and spent the next few years serving on ships in the Pacific and seeing action many times, including a Kamikaze suicide mission to ship he served. When WW2 finished, he was only 21.

The third son Leon Taggart also had a navel career, serving in the Australian Navy and retiring as a Petty Officer. He was involved in The Korean War. He then went on to become the Systems Manager for NCR when computing was just beginning.

Another son, Gregory Taggart had a career in the Navy and then another career in the Police Force, retiring as a Sergeant. Greg came back to SWR to spend his retirement. His wife Mrs Nerida Taggart is still an active member of the SWR community.

Two sons, the twins, Selwyn and Alwyn became plumbers. Selwyn came back to Kempsey with his wife Mrs Betty Taggart who still lives in Kempsey.

Ray Taggart, a surviving son, did his schooling at Kempsey High School, then after trying accounting joined the Police Force and retired as Detective Sergeant. He then went into business and was awarded the OAM for services to Business in the Hastings area.

Eldest daughter, Mrs Valerie Lancaster lived in SWR for the last 40 years before her death in 2017.

Daughter, Bethel Hughes lives at SWR and began the SWR View Club, playing bowls for Hat Head, Smithtown and Kempsey Macleay, Beth served as Club Secretary, Club President, District Secretary and District President and Group A NSW Manager.

The family was a family of service:

  • Four sons had Navel/ Air Force service, Jackie, Neil, Leon, Greg
  • One son was awarded the DFC Jackie
  • One son was awarded the OAM Ray
  • Two sons had Police careers Greg, Ray
  • One daughter began and was the President of the VIEW club of SWR and served as President of Bowls.