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Edmund 'Shiner' Slattery (c1839-1927)

A life on the road

Edmund SlatteryEdmund Slattery was a legendary Otago swagger, whose cunning ways were celebrated across the south. He rejected the value placed on honest toil by his contemporaries. His aim was to eat, drink and be merry without ever doing any work himself. Born in County Clare, Ireland, Slattery emigrated with his family to Australia. He moved on to New Zealand in the 1870s, picking up work on sheep stations or prospecting for gold. Increasingly he took pride in his ability to trick people into giving him food, money and drink.

On the road people took it as an honour to be taken in by 'The Shiner', as he came to be called. Slattery loved the attention and played up to his reputation. Every Sunday he would attend Mass wherever he was, sitting at the front so everyone could see his outlandish clothes. Every New Year's Day he would make an appearance at the Oamaru sports, where he danced a jig. Slattery tramped the roads of Otago until well into the 1920s. When he became unable to look after himself, he joined the other old bachelors at Caversham's Benevolent Institution. He died there in 1927.

(Sketch, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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