Fitzgerald_Lane.jpg Fitzgerald Lane sign (2021). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Fitzgerald Lane is a short cul-de-sac in Hāwera off State Highway 3, opposite the entrance to the Hāwera Racecourse. The location is significant as the road is named after a man with a connection to the Egmont Racing Club.

The road was first surveyed in 1900 as part of a subdivision for the landowner John Winks. On this early plan the road was drawn as a crescent, an idea that was abandoned at some stage. Instead two no-exit streets were formed, one known as Little Waihi Road (now Kerry Lane) and the other Lower Little Waihi Road. About 1979 it was decided to commemorate a local man who contributed so much to the racing industry and Lower Little Waihi Road was renamed Fitzgerald Lane.

Dr Thomas Michael Fitzgerald (1900-1981) was born in Hāwera, but was sent to Sacred Heart College in Auckland for his secondary education. He later studied medicine in Dunedin, then spent two years as a house surgeon at Wellington Hospital, before settling back in Hāwera in 1932.

The popular general practitioner served the local community for 45 years, retiring in 1977. As well as his work as a GP he was the honorary doctor of the Egmont Racing Club, the Hāwera Trotting Club and the Opunake Racing Club.

Perhaps his most important contribution to the sport was the establishment of the South Taranaki School of Riding in 1952. Concerned about the welfare of young jockeys, Fitzgerald was instrumental in the formation of the school which resulted in a lasting improvement to the conditions and training of junior riders.

His other interests included athletics, amateur radio, photography, music, collecting weaponry, history and fishing. In many of these activities he also served in administrative roles for the clubs and societies.

In recognition of his contribution to the community in Hāwera, Dr Fitzgerald was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in the 1980 New Year’s Honours list. He died on 3 December 1981 and is buried at the Hāwera cemetery.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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