Meeanee is a pretty suburb part-way between Napier and Hastings.
It still has many historic sites, including the picturesque Anglican church St Thomas’ built by one of New Zealand's greatest church builders.
But once upon the time it was home to the most advanced observatory in New Zealand.
David Kennedy was born in Lyttelton on April 27, 1864 to Duncan Kennedy and Mary McCarthy - known as Bridget. They came to New Zealand in 1863 from Melbourne.
The family lived in Christchurch where David became interested in theology and science. He went to study at the St Mary’s College at Dundalk in Ireland, then entered the novitiate and obtained a degree in mathematics and science. David taught and published for several years before being ordained into the priesthood in 1891.
He came back to New Zealand in 1893 to the seminary opened by the Marists at Meeanee.
David's main interest was astronomy and he began an observatory with a six-inch telescope funded by royalties from books he had written.
This was sold in 1905 and he started an appeal to build a bigger one, which used a nine-inch telescope.
In 1907, at Meeanee, the new observatory was opened. It had a revolving iron dome with a photo visual refracting telescope and a spectroscope, making it the best equipped in the country.
The odd domed-shaped building was also a source of fascination.
It was from here he studied Comet Daniel after it was discovered in 1909 - making a unique appearance from deep space. The first photos he took were of the comet.
He was also the first person in the world to take photos of Halley's Comet on its return in 1910.
Halley's comet, which returns every 75-76 years, was a source of great superstition and fear, with its appearance supposed to herald doom for the Earth.
His photos were considered extraordinary and were published around the world.
Kennedy also took photos of the Milky Way, Sun, Moon and the Southern Cross.
In 1911, he moved the observatory to Greenmeadows but sadly it was destroyed in a storm in 1912. The telescope - called the Thomas Cooke telescope after its maker - was sold in 1923 to the Wellington City Council. It is now in the Carter Observatory in Wellington.
For his efforts in photographing Halley's Comet, Dr David Kennedy was made a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society based in London.
Between 1909 and 1917 he was rector at St Patrick’s in Wellington then until 1920 in Greenmeadows. However there were no funds to rebuild the observatory.
Under him, the seminary became an official meteorological station.
Kennedy was an admired educator, cellist and scientist. He died, aged 72, in Palmerston North on March 10, 1936 and is buried at Karori Cemetery.
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