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The Célières family

Maison Célières : The Célières family

The first owner of the house, Paul Joseph Thomy, known as Thomy, was a native of Reunion Island, born on 26 June 1871 at Saint-Pierre (Reunion), who arrived in New Caledonia with his father Louis Marie Joseph Célières and his mother Rosalie Michel Lovely in 1891.

In 1897, while employed in retail, he had local contractor Gérosa draw up plans for his future home in the locality named “Faubourg Blanchot” on urban plot 630.

In 1904, now a cashier at the colonial Public Treasury, he was married in Païta to Marie Eugénie Ohlen, born on 1st December 1883 and daughter of Païta landowner and livestock breeder Jean Henri Ohlen and of Joséphine Durand.

The couple’s first child, Renée Josephine Lovely, was born on 2 December 1906 in Noumea. When their second daughter, Yvette Marie Irène, was born in 1913, Thomy had been promoted to official representative of the paymaster-general. In 1914, he became Tax Collector for New Caledonia and also a municipal tax collector. The couple’s third daughter, Paule Marcelle France, was born on 27 December 1915.

When he retired in 1931, Thomy held the office of First Class Paymaster at the Noumea Public Treasury. 

The next family events were the weddings of his daughters: Yvette was the first bride, married on 3 December 1935 to Michel Georges Etienne Chauvin in Paris. Paule married Albert Pierre André Montenay on 5 July 1939 in Tours. Renée, known as “Mademoiselle Célières”, remained at the family home and took care of her widowed mother following Thomy’s death on 16 February 1940.

Renée soon became a well-known figure in Noumea. She played the organ every Sunday at services in the Vieux Temple Protestant Chapel. She was employed at the Office of Public Works and did charitable work for the Red Cross. In 1978, she was awarded the National Order of Merit in recognition for 28 years’ service to the Red Cross.

On the death of Thomy’s widow in 1966, the mansion was inherited by the three daughters. As the only daughter to have remained in New Caledonia, Renée gained beneficial enjoyment of the house. However, the high cost of keeping up the property forced her to take in lodgers from 1980 onwards. A portion of the furniture was sold in 1986. Renée, who was known as “the good lady of Faubourg Blanchot”, moved to a concrete-built house she owned at 6 rue de Soissons, almost opposite her family home. She died there in 1995.

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Texts and illustrations: Association Témoignage d’un Passé © 2016