Joseph Hannah and his wife Christina Hannah nee George emigrated from their homeland of Becharre, Lebanon in the 1890’s. They left all that they knew and loved behind because the conditions political, economic and religious in their homeland made it impossible for them to see anything other than a very grim future for themselves and the family they were about to create. So this young and brave, brave couple made their long and arduous journey to the opposite side of the world, finally settling in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Joseph’s only brother Massoud Hannah settled in Australia.
Christina’s two brothers Michael and Joseph and their families also migrated to New Zealand. They left behind in Becharre, Lebanon three sisters, Barbara, Yasmin and Soraya.
Joseph and Christina lived in humble but happy conditions in Carroll Street, Dunedin. There they were part of a warm and nurturing community of their friends and countrymen. They had ten children, Ike, Paul, Victoria, Vera, Queenie, Jamelie, Marie, Madeline, Rose and John. One survives, Madeline Rowcroft nee Hannah.
In the tradition of his ancient Phoenician heritage and like many of his contemporaries who migrated from Becharre and became this antipodean community, Joseph earned his living as a traveling salesman – a hawker. His territory covered much of central and south Otago. Amazingly, most of the travel was done on foot. In later years he walked with a limp and it was said that this was because he carried his “shunter” (a suitcase containing his wares) on the one side for so far and so long.
In 1926 with improved circumstances, the Hannah family moved. “The Manse”, a two storied Victorian gentleman’s residence at number 56 Carroll Street became their home and was known for evermore by all and sundry as “56”. Christina WAS “56”. Her open door hospitality became legendary in both the local and wider community. Vera took over the helm at her mother’s passing and the tradition continued. Over the years, various of Joseph and Christina’s children and their families have lived at “56” and some were in residence until December 1999.
The closing and subsequent sale of “56” marked the end of an era for the Hannah family. The next generation has spread their roots far and wide.