Darcy Heeney

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Darcy Heeney
Personal information
Full nameArthur John Heeney
Born(1916-04-22)22 April 1916
Gisborne, New Zealand
Died19 December 1941(1941-12-19) (aged 25)
HMS Neptune, Mediterranean Sea, off Tripoli
RelativesTom Heeney (uncle)
CountryNew Zealand
SportAmateur boxing
Achievements and titles
National finalsWelterweight champion (1937, 1938, 1939)

Arthur John "Darcy" Heeney (22 April 1916 – 19 December 1941) was a New Zealand boxer, who won a silver medal for his country at the 1938 British Empire Games. He died during World War II, when the ship in which he was serving, HMS Neptune, struck enemy mines off the coast of Libya.

Early life and family[edit]

Born in Gisborne on 22 April 1916, Heeney was the son of John Henry Heeney and Marguerite Violet Kohi Heeney (née White).[1][2] He was of Irish and Māori descent, affiliating to the Ngāti Awa iwi.[2] Heeney's father won the New Zealand amateur welterweight boxing title in 1914, and later fought as a professional, while his uncle, Tom Heeney, unsuccessfully challenged Gene Tunney for the world heavyweight title in 1928.[2]

Darcy Heeney was educated St Mary's and Marist Brothers schools in Gisborne, before completing his secondary education at Sacred Heart College, Auckland.[2] He gained the soubriquet "Darcy" at a young age, after the Australian boxer Les Darcy.[2]


As a boxer, Heeney was trained by his father and Sam Bardwell.[2] He won the national amateur welterweight title in 1937, 1938, and 1939,[3] becoming the first amateur fighter in New Zealand to defend his title twice consecutively.[2]

Having won the New Zealand title in 1937, Heeney was selected to represent New Zealand in the welterweight division at the 1938 British Empire Games in Sydney.[4] He reached the final, but lost on points to the Australian fighter, Bill Smith.[5]

By February 1940, when Heeney enlisted in the Royal Navy, he had had 27 wins and five losses in his 32 amateur fights.[6]

Other sports[edit]

Heeney was an accomplished rugby union player, and captained the Poverty Bay Colts team from halfback.[6] In 1938 and 1939, he captained the Marist club team,[7] winning the Poverty Bay senior championship in 1939.[2] Heeney was described as an "all-round field athlete and swimmer",[8] and "useful cyclist".[9]

World War II service and death[edit]

Following his enlistment in the Royal Navy in February 1940, Heeney traveled to England and qualified as an engine room artificer,[10] before serving in destroyers.[11] In early 1941, he transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal,[9] and later that year to the cruiser HMS Neptune.[12] He was killed in action on 19 December 1941 when the Neptune struck four mines about 20 miles from Tripoli.[13]


In 2014, Heeney was inducted into the Sport Gisborne Legends of Sport hall of fame.[2]


  1. ^ "Birth search: registration number 1916/12685". Births, deaths & marriages online. Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Darcy Heeney". Sport Gisborne. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  3. ^ "New Zealand amateur boxing champions". Boxing New Zealand. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  4. ^ "N.Z. boxing team for Empire Games". Northern Advocate. 30 November 1937. p. 3. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Boxing: Heeney puts up good fight". Northern Advocate. 11 February 1938. p. 6. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Champion boxer: Darcy Heeney enlists". New Zealand Herald. 5 February 1940. p. 3. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Boxer joining the navy". New Zealand Herald. 9 March 1940. p. 11. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  8. ^ "Noted athlete missing". Auckland Star. 31 December 1941. p. 8. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b "The field of sport". Evening Star. 11 March 1941. p. 11. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Round of sport". Evening Post. 27 July 1940. p. 15. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Daring destroyers". Patea Mail. 26 March 1941. p. 2. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Bardia shelled". New Zealand Herald. 17 November 1941. p. 8. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Arthur John D'Arcy Heeney". Online Cenotaph. Auckland War Memorial Museum. Retrieved 29 April 2018.