Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn

Albert Bernard O’Brien

Albert Bernard O’Brien, known as “Johnny O’Brien,” was born on September 12, 1917, in Ettrick near Kyogle, New South Wales, as the youngest son of James Joseph O’Brien and Lena Noonan. His parents were share farmers who had moved from the NSW South Coast around 1908, and the family frequently moved around due to his father’s liking for alcohol. They lived at various locations, including Boorie Creek near Lismore and Upper Mongogarie near Kyogle, until they settled in a house at 21 Kyogle Street, South Lismore, around 1935/1936, which remained in the O’Brien family for the next 50 years.

Johnny worked in various labouring jobs, including at the Broadwater Sugar Mill, during his early working life. It is evident that he was a hardworking individual despite the challenges his family faced with their frequent relocations.

During this time, Johnny met and married Bertha Ann Dunn, who was also known as “Betty” or “Toby.” According to family history, he initially dated Bertha’s sister, Eunice, which is how they met.

Albert Bernard O'Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn
Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn, Bertha’s sister Eunice is on the left.

Bertha Ann Dunn

Bertha Ann Dunn, also known as “Betty” or “Toby,” was born on February 7, 1922, in Bombala, New South Wales, as the eldest child of Charles Henry Dunn and Bertha Rixon. Her father, who fought in the First World War, worked as a linesman for the Post Master General in various locations, including Orange, NSW.

One of Bertha’s earliest memories, as she recounted to her family, was seeing snow on the ground.

Baptism Certificate for Bertha Ann Dunn
Baptism Certificate for Bertha Ann Dunn

In the mid-1930s, Bertha’s parents had moved to Lismore on the New South Wales North Coast. According to electoral rolls, they resided at different locations in the area, including 37 High Street, Lismore Heights, 8 Baillie Street, North Lismore, and Ballina Street, East Lismore, before finally settling at 13 Union Street, South Lismore, near the railway viaduct, in approximately 1941.


Albert Bernard O’Brien, known as “Johnny O’Brien,” and Bertha Ann Dunn met and married, raising a family of four daughters and one son. Their children were Margaret (1940-2015), Gloria (1944-2010), Nancy (1945-2021), Lynette (1948-), and James (1965-). Sadly, they also experienced the loss of a stillborn child, Joan Kathleen O’Brien, who passed away on July 9, 1953 (21816/1953) and was buried in an unmarked grave in the East Lismore Cemetery. As noted on the Lismore City Council website, it was common practice to bury stillborn babies in unmarked graves.

Albert and Bertha lived in the O’Brien family home at 21 Kyogle Street, South Lismore, where Albert’s mother, Lena, also resided until closer to her death in 1953.

1954 Lismore Flood

There are many fascinating family stories, particularly related to floods. One of the most vivid anecdotes is about the 1954 flood. During this time, the entire family, including Bertha’s mother, took refuge in the low-set house’s roof as floodwaters surged below. This was before the State Emergency Service was established, so individuals had to fend for themselves. To escape the rising water, my mum and grandmother sat on chairs on the kitchen table until the waters forced them to seek higher ground. However, they soon discovered that my overweight grandmother couldn’t fit through the manhole to the roof. To solve this problem, they took a saw to the manhole and enlarged it, allowing my grandmother to get through. For almost a week, my parents, my uncle, my four sisters, and my granny stayed in the roof of our house while the floodwaters swirled below.

During the 1954 flood, Lismore was genuinely cut off from the outside world. According to a media release issued by Telstra a few years ago, my Uncle Alf was recognized as “Bigpond’s Oldest Customer” because, during the 1954 Lismore flood, he provided the only communication to the outside world for telegraphs, police, and councils.

Bertha Ann Dunn and Uncle Barney Rixon, presumably in the 1950s


In 1959, Bertha’s mother, Bertha Rixon, and her brother Leslie John, a wardsman at St Vincent’s Hospital, moved into the family home on Kyogle Street. By the mid-1960s, three of their daughters had married and moved away. Margaret relocated to Sydney, then Hong Kong, and finally Brisbane due to her husband’s job in the army. Gloria moved to Brisbane and later got married, while Nancy had stints of living in both Sydney and Brisbane.

On November 9, 1965, Bertha and Albert welcomed their last child, James Charles John – that’s me – into the world.

1968 Gloria’s Wedding: Margaret, Gloria, Nancy and Lynette, with Young Margaret in front.
James Charles John O’Brien and Albert Bernard O’Brien at 21 Kyogle Street, South Lismore.
Bertha O’Brien (Dunn), James O’Brien, Bertha Dunn (Rixon) at Lismore Show, 1960s.
Albert O'Brien, Bertha Dunn, Bertha Rixon 1968
Albert O’Brien, Bertha Dunn, Bertha Rixon 1968


In the early 1970s, the land at 21 Kyogle Street was sold to make way for the establishment of a “weigh bridge”, and so the house was relocated to 195 Casino Street, South Lismore. The house was also “raised” to avoid further risk of flood.

In 1970, to make way for a weigh-bridge in Kyogle Street, the house was relocated to 195 Casino Street, South Lismore.
Albert O'Brien, Bertha Dunn, Nancy O'Brien 1973
Albert O’Brien, Bertha Dunn, Nancy O’Brien 1973

There is another unforgettable family moment that involves the 1974 flood, where the family, along with others, was stranded for several days. Unlike the 1954 flood, the water did not enter the house this time. I vividly remember that it was a Sunday night when South Lismore was flooded. Although my father must have anticipated the levee bank’s failure, which was expected to be disastrous, we spent most of Sunday afternoon securing things beneath the house. We raised the washing machine three or four feet off the ground and moved the family car to the higher block of land next door. With everything secure, we went back upstairs and sat to watch our usual Sunday night tradition, “Disneyland”. By the end of the program, our house was surrounded by almost six feet of water. Needless to say, both the washing machine and the family car were submerged in water.

The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.
The flood markers of South Lismore, not far from where my sisters both live.

As our house was elevated on stilts, we were fortunate to avoid flooding during the 1974 flood. However, our neighbours, the Jobsons, who lived across the street, had to be evacuated in the middle of the night. The floodwaters surrounded our house for several days, and once the waters receded, we walked around the neighbourhood to check on our family and friends. In those days, telephones were not yet a household staple, and communication was limited. We were particularly concerned about my sister Pat and her infant child, who lived opposite a fuel depot. She told us about her fears during the night as she heard the floating fuel drums banging into each other while her husband was out volunteering for the State Emergency Service.

After checking on our loved ones, we walked across the Ballina Street Bridge to survey the damage in the CBD. Before the levee bank was built, many families, including Aboriginal families, lived along the riverbank. From the bridge, we saw the water rushing rapidly, carrying livestock with it. I distinctly remember a distressed cow mooing mournfully as it floated underneath our feet.

1975 family photograph in the front yard of 195 Casino Street, South Lismore
1975 family photograph in the front yard of 195 Casino Street, South Lismore. Michelle, Patsy holding Karran, Margaret, Julie, David, Peter, Jimmy, Johnny, Sharran, Nancy


I’m not exactly sure how long Albert worked as a plumber at the Lismore Base Hospital. In 1981 however, due to ill-health, he was forced to retire medically unfit.

Dad worked at Lismore Base Hospital for many years. Boiler attendants certificate

Upon retirement, he performed some voluntary work for Meals On Wheels. Soon afterwards, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer.

Bertha Ann Dunn and Albert Bernard O'Brien 1982
Bertha Ann Dunn and Albert Bernard O’Brien 1982

For the final twelve months of his life, he was weak and spent a great deal of time in bed. He spent almost all of the last month of his life in hospital. In the early hours of the morning of June 22, 1982, he suffered a stroke which caused his death . The indirect causes were Multiple Myeloma, Cachexia and Cerebral Atrophy . He was buried on June 24 at the Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah. The funeral announcement appeared in “The Northern Star” on June 23 and 24, 1982.

O’BRIEN – The funeral of Mr. Albert Bernard “Johnny” O’Brien, beloved husabnd of Mrs. Betty O’Brien of 195 Casino Street, South Lismore, loved father and father in law of Margaret and Ray Hyland (Brisbane), Gloria and John Pepper (Brisbane), Nancy and Alf Keaton, Lynette and Jack Bobbin and James (all of South Lismore) and fond Granded of their children, loved son-in-law of Mrs. Bertha Dunn, loved brother of Meg (Mrs Alf Webb) (Lismore) and Bib (Mrs. Brown, Brisbane), loved brother-in-law of Arthur and Francis and John Dunn, Joan and Don Connor and Edna and Ossie Ianna, will leave Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, South Lismore TOMORROW (THURSDAY) after prayers commencing at 12 noon for the City of Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Goonallebah. WILLIAM RILEY & SON, FUNERAL DIRECTORS, AFDA Member Ph 212237

For the next two years, however, Betty suffered increasing ill-health due to a combination of heart disease and asthma. She died from a heart-attack on November 7, 1984 at about eight o’clock in the morning, with attempts at revival unsuccessful. She was buried the next day at the Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah.

O’BRIEN, BERTHA ANN – “Betty” – At Lismore November 7, 1984, late of 195 Casino Street, South Lismore, widow of the late Albert Bernard “John” O’Brien, loved mother and mother-in-law of Ray and Margaret Hyland, Gloria and John Pepper (all of Brisbane), Nancy and Alf Keaton, Pat and Jack Bobbin and James (all of Lismore) and loved grandmother and great grandmother of their children, loved daughter of Mrs. Bertha Dunn (Lismore), loved sister and sister in law of Edna and Ossy Ianna, Joan and Con Connor, Arthur and Frances Dunn, John Dunn and Eunice (dec.) and Len Adams. Relatives and friends are invited to attend her funerla which will leave Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, South Lismore, TODAY (THURSDAY) after prayers commencing at 11.45am for the City of Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Goonallebah. WILLIAM RILEY & SON, FUNERAL DIRECTORS, AFDA Member Ph 212237

10 thoughts on “Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn

  1. Hi James,

    Re: Charles Arthur Dunn (known as Arthur) was born in 1923.
    I found Service record in WWII Nominal Roll where Charles served in New Guinea and noted his birthdate in 1922.

    Service Record
    Australian Army
    Service Number
    NX110023 (N166292)
    Date of Birth
    7 Jun 1922
    Place of Birth
    Date of Enlistment
    25 Jul 1942
    Locality on Enlistment
    Place of Enlistment

    Next of Kin
    Date of Discharge
    16 Nov 1944
    Posting at Discharge
    WW2 Honours and Gallantry
    None for display

    Prisoner of War

    1. Thanks Judy for the info. It kinda complicates the info re their marriage date (confirmed), birthdate of first child (needs re-confirming) and his birthdate. Another mystery to be solved. James

  2. Hi James
    I am still plodding on with my story of the Descendants and Associated families of John and Martha Love for the reunion next year. I now have an ISBN no and have chosen a printer to do the job. Still lots of editing to do.
    Would you approve/edit the following please. Also could I use the photo of the wedding of Albert and Bertha for the book. If so, can you send please.
    Registration form for the reunion will be sent ou in January.
    kind regards
    Margaret & Lyle Cooper Bertha (Betty) Ann Dunn born Bombala on 7/2/1922 and died Lismore on 7/11/1984. She married Albert (Johnny) Bernard O’Brien in Lismore in 1943 and had five children. Albert was born Kyogle on 12/12/1917 (a twin whose sister died after birth) and died Lismore on 22/6/1982, youngest son of James Joseph O’Brien and Lena Noonan. Margaret O’Brien married Ray Hyland. Gloria O’Brien married John Pepper. Nancy O’Brien married Alf Keaton. Lynette O’Brien married Jack Bobbin James Charles John O’Brien born in 1965.
    O’BRIEN (James O’Brien website) – It is thought the first James O’Brien to Australia came from Ireland with his wife Mary Ann Smith and eight children enroute to the Darling Downs in Qld. Apparently as the ship Great Victoria approached Port Phillip Bay on 8/9/1864 it was discovered their daughter Ellen had Typhus. She was put off the ship and sent to the Quarantine Station at Portsea. Reportedly they stayed in Melbourne until she recovered and in early 1865 travelled by boat to Eden and then by bullock dray to ‘Kameruka’, Candelo where they settled with his wife Mary’s brother, Bernard Smith at Wollumla. James worked in the area and eventually selected 200 acres (81 ha) near Bembooka called ‘Slane Park’ (Kirby’s). Over a period of 20 years he increased the dairy farm holding to 800 acres (324ha). James died on 17/5/1894 and Mary in 1911.

    1. Hi James there is a lot of Charle’s in the family .
      have leant a lot I didn’t know, remember a lot of the old house both of them.
      Saturday Race Day the highlight (NOT.)
      All the best, Peter Charles.

  3. Hi James
    I hate to push – but am doing final edits for the book – can you email me a better quality image

  4. Hi James
    I believe that my mother is the theresa O’brien that is commented in this website
    Please write back

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