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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upon retirement, he performed some voluntary work for Meals On Wheels. Soon afterwards, he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer.
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.
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.
10 thoughts on “Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn”
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.
DUNN, CHARLES ARTHUR
Date of Birth
7 Jun 1922
Place of Birth
Date of Enlistment
25 Jul 1942
Locality on Enlistment
SOUTH LISMORE, NSW
Place of Enlistment
Next of Kin
Date of Discharge
16 Nov 1944
Posting at Discharge
INF RETS N G FORCE
WW2 Honours and Gallantry
None for display
Prisoner of War
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
These records relate to this page http://jamesobrien.id.au/genealogy/charles-dunn-and-bertha-rixon/
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.
Margaret & Lyle Cooper
220.127.116.11.1.2.1 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.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Margaret O’Brien married Ray Hyland.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 Gloria O’Brien married John Pepper.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Nancy O’Brien married Alf Keaton.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Lynette O’Brien married Jack Bobbin
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 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.
Hello Margaret, will reply to you via email including a better quality image for use. James
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.
Great to hear from you. Hope all’s well.
I hate to push – but am doing final edits for the book – can you email me a better quality image
Hi Margaret, there’s a higher resolution image on the site, plus I have just emailed the image to you again. James
I believe that my mother is the theresa O’brien that is commented in this website
Please write back