Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn

Albert Bernard O’Brien

The youngest son of James Joseph O’Brien and Lena Noonan, Albert Bernard O’Brien (known as “Johnny O’Brien) was on September 12, 1917. At the time of the birth of Albert (and his twin-sister Annie who died at or soon after birth) (13582/1917), his parents were living at Ettrick, near Kyogle, NSW.

His parents were share-farmers who had moved from the NSW South Coast in about 1908. It’s said the father, James (known as “Jock”) “liked a drink or two” and the family moved around a great deal. They continued to farm at Ettrick until the early 1920s, but over the next ten years, the family also lived at Boorie Creek, near Lismore and at Upper Mongogarie, near Kyogle. A more permanent base came in about 1935/1936, when the family moved into a house at 21 Kyogle Street, South Lismore which remained in the O’Brien Family for the next 50 years.

In his early working life, Johnny worked in a number of labouring jobs, including at the Broadwater Sugar Mill. At about this time, he met and married Bertha Ann Dunn (also known as “Betty” or “Toby”). According to anecdotal family history, he was initially dating Bertha’s sister, Eunice, and that’s 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 was born at Bombala on February 7, 1922, the eldest child of Charles Henry Dunn and Bertha Rixon. Having fought in the First World War, Charles worked as a linesman for the Post Master General in a number of locations, including Orange, NSW. Mum told me once, one of her earliest memories was seeing snow on the ground.

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

By the mid-30s, her parents were were living at Lismore on the NSW North Coast. According to the electoral roles, they lived at 37 High Street, Lismore Heights, 8 Baillie Street, North Lismore, and in Ballina Street, East Lismore, before finally settling at 13 Union Street, South Lismore (close to the railway viaduct) in about 1941.


Albert and Bertha met, married and raised a family of four daughters and one son: Margaret (1940-2015), Gloria (1944-2010), Nancy (1945-), Lynette (1948-) and James (1965-). They also had a still-born child, Joan Kathleen O’Brien who died July 9, 1953 (21816/1953) and who is buried in the East Lismore Cemetery in an unmarked grave. A document on the Lismore City Council website notes, “In times past, it was customary that babies who were stillborn were buried in unmarked graves.”.

Albert and Bertha lived in the O’Brien Family home at 21 Kyogle Street, South Lismore, and Albert’s mother, Lena, continued to live with them until closer to her death in 1953.

1954 Lismore Flood

There are many family anecdotes relating, in particular, to floods. One of the most memorable family anecdotes concerns the 1954 flood. The story goes the broader family, including Bertha’s mother spent a few days living in the roof of the low-set house with flood waters underneath. In the days prior to the establishment of the State Emergency Service, individuals had to look after themselves. Famously, mum and my granny sat on chairs on the kitchen table until the rising waters forced them into the ceiling. When they soon realised my overweight granny couldn’t squeeze through the manhole, they took a saw to the man-hole to allow her through. Thus, my mum, my dad, my granny, my uncle and my four sister spent close to a week living in the roof-top of our house, with flood-waters swirling just below them.

It’s hard to imagine such a thing occurring today. But at the time Lismore was a genuinely isolated locality. A media release issued by Telstra a couple of years ago, recognising my Uncle Alf as “Bigpond’s Oldest Customer, notes that during the 1954 Lismore flood he provided the only communication to the outside for telegraphs, police and councils.

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


In about 1959, Bertha’s mother, Bertha Rixon and brother, Leslie John (a wardsman at St Vincent’s Hospital) moved into the house with them at Kyogle Street.By the mid 1960s, their daughters had begun to marry and three of the daughters and three of the four moved away for a period of time. Margaret moved to Sydney, Hong Kong and then Brisbane (because of her husband’s job in the army), Gloria moved to Brisbane and later married; and Nancy had periods of living in both Sydney and Brisbane.On November 9 1965, another child, James Charles John – that’s me – arrived on the scene.

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

Nonentheless, another memorable family moment concerns the 1974 flood where the family remained isolated, along with others, for several days. Water didn’t enter the house this time, though, as it did in 1954. As I recall it was a Sunday night when South Lismore flooded. Although due to an expected failure in the levee bank, dad must have known something terrible was going to happen, as we spent much of Sunday afternoon securing things underneath the house. The washing machine was raised three or four feet off the ground and the family car had been moved to the higher block of land next door. With everything secure, we came back upstairs and sat to watch “Disneyland”, as was the Sunday night family tradition. By the end of Disneyland our house was surrounded by almost six feet of water. Needless to say, both the washing machine and the family car were covered 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 on stilts, we avoided inundation this time. The people who lived across the road, however, the Jobsons (their daughter Wendy was in my year at school) were evacuated in the middle of the night. The flood-waters surrounded our house for three of four days, as I recall. When they finally subsided we were able to walk around the neighbourhood to visit family and friends to see how they had fared. These were the days before telephones were common in households, and communication was therefore limited. In particular, there was concern about how my sister, Pat had fared with her infant child. A she lived opposite a fuel depot (she still does), she told us of her late night fears (while her husband was out volunteering for the State Emergency Service) as she heard the floating fuel drums smash against each other.From there we walked across the Ballina Street Bridge to see how people who lived in the CBD had fared. Long before the establishment of the levy-bank there were a number of families living on the riverbank, many of them Aboriginal. Standing on the bridge we were able to look down to see the water just a dozen feet or so beneath our feet. Rushing rapidly, and carrying livestock with it, I remember, in particular, seeing a distressed cow mournfully mooing 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 responses to “Albert Bernard O’Brien and Bertha Ann Dunn”

  1. Judy Richards Avatar
    Judy Richards

    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. James Avatar

      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. Margaret Cooper Avatar
    Margaret Cooper

    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. James O'Brien Avatar

      Hello Margaret, will reply to you via email including a better quality image for use. James

    2. Peter Dunn Avatar
      Peter Dunn

      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.

      1. James O'Brien Avatar

        Hi Peter,
        Great to hear from you. Hope all’s well.

  3. Margaret Cooper Avatar
    Margaret Cooper

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

    1. James O'Brien Avatar

      Hi Margaret, there’s a higher resolution image on the site, plus I have just emailed the image to you again. James

  4. Chelsey Anderson Avatar
    Chelsey Anderson

    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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