Not much is known of the early life of James O’Brien’s early life, as there are only small amounts of information contained on his death certificate. The death certificate notes his parents were were Luke O’Brien and Kate Jurett. The certificate also notes his first marriage was to Mary Ann McGorrist (spelling?), took place in “Southern Ireland” and lasted twenty-five years. His second marriage, to Mary Ann Smith (the eldest daughter of farmers, John Smith and Ellen O’Reilly, lasted thirty-four years. Long-time O’Brien researcher, (Gus) Barry O’Brien believes the first five children may have been from the first marriage.
Before coming to Australia, James and his family were living in a small village, Knockerk near Slane, County Meath, Ireland. According to Griffiths Valuation 1851, James was both a landowner and a renter. Griffiths also records a strong connection between James O’Brien and the Willens Family, as does a gravestone inscription listed on the website of the Slane Historical Society.
According to this online reference, James was renting land to Laurence Timmons
In 1855, Laurence Timmons is the occupier of14 acres of land in Knockerk. Laurence was renting the land from a Mr. James O’Brien. In 1861, the occupancy of this farm passed from Laurence to his son James (29), suggesting Laurence had passed away. Around the same time, James O’Brien sold the land to a Captain Leslie.
It’s difficult to know for sure why they left Ireland to move to Australia, though it was presumably a combination of the economic devastation caused by the potato famine, and that Mary had a brother, Bernard who had moved to Australia in the 1830s. James, Mary and their children travelled to Australia from Liverpool, England, on the clipper ship, “Great Victoria” arriving in Melbourne on September 8, 1864
It is understood James and Mary Ann purchased tickets from Ireland to the Darling Downs, but as the ship “rounded South Australia and approached Port Phillip Bay it was discovered their daughter, Ellen had contracted the disease, Typhus. Undoubtedly conditions on the ship would have contributed to her contracting the disease. She was reportedly put off the ship and sent to the Quarantine Station at Portsea (at the head of Port Phillip Bay)”. They stayed in Melbourne until Ellen recovered.
Several months later they travelled by boat to Eden, NSW and then, by bullock dray to Kameruka, near Candelo (via Bega) on the NSW South Coast, where they settled with Mary’s brother, Bernard Smith at Wollumla. At first, James worked as a Shepherd for John Ritchie. After three or four years James selected 200 acres near Bembooka, naming the property, Slane Park. Over twenty years, he increased the holding to 800 acres and he carried on dairy farming.
As reported in The Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser (NSW : 1865 – 1899), Saturday 24 June 1882, page 2, James, Mary and their son John appeared in court on the following…
TUESDAY, 27th June, 1882. (Before J. Davis. Esq., P.M.)
Arthur Thomas Batfield, Johu Haddigadi, and Johu M’Grath were charged with using obscene language, and were each fined 10s. and 3s. 2d. costs. William Allen, who was remanded last week, on a charge of obtaining goods on false pretences, was again brought up. Senior-Constable Smythe, of Candelo, on being examined, deposed that when he arrested the prisoner on Monday, 12th June, he was going in the wrong direction for O’Brien’s house, which was about 9 miles from Candelo.
L. C. Lynch, assistant to Cook & Co., store keepers of Candelo, tleposed that prisoner came to the store on Monday, 12th June last, and represented that he had been sent by Mr. James O’Brien *to get a pair-of boots find a pound of biscuits; the biscuits were said to be for Miss O’Brien, who was sick, and a riding whip and pair of tweed trousers for John O’Brien, son of James O’Brien, of Tantawanglo. Knew that prisoner was in the employ of O’Brien, as he had previously supplied him with a pair of boots for Miss O’Brien. Gave him the boots on the strength of his representation, and charged them to O’Brien’s account. It was about 1 o’clock when prisoner came to the store I identify the goods now produced by the firm’s private mark. • James O’Brien deposed that he resided at Tantawanglo. Knew the prisoner. He came to me from Sydney about 9 weeks’agb. My wife was in the habit of sending prisoner to Cook’s store for goods, with an order. Prisoner left my employ, on Monday, 12th June, I did not authorise him to get goods in my name. Went to Candelo on that day, and heard something which led me to report to Senior-constable Smythe
The prisoner asked witness if he was sure it was only nine weeks since he came from Sydney. Witness thought it was. [The unfortunate youth then broke down, and the tears fell fast from his eyes in unmistakable drops.]
Mrs. O’Brien, wife of previous witness, knew that prisoner was discharged from her husband’s employ on the 12th June. Used to send him to the store for goods, but did not authorise him to go for the goods produced.
The prisoner asked this witness if she did not authorise him to get the goods ?
Witness: ” No, I did not.”
John O’Brien deposed that he resided at Tantawanglo, sometimes with his father. Did not authorise prisoner to get any goods in his name. Had not seen prisoner for a fortnight.
This closed the case, when the magistate said that the case must go to a jury, as he had not the power to deal with it himself. The prisoner was therefore committed for trial.
To date, I haven’t been able to find a report of the trial, so hoping if you have one you might commnt below with details.
In the mid 1880s, James and Mary returned to Ireland, where, reportedly, one or more of her brothers were dying. After staying there for five months, they returned to Bemboka.
Senility afflicted James in the final three years of his life. He died on May 17, 1894 and was buried two days later. After his death, Mary and her daughter moved into Bega where Mary remained until her death on Saturday, December 9, 1911 (13685/1911).
DEATH OF A NONAGENARIAN: On Saturday night there passed peacefully away at her residence, Gipps Street, Mrs James O’Brien at the great age of 93 years. Her illness was only of short duration, the old lady sustaining a fall about a fortnight ago. Prior to that she enjoyed good health, and retained a wonderful memory to the last.
Born in Ireland, she married in County Kavan, at the age of 18 years. Eight children, four boys and four girls were the issue of the union, and the family emigrated to Australia when the youngest was two years old, landing in Melbourne on 26th January, 1865.
After 12 months spent in Victoria they came to NSW, landing at Eden, and travelling to Wolumla by bullock dray. Mr O’Brien settled down at Kameruka, where he was employed as a shepherd by Mr. John Ritchie. After three or four years he selected Slane Park, now Kirby’s.
Almost 27 years ago this property was sold, and Mrs and Mrs O’Brien and their son and daughter, Mary and Jack, made a trip home to Ireland, where Mrs O’Brien (whose maiden name was Smith) had two brother priests. They remained in Ireland (about 12 months) till one of the brothers died, and once more sailed for Australia. They bought a property at Cooper’s Gully, and resided there till Mr O’Brien died 17 years ago. Mrs O’Brien ultimately took up her residence in Bega, and during the latter end of her days, was cared for by her daughter, Mary.
The deceased have lived through the reign of four monarchs of the British Empire. The four sons were Peter (deceased), Luke (resident of Bemboka), John and Patrick (both of Queensland), the daughters being Mrs Brannigan (Victoria), Mrs Bennett (Yourie), Mrs D. Collins (Wyndham) and Mary. Mr J.J. Smith of Wolumla was a nephew of deceased.
The funeral, which took place yesterday afternoon, was largely attended, Rev. J.J. Gunning conducting the burial service.
A further newspaper report of her death Southern Star (Bega) on Wednesday 13 December 1911, page 2 adds some further detail
A very old and respected resident of the district passed away on Saturday evening, in the person of Mrs. James O’Brien, who bad resided for some time in Gipps-street. Deceased, who was in her 93rd year, had been ailing for some time. She was a native of county Cavan Irelund, and came to Australia with her husband and family of eight in 1865. Alter spending some time in Victoria, they came to this State, landing at Eden, aud travelling to Wolumla per bullock dray, which were the ‘motor cars’ of those times. They went to Katneruka, where Mr. O’Brien was employed shep herding by the late Mr. John Ritchie. Later on, Mr. O’Brien selected Slane Park, now Kirby’s. Some 20 odd years ago they sold this, and paid a visit to their native country, together with a couple of the family. Returning to Australia they bought the property at Cooper’s Gully now known as Neath’s, and there, Mr. O’Brien died some 17 years back, after which Mrs. O’Brien and her daughter Mary came to town to live. She leaves three sons— Messrs Luke, Patrick, and John, and four daughters— Mesdames Brannigan (Victoria), Beunett (Yourie), D. Collins (Wyndham), and Mary. She was attended with a true daughter’s care by the latter during her declining years. Mr J.J Smith, JP Wolumla, was a nephew of deceased. The funeral on Monday was largely attended, and the remains were interred in the R. C. portion of the old cemetery, the Rev. Father Gunning conducting the service. Mr. Pat. O’Brien, who has resided in Queensland for some years, arrived in time to see his mother alive. Mr. John O’Brien, the .third son, only arrived from Queensland yesterday, and was much distressed at being too late to see his mother.
* Peter O’Brien was born in County Meath, Ireland. Aged 18, he left Ireland on September 5, coming to Australia along with his parents and siblings on the “Great Victoria”, arriving in Melbourne on November 29, 1864. Aged 23, he met and married Mary Ann Goward, the daughter of James and Mary Ann. Although she was only fifteen, she soon fell pregnant with their frist, child, James Joseph. At the time of their marriage, on October 2, 1870 (Reference: 1870/2194), James was a “Labourer” at Tantawangalo, while Mary Ann was a “Dairy Maid” at Lithgow Flat. They raised a large family in the Bega district. Peter was reportedly a “noted wrestler in the distrct” according to the newspaper obituary for Mary Ann. After one years illness with Phibesis – possibly relating to heart disease – Peter O’Brien died at Candelo on October 6, 1897, (Death Certificate 1897/11322) and was buried the following day. After a three-year ilnness with Chronic Congestive Heart Disease (Mitral Insufficiency), Mary Ann died, aged 77, on September 22, 1932 at Orchard Farm, Candelo. She was buried the same day in the Church of England section at Wolumla Cemetery.
* Ellen O’Brien was born in 1851 in Meath,Ireland. At “Widgiewa”, she met Thomas Branigan, from Bulla, Victoria. They married in the Catholic Church at Keilor on August 1, 1876. According to information on the website of Hume Shire, Thomas was the son of Thomas Branigan and Mary Anne Stanleke. For many years, Thomas and Ellen lived at St John’s Hill in the Bulla District. At the time of the death of Thomas’ mother, eldest brother Thomas was farming at Strathmerton (on the lower Goulburn, an area not long previously opened for selection),.
* Edward O’Brien was born on 1 May 1853.
* Luke O’Brien was born in 1853 in Ireland. In 1884 at Bega, Luke married Annie Moran (who was born in 1864 at Eden, NSW). They had the following children : – William Thomas O’Brien (born in 1885 in Bega), Mary Ellen O’Brien (born in 1887 in Bega) who a married Timothy F Collins in 1921; Theresa Ann O’Brien (born in 1888 in Bega) who married Roy J H Ziegler in 1918; James O’Brien (born in 1889 in Lytteton, NSW), John Joseph O’Brien (born in 1890 in Lytteton, NSW) who married married Mary Lillian T Phillips, daughter of Joseph Phillips and Susan Momsen; and Francis Leo O’Brien (born in 1892 in Candelo, NSW). Luke and Annie lived for many years at Moran’s Crossing, near Bega.
In the book, “River Oaks, Green Willows and young Corn (a brief history of the Bega District Jockey Club)” by Ray James and Jim Gordon, there are a number of stories about local trainer, Luke O’Brien,…
Luke O’Brien was fond of a bet, and his daughter, Mrs Roy Ziegler told a story of one of Luke’s gambling adventures. In many stories of this kind, it can be difficult to separate truth from well-intentioned humour. We’ll let you decide this issue. Well, anyway, Luke set off through the bush to go to the Bredbo Cup Meeting. Bredbo was a flourishing gold mining town at this time, and it took Luke a few days to find his way through the bush and through the mountains, and the horse looked a complete wreck when they arrived. However, he had been fit before leaving Moran’s Crossing, and starting at a good price, the horse duly won the Bredbo Cup, and Luke cleaned out the bookmakers well and truly. It had taken him several days to reach Bredbo across country, but Luke returned by road, stopping at every hotel en route, and the return trip took almost a month. With no communication in those days, the family had to go looking for Luke, eventually to find that he had come to no harm. Which just goes to show, that even if racing is a bit of an adventure, there is no need to overdo things.
Luke died July 22, 1932 at North Bondi, NSW (aged 79). His wife, Annie Moran died several months later on December 24, 1932 at Bega, NSW (age 68).
* John O’Brien was born on 5 May 1855.
* Catherine O’Brien was born on 18 Jul 1857. Thanks to researcher, Fran Firth from the Blue Mountains, I have the following information about Catherine and her husband, David Collins.
David Collins married Catherine O’Brien on August 13, 1883 at the Catholic Church in Candelo. David was the eldest child of William Collins and Margaret Keys both of whom were born in Co. Tyrone Ireland. William, who had emigrated to Australia as an 18 year old with his parents and siblings, married Margaret keys in 1852, who had arrived the year earlier from Ireland. David being the oldest son took over the running of the dairy property “Greenmount” near Wyndham, and had 6 daughters and 1 son. Their children were: Mary Collins born July 6, 1885, married George Yates and lived in Randwick, Sydney; Christine Collins born November 9, 1887 married Eugene Grant; Adeline Collins born March 18 1889, who married Andrew Burg; Rachel Collins born April 21 1890 and married Michael O’Rourke; Alice Collins born October 8, 1891 and married Russell Auguston; John Collins born December 23, 1893 and married Alice Reid.
Her funeral notice which appeared in the Bega Standard also gives some information about her life.
Mrs David Collins, of “Greenmount”, “Wyndham” passed away in Pambula District Hospital on Saturday, at the age of 62 years. The late Mrs Collins, who had been ill for a long time, was highly esteemed and had a large circle of friends who will regret her death. She was formerly Miss O’Brien, sister of Mr Luke O’Brien, of Moran’s Crossing. A husband and grown up children are left to mourn their loss. The funeral was held at Wyndham on Sunday and was very largely attended. Rev. Father McNeeve of Pambula conducted the service. Manning and Sons of Bega had charge of the arrangements.
* Mary O’Brien was born on 7 Mar 1860. It appears as if Mary never married, and took care of her mother in her later years. She appears to have died at Bega in 1932 (13543/1932) though I have yet to confirm this is the correct Mary.
* Patrick O’Brien was born on 6 Jul 1862 in Slane. He married Agnes Moran on October 28, 1889 at Bega (4482/1889). The birth records for their children indicate they lived in a number of locations in the Bega District. Annie (Bega 1890), Ruby (Lyttleton 1902), Mary Aileen (1894 Bemboka), Bernard Eugene (Bemboka 1896) Agnes Maud (1900 Bega) and Patrick (1903 Bega). His death was reported in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954), Wednesday 16 October 1935, page 4, and a photograph of he and his wife’s graves are available online.
The death of Mr P. J O’Brien, of Woodford, occurred yesterday after a short illness. Mr O’Brien started his turf career in the Bega and surrounding districts, where he rode with a good deal of success being associated with the late Teddy and Eueene McGrade and with Tommy O’Keefe about 1876. He and his brother, the late Luke O’Brien, afterwards bred and raced a number of
horses, among them being Sir Ladden, Lemonwood, Desert Queen, and Reform. Mr. P. J. O’Brien about 29 years ago settled in the Woodford district. He bred Little Jewel, Billy Jewel, Retford Cooney, Bega, and All Black. These horses won many races in Brisbane and Sydney. The late Mr. O’Brien was chiefly interested in dairy farming and pig raising, and for a time kept hotels in Woodford and Maryborough. He is survived by his widow, five daughters, and a son, Mr. B. O’Brien, ‘ of Woodford. The funeral will take place at Woodford at 2 o’clock to-day.
* Eliza O’Brien married Alfred Bennett at Petersham in 1882 (2193/1882) and, according to her mother’s death notice, lived at Yourie, near Cobargo. Eliza died at Bega in 1912 (9515/1912).
* Details about the first marriage, recorded on James’ death certificate remain unconfirmed. A simple search on Google for the name McGorrist in Louth, Ireland, suggests an alternative spelling of the name “McGorisk” living at Louth in the 1800s, including the names James and Thomas McGorisk. According to the 1842 electoral roll, Thomas lived at Upper Dundalk, part of Louth. There is also a reference to Thomas McGorisk at Drumcashel on the 1855 Ardee Convent Subscription Fund. James McGorisk is listed on the Louth Parish Church Subscription Fund 1890. Since I cannot find the name McGorrist at all, it’s presumably McGorisk that we’re looking for to establish this as fact or not. The name McGorisk also appears at Dundalk Town in Thom’s Directory of Ireland, 1931 appears currently in relation to a number of businesses in Athlone (Westmeath) which, co-incidentally, I visited in 1999. Anyway, can anyone add any light on the story of a first marriage for James in 1831?
* There is a record of a personal diary kept from someone who was on board the Great Victoria when it came to Australia. I have written seeking more information about this diary.
An O’Brien Family Reunion was held at Jamberoo Hall on February 27, 2010.
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