There is limited information available about James O’Brien’s early life. According to his death certificate, his parents were Luke O’Brien and Kate Jurett (possibly spelled Jarrett). The certificate also indicates that James was previously married to Mary Ann McGorrist, with the wedding taking place in Southern Ireland, and that their marriage lasted for twenty-five years.
Mary Ann Smith
James O’Brien’s second marriage to Mary Ann Smith, daughter of farmers John Smith and Ellen O’Reilly, lasted thirty-four years. Researcher (Gus) Barry O’Brien suggests that the first five children may have been from James’s first marriage to Mary Ann McGorrist, which took place in “Southern Ireland” and lasted for twenty-five years.
Prior to their arrival in Australia, James and his family resided in the small village of Knockerk near Slane, County Meath, Ireland. According to Griffiths Valuation in 1851, James was both a landowner and a renter. The records also indicate a close association between James O’Brien and the Willens Family, which is further supported by 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 of 14 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.
Descendary and Researcher, Janice Dunning notes the following.
I have been been researching the family history on Ancestry.com.au (whilst having regard to your information and that of Barry O’Brien and Kevin Maddern. According to Ancestry records.
Mary (no Ann) recorded McGorisk was born in 1812 and baptised 1812 at Kelsaran Louth Ireland. Place of residence on this certificate is Kelsaran Louth and her parents are recorded as Patrick McGorisk and Anne Waters. James and Mary were married in 1832.
Her death certificate states that she died on 30 August 1837. This information is registered in the parish of Nobber in County Meath. Therefore the marriage was 5 years duration. I have not found my records of children boring to this union although it is possible that there were. In 1841 James (according to Ancestry ) married Mary Ann Smith. The census in 1851 has the family living in Knockerk and confirms James a property owner who both farmed and rented land. The children that I could find birth certificates for (registered by the father) most certainly belong to James and Mary Ann as they were born after this marriage. Ellen 1847, Luke 1851,Eliza 1853, John 1856, Catherine 1859, Mary 1861 and Patrick 1862. I can’t comment on the validity of the information other than I have documents in my Ancestry tree to support what I have told you.
Coming to Australia
It is difficult to determine the exact reasons why James, Mary, and their children decided to leave Ireland and move to Australia. However, it is believed that the decision was likely influenced by a combination of factors such as the devastating economic effects of the potato famine and the lure of opportunities available in Australia. Additionally, Mary had a brother named Bernard who had already emigrated to Australia in the 1830s, which may have also played a role in their decision.
The family embarked on their journey to Australia from Liverpool, England, aboard the clipper ship named “Great Victoria.” The ship arrived in Melbourne on September 8, 1864, marking the start of their new life in a new country.
It is believed that James and Mary Ann had originally purchased tickets to travel from Ireland to the Darling Downs. However, as the ship “Great Victoria” rounded South Australia and approached Port Phillip Bay, it was discovered that their daughter Ellen had contracted Typhus. The conditions on board the ship were likely a contributing factor to her illness. Ellen was subsequently disembarked from the ship and sent to the Quarantine Station at Portsea, located at the head of Port Phillip Bay. James and Mary Ann stayed in Melbourne until Ellen had recovered.
Settling on the NSW South Coast
After settling at Wollumla, James O’Brien found work as a shepherd for John Ritchie before eventually selecting his own land near Bembooka, which he named Slane Park. Initially, the property covered 200 acres, but over time, James expanded it to 800 acres, focusing on dairy farming. He dedicated over two decades to building and improving the farm.
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…
Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser (NSW : 1865 – 1899), Saturday 24 June 1882, page 2. 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 comment 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.
Death of James O’Brien
Senility afflicted James in the final three years of his life. He died on May 17, 1894 and was buried two days later.
Death of Mary Ann Smith
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. At the age of 18, he left Ireland on September 5, 1864, along with his parents and siblings on the “Great Victoria” and arrived in Melbourne on November 29, 1864. When he was 23 years old, he met and married Mary Ann Goward, the daughter of James and Mary Ann. Although Mary Ann was only 15 years old, she soon became pregnant with their first child, James Joseph. At the time of their marriage on October 2, 1870 (Reference: 1870/2194), Peter was working as a “Labourer” at Tantawangalo, while Mary Ann was working as a “Dairy Maid” at Lithgow Flat. They raised a large family in the Bega district. Peter was reportedly a “noted wrestler in the district,” according to Mary Ann’s newspaper obituary.
Peter O’Brien died at Candelo on October 6, 1897, after a one-year illness with Phibesis, possibly related to heart disease. (Death Certificate 1897/11322) He was buried the following day. Mary Ann died at Orchard Farm, Candelo, after a three-year illness with Chronic Congestive Heart Disease (Mitral Insufficiency) at the age of 77 on September 22, 1932. 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. She later met Thomas Branigan from Bulla, Victoria and they got married on August 1, 1876 in the Catholic Church at Keilor. According to the Hume Shire website, Thomas was the son of Thomas Branigan and Mary Anne Stanleke. After their marriage, Thomas and Ellen lived for many years at St. John’s Hill in the Bulla District. When Thomas’ mother passed away, his eldest brother was farming at Strathmerton, which was a newly opened area for selection at the time, located on the lower Goulburn.
* Edward O’Brien was born on 1 May 1853.
Luke O’Brien, born in 1853 in Ireland, married Annie Moran in 1884 in Bega. Annie, born in 1864 at Eden, NSW, bore them five children: William Thomas O’Brien (born in 1885 in Bega), Mary Ellen O’Brien (born in 1887 in Bega), Theresa Ann O’Brien (born in 1888 in Bega), James O’Brien (born in 1889 in Lytteton, NSW), John Joseph O’Brien (born in 1890 in Lytteton, NSW), and Francis Leo O’Brien (born in 1892 in Candelo, NSW). Luke and Annie made their home for many years at Moran’s Crossing near Bega. Luke was a local horse trainer and several stories about him are included 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.
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, a native of Ireland, was born on May 5th, 1855. Further details about his life, such as his occupation, family, or notable accomplishments, are not clear in my research.
Catherine O’Brien, born on 18 Jul 1857, married David Collins. Additional information about Catherine and David was obtained from researcher Fran Firth from the Blue Mountains.
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 March 7, 1860. It appears that Mary never married and instead dedicated herself to caring for her mother in her later years. Although it has not been definitively confirmed, it is believed that Mary passed away in Bega in 1932 (13543/1932).
Patrick O’Brien born on July 6, 1862 in Slane, Ireland, married Agnes Moran on October 28, 1889 in Bega (4482/1889). Their children were born in different places across the Bega District, including Annie (born in Bega in 1890), Mary Aileen (born in Bemboka in 1894), Bernard Eugene (born in Bemboka in 1896), Agnes Maud (born in Bega in 1900), Patrick (born in Bega in 1903), and Ruby (born in Lyttleton in 1902). It is believed that they lived in various locations such as Bega, Lyttleton, and Bemboka. Patrick passed away, and his death was reported in The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933-1954) on Wednesday, October 16, 1935, page 4. Additionally, a photograph of his and his wife’s graves is 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 on 5 April 1882 in Petersham (2193/1882). According to her mother’s death notice, Eliza lived at Yourie, near Cobargo. Eliza passed away in Bega in 1912 (9515/1912).
The death certificate for James O’Brien records his first marriage, but this information remains unconfirmed. However, a search for the name “McGorrist” in Louth, Ireland, where James was born, did not yield any results. Instead, an alternative spelling of the name, “McGorisk,” was found in historical records, including the names James and Thomas McGorisk. Thomas lived in Upper Dundalk, part of Louth, according to the 1842 electoral roll, and was listed at Drumcashel on the 1855 Ardee Convent Subscription Fund. James McGorisk is listed on the Louth Parish Church Subscription Fund 1890.
It is possible that McGorisk is the correct spelling of the name and that James may have been married to someone with this surname prior to his marriage to Bridget Clarke. Further research is necessary to confirm this information. The name McGorisk also appears in relation to several businesses in Athlone (Westmeath), which is interesting to note. Any additional information or insights into the story of James O’Brien’s first marriage in 1831 would be appreciated.
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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