I didn’t go to the pub tonight, as is my usual routine. And I won’t be going for the next couple of weeks either, since Swedish class has swapped to Wednesday night for the next few weeks. Instead, I stayed home and did some family history research.
There was a terrific documentary on television tonight about the female convicts brought to Australia on board the “Lady Juliana”.
Although one of the genealogists seemed at pains to believe her convict ancestor wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the court records suggested – yeah, right – it was a really interesting program, and it inspired me to go online and do some further research.
In particular, there’s a WONDERFUL archive of Australian newspapers online, thanks to the National LIbrary.
You put in a name, a place, a location, and you find all manner of things, including newspaper articles and advertisements.
For whatever reason, my family seems to turn up in the court records a fair bit.
I found this article about my dad’s brother which appeared in the SMH in 1928…
Before Mr. Justice ferguson, in the Supreme Court, two young men, John Joseph Creen, and Henry Augusta O’Brien, were charged with having, at Lismore, broken and entered the jewellery premises of Michael Phillips and stolen 12 watches, 50 bangles, and 24 rings. A plea of guilty was entered by O’Brien, but Green pleaded not guilty. The Crown Prosecutor stated that as O’Brien was an accomplice, and would be wanted to give evidence, the Crown prayed that no judgment be entered against him. His Honor (to O’Brien): You are released. After evidence had been heard, His Honor said the only direct evidence against Green was that of O’Brien, who was an accomplice. It was dangerous to take the evidence of an accomplice unless corrobated by some material evldence. The Jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and accused was discharged.
My dad’s other brother, Norman Leslie O’Brien also figures significantly for the circumstances surrounding his tragic death in 1935…
I’d previously seen some articles which mentioned the explosion which killed him at Cawongla, near LIsmore.
For example, the local newspaper The Northern Star reported…
Norman Leslie O’Brien (33) received fatal injuries at Cawongla yesterday morning when he was struck on the left side of the chest by a large piece of blue metal which was blown from a quarry about 75 yards away. Workmates who were close to O’Brien when he received the slow showed commendable bvravery in dragging the injured man under shelter while five more charges exploded in the quarry. O’Brien who lived at North Lismore was a motor lorry driver under contract to the Main Roads Department. He was employed to carry metal required on the road construction work in the Cawongla district where more than than 100 men, operating two shifts are engaged. O’Brien left his home at Lismore on Sunday and commenced work with the first shift early yesterday morning. When workemn ceased for breakfast about 9 o’clock six charges of explosive were placed in the quarry face. O’Brien had taken a billy to the open fire to obtain boiling water and was stooping over the fireplace when the first charge exploded. The force of the blue metal spun O’Brien round and his head struck the ground. His extensive injuries included a fractured shoulder and a fractured arm and lacerations to the face. A party of about 14 other workmen were nearby and, ignoring the possibility of being struck by a piece of flying metal went to O’Brien’s aid. William Campbell, who was standing a few feet away from O’Brien when he was struck said the injured man was picked up and taken behind the galley. The remaining shots went off in quick succession. O’Brien was still alive when he was placed in a lorry owned by the engineer-in-charge (Mr Steel) for transport to Kyogle. on the way to Kyogle, however, O’Brien died. In addition to a widow O’Brien is survived by one child. Known as “Sandy”, O’Brien was popular with the men employed in the Cawongla district, and it was stated yesterday that following the tragedy the men had held a meeting and decided to assist the widow. Instead of taking a holiday to attend O’Brien’s funeral, the men will work their usual shift. The wages earned by the 130 men, the majority of whom are employed under the Emergency Relief Scheme, will be pooled and presented to O’Brien’s wife and child. An inquest will probably be held in Kyogle on Monday.
But what I hadn’t known until tonight was what happened afterwards, and what was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks later..
A verdict for plaintiff for £1226 against the Comissioner for Main Roads in a case in which Florence May O’Brlen, 24, widow, of Lismore, claimed £2000 damages for the death of her husband, Norman Leslie O’Brien, who was killed on the Main Road, Board’s quarry near Lismore on August 12, was given at the Grafton Supreme Court last night. The damages were apportioned to the widow and the child and an amount towards the funeral expenses of £20. The Chief Justice (Sir Frederick Jordan) said that the child’s poition was to be administered on behalt of the child by the Public Trustee. Evidence for plaintiff was that O’Brien was dipping tea from a fireplace at crib-time in the quarry, when ten shots were fired without adequate warning. A shower of stone fell on the spot, a large piece killing O’Brien and a smaller piece striking a man standing beside him. Plaintiff alleged that insufficient precautions were taken to ensure the safety of the men and that. after the fatality, those precautions were instituted, which showed negligence before the accldent. The defence was that every necessary precaution was taken on the day of the accident, and that O’Brien left a safe place under the hoppers to go out Into the open at a critical time, and thus contributed to the cause of his death.
So even though I didn’t make it to my regular night at the pub, it’s been a fascinating night nonetheless, learning a little more about my extended family, thanks to the interweb.