James Joseph O’Brien, the eldest son of Peter O’Brien and Mary Ann Goward was born at Bega, NSW on February 4, 1871 (7ei059/1871). His parents were very young at the time (Peter was 23, Mary Ann was 15) and unmarried when Mary Ann fell pregnant. At the time of marriage on October 2, 1870 (1870/2194), Peter was listed a “Labourer” at Tantawangalo, and Mary Ann was listed as a “Dairy Maid” at Lithgow Flat.
A number of other children followed in quick succession including:
- John O’Brien was born April 13, 1873 at Ryans Swamp, Candelo NSW.
- Luke O’Brien was born 1876 at Bega and died 1879 at Bega.
- Patrick O’Brien was born in 1878 at Bega and died in 1900 at Candelo.
- William Albert O’Brien was born February 25, 1880 at Merimbula, NSW.
- Elizabeth Catherine O’Brien was born 1881 at Bega.
- Thomas O’Brien was born 1883 at Bega and died 1887 at Bega.
- George Henry O’Brien was born 1888 at Bega NSW.
- Charles Herbert O’Brien was born 1891 at Candelo, NSW.
- Ethel M O’Brien was born in 1885.
- Mary Ann O’Brien was born 1874 in Bega.
Newspaper reports indicate there was probably a bit of instability and poverty in James’ early life. For example:
- On Saturday 20 July 1872, the local newspaper reported his father, Peter was on a list of people undergoing insolvency proceedings.
- A local newspaper of Saturday 26 February 1876 also reported his father, Peter was charged with using insulting language, to and assaulting Mr M.C.Solomon, at Candelo.
- The Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser Wednesday 26 July 1882 reports his father, Peter O’Brien charged by Senior Constable Smythe with using obscene language.
- The Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser Thursday 25 June 1874 reported his father Peter was in dispute over money owed him.
There are further full-length reports on the links above to Peter’s own personal story.
The Electoral Records for the time also show that throughout the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s, he and his parents and siblings were in residence at a number of locations around Bega, including:
- Wolumla (1873),
- Merimbula (1881),
- Tantawanglo (1885),
- “Shamrock Vale” Candelo (1892),
- Rocky Hall (1893)
- Wyndham (1894) where his father, Peter was recorded on the Electoral Roll as a Dairyman.
In 1895, aged twenty-four, James married twenty-one year old Lena Noonan (717/1895). Lena, who was born “Ellen Noonan” at Araluen on January 3, 1876 (8810/1876) was the daughter of Irish immigrants, John Noonan and Hannah Lynch.
The birth records for their other children indicate they lived at a number of locations around the South East including:
- Matthew James O’Brien (known as Robert or Bob) was born at Candelo, NSW on September 8, 1896 (2309/1896).
- Patrick O’Brien was born at Bemboka in 1898 (1499/1898) and died at Bemboka in 1898 (4766/1898)
- Margaret E O’Brien was born at Bemboka in 1899 (10222/1899) and died at Bemboka in 1899 (12253/1899)
- Elizabeth Jane O’Brien (known as Bib and Betty) was born at Candelo on August 28, 1900 (30430/1900).
- Norman Leslie O’Brien (known as Sandy) was born at Bega in 1901 (20111/1902).
- Henry Augustus O’Brien was born at Wolumla on June 5, 1905 (20967/1905).
- Mary Beatrice O’Brien (known as Meg) was born at Candelo (I think) in about 1908.
The Southern Star (Bega, NSW : 1900 – 1923), Saturday 1 December 1906, page 4 reported James’ appearance in court along with Joseph Noonan (presumably his brother-in-law) on using obscene language in public.
At the police court yesterday before Messrs Hawkins, P.M., A. Nickle and J. Jackson, JPs, Charlie Glass was fined 1os and 6s costs for assaulting Henry Higgins on October 20. Constable Ivory deposed to seeing the assault, and laying the information. James O’Brien was charged with using obscene language in Bega street on the morning of November 11. He pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr. Curtis. Constable Turner deposed to being attracted to the Bridge lane after midnight on the 1oth by a row which could be heard all over the town ; he stood by the roadside, and heard defendant use the words complained of. By Mr. Curtis : Was in Gipps street when I first heard the noise ; there were five men there ; was sure defendant was the right man ; did not know who the two were who cleared out; he was not making fish of one, and flesh of another; they were all under the influence of liquor ; did not know whether there were two horses or one in the buggy. James Sirl deposed to having been in bed, and hearing bad language on the road. Defendant denied using the language ; there were six of them altogether ; he was holding the horses when the Constable arrived ; asked him what charge he had against me, and be would not say. By Sergeant Scott: Had two whiskies and three beers that night, but was not drunk (laughter) ; used no bad language ; Noonan wanted to fight ; am sober now ; had two drinks this morning. Mr. T. J. Bateman, J.P., of Numbugga, whom accused works for, gave him a good character, and said he had never heard him use a bad word. The Bench were unanimous in convicting defendant, and fined him 5s and 6s costs. Joseph Noonan was charged with using indecent language on the same occasion, and pleaded not guilty, being defended by Mr. Curtis. The constable’s evidence was similar to the former case. Defendant denied using the words complained of, although he may have used other words ; he was half-drunk. The P.M. : Which half — the head or the legs? Witness said they were on their way home, and had a quarrel with two men on the road ; O’Brien had a bit of a tussle with Bourke. Jas. 0’Brien deposed that defend ant did not use the language. Larry Bourke was also called, but he stated that he was too drunk to know what was said ; he and O’Brien had a row, and he thought he got the worst of it. Mr. Bateman also gave Noonan a very good character, and addded he had never heard him use a bad word. Fined £1 and 65 4d costs. Mr. Curtis gave notice of appeal. Larry Bourke was fined 5s and 4s 4d costs for riotous conduct.
A couple of years later (1908-1909) the family moved to the NSW North Coast, along with many others who I have read were relocating there due to a rabbit plague, drought conditions, and the prospect of new improved pasture grasses in the North Coast dairy industry. Lena’s brother, Matthew Noonan, also moved to the North Coast at about the same time.
According to one grand-daughter, there was a great deal of instability in their working and homes lives for Lena and Jock, and that Jock “liked a drink or two”. Over the next twenty years, they lived at a number of locations on the North Coast including:
- 1917 – Ettrick, near Kyogle. It was at Ettrick, aged 38, that Lena fell pregnant with twins, Albert Bernard and Annie (who never survived), born September 12, 1917. They continued to farm at Ettrick until the early 1920s.
- 1926 – Boorie Creek (1926)
- 1926 – They moved to 89 Bridge Street North Lismore (on the right hand side, just past the pub as you head towards RRHS)
- 1932 – Upper Mongogarie near Casino
- 1934 – 112 Casino Street South Lismore (1934) although it appears that year Lena was still living with her family (or perhaps her brother in law’s family) at Upper Mongogarie.
- 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 .
The Northern Star of Wednesday 22 February 1928 reports the following incident which mentions a Joseph James O’Brien and Robert O’Brien, residing at Pitt Street, North Lismore.
LISMORE POLICE COURT
CHARGE OF ASSAULT
Particulars of a fracas at North Lismore on February 4 were detailed in evidence given at Lismore Police Court on Monday, when Francis Roy Baker, on remand, was charged with unlawfully assaulting Arthur McDermott. Mr. F. D. H. Sutherland, P.M., occupied the bench. Sergt. Aspery prosecuted, and Mr. A. Masson Cottee conducted defendant’s case.
Constable Wellburn, stationed at North Lismore, deposed that at 8.30 p.m. on February 4, in consequence of a message he received, he went to the corner of Pitt-street, North Lismore, where he saw a man named McDermott lying on the grass on the road. He said to McDermott “What’s wrong with you?” He noticed that McDermott’s face and head were covered with blood, and that McDermott was in an exhausted state. He took McDermott to the hospital, and the latter was admitted to that institution.
At 9 p.m., with Constable Willis, he (witness) went, to O’Brien’s residence in Pitt Street, North Lismore, where he saw the defendant. He said to Baker “What is the, trouble between you and McDermott?” Baker said “He is not dead, is he?” He (Constable Wellburn) replied, “No, but he is in hospital.” Baker then said, “I hit him alright, and that is hard to do. ‘I would have bashed his skull in only someone pulled me off.” Baker said he hit McDermott with a pair of haimes. He (witness) examined a pair of haimes, and there appeared to be blood stains on them. He charged defendant with the assault, but Baker made no reply. He asked defendant, ” Did you do this to Mc Dermott?” Baker’ replied, “That is the worst of being boozed, a person is not responsible.” Witness then gave evidence of arrest
In answer the cross-examination by Mr. Cottee, witness said that he knew McDermott well. ” He was a quarrel some man. Bake had come to him and complained about McDermott. When the latter was picked up after the fight he did not smell of liquor, and spoke quite rationally.
McDermot had been before the court on other occasions, and had assaulted a constable and two sergeants of the police. If it came to a fight McDermott would beat Baker. The latter had shown him (witness) marks on his neck which Baker said were caused by McDermott.
Arthur McDermott, labourer, North Lismore, said that on the night of February 4, he was at the Queensland Hotel with Francis Baker, and a man named O’Brien. The three of them left, and passed over ,the bridge, to Bridge-street. Baker asked him to go back and get him a packet of cigarettes and three boxes of matches. He (McDermott) got them, and returned to where he had left Baker and 0’Brien but they had gone on. He (McDermott) picked them up , at 0 ‘Brien’s place, where the men were alongside a cab. He heard Baker say to O’Brien “What about that ten shillings I lent you at the Royal Ho tel.'”‘ O’Brien – turned to – Baker and said “You can’t get it.” Baker said “You had better give it to me.” He (McDermott) said to O’Brien “Get in side and’ leave him alone. I’ll take him on. Baker came behind him ” (McDermott)*,and saicl frI5l” VaTK> -To him, McDermott, not’ you.’
THE FOLLOWING TEXT NEEDS FURTHER REFINEMENT
Continuing witness said: “Baker hit me on the head, and’I dropped to ‘tlVettgrOuMt:’;i!.put my hand on^..my head, rubbed itj but Baker kept| on hitting me. I rthink it was O^Brien who pulled him Off. me. After ^a/while I .got up with blood all over me; Old Mr. O’Brien was. following me upland I..pushed him against the fence.;/ I scrambled over ithat to the bridge and dropped down. ;t Const. Willis and; an other constable „ came along. One of them put . me in? a car and took me to the hospital and: left me there.’
Questioned by Sgt. Aspery, witness said he was struck f.our or five •,times. He believed it was with a stick:* He had not had a quarrel with Baker that day. ‘ ‘ •:.• • ■
Answering cross examination by. Mr. Cottee, witness fsaid that he had-been drinking that day, but knew what he was doing. He. did not drink a ;bottle of wine after the hotels were closed. They were in ,the Queensland ? Hotel lane after 6 p.mr but lie, had no drink. He saw Baker hand O’Brien 10s at the >Royal Hotel corner. He did not say to O’Brien ;”.Give me that teu shillings.” O’Brien did not say ,fGet away, or I will get some one to shift you.” He did not say to O’Brien that lie would fight him- and his three sons, or any one else. In looks, 0’Brien was an old man. He did not knock ;him-,down^ . ;you,- old – .” ‘and ‘then pushed: him and knock ed -him’ on 1 to>-a; nbarbe’d \wirei .fence. McDeimott walked; down the road. He (Baker) -had reason!’, to be- afraid
McDe.rmotty,.aijd-ihad been– belted, by him three^or fpuri times. -. He !had comr
plained^ to V North • Lis inore.’ /■: i.-)'”:-•. ;l ;
” .In-answer to Sgt. Aspery!, witness said’ that .lie omitted saying /anything about tfeing hit ” with a bottle by Mc
Dermott when ‘arrested. Struck Mci
Dor mott three or four times with th^ hames.;. He did not remember saying ho would knock McDermott’s brainy out. -. ,
•Robert O ‘Brien, cab driver, and Joseph James, O’Brien, , labourer, gave evidence’ for the defence of a corroborative nature.- The latter’said that after the fight he heard McDermott say he was hurt. He offered McDermott a drink, but ‘McDermott’; said “Out of the way, you old —
The case was’dismissed.
James Joseph O’Brien died on the weekend of June 11, 1944 (100414/1944) and was buried in an unmarked grave in the East Lismore Cemetery on Monday, June 12. The death was announced in “The Northern Star” of June 12.
MR. JAMES O’BRIEN
Mr. James O’Brien, who died in the Lismore Base Hospital yesterday was born at Wolumla (SouthCoast) 73 years ago. He married Miss Eleanor Noonan. also of the South Coast, 50 years ago. They moved to the North Coast 37 years ago, and he followed dairying interests in the Lismore, Kyogle and Casino districts. Retiring from dairying 10 years ago, he lived at Kyogle Street, South Lismore until his death. He is survived by a widow and three sons and two daughters. The sons are John and Robert (Lismore) and Henry (A.I.F.), and daughters are Mesdames L. Brown (Brisbane) and A.Webb (Lismore). Another son, Norman, was killed in an accident on the Cawongla “Road nine years ago. Surviving brothers are Messrs.William (Wolumla), John (Camden), George (Bega) and Ted O’Brien (Lismore). Two sisters, Mrs. Geo. Hyde (Goolmangar) and Mrs. Holzhauser (Byron Bay) also survive. The funeral will move from the Roman Catholic Church, South Lismore to-day at 11 a.m. A Requiem Mass will be celebrated at 8 am.
An obituary appeared in “The Northern Star” on Wednesday, June 14, 1944.
MR JAMES O’BRIEN – The funeral of Mr. James O’Brien of South Lismore, moved from the Roman Catholic Church, South Lismore, on Monday, after a service conducted by Rev. Father McGrath, who also officated at the graveside. The pallbearers were M. Noonan (brother-in-law), L. Brown (son-in-law), R. O’Brien (son), L. Winkler, C. Hyde (nephew) and T. O’Brien (brother). The wreaths were carried by Mr. A Graham. James Sweeney had charge of the funeral arrangements.
His death certificate states the causes of death were (anaemia??) and chronic nephritis (kidney disease).
Throughout the 1940s, Lena continued to live at the house in Kyogle Street, along with her son and daughter-in-law, Albert and Bertha. A brief advertisement in Northern Star on page 8 on Thursday 21 February 1946, refers to the following “Will take in washing at 21 Kyogle Street”.
Although the electoral roll states Lena continued to live at 21 Kyogle Street up until her death, her death notice indicates she was living with her son, Matthew James (known as Robert) and daughter-in-law, Eileen (nee Crummy) at Johnstone Street, North Lismore..
She died at Lismore in May 1953 (21816/1953) and is buried with her husband and son, Matthew (known as Bob) in the East Lismore Cemetery. For many years, the grave was unmarked. Recently however, some descendants have erected a plaque. I assume it’s descendants of Bob.
The funeral following notice appeared in “The Northern Star”, on Friday May 15th, 1953:
O’BRIEN – The funeral of MRS. LENA O’BRIEN, of Johnston Street, North Lismore, and relict of the late James O’Brien, will move from St. Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, TODAY (FRIDAY), following a service commencing at 11 a.m. for the Roman Catholic portion of the Lismore cemetery. WILL RILEY & SON, Funeral Director.
MRS. LENA O’BRIEN – Rev. Father D. Troy conducted a service in St. Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, yesterday morning, prior to the burial in the Lismore Roman Catholic Cemetery of Mrs. Lena O’Brien, relict of the late James O’Brien, of Johnston Street, North Lismore, who died in Lismore on Wednesday. Mrs O’Brien was buried with the remains of her husband. Father Troy also conducted the graveside service. Pallbearers were Messrs. Bob Henry and Albert O’Brien (sons), Earl and Henry O’Brien (grandsons), and Alf Webb (son-in-law), and the wreaths were carried by Messrs. Ed O’Brien (brother-in-law), Cecil and David Hyde and Kevin Collins (nephews). Will Riley & Son conducted the funeral arrangements.
Children of James O’Brien and Lena Noonan
* Matthew James O’Brien (known as Robert or Bob) was born at Candelo, NSW on September 8, 1896 (2309/1896). He married Eileen Crummy (born on 9th October, 1904) http://www.echonews.com.au/news/northies-wanted-to-tell-their-aboriginal-stories/485757/ ) at Lismore in 1934 (14105/1934).
The North Lismore Plateau, NSW Cultural Heritage Assessment provides some information about Eileen’s heritage.
One such forefather was Charlie Brown (formerly Charlie Wilson – c. 1853-1924) whose partner was Topsy Davis/Brown (c. 1849-1919). Charlie Brown came to the Richmond River where he lived with an Aboriginal woman, Topsy, of Widjebul Country, in Modanville area. Charlie (also known as “Yella Charlie” because of the colour of his hair) and Topsy had several children and was living at “Booerie” in 1901. One of their daughters was Janie Brown (c. 1878-1957 – later married to Jim Crummy c. 1869-?). Janie’s oldest child, and daughter, Eileen was born at “Booerie” (in Widjebul Country), 9th October, 1904. Eileen became Mrs O’Brien, and in 1991 was living at 3 Johnston Street, North Lismore (aged 86). It is possible that Isabel Brown who was living at Goolmangar in 1915 was another daughter to Charley and Topsy. Isabel had a son, Stephen James Brown who lived at Goolmangar until he enlisted as a private in the A.I.F. 25.02.1915 (Regt No. 1154 2nd Light Horse) aged 22 years and 4 months. Stephen embarked for Australia 21.05.1917 due to a gunshot wound to the head and neck received in Palestine. Information supplied by Eileen O’Brien, Mrs Meg Timbrell, and Mr David “Huggonson” with the Donor being Mrs Robyn Howell, 1991. For further reading of “Yella Charlie,” see M. Oakes, in the story of a north coast city: LISMORE (1979), The First Inhabitants, Aborigines of the Lismore district.
They had the following children:Kevin (Sth Lismore) and Violet, Earl and Alma (both dec.) and Terence and Ruth (Petrie, Qld)
children, Earle (who lived at 46 Casino Street, South Lismore, who married Alma Gill and who died on November 3, 1985 at Ballina, Alma died April 17, 1979 and is buried at Goonellabah); Terrence and Kevin (who lived for many years in Crown Street, South Lismore) In the latter years of her life, his mother Lena also lived with them at Johnston Street.
Eileen is listed on the electoral roll throughout the 1950s and 60s, highlighting the different laws which existed from state to state relating to Indigenous people on the electoral roles.
The Northern Star of February 19, 1953 records
ALLOVER LACE FOR BRIDE Somerville studios. Alma Gill wore a frock of allover lace when she married Earl O’Brien in the Holy Family Church, North Lismore. Alma is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. Gill, of Buckendoon,* via Coraki, and Earl is the son of Mr. and Mrs. M. J. O’Brien, of Johnston Street, North Lismore. The bride’s frock featured long fitting sleeves, a V-neckline, with a high collar and a full skirt with a train. The shower bouquet consisted of carnations, gladioli and tuber roses. Bridesmaids were Fay Wray and Juna Deasey, wearing white lace and blue satin respectively. Best-man was Allan Speeding and groomsman, Frank Harris. After the wedding reception at the Railway Institute, South Lismore, they left for a honeymoon at Brunswick Heads. They will live in Lismore.
Matthew (Bob) died at Lismore on May 6, 1968 (20437/1968).
From Facebook, James Speeding
Aunty Eileen O’Brien (my nan), Widjabul Elder, was interviewed (transcriptions recorded) 12 months before passing away in 1997. Aunty Eileen stated that during her younger days in Lismore Lane, NorthLismore, late 1929, she worked alongside a young Neville Bonner and his grandmother, Ida Bell [Granny Ida] cutting paspalum grass. She also spent time helping Granny Ida make clothes from hessian bags and calico. On some weekends, she just lolled about for hours listening to Granny Ida raving on about how it was as a young girl and how traditional life was before the settlers forced her people off their traditional lands. The interview seemed so exciting and so real – it sounded and felt as though I was there, some 70 years ago, having the same discussion! Reliving the old times, Aunty Eileen’s sanguine emotions seemed very spirited – I could feel her spirit and see her eyes like a well filled up with tears. Aunty Eileen finished off the interview by saying, ‘yes son, everything was not all gloomy in Lismore Lane…there were good days and bad days.’ Aunty Eileen’s oral evidence of cutting paspalum grass is supported by documented research evidence in Neville Bonner’s biography. Neville Bonner took his place in the Senate of Canberra 15th of August 1971, becoming the first Australian Indigenous politician. Angela Burger, Neville Bonner: A Bibliography (South Melbourne: Macmillan Company, 1979), 1.
For the next thirty years, Eileen continued to live at Johnston Street, before taking a place at Caroona Nursing Home in the mid 1990s. She died at Lismore on January 13, 1999, with a probate notice appearing in “The Northern Star” on March 4, 1999.
O’BRIEN – EILEEN – Peacefully at Caroona Nursing Home, Lismore on January 13, 1999. Loved mother and mother-in-law of Kevin (Sth Lismore) and Violet, Earl and Alma (both dec.) and Terence and Ruth (Petrie, Qld), beloved grandmother of Kevin (Little), Tony, Veronica, Phillip, Katrina, Sandra, Greg, Mark, Kim, Paul, Sharon, Theresa, Lesley, Judy, Rosemarie, Shirley, Earl (Boy), Matthew, Simon, John and Jane, and loved great-grandmother of their children, great-great-grandmother of Dakota and William. Eileen was a long time resident of North Lismore. Aged 94 years. Relatives and friends are invited to attend her funeral to leave Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, South Lismore, TOMORROW (FRIDAY, January 15), after prayers commencing at 11am for the City of Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah. DENISE PAITSON. WILLIAM RILEY AND SON FUNERALS, AFDA Telephone 66212237. Members of the Floral Society are invited to attend her funeral.
* Patrick O’Brien was born at Bemboka in 1898 (1499/1898) and died at Bemboka in 1898 (4766/1898)
* Margaret E O’Brien was born at Bemboka in 1899 (10222/1899) and died at Bemboka in 1899 (12253/1899)
* Elizabeth Jane O’Brien (known as Bib and Betty) was born at Candelo on August 28, 1900 (30430/1900). Elizabeth married Leonard A Brown at Murwillumbah in 1921 (8419/1921).
Leonard was the son of Joseph and Ellen Brown, and according to a death notice in The Courier Mail (December 29, 1927) their other children were Mrs P Bonney (Emily), Miss May Brown, of Boatharbour, and Mrs Vincent Macrossan, of Brisbane, William Owen and Arthur Gregory Brown, of Sydney, and Leonard and Frank B. Brown, of Boatharbour.
A report in The Northern Star of December 27, 1935 mentions
Leonard Brown, of Tweed Heads, was attacked by two men in the lower Domain yesterday morning and robbed of 12s 6d and his shoes. He was treated at Sydney Hospital for cuts on the face.
A report (and photograph) in The Northern Star of Wednesday 1 October 1941 mentions
Pte. Leonard Aubrey Brown, of Clunes, previously reported missing, is now reported located in hospital, sick.
I only met Aunty Bib just the once, at dad’s funeral. She died at Brisbane in the 1980s. I remember briefly speaking on the phone with their daughter, Lyla, after she arrived back from living in the United States.
The Northern Star of July 3, 1945 reported
CURTIS.—At Currendina Private Hospital, on 20th June, to Lyla (nee Brown), wife of John E. Curtis, a son, Leonard John. Both, well
Currendina Private Hospital was located in Ewing Street, and is currently the E-Street Guest House (currently owned by friends!!).
The Northern Star of July 27, 1946 reported
ARRIVED IN US: Mrs. J. Curtis, with 12-months old son John, who has just reached San Francisco, where she was reunited with her American husband. They will live at Louisville. Mrs. Curtis, known to Lismore as Lyla Brown, is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L Brown.
* Norman Leslie O’Brien (known as Sandy) was born at Bega in 1901 (20111/1902). He married Florence M Spinks in Lismore in 1934 (14105/1934). In 1935, Sandy died tragically at Cawongla near Lismore. The matter was reported in “The Northern Star”.
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 work 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.
“A shower of blue metal went up in the air and one piece of stone weighing about 12lbas struck O’Brien, said a workmate. “A warning was shouted but it was too late to be effective.
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.
On March 27, 1936, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the following…
Damages to Wife and Child.
A verdict for plaintiff for £1226 against the Comissioner for Main Roads in a case in which Florence May 0’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.
The Northern Star of September 26, 1935 reported
Lismore, on Monday night, proceeds of which were m aid ot wie wiaow family of Mr. “Sandy” O’Brien, who was accidentally killed at Cawongla quarry, attracted a record crowd. The total receipts were £49 8s and the ex penses £7 14s 4d, leaving a balance oi £41 13s 8d. Music was supplied gratuitously by the Riordan-Chittick orchestra, Jones’ “Forlana” band, Messrs. J. Casey, D. McFarlane and L. Gates. A cake, donated by Mrs. White, North Lismore, was won by Mr.Len Sharpe. a goose (donated by Mrs.
Cecil Spinks, Bonalbo) by Miss Jean Spinks, North Lismore, chocolates (donated by Mrs. Fitzgerald) by Miss Freda Ubrihein, armbands (donated “by Mrs. Homer) , by Mr. Ubrihein, cigarettes (donated by Mrs. Beclcer) by Mr. J. Leis, a fancy dish (donated
by Mrs. Williams) by Miss Norris, a cash trophy by Mrs. R. Tulk, and prizes donated by S. McLean’s Ltd. by Mesdames Waters and McMillan. Mr. Duley, on behalf _ of Mrs.
O’Brien, thanked the musicians, the”Northern Star,” Station 2XN. Lismore Greyhound Racing Club, Mr. L-es Smith, and the collectors and others who had assisted to make the effort a success.
She re-married in 1946 (27785/1946), as was reported in “The Northern Star” of October 2.
A blue crepe street-length frock with white accessories was worn by Mrs. Florence May O’Brien, daughter of ‘Mr. and Mrs. R. Spinks, of 49 Tweed Street, Lismore, for her wedding to James Douglas Sowter, son of Mrs. M. Sowter, of Goonengerry. They were married in St. Andrew’s Church of England, Lismore, by Archdeacon Benyon, at 7.30 on Saturday night. Given away by her father, the bride carried a bouquet of white roses and gladioli and also wore a white straw hat. She was attended by Mrs, Clare : Jones, wearing a pink crepe street-length frock with black accessories and carrying a bouquet of pink roses and gladioli. The groom was attended by Douglas Gibson. “Love Everlasting” was sung by soloist, Mrs. C. Walker, in the church. Mesdames Spinks and Sowter received guests at a reception held at the Daffodil Tea Rooms. They will make their home at Goonengerry after a honeymoon at Coolangatta.
* Henry Augustus O’Brien was born at Wolumla on June 5, 1905 (20967/1905).
COURT OF PETTY SESSIONS: The- following.cases were dealt with in the Court of- Petty Sessions before Mr. TV D. H. Sutherland,, P.M., yester day John Joseph Green and Henry Augustus O’Brien wore charged with breaking, entering, and stealing from the shop of Michael Phillips between, the hours of 6 p.m. on February 20 and 8 a.m. on Eobruary • 21. Accused were remanded: for eight days. O’Brien– was . granted bail—self –.in .£100, with one * surety of £. 100 or two sureties of. £-50 each
There is a further report in the Northern Star of April 13, 1928
LISMORE CASE John Joseph Green and Henry Augustus O ‘Brien were presented on ; a joint charge of having at Lismore on ; February’-21 -broken’ and entered the jewellery ; premises :’of M5cl|ael Phil lip? and stolen 12.watches,’50 bangles,; and’ 24 rings. A plea of guilty was •entered; by the accused, O’Brien, but , Green pleaded not guilty. Mr. F. J. .K’jngBlev “Newell, instructed fby}. Mr1. S..K. Hanlin, of the Crown .Solicitor’s Office^ appeared to prosecute for the Crfown.’. The accused were unrepre sented by counsel. • At the outset the; Crown Prosecutor, in- response’to’his Honour,-stated that, as the chief witness. O’Brien, was an accomplice. and. would be wanted to give, evidence, it was for the Crown to pray’ no judgment against him. His Honour : Do yon pray.no judg ment f The Cro^yn “Prosecutor : Yes. His Honour (to the accused, O’Brien) : You are released. The Crown .Prosecutor stated that the charge against the two accused was that they had broken and entered a jeweller’s shop in Uismore known as Phillips’s, in Woodlark-street, about two doors down from the Imperial Hotel. O’Brien,, who had just pleaded guilty, would be one of the main wit nesses, and he: would tell .them m% iiis movements with accused Green on the ‘night” in question. It was, however, a dangerous thing’.to convict a man on the evidence, of – an accomplico unions there were some corroborative evi dence in” support. At. the conclusion of it.he case for tli; prosecution Green made , a statemem on. oath from the witness box describ ing his movements on the night of the robbery, in which his account tal lied with his story as contained in his statement to the police. .. His’ Honour, in” his-address to the jury, pointed out that the law required a judge, to warn-the jury of , tlio dan ger of accepting ‘the’ uncorroborated evidence of a person who either ad mitted’ or was shown to have been an accomplice, and he thought it would bp unsafe to act upon O’Brien’s evi dence unless they could find some material corroboration in other evi dence which would tend to remove all doiibt from their minds as to Green’s guilt. The jury, .after. a retirement of 20 minutes, returned. a verdict of not. guilty, and” accused was discharged.
There is also a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday, 16 April 1928 (page 12) which mentions a “Henry Augusta O’Brien” being involved in an alleged robbery in Lismore. The article says…
ROBBERY CHARGE FAILS.
Before Mr. Justice ferguson, in the Supreme Court, two young men, John Joseph Creen, and Honry 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.
A few years later, aged twenty-five, he married Florence Irene Vidler, the daughter of Henry Vivien Vidler and Edith Ann Clifford at Casino in 1931 (6817/1931).
On April 2, 1942 at Paddington, NSW and living at Stony Chute (near Lismore), Henry entlisted in the Australian Army (Service Number NX94276). At the rank of Private, and a member of 140 Australian General Transport, Henry was discharged on November 12, 1945. WW2 Nominal Role.
At this stage, I’m unsure of what happened to Henry and Florence after this, though a report about the death of Florence’s father (in Northern Star of Saturday 29 April 1944, page 5) records them living at Stony Chute (near Nimbin).
The next record of Henry is a Northern Star report of November 18, 1952 which has Henry living at the Camping Reserve, Ballina.
Two men were each fined £2 in Lismore Court of Petty Ses sions yesterday for drunkenness. They were Clive Cook, 37, lab ourer, of Tuncester, and John King, 29, labourer, of Tuncester. Four other men forfeited bail of £2 when they failed to appear to face drunkenness charges. They were Benjamin Roberts, 42, labourer, of Tuncester; Donald Herron, 38, labourer of Casino; Donald Roberts, 39, labourer, of Tuncester; and Francis Baker, 59, labourer, of Crabbe’s Creek. Harry Nott, 25, labourer, of Bobrie Street, North Lismore, and Henry O’Brien, 47, labourer, of the Camping Reserve, Ballina, each forfeited bail Of 10/- when they failed to appear.
I assume Florence might have returned to live with her family at Cawongla for a period of time, as the next reference I can find to them is a report in “The Northern Star” of November 3, 1952 which has her (and not Henry) being farewelled from Cawongla, and moving to Terania Creek.
Farewell At Cawongla
A farewell and presentation was tendered Mrs. H. O’Brien and family in Cawongla Hall. Flowers were presented to Mrs. O’Brien by Lenore. Hall. Mrs. K. McGuirmess was chairman and other speakers were Mesdames Young and McNellie and Mr. Leaney. Mr. W. Kay made the presentation of a dinner set. ‘ Mr. Henry O’Brien, jun, responded. Music for dancing was sup plied by Clarke’s orchestra with extras by Miss Delia Tindall. Mr. W. Tindall was M.C. A chocolate waltz was won by Miss Delia Tindall and Henry O’Brien. The O’Brien family will live at Terania Creek.
An advertisement in The Northern Star, dated March 16, 1954
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN We, FLORENCE IRENE O’BRIEN and HENRY JAMES O’BRIEN, of Terania Creek, hereby give notice that we in tend to take legal proceedings against any persons found trespassing on our property at Terania Creek. Dated the 15th day of March, 1954. Signed, F. I. O’Brien, Florence I. O’Brien (for H. J. O’Brien).
An article in The Northern Star, May 13, 1954, refers to the following
£10 Fine for Cycle Theft A man who, according to his solicitor, was “footsore and weary and yielded to temptation”, was fined £10 in Lismore Court of Petty Sessions for stealing a bi- cycle. The man, Henry Augustus O’Brien, of Kyogle Street, South Lismore, was said to have walked from Ballina to Wardell and then taken the bicycle from near a house. “He rode the bicycle to Woodburn,” said Detective Constable J. Bernard. – “He stayed there the night with a friend and the following day he painted the bicycle and came to Lismore,” he said. Since that day, O’Brien had been riding the bicycle. On May 8, Constable Besnard said, he saw him and took the bicycle from him. Mr. Newton, who appeared for O’Brien,, said that O’Brien was a 48-year-old ex-service man who had spent a consid erable part of his service abroad. He had been wounded and suffered nervous dis orders. “He was footsore and weary after walking from Ballina and succumbed to temptation,” said Mr. Newton, The bicycle was in much better ‘condition when handed back than when he took, it.”. O’Brien was given a month to pay the fine.
Henry died and was buried on September 6, 1971 (56020/1971).
O’BRIEN – The funeral of MR HENRY AUGUSTUS O’BRIEN, loved husband of Mrs Florence O’Brien of Terania Creek, loved father of Henry (Qld), Maureen (Mrs Eggins, Brisbane), Doreen (Mrs Zambelli, Modanville), June (Mrs Franchi, Terania Creek), and Colleen (Byron Bay) and loved brother of Betty (Mrs Brown, Queensland), Meg (Mrs Webb, Lismore) and Mr John O’Brien (South Lismore) will leave St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, TODAY (MONDAY) after a Requiem Mass commencing at 11.30am for the City of LIsmore Lawn Cemetery. WILLIAM RILEY AND SON PTY LTD Funeral Directors.
Florence died on June 20, 1985. Her funeral notice in “The Northern Star” reveals some further information about their family.
O’BRIEN, FLORENCE IRENE – June 20th 1985 at her residence, Terania Creek, The Channon, widow of the Late Henry O’Brien, loved mother and mother-in-law of Henry and Ailsa O’Brien (Nambour), Maureen Eggins (Brisbane), Doreen and David Zambelli (Modanville), Betty (June) Franchi (Terania Creek), and Colleen O’Brien (Stanthorpe) and loved grandmother and great grandmother of their children. Aged 78 years. Relatives and friends are invited to attend her Funeral which will leave St. Andrews Anglican Church, Lismore, on MONDAY, JUNE 24, after a service commencing at 11.30am for the City of Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah. WILLIAM RILEY & SON A.F.D.A. (NSW)
Co-incidentally the funeral notice was directly next to the three year “In Memoriam” notice for her brother-in-law, my dad.
There is a report in The Northern Rivers Echo about the eightieth birthday of David Zambelli (son-in-law) which says “David and his wife of 47 years, Doreen, raised a family of five children – Deanna, Bruno, Nancy, Audrey and Linda – on their farm at Modanville, and are also the proud grandparents of 11 grandchildren. David is still actively involved in the running the farm – a testimony to hard work being good for your health. His family managed to keep the party a complete surprise for David, and many old friends came along, making the occasion even more special.”
Betty (June) Franchi died on April 4, 2001 and is buried with her mother.
* Mary Beatrice O’Brien (known as Meg) was born at Candelo (I think) in about 1908. As a baby she moved to the North Coast in about 1908 or 1909. At Lismore in 1932 (12534/1932), she married the widow, Alf Webb who had a young son, Ron from his first marriage to Muriel Rudd (she died soon after childbirth).
As reported in The Northern Star, June 25, 1929.
The death occurred in a private hospital in Lismore yesterday of Muriel Webb, aged 20 years, wife of Mr. A. T. Webb, junr, of North Lismore. Deceased, who was ill only a few days, was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. Rudd, of Rosebank. Mrs. Webb, with her husband, came to live in Liamore from Dunoon, where she was very popular with the younger set, and was an ardent worker for tho P.A.T.S. lodge at that centre. She is survived by a widower and an infant son aged 8 months. The funeral takes place to morrow.
Alf and Meg had four children: Lenore, Margaret, Faye and Warren, who all followed their parents into service with the P.M.G./Telecom/Telstra.
For most of their marriage, I believe, they lived in James Street, East Lismore.
Meg died at Lismore on October 15, 1998. The funeral notice appeared in The Northern Star.
WEBB, MARY BEATRICE “MEG” – Peacefully at Lismore Base Hospital, October 15, 1998. Beloved wife of Alf of Parkes St, LIsmore. Dearly loved mother and mothew-in-law of Ron (dec’d) and Val (Goonellabah), Lenore and Greg Batterham (Lennox Head), Margaret and Des Plater (Narellan), Fae Hallman (Blue Knob) and Warren and Maureen (Goonellabah). Loved Granma of her 13 grandchildren and their partners and a proud great-grandmother of her 17 great-grandchildren. Aged 90 years. Friends and relatives are invited to attend Meg’s funeral service which will be held in St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lismore on MONDAY after a service commencing at 10.30am, thence to the City of LIsmore Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah. “AT PEACE”. KEN RAMSAY FUNERAL DIRECTORS AAFD Phone (02) 66252545 FDA of NSW.
LISMORE RSL INDOOR BOWLERS – Members of the above club are invited to attend the funeral service of their late committee member MEG WEBB as per above family notice. Mary Piccoli, hon sec.
SOUTH LISMORE WOMEN’S BOWLING CLUB – Members of the above club are invited to attend the funeral service of their late committee member MEG WEBB as per above family notice. Uniforms please ladies. B. Conroy, hon sec.
In December 2001, Alf Webb cut the cake at ABC North Coast in Lismore, commemorating 100 years since Marconi’s first radio transmission. Alf was also recognised as Bigpond’s Oldest Customer. This media release, issued by Telstra, provides some information about Meg, Alf and their family.
Alf Webb was born on 10th September 1905 in the London suburb of Islington. He migrated to Australia in May 1911. He married Muriel Rudd in 1928 and they had a son Ron 1929. Muriel died soon after the birth. In 1932 Alf married Mary (Meg) O’Brien who passed away in 1998. They had four children Lenore, Margaret, Faye and Warren, who all followed their father into service with the P.M.G./Telecom/Telstra. His children have provided Alf with 14 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren. He served in the 15th Light-Horse Regiment from 1924 to 1931. In 1940 he joined the Volunteer Army Defence Force until entering Army Signals in 1943 where he served until his discharge in June 1946. In 1942 he was in a Signals Section that wor ked Morse by Heliograph. Having been introduced into amateur radio by a cousin in 1922, Alf obtained his Amateur Radio Operators License in 1947 and today remains an active operator. During the 1954 Lismore flood he provided the only communication to the outside for telegraphs, police and councils. (Alf was a Morse code operator and still is!) He joined the P.M.G. in Lismore in 1947 as an Exempt Technicians Assistant, working in the Casino and Kyogle areas as well before being appointed to Lismore in 1948 when he qualified as a technician. The “Webb” family has contributed 15 members to the ranks of the PMG, Telecom and Telstra, providing a total of 319 years, which continues with four grandsons still with Telstra. In 1987 Alf was awarded the “Meritorious Medal” by the R.S.L., followed in 1990 by an Order of Australia Medal for service to the RSL and community. He is a Life Member of the Lismore RSL; the NSW Branch of the RSL; the RSS&AL of Australia and the Old Timers Radio Club. He is a life member of the Ballina Ex-services Homes, a member of the Ballina RSL Club and a member of the Ballina Sub-branch RSL.
WEBB, ALFRED THOMAS (ALF) O.A.M. 1905 – 2007, died peacefully, 17/7/2007 at Caroona Kalina, formerly of Parkes Street Lismore, aged 101 years 10 months. Loved husband of Meg (dec); much loved father and father-in-law of Ron and Val (both dec), Lenore and Greg Batterham, Margaret and Des Plater, Fae Hallman and Warren and Maureen; beloved grand dad of his 14 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren; loved brother and brother-in-law of Bill and Charlotte (both dec) and Wal and Merle (Brisbane). Relatives and friends are invited to attend Alf’s funeral service to be held THURSDAY 19/7/2007 commencing at 1.30pm at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lismore, followed by burial at Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Goonellabah. Alf was a returned serviceman and all ex service personnel are invited to attend. PARKVIEW FUNERAL HOME – Lismore. “Family-owned and 100% Australian” NFDA 1800 809 336 FDA NSW
His death was also reported in amateur radio circles…
SILENT KEY – VK2UC
It is with deep regret we advise that Alf Webb VK2UC is now Silent Key. Alf Webb, Silent Key at just on 102 years of age. Alf Webb was born on 10th September 1905 in the London suburb of Islington. He migrated to Australia in May 1911 and moved to the Lismore. He served in the 15th Light-horse Regiment from 1924 to 1931. In 1940 he joined the Army Volunteer Defence Corps until entering Army Signals in 1943 where he served until his discharge in June 1946. In the VDC his Section passed Heliograph traffic from Mt Warning to Coffs Harbour, 133 miles serving as a Signaller and later got his Amateur License in 1947. In 1990 he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for services to Returned Servicemen and the RSL and the community. Alf was a foundation member of Summerland Amateur Radio Club and also
President of SARC in 1984 and later made a Life Member of SARC. He was Australia’s oldest active amateur, being active on air every day on Morse and voice until a few months before his death. He would have been 102 years old next September.
Vale Alf Webb OAM, VK2UC, SK.
(John Alcorn. VK2JWA for SARC)
* Albert Bernard O’Brien (known as Johnny) was born September 12, 1917 at Ettrick, near Kyogle in Northern NSW. His twin sister, Annie, died at or soon after birth (13582/1917). Throughout his childhood, his family lived at a number of locations, including Boorie Creek and Upper Mongogarie before finally settling at South Lismore in about 1935. A few years later, he met and married Bertha Ann Dunn (known as Betty or Toby), born at Bombala on February 7, 1922, the eldest child of Charles Henry Dunn and Bertha Rixon. They raised a family of four daughters and one son. Albert’s mother, Lena continued to live with them until closer to her death in 1953. After some years living alone with their children, Bertha’s mother, Bertha Rixon and brother, Leslie John (a wardsman at St Vincent’s Hospital) moved into the house with them in about 1959. In 1970, to make way for a weigh-bridge in Kyogle Street, the house was relocated to 195 Casino Street, South Lismore. Throughout all of this period, Johnny worked as a Plumber at the Lismore Base Hospital, however, due to ill-health, he was forced to retire medically unfit. Upon retirement, he performed some voluntary work for Meals On Wheels, but was soon diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a form of brain cancer. In the early hours of the morning of June 22, 1982, he suffered a stroke which caused his death. For the next two years Betty suffered increasing ill-health due to a combination of heart disease and asthma. She died from a heart-attack on November 7, 1984.
* Annie O’Brien was born September 12, 1917 and died at or soon after birth (13582/1917)
Sharing Around: Please feel free to copy any of the information on this page which may help you in your own research. My feeling is that family research is hard enough, without the need to constantly re-invent the wheel. It would be great, however, if you’d leave a comment below just to say “hi”.