Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Born: 1855; Died: 1937; Married: Catherine Isabella Macintosh
Matthew O'Brien was born at Ginninderra in 1855, the son of John and Jane O'Brien (nee Daley).
His father John was from Limerick and arrived in the colony on the Royal Saxon on 24 June 1844, joining his brothers Patrick and Daniel at Penrith. A short time later he came to the Ginninderra district where he was employed by William Davis for many years. In 1850 he married Jane Daley, daughter of Patrick and Biddy Daley, at St Gregory's church in Queanbeyan.Jane had also been born in Ireland, in July 1826, and arrived on the Inchinman in 1849.
John and Jane had ten children, but three of them died in infancy. Jane herself died in 1868 and John remarried, to Catherine ('Kate') Nelson, Tipperary-born, in 1878. They lived for some time at Jeir where they had a farm, before retiring to Queanbeyan. John died in 1899 and Catherine in 1906.
Their son Matthew worked as a boundary rider for Edward Crace on the Gungahlin Estate for many years, and later for General Legge of Cranleigh, Weetangera. While employed by Crace he and his family lived at Emu Bank Homestead which was built by Ginninderra's first land-owner, George Thomas Palmer, to house his estate managers.
When he was twenty-seven he married Catherine Isabella McIntosh (1882), and they raised eight children. Some of the younger ones were pupils at Weetangera school.
Matthew was prominent in district sporting activities, which at that time included hare coursing, pigeon and wallaby shooting, as well as cricket, tennis, running and football. He also had race horses which won races at local meeting, and was a member of the steel quoits team. He was vice president of the Weetangera Cricket Club for a while. He also earned a fine reputation in the community for playing the violin at local dances.
A school had opened at Weetangera, less than two miles west of Emu Bank, in 1875. Matthew O'Brien ('Labourer') was one of the petitioners who signed a letter to the Minister for Public Instruction in 1906 requesting construction of a new Weetangera school, the existing one being in 'an extremely dilapidated condition'. This petition was not enough for Matthew however. He also wrote his own letter to the Minister complaining that the condition of the building was adversely affecting the health of his children 'to the extent that he had spent ₤17 on doctors and hospital bills for one of his sons during the previous winter'. He threatened to withdraw his children from the school until something was done about the situation. It appears that three of his children were at the school at that time - Francis (11), Sydney (8) and Kate. (7). After a good deal of lobbying a new school was built in 1907 at a total cost of ₤98-12-0.
They were one of the last families to live at Emu Bank Homestead. After it was closed in 1918, they lived for a while at the old Cricketers Arms Hotel just outside Hall.
The death occurred at Westlake on Monday of Matthew O'Brien, aged 83 years, who had spent the whole of his life in the Canberra district. Born at Ginninderra, the late Matthew O'Brien was a son of Mr. and Mrs. John O'Brien, who selected land there nearly a century ago.
Prior to the the resumption of the Federal Capital Territory by the Commonwealth Government, Matt. O'Brien was employed as a boundary rider for many years by Mr. E. G. Crace, Gungahlin.
As a young man, the late Mr. O'Brien was a crack pigeon shot, and took a prominent part in local sports fixtures as a foot runner, cricketer, tennis player and footballer. In recent years he was a member of local quoits teams.
In the early days of the district, when a man was judged according to his ability as a horseman, Matt O'Brien and his friend, the late Pat Curley, Mugga, were recognised as outstanding riders. Both gentleman gained fame locally as riders of buckjumpers, and O'Brien was recognised as one of the finest horsemen of the district.
The funeral took place on Tuesday at the Roman Catholic section of the Queanbeyan Cemetery, the Rev. P. M. Haydon officiating at the graveside. Sons of the deceased acted as pallbearers.
The family of six sons and two daughters, is well known in the district the sons residing locally. They are John, William, Matthew, Andrew, Francis, and Sidney, while Mrs. Casey resides at Murrumburrah and Mrs. Hennessy at Sydney. There were thirty-seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
[Canberra Times Friday 27 August 1937, page 2]
- Canberra Times, Friday 27 August 1937, p 2
- Clough, M. Spilt milk. A history of Weetangera School 1875-2004, Weetangera School, Canberra, 2004
- Gillespie, L. L., Canberra's pioneer families, Supplement to Canberra Times, 15 Feb 2000
- Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra. Forerunner to Canberra, Ccampbell, 1992
- Brown, J. O'Brien. Family treee of John and Jane, Canberra 1985