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O'Brien, Mr John F.

John O'Brien (no relation to the Ginninderra O'Briens) was teacher at Ginninderra (St Francis) school from February 1873, when it became a Provisional school, for a period of ten months until January 1874. The following extracts from departmental files reveal some uncertainty about his appointment, but throw no light on why he lasted in the position for less than a year.

In a letter from Father John Gallagher to the Secretary, Council of Education Sydney, dated 11.12.1872 the following paragraph is included: 'The teacher John F O'Brien opened the school on the fourth November last and has in regular daily attendance about 20 children since that date.' In the formal application for a provisional school at Ginninderra the following information is included concerning the teacher:

Name: J.F. O'Brien
If Married: No
Age: 34
Place where born: Limerick Ireland
Religious Denomination: Roman Catholic
Where employed and during what length of time as teacher in the colony: Never in NSW but has taught a denominational school in Victoria for five years at Chilton and Beechsworth.
In answer to the question, 'State what information you have obtained relative to the teacher's character and qualifications' The inspector reported as follows: 'The teacher has resided in the district only a few months, no one appears to know anything of his previous history; all speak favourably of his general conduct while he has been at Ginninderra. I heard the teacher read and examined him in grammar and geography. Educationally he is sufficiently well qualified for the position. [Council of Education Miscellaneous letters received Vol 173 1872 Fish Reader Gongolgon AONSW 1/905]

Inspector JC Maynard in a memorandum of 10.2.1873 to the Secretary reported as follows concerning O'Brien:

"The proposed teacher is competent but I have not means of knowing (the one thing I would like to know in his case) whether or not he is a sober man. His dirty and untidy appearance is probably somewhat owing to his poverty. I can confidently recommend the establishment of the school but neither the people nor myself have any real knowledge of the teacher. I would recommend that since they are satisfied with him he be appointed, but that he be informed that in as much as the Council is not sufficiently well acquainted with his character to justify in making the appointment permanent he will be only recognized for some months to come as being on trial".

Appended was the following report on JF O'Brien, applicant for the office of teacher in the provincial school at Ginninderra:

1. Apparent Age: 34
2. Married or Single: Single
3. Personal appearance: Not prepossessing. He is dirty and untidy in appearance.
4. Constitution: Shaking; he has a kind of chronic trembling.
5. Bodily infirmities: He says the trembling is the result of fever and ague caught in America and not properly cared.
6. Apparent Character: No means of judging: the residents say he has been steady while at Ginninderra, but they no more respecting him.
7. Reputation as evidenced by testimonials: He has but one testimonial, that from Mr McCarthy who has only known him since his arrival at Ginninderra.
8. Estimated Value of Testimonials: I attach no importance to the local testimonial, but he promises to write for others and to forward them to the Council.
9. Ability to read and write: Reading – good; Writing – fair
10. Popular estimation of applicant's character in the locality: satisfactory.
11. Inspector's general opinion of applicant:
A. As to information – sufficient
B. As to intelligence – satisfactory
C. As to industry – satisfactory
D. As to carefulness and discretion – Impossible to tell with any certainty but provided he is not a drunkard I should be inclined to trust him.
E. Aptitude for teaching – satisfactory

[Council for Education Miscellaneous Letters. Vol 213 1873 Frederick to Glenmore AONSW 11944]


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