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Marine Private Thomas O'Brien (.........)


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  • Born : Abt. 1765 in Tyronne, Ireland
  • Where Born :
  • Occupation : Soldier
  • Date Arrived : 26 January 1788
  • Ship Arrived on : " Scarborough "
  • Rank attained : Marine Private
  • Date of Enlistment :
  • Where Enlisted :
  • Date of Discharge : 26. Oct 1791
  • Where Discharged : Sydney
  • Died :  1819
  • Where Died / Buried : Glenorchy, Tasmania. 
  • Parents Names :
  • Spouse's Name : Susanah Mortimer
  • Born :  21 February 1762
  • Where Born   Bridford, Devonshire, England,
  • Occupation :
  • Date Arrived : 1789
  • Ship Arrived on : " Lady Juliana " convict
  • Date Married :  5 November 1791 
  • Where Married : Port Jackson, Norfolk Island
  • Died : 31. Dec 1846
  • Where Died / Buried : Glenorchy, Tasmania.
  • Spouse's Parents :  Edward Mortimer (.......) Betty (...........)
  • Descendants :

    Some Information was kindly supplied by Rose Murtagh

    Some Information was kindly supplied by John Parker;


    History & Achievements :

    Thomas O'Brien enlisted as a member of the 32ndPortsmouth Company. He was stationed on board the ship " Scarborough" and it was on this ship he left England for Australia. Following his arrival in Sydney he served as a member of Captain James Campbell 's company, .. Discharging from the marines left for Norfolk Island via the ship" Atlantic" Thomas received a grant of 60 acres at Cascade Stream . He left the island with his family in September of 1808 via the ship " City of Edinborough " to settle in Tasmania. He held 100 acres at New Town , with another 60 acres at Glenorcy .

     Notes for THOMAS O'BRIEN:

    On 1 December 1801 O'Brien sold 18 acres to William Cross for 50 pounds, and by 1805 he had 16 acres cultivated, plus 30 acres waste, owned 50 pigs, and was listed as a first class settler,with a wife and seven children. In December 1806 he sold four full grown sheep for 6 pounds, and at the end of 1807 had 6 sheep and 72 pigs, with 140 bushels of maize in store.

     On 3 September 1808 the family sailed to Van Diemen's Land on the City of Edinburgh, leaving buildings worth 60 pounds, a two storey house, 34 by 18 feet, and two log outhouses. Susannah had been raised as the eldest of the large family, and was now a young woman of 18. It must have been exciting after a lifetime lived entirely on the small island, most of the time isolated on the family farm, to be sailing to a new life on the Derwent River, and to be courted by the man who became her husband.

     In 1809 he was one of 18 former Norfolk Islander signatories to a Statement of Loyalty to Governor Bligh that strongly opposed the New South Wales Corps. Antagonism to the Corps went back to grievances from the island, but their action put them in conflict with Lt-Governor Collins. It seems not to have harmed his long term prospects.

     On arrival in Hobart O'Brien was granted 100 acres in the New Town district, north of Hobart, on Humphries Rivulet. Seventeen other Norfolk Islanders also settled in the New Town and Glenorchy area. He was one of a minority of these settlers who did well, with 3 acres under wheat and one under barley within 8 months of taking up the grant. O'Brien's Bridge, built over the rivulet in the corner of his farm, carried his name, and was the original name for the village that grew up there and became the City of Glenorchy. By September 1813 he was holding 60 acres at Glenorchy.

     In 1818 the "Dusty Miller" was first licensed, and it was the first public building in Glenorchy. What became Tolosa Street was originally Dusty Miller Lane. The Hobart Town Gazette, commenting after the O'Brien home was robbed of some linen, said that the family were well-known for their industry and integrity.  The O'Briens were certainly a colonial success story.

     Thomas's final years are somewhat of a mystery. There is a record of 1819 that calls him an aged invalid, with a wife and two children, receiving government charity. It could mean that he was suffering from some infirmity or illness, and possibly died soon after, although no record has been found of his death.

     A census of 1837 shows Susannah living with her daughter Margaret McDonald. Susannah died on 31 December 1846, and was buried at St Matthew's Glenorchy, age given as 86, but more likely 82.

     Thomas was a private in the 32nd Portsmouth Marine Co. on the First Fleet. After completing his service in 1791 he moved to Norfolk Is where he met Susannah who had been there since Aug 1790. They possibly married in Nov 1791 however no records survive of the marriages performed at that time. In 1808 the family moved to Van Diemans Land, sailing in the 'City of Edinburgh'. They settled in the New Town area by Humphrey's Rivulet and this area became known as O'Briens Bridge and subsequently Glenorchy. The last known record of Thomas is in the 1819 muster which records him as receiving charity. No record of his death or burial has been found. In Susannah's later years she was recorded as living with her daughter Margaret in the New Town district.

     **Thomas O'Brien, was a private of marines 32nd (Portsmouth) Company. he left Portsmouth on the 13-5-1787 and arrived in Port Jackson, Sydney Cove, on the 26-1-1788, served at Port Jackson in the detachment of Captain  James Campbell (qv) in 1788. His recorded appearances at Port Jackson were largely as witness in court trials. (The Marines who came to New South Wales were subject to special conditions, in that they were given the option of discharge after three years. Bounty money of 2 guineas ($4.20) each was paid to recruits as an inducement to join, and the Marines daily rate of pay, which was, Private, 8d (7 cents) pay plus 6d (5cents) subsistence-food & clothing allowance ).

      On 26th October 1791, Having decided to stay as a settler, he left for Norfolk Island by "Atlantic", and received a grant of 60 acres (24.3 ha) (lot 86) in November at Cascade Stream, Phillipsburg. Rev'd Richard Johnson visited the island in Nov 1791 and married many couples and Thomas and Susannah Mortimore were possibly among them. (No records survive of these marriages) Being issued two hogs early in 1792. By October 1793 he had cultivated eight of his 50 ploughable acres and had begun selling grain to stores. At June 1794 he was living with Susanna Mortimer ("Lady Juliana" age Given as 24 on 1789 embarkation list) and three children. She had been sentenced in Devon to seven years transportation.

     On 1st December 1801 O'Brien sold 18 acres to William Cross (qv) for 50 pounds ($100). By 1805 he had 16 acres in cultivation, 30 waste, owned 50 swine and was listed as a first class settler, with wife and seven children. In December 1806 he received six pounds ($12) for the sale of four full grown sheep, and a year later he was holding six sheep and 72 hogs, with 140 bushels of maize in hand. By August of that year another child had been born, and in September1808 with his wife and eight children he went to VDL (Tasmania) by "City of Edinborough", as a first class settler, leaving buildings valued at 60 pounds ($120), a two story house 34ft by 18ft ,(10.3M by 5.4M) and two log outhouses.

     Thomas took up 100 acres (40.4 ha) in the New Town district and in May 1809 he signed the address to Bligh from the Derwent settlers. He built his cottage near where "O'Brien s Bridge" now stands in1810.

     ( O'Briens Bridge was built in 1818 by Dennis McCarthy on land given by Thomas for this purpose. Thomas helped build the first bridge which was later replaced in 1844 at a cost of 12,000 pounds ($24,000).  In September 1813 he was holding 60 acres (24ha) at Glenorchy, and in 1815 he was a signatory to the petition for a Court of Criminal Judicature

    .In the Hobart Town Gazette of 19 April 1817 it was reported, " from the evidence of Ormsby Irwin, a Crown Servant and Overseer, it appeared that he had occasion to  be at Mr O"Briens farm, at Humphrey's River, beyond New Town; when Burke and Rollands came to the premises. Irwin having some previous knowledge of the prisoner Burke, inquired their business in that quarter, when he replied he was to be the means of guiding a party of soldiers going in quest of the bush-rangers. Not having a pass, and the account they gave being unsatisfactory to Irwin, he took Burke into custody, and Rollands made his escape." The prisoners were later found guilty of being absent without a pass and had to work in the goal gang for 3 months. ON 30th October 1819 the Hobart Town Gazette reported "Thursday night, the farm-house of  T. O'Brien, near Humphrey's River, was entered and robbed of a considerable quantity of linen, with which the family has been entrusted to wash, this depredation will be particularly felt by the family, who are well known for their industry and integrity.

     Notes dated 21 March1832 (Thomas died before this noted): "James O'Brian of O'Brians Bridge 1st part, Susannah O'Brian widow 2nd part & Sinclair Williamson of Hobart Town 3rd part, 10acres 1 rod (4.1ha) bounded on the N E side by main road, Hobart Town to New Norfolk, extending from O'Brians Creek to the East angle of the Chapel Ground, also by S.W. boundary of the Chapel Ground. On the N.W. by the S.E. of the Chapel Ground to the N. angle of the Chapel Ground. on the S.E. by John Smiths property, 6 Chains (121m) to the O'Brians Creek and on the E.&S. side by O'Brians Creek.

    A plaque on O'Briens Bridge says " To Honour Thomas O'Brien, granted land in this area 1808-9. His name was given to this bridge and the nearby district, now part of City of Glenorchy. Presented by the ANZ Banking Group Ltd."

      In an 1819 record of doubtful accuracy he was recorded as "an aged invalid". No record of his death has been found so far. A Susannah O'Brien was buried 31 December 1846, age given as 86. Children attributed to him were Susanna (c1790, a stepdaughter), Catherine (1792), Mary Ann (1794), Agnes (1795), Elizabeth, James, William, Margaret, and Thomas.

    There ia a "family" tradition that this ancestor, who took part in the birth of a new nation, was a native of County Tyronne in Ireland.

     For some unknown reason Thomas  went to live in Sydney where he died about 1832. Significantly on August 28th, 1834, a notice appeared in the Hobart Press, signed by the pioneer Catholic priest at Hobart Town, Fr Phillip Conolly. It read:   " To let : Most desirable farm at O'Briens Bridge - 63 Acres ; two-storey brick house; frontage on Main Road bounded by River Derwent.


    SUSANNAH MORTIMORE (1762-1846) and THOMAS O'BRIEN (-1819)

      Susannah Mortimore, most likely the daughter of Edward and Betty Mortimer, baptised 21 February 1762, at Bridford, Devonshire, a village just nine miles west of Exeter. Bridford in 1850 had 500 souls, and two corn mills. The parish church of St Thomas A'Beckett has registers going back to 1538. If she was married before sentencing, then this may not be so.

     There is some confusion as to just what crime Susannah was transported for. She was found guilty of traitorously murdering William Mortimore her husband, and sentenced to be hanged, but was reprieved and transported for seven years,  This is the result of Cobley's research.

     Flynn found a different story . Susannah was sentenced to death on 17 March 1788 at Exeter Castle in Devon for stealing two sheep from Elias Langdon of Moreton Hampstead, a village only three miles west of Bridford, on the edge of Dartmoor. It cost the county 5/18/- to convey her, under a writ of habeus corpus, from Southampton to Exeter for her trial, a distance of 118 miles . Her sentence was commuted to seven years transportation,  and she was in the county goal until 11 April 1788, from where she was sent to the Lady Juliana in the Thames. Her age was given as 24. There is no hint as to which of the crew or guards was father of the child.

     There may be some truth in both stories. She may have been acquitted of the murder charge earlier.

     In early August 1789, eight weeks after arriving at Sydney Cove, 194 convicts were transferred to Norfolk Island to alleviate the pressure on food supplies. Susannah and her infant were included, and on the island established a long lasting relationship with Thomas O'Brien, a First Fleet marine, who had a 60 acre farm on the west side of the island. The Rev'd Richard Johnson visited the island in November 1791 and married many couples, Susannah and Thomas most probably among them.

     Susannah was a convict sentenced to death on 17 Mar 1788 at Exeter Castle Assizes for sheep stealing. There has been a suggestion that she may have been charged with murdering her husband William Mortimore. Her death sentence was commuted to 7 years tranportation. In August 1790 she transferred to Norfolk Is with her daughter Susannah who had been born on the journey from England.

     TheO'Brien family left the Island for VDL on 3 Sept 1808.

     ** SUSANNAH MORTIMORE age 24, tried Exeter, spring 1788, sentenced 7 years( Mutch index to " Lady Juliana" which arrived 3-6-1790) Left Plymouth 29-7-1789 arrived Sydney 3-6-1790.

     Western Assize circuit goal book for 1774-1798 shows Susannah Mortimore convicted at Exeter Lent Assizes 1788 of stealing jointly with John Rice in August 1787 at Moreton, Hampstead, 2 sheep, property of Elias Langdon. Both she and Rice pleaded not guilty, were convicted to be hanged. Both sentences subsequently being commuted to 7 years transportation each.( Public records office, London - Assi 23/8 part 2)

     Exeter Flying Post, Thursday 27-3-1788

    "...J. Rice and Susannah Mortimore, for sheep stealing, all to receive sentence of death...hereby J. Rice and Susannah Mortimer, were reprieved;the others left for execution, Friday fortnight."

     J. Rice died on the voyage to Australia aboard 2nd fleet ship " Neptune".

     Susannah arrived Norfolk Island " Suprise" 7-8-1790 on rations. Had 9 chn and married Thomas O'Brien.

     MORTIMORE, SUSANNAH, (c1764-1846) from the 2nd FLEET by Michael Flynn.

     Susannah Mortimore was sentenced to death at the 17 march 1788 Exeter Castle ( Devon) Assizes for the theft on 20 August 1787 of 2 sheep belonging to Elias Langdon at Moretonhampstead (Devon). She was reprieved several weeks later to 7 years transportation and remained in the county goal until 11 April 1788, when she was sent with several other women for embarkation on the "Lady Juliana"  transport on the Thames, age given as 24. She was apparently the woman of this name whose conveyance from Southampton to Exeter (118 mile journey) for trial under a writ of Habeas Corpus cost the county 5 pounds 18 shillings.

    In early August 1790, 8 weeks after landing at Sydney Cove, Mortimore was among 194 male and female convicts transferred to Norfolk Island. She brought with her a young child, Susannah, who had almost certainly been conceived on the voyage from England. Soon after arrival she formed a relationship with the 1st Fleet marine settler Thomas O'Brien on his 60 acre (24ha) farm (lot 86) on the west side of the Island. they were probably among a large number of couples married by Rev Richard Johnson on his November 1791 visit to the Island, with no record of the ceremonies surviving. A list of June 1794  records  them as married with 3 children. Raising pigs and sheep and cultivating maize and other crops they supported a growing family: Catherine (1792), Mary Ann (1794), Agnes (1795),Elizabeth, James, William, Margaret, and Thomas. In September 1808 the family were among the settlers transferred to VDL, (Tasmania), where O'Brien was granted 100 acres (40.5 ha) in the New Town district.

      Susannah died 31/12/1846 at Glenorchy and was buried at St Matthews church cemetery Glenorchy. The church still exists (1998) not as a church but as a meeting place for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The headstone along with a number of other headstones are cemented in on the back wall of the church. When the headstone was cemented in they covered up the bottom name on the stone. the inscription reads  " To The Memory of M~SUSANNAH O'BRIEN" who departed this life December 31 1846 Aged 86 years, Also, James O'Brien, Died December 21 1863 aged 63 also ? it can be assumed that the third person in the grave is Jame's wife Ann

    As already described, Susannah came with her husband, Thomas, and eight children to Hobart Town in 1809. They were first class passengers. She helped her Husband fashion his farm from virgin bush at O'Briens Bridge ( Glenorchy). Susannah died in 1846 at the age of 86. The headstone, which once stood out in what is now the Centre of the main road, was placed at the rear of St Matthews Church, on the corner of Tolosa St and Main Road, Glenorchy.

     Cobley in CRIMES OF THE LADY JULIANA CONVICTS states that she was condemned for the murder of her husband William Mortimore; the reason for this discrepancy has not been  established ( the above references clearly indicate a conviction for sheep stealing); the 27 March 1788 Exeter Flying Post gives sheep stealing as the crime in its report on the assizes and makes no mention of any murder charge; perhaps some document Cobley saw which I missed referred to a murder charge which was not proceeded with or resulted in an acquittal at an earlier assize.

     Susannah was living with her daughter Margaret McDonald in the 1837 census


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