FF THOMAS O’BRIEN Marine ‘Scarborough’

Thomas O'Brien has been said to have been born in Tyrone, Ireland although no concrete evidence has been found to support this hypothesis. Anciently a great deal can be learnt from the roots of this ancient Irish Nameand his ancient lineage.  Ireland's Early Clans were extremely territorial and his Ancestry certainly stretches back to the colourful legends of his first O'Brian ancestor Brian Boru in the 10th Century.


Thomas O'Brien was a marine of the 1st Fleet in the 32nd Company, Portsmouth Division on board the ‘Scarborough’, volunteering to escort 751 convicts to establish a new settlement at Botany Bay under the Command of Arthur Philip in 1787.


The Fleet of seven ships left Spithead, Portsmouth bound for Botany Bay in the early hours of Sunday the 13th May 1787 arriving at the destination point on the 19th January 1788.  Botany Bay proved an unsuitablesite and on the 26th January 1788, the Motherland's Flag was raised near the spot now known as Circular Quay, in Sydney.


Thomas O'Brien remained at the Cove for the next two years, during which time the Colony he was

recorded in the 1788 Muster assigned to Captain Tench's Company as at the 30th September have a debt to the Admiralty of £1.5s7d

Six weeks later, on the 17th November 1788, Thomas O'Brien gave evidence in the Trial of fellow marine

Private James Baker indicted for the murder of Marine Private Thomas Bullmore.  Three other marines were also implicated i.e. Privates Luke Haines, Richard Askew and Richard Dukes. Thomas testified that on the morning of 7th November he was asked by the deceased to stand his shift for him, he not being well. Thomas refused and four days later Bullmore died as a result of wounds inflicted in a fight with the accused on the day mentioned. The Charges were later reduced to Manslaughter and all marines were given 200 Lashes.  

Two years later, the arrival of the second fleet brought with it twenty-eight year-old convict Susannah Mortimore, formerly of Devonshire, and her infant daughter Susannah born at sea en route aboard the convict transport 'Lady Juliana'.


Susannah was indicted firstly at the Hampshire Assizes assumed found innocent and then moved to Exeter Castle, Devonshire, to stand trial for stealing a sheep with co-conspirator John Rice on the 17th March 1788.Both were initially sentenced to death but later reprieved to serve seven years transportation to the Colony. During the voyage, Susannah gave birth to a daughter and reports of her boarding the vessel with another child,although no documentation has been found to support the existence of this elder child.


Within a few short weeks after arrival at Sydney Cove, Susannah and her infant daughter were sent to Norfolk Island per 'Surprize' on the 7th August 1790.Already on the Island were 1st Fleet Convicts John Mortimer and his son Noah, who were convicted for theft Devonshire Assizes 20th March 1786 sentenced to seven years transportation to the Colony. Recent evidence implies that Noah later used the name 'Nathaniel Mortimer' and is the same man who lived at the home of James O'Brien, the son of Susannah and Thomas at Glenorchy since 1834. There is substantial evidence to this effect recorded in the Inquest into his death twelve years later in 1846 whereby James's wife Ann [nee Cowen] and their adolescent daughter Susannah O'Brien, aged thirteen, gave evidence at the Inquest.

At this point the Marines were allowed to accept the offer made by the Admiralty prior to their Departure, to either settle at the Colony with a Land Grant, enlist in the establishment of the newly arrived relieving NSW Corps or return to England.


According to Sergeant James Scott's Journal a further enticement to settle on the following Encouragement; Eighteen months Provisions with 60 Acres of Land, 1/2 an acre Cleared. 'A house built; two Breeding Sows; Six Hens & one Cock; four. Jackets; Four Waistcoats; four pair drawers; four pair Trousers; four pair Shoes; four pair Hose; two Hats; four shirts & thread Needles; a Bed & Blankets.'

This Order was made on the 5th April 1791, however they were not allowed to leave until their houses were built. Thomas O'Brien was one the first twenty-nine marines to choose to settle in the Colony.  He was discharged on the 24th October 1791 and left Sydney Cove two days later aboard the 'Atlantic' to settle at Norfolk Island. Within weeks Thomas O'Brien and Susannah Mortimore were very likely married in November 1791, in one of several ceremonies performed on the Island by Rev. Johnson at that time - No records have been found. Susannah's child Susannah Jnr was nearing the age of two years at their marriage, she later adopted the name of her stepfather and ultimately married under the name Susannah O'Brien.  Susannah formed a close bond with her half siblings.


Moving into their newly built two storey home, several children followed as the family prospered. The Children were:

Catherine Obrien baptised at Norfolk Island on the 27th August 1792

Mary Ann O'Brien was baptised on Norfolk Island on the 26th February 1794  - died in infancy

Agnus Therese O'Brien was born on Norfolk Island on the 18th July 1795.

Elizabeth O'Brien was born on Norfolk Island in 1799

James William O'Brien born on Norfolk Island in 1800.

Margaret O'Brien born on Norfolk Island in 1807

Mary Ann O'Brien born on Norfolk Island in 1804

Thomas O'Brien was born in 1808 possibly in Hobart

Susannah was now aged around forty-eight, this would be her last child.


Although the Settlement at Sydney Cove had for many years been reliant on the rich harvests of Norfolk the treacherous shipping conditions brought about the decision to evacuate Norfolk.  The houses were to be destroyed to deter settlement by foreign shipping and many of the settlers were to be re-located south of the mainland at Van Diemen's Land compensated with large Land Grants.

The O'Brien Family left the Island per 'The City of Edinburgh' on the 3rd September 1808. By this time Susannah appears to have been carrying her youngest child en-utero. With them were their six surviving children Catherine aged 16yrs; Agnus was aged 13yrs; Elizabeth aged 9yrs; William aged 8yrs and Margaret aged 1year and Susannah the daughter of Susannah's prior relationship aged eighteen.

During this time the O'Brien Family appear to have endeared forty-year-old convict George Porter (Scarborough2-1790) who had been working on the Island since 1792 George was also re-located to Van Diemen's Land at thistime. Within a few weeks of arrival, after adopting the name of her Stepfather and with his blessing as a Witness, young Susannah O'Brien married George Porter [twenty-two years her senior] at Hobart on the 21st November 1808,by whom she had several issue


According to the Muster of 1809, Thomas was granted 100 acres of land of which three were under wheat and one in Barley. It states he has six children. During the next few years a bridge was built across Humphries Rivulett a tributary of the Derwent River, laying adjacent to the O'Brien Farm.  A vital crossing to local residents a bridge had been constructed, which became known as O'Brien's Bridge, standing as a local icon used locationally in many Deed & Legal Documents in Hobart for many decades.


By the 1819 Muster Thomas O'Brien is recorded on the same property with ten acres in wheat, one in peas and beans, three in potatoes and forty-six under pasture.  At this point his children were aged: Catherine 27yrs [unmarried]; Agnus 24yrs [unmarried]; Elizabeth 20yrs [unmarried]; James 19yrs; William 17yrs, Margaret 12yrs and Thomas aged eleven years.


This Muster was the last recorded account of Thomas O'Brien, where and exactly when he died and was buried remains a mystery, he is assumed to have been buried on the property shortly following the Muster. Three years later, his sons James and William were both recorded living at the property, which was now called 'O'Brien's Farm’.


William was recorded in an advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette: Saturday 25th May 1822;

STRAYED, from O'Brien's Farm at Humphrey's Rivulet, about three weeks ago,3 young Steers, branded BJ on the left thigh, one of them with his right horn inclining towards the cheek, one of a dark brown colour with a white forehead, the other, a light brown with a white streak down the back.

Any person giving information where they may be found, will received Three Pounds Reward of W. O'Brien, the owner of the said cattle; but if found in any persons possession after this notice, they will be prosecuted according to law.


Susannah was recorded in the 1837 Census living with her daughter Margaret McDonald.

Susannah O'Brien [formerly Mortimore] died on the 31st December 1846, buried at St. Matthew, Glenorchyher Tombstone inscribed aged 86 years. Susannah's son James O'Brien is interred with her, died on the 21st December 1863.His Spouse Ann O'Brien [nee Cowan] also shares the grave


Written by Judith-Ann S Adams 2006


-The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen p267

-www.scardfamily.id.au/-Mortimer Susannah &Thomas OBrien.htm


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