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Patrick O'Brien

Date of Death: 

Picture shown is of Patrick's son William who was wounded in action and subsequently died in France on 23/4/1917

Patrick O'Brien from Miltown Malby, ( but we are awaiting confirmation that it was likely he was born in the parish south of Miltown close to Annagh/Mullagh), County Clare arrived in Toowomba, Queensland around 1876;  He started first in a shop in Russell Street and progressed to Post Office Mailings and eventually to milling.  He established the Defiance Milling Company and later with his friend Mr. Horan a mill in Brisbane. Patrick O'Brien married Ellen Fitzgerald. The original site of the Defiance Milling Company is a Queensland Heritage Site.

There were 10 children including his sons William and Anthony who served in the First World War.  Private William O'Brien, known as the "Dinkum Soldier" wrote cheerful and brave letters from the freezing cold front in France in April 1917.  See Australian War letters from soldiers. He had left from Brisbane with the 15th Reinforcements in September 1916 and spent the winter in the icy trenches of the Somme Valley. Shortly after he wrote these letters, he was wounded in action and had met his death and was buried in the Australian Field Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. His was one of many tragic deaths of Irishmen who emigrated from abject poverty in Ireland to Australia but either they or their sons joined the Australian Forces in the war.

After Patrick O'Brien died, his wife Ellen assumed the leadership of all of his businesses.  She was initially refused a bank loan but the local farmers who appreciated the importance of her business and her generosity supported her.  The streets of Toowoomba stopped for her funeral in 1924.

Patrick's  2nd son, Thomas Patrick O'Brien born in 1892 was sixth of his ten children.  He learned his trade as a miller in the flour mill.  Then he travelled to Sydney and returned as Manager in 1918.  He eventually bought a mill in Dalby in 1924.  This succeeded especially during the war years.  Thomas had 5 sons and 3 daughters.

Sons of Thomas, 3rd generation of O'Briens who settled in Toowoomba from County Clare included William, born 1924, Tom Anthony, born 1930 and Edward, born 1933, who settled in the United States and reared a family of Harvard Scholars including...  (father of CNN correspondent Soledad O'Brien).

Tom Anthony led the growth of Defiance from a Toowoomba Flour Milling Company to a National Industry Leader and Australian No. 1 Flour Brand which spread not just to Rockhampton, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne but also Internationally to the Pacific, New Zealand, Asia, Japan and Hong Kong.  He was also a keen rugby player ( was he ever aware of the proud football history on the west coast of Clare, along the Wild Atlantic Way) and played as both Flanker and Fly Half for Queensland.  His friendship with the O'Reilly family led to the development of the Canungra Valley Vinery.

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