Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Limerick Arms Hotel and the O'Brien family, Nar Nar Goon

In 1983 Kathleen Fitzpatrick (1905 to 1990) wrote a book Solid Bluestone foundations:  memories of an Australian childhood. In it she talks about her great grandparents, Daniel and Brigid O'Brien, who lived at Nar Nar Goon. You can read more about Katlheen Fitzpatrick in the Australian Dictionary of Biography  here.

In the 1860s, Daniel and Brigid (nee Walsh) O’Brien built the Limerick Arms Hotel on the corner of Wilson Road and the Gippsland Road (now called the Princes Highway) at Nar Nar Goon. Daniel, Brigid and their daughter one year old daughter Ellen had arrived in Melbourne in September  1841 on the Forth. Also on the same ship were the Dore family  - John (c. 1808 - 1895) his wife Betty (nee Elizabeth O'Connor, c. 1808 - 1876) and their children Edward, Thomas, Patrick and Ellen, six more children were born in Victoria*. In 1844, John Dore and Michael Hennessey took up the Mount Ararat Run at Nar Nar Goon of 1,900 acres. The partnership existed until 1855. Hennessey then moved to Dandenong and built the Bridge Hotel and later took over the Eumemmerring Hotel. In the 1860s, Dore purchased the 640 acre Mt Ararat pre-emptive right. He later purchased another 387 acres and his son Thomas 300 acres so they held a total of 1,300 acres. The property was later bisected by the railway line when it was built in 1877.


The Limerick Arms 
Photo from Solid Bluestone Foundations by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Penguin 1986)

Back to the O'Briens  - Daniel was a builder and the plan was to work in Victoria for four years save enough money and then return home, as it was they never did return to Ireland. The family first went to Waurn Ponds near Geelong where Daniel worked as a builder. They then  decided to buy some land  - Waurn Ponds being too dry looking they decided to buy in Gippsland and brought a farm called The Swamp at Mt Ararat or Nar Nar Goon, perhaps they were influenced in this decision by the Dores. 

The O'Brien's  had more eight children - Michael James born 1843 at Saltwater; Patrick Francis 1845, Jeremiah Gerald 1846,  Johanna Mary 1848, Catherine, 1853 - these last four were born when they were at Nar Nar Goon. Bidelia Amelia 1853, Mary Ann 1856 and Daniel 1859 were born in North Melbourne*

Because the children needed an education the O'Briens moved back to town and built a house in North Melbourne so the children could go to school.  Daniel was again working as a builder but  his business partner stole the proceeds of the business and this forced the family to move back to Nar Nar Goon where they opened the Limerick Arms. This was  a success  as the Gippsland Road went as far as Sale and there was lots of traffic; it was also a Cobb and Co Coach stop.   The hotel also had  a reputation for being spotlessly clean and offering good meals. Every six months  a Priest would visit, and conduct a mass and also baptise any babies that needed  that sacrament.  The services were either held at the Limerick Arms or the Dore's House. 

A succession of tutors were employed by the O'Briens until they settled on Daniel Ahern. The O'Briens and the Dores also built a school on Mt Ararat Creek for their own children and the the neighbouring children and Daniel Ahern was the teacher. Mr Ahern later taught at Eumemmerring State School, later called Hallam State School from 1870 to 1890. you can read about this school here. Daniel was the father of James Joseph Ahern, Shire of Berwick Secretary from 1906 until 1948.

Daniel died in 1886 at the age of 82 and Brigid in 1888 at the age of  77. The Limerick Arms was delicensed in 1908 and the building has been demolished. The son of Daniel and Brigid, Michael and his wife Johanna (nee Mulcahy) opened the Nar Nar Goon Hotel in 1883.


*The family information about the O'Brien and Dore children comes from Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia District by the Narre Warren & District Family History Group.

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