John Stephen ‘Jack’ O’Brien was a longtime Redfern resident. He was born in Waterloo in 1889 to Patrick, a bootmaker, and Frances O’Brien. He served in World War 1 and while overseas, married Anne McFadden in Edinburgh, Scotland in March 1919.
Jack and Anne O’Brien had two children, Eileen and Edna, and lived at 31 Thurlow Street, Redfern. O’Brien died on 13 March 1965 and was survived by Anne, his children and three grandchildren. He was buried in the Catholic section of Botany Cemetery. The Jack O’Brien Playground and Rest Area on Kepos Street was officially opened on 15 April 1967, in honour of this ‘well known and highly respected resident’.
Occupation & interests
Jack O’Brien was a railway employee and worked as a bootmaker before enlisting in World War 1, in the Field Ambulance of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in August 1914. He served as a stretcher bearer at Gallipoli where he was wounded in action and returned home. He left for duty again in 1916 and served in Egypt and France. In March 1919 he married Anne McFadden in Edinburgh, Scotland before finally returning to Sydney in July.
O’Brien was a patron and served on the board of the Royal South Sydney Hospital. During World War 2, he was Chief Warden and his wife Anne, as Mayoress of Redfern, assisted the Civilian Aid Service air raid shelters in Redfern, taking charge of clothing supplies at the town hall. One of the shelters was housed in the Resch’s Waverley Brewery between Bourke and South Dowling streets.
Local government service
Jack O’Brien was Alderman of the Municipality of Redfern, 1937–48 and was its Mayor in 1942. He represented Redfern Ward as an Alderman on Sydney City Council from 4 December 1948 to 1 December 1950. O’Brien was a member of the Finance Committee and the City Planning and Improvements Committee in 1949, and the Works Committee and the Health and Recreations Committee in 1950.
City of Sydney Archives: Aldermen’s Files
Society of Australian Genealogists: AGCI index
Children’s Playground, 87 Kepos Street, Redfern. 1. Naming “The Jack O’Brien Playground and Rest Area.” 2. Official opening 15/4/67, 1971-81, City of Sydney Archives, A-00460618, https://archives.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/nodes/view/997240