John and Jane O'Connor, Bundarra
Michael Ernest O'Connor, born 8 October 1872 was the fourth child of John Connor and Jane Curtis. There were five more children born after Michael so he grew up in the midst of a large family, but was barely twelve years old when his father died of pneumonia. With his two younger brothers he helped his mother to support their five sisters. Little Anastasia had lived only a few months and died early in 1881, but the youngest, Florence Kate, was only one year old when they lost their father on 8 July 1884.
Michael was nearly 18 when his sister Eliza (Elizabeth) drowned in the flooded Gwyder River on the eve of her wedding.
He was 36 years of age when, on 10 March 1909 he married Katherine Fennelly (Campbell), in St. Mary's Cathedral, Armidale. Katherine was a widow with four children, Mary, Jim, Bill, Katherine (Kit), Kit is the only one still living (1984) Michael and Katherine had two children, Frederick Fenlay O'Connor born 7 August 1909, and Marie Veronica born 7 February 1911.
Michael, Katherine and family moved down to the Millfield area near Cessnock, where Michael was employed for thirty years at the Maitland Main Colliery at Greta Main, not far from Millfield, as the bell-boss. Mick built a house at Millfield where he and Katherine reared their family. He retired, probably about 1940 but was still a familiar figure in the area for many years. Restoring old furniture was one of his hobbies and he liked walking and would take his grandchildren on long walks into the hills around Millfield. He would often bring back native plants and shrubs to plant in the grounds of Crawfordville School, which he tended. His grandson Pat, tells the story of helping grandfather to bring home a big cedar log out of which he made a beautiful stool with lovely cambriole legs. Pat and his wife still have the stool in their home at Maitland.
About 1953 Mick and Katherine moved to Redhead to live with their daughter Kit. Katherine died there 11 August 1954. Pat's last recollection of Mick was in about 1956 when he arrived in Walgett where Pat and his wife Inez, and their family were living at the time. Mick, then about 83 years of age, was armed with a Geiger counter and was all set to go prospecting for uranium!! Pat put him back on the train to return to Kit at Redhead.
Many stories exist in the family of Mick's earlier days, and of how he "carried his swag" with Henry Lawson: though this has not been confirmed. We do have a book of Mick's which contains some of his own poetry, quite cleverly written.
FREDERICK FENLAY O'CONNOR
Frederick was the first child born to Mick and Katherine O'Connor. Born at Armidale 7 August 1909, his sister, Marie Veronica was also born there on the 7 February 1911 before the family moved to Cessnock where their father found employment at the collieries. Fred probably attended the Crawfordville School and then became a coal miner, a common occupation for people living in the Cessnock area. He married Essie Malina Sutton at Stockton on 1 September 1928. Their first child, Patrick Fennelly O'Connor was born at Cessnock on 22 March 1929, then followed Darrell Frederick in 1931, Wesley Stanislaus in 1935, and Ernest Edwin in 1941.
Fred was a very keen motorcyclist and, reputably, one of the founders of dish-track racing in Australia. The first track was at Maitland. Fred's love of motorbikes led to an unfortunate accident when, in 1931 he was on his way to Newcastle with a mate, Fred came off his bike at the old railway level crossing at Hexham. Fred was seriously injured and his left leg was amputated at the hip. Fred was in St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney for some time and received three blood transfusions from his sister, Veronica, a rare occurrence in those days.
Veronica is reported to have prayed to God for Fred's recovery with the promise that if God allowed Fred to live, she would join the convent as a nun. Fred did recover and Veronica kept her side of the agreement by becomine Sister Marie Veronica.
Apparently the doctors said that Fred would never be able to wear an artificial leg as his stump was too short, but Fred's determination overcame that problem and the people of Millfield - Paxton took up a collection to buy his first wooden leg. Pat recalls taking a ferry to Sydney from Newcastle, to visit his father. The ferry docked at Pier 1 !!
When Fred returned to Millfield after his convalescence he took up cobbling. The money he earned supported his family and helped him in his correspondence course in Automotive Engineering. Fred then began working on, and repairing cars. He also built a house at Millfield and a shed where he could do his mechanical work.
While working as a mechanic at home Fred did a course in welding at Cessnock Technical College. During the depression Fred worked as a timekeeper for the Government relief work. His son Pat would have to take his father's reports and hand them to the bus driver on Monday mornings before going to school.
Fred and Essie moved their family to Mayfield when Fred got a job welding at Stewart & Lloyds in Mayfield about 1938. Fred used to ride a Lambrella motor scooter to work. Early in the War Fred joined the Royal Australian Electrical, Mechanical and Engineering Corps, R.A.E.M.E. Corps. He was probably one of the few men admitted to the Army with only one leg. He rose to the rank of Corporal Instructor and gained distinctions for his skill in welding. He was discharged from the Army about the beginning of 1944 and was employed at the State Dockyard in Newcastle.
Essie died in Newcastle on 17 September 1962 after which Fred spent most of his time in Allandale and Lidcombe Hospitals. He died at Lidcombe on 12 January 1983.
Patrick Fennelly O'Connor was born at Cessnock on 22 March 1929 and spent his early childhood in the coal mining area. He loved the long and pleasant walks with his grandfather among the hills above Millfield, where they would learn all sorts of interesting things about plants, some of which they would bring home for grandfather to plant in the school garden; about trees and they would bring home some pieces to be made into furniture; about birds which are so beautiful and plentiful in the quiet forests, or about many other things of which grandfather was so knowledgeable and wise.
Patrick was about ten years old when the family moved to Marrickville where he completed his primary school education. Then they moved to Mayfield and Patrick attended Newcastle Technical High School and then worked for a time in the steel works.
On 24 June 1950, Patrick married Inez Dawson at Adamstown. Inez is the daughter of John Cook Dawson and Margaret Estel Scott both of Newcastle District. Pat and Inez had a son John born in Newcastle 15 April 1952. Patrick was with the C.M.F. (Commonwealth Military Force) at this time but soon left it and joined the St. John Ambulance Brigade. As an Ambulance driver he and his family moved to Narrabri and then to Walgett. Two more children were born to them in Walgett, Peter on 26 July 1955 and a daughter Kerry on 7 February 1957. Kerry was born just after her great grandfather, Mick O'Connor, at 83 years of age, arrived in Walgett with his Geiger counter, looking for uranium! Patrick helped him to get back onto the train and return to his daughter Kit, at Redhead (near Newcastle).