Biography of John O'Brien
Monsignor Patrick Joseph Hartigan was an Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet.
He was born at Yass, New South Wales and ordained after study at St Patrick's Seminary, Manly. Writing under the pseudonym "John O'Brien" Hartigan's verse celebrated the lives and mores of the outback pastoral folk he ministered as a peripatetic curate to the southern New South Wales and Riverina towns of Thurgoona, Berrigan and Narrandera, in the first two decades of the 20th century. His poetry was very popular in Australia and was well received in Ireland and the United States.
The refrain We'll all be rooned from his poem Said Hanrahan has entered colloquial Australian English as a jocular response to any prediction of dire consequences arising, particularly, from events outside the interlocutor's control.
Hartigan died in Lewisham, an inner suburb of Sydney in 1952.
A John O'Brien Festival is held annually in Narrandera.
John O'Brien's Works:
Around the Boree Log and Other Verses 1921
The Parish of St Mel's 1954
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John O'Brien Poems
The Little Irish Mother
THE LITTLE IRISH MOTHER Have you seen the tidy cottage in the straggling, dusty street, Where the roses swing their censers by the door?
The Old Bush School
'Tis a queer, old battered landmark that belongs to other years; With the dog-leg fence around it, and its hat about its ears, And the cow-bell in the gum-tree, and the bucket on the stool, There's a motley host of memories round that old bush school--
"We’ll all be rooned," said Hanrahan In accents most forlorn Outside the church ere Mass began One frosty Sunday morn.
Could I hear the Kookaburras once again
May a fading fancy hover round a gladness that is over? May a dreamer in the silence rake the ashes of the past? So a spirit might awaken in the best the years have taken, And the Jove that left him lonely might be with him at the last.
The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime, And galvanized the old bush church at Confirmation time; And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around, With Sunday clothes, and staring eyes, and ignorance profound.
They hadn't met for fifty years, or was it fifty-one ? They'd parted when their ship arrived their separate ways to run. The old Baptismal Register back home in County Clare Held both their names in faded ink, the same day written there.
Six Brown Boxer Hats
The hawker with his tilted cart pulled up beside the fence, And opened out his wondrous mart with startling eloquence; All sorts of toys for girls and boys upon the grass he spread, And dolls, dirt-cheap, that went to sleep when stood upon their head;
Fall the shadows on the gullies, fades the purple from the mountain; And the day that's passing outwards down the stairways of the sky, With its kindly deeds and sordid on its folded page recorded, Waves a friendly hand across the range to bid the world "good-bye."
The Altar Boy
Now McEvoy was altar-boy As long as I remember; He was, bedad, a crabbed lad, And sixty come December.
The Presbyt'ry Dog
Now of all the old sinners in mischief immersed, From the ages of Gog and Magog, At the top of the list,from the last to the first, And by every good soul in the parish accursed,
Around the Boree Log
Oh, stick me in the old caboose this night of wind and rain, And let the doves of fancy loose to bill and coo again. I want to feel the pulse of love that warmed the blood like wine; I want to see the smile above this kind old land of mine.
He comes when the gullies are wrapped in the gloaming And limelights are trained on the tops of the gums, To stand at the sliprails, awaiting the homing Of one who marched off to the beat of the drums.
The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
And galvanized the old bush church at Confirmation time;
And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
With Sunday clothes, and staring eyes, and ignorance profound.
Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
An overgrown two-storey lad from Tangmalangmaloo?
A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has had her fling,
And grows the trefoil three feet high and mats it in the spring;