Monday, January 23, 2017

#CollectiveMemories Monday - Life on the O'Brien Family Farm

Photo of young Aloysius with two puppies in 1921

Many people in St. John's will have memories of Aly O'Brien and the O'Brien brothers, and their fabulous heritage farm and farmhouse, Thimble Cottage.  The O’Brien Farm is situated within the City of St. John’s between Mount Scio Road and Oxen Pond Road. The thirty-two acre property is located within Pippy Park and is adjacent to the MUN Botanical Gardens.

The O’Brien family immigrated to St. John’s from southeastern Ireland. John O’Brien (1791-1857) established a farm in Freshwater, two miles west of St. John’s, in or around 1818. From its establishment, this farm was operated by O’Brien family for 190 years until the family’s last descendant, Aloysius Patrick O’Brien, passed away in October 2008.

In 2010, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador acquired the farm to be developed as an historic site. In 2011, the O’Brien Farm Foundation was founded to manage, preserve and develop the property as a sustainable historic resource and visitor destination. The O’Brien Farm as an historic site focuses on a number of themes: Irish settlement in Newfoundland; Irish-Newfoundland culture and tradition; farming history in Newfoundland; sustainable farming practices; and the story of the O’Brien family.

Between 1992-1994, Dr. Jo Shawyer, Department of Geography, Memorial University, conducted a series of interviews with Aly O’Brien.

You can listen to the first of their chats here, where Aloysius talks about the farm and the life in the past. Topics include the acquisition of the land, the history of Irish immigrants, the neighbours, carts, horses, cows, and farm life.

The remainder of their conversations, along with photos and other documents about the farm, are all online on Memorial University's Digital Archive Initiative.

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