Michael O’Shannessy (1868-1957)
Catherine O’Neill (1877-1962)

Jump down to the list of their children

Catherine O’Neill, known as Kit, was the youngest of twelve children of Patrick O’Neill & Elizabeth Lulham. She was born on 17 Jul 1877 (record 19364) in the Port Stephens district.

Michael O’Shannessy was born on 05 Jan 1868 (record 19364), his parents being Michael O’Shannessy & Elizabeth Cullen. Michael’s father was born in Tipperary, Ireland, on 17 Oct 1829 and his mother in 1839, also in Tipperary.

There is a 40 page pdf outlining Michael O’Shannessy snr. and his descendants, written by Rhonda Brownlow and Monica Jones; read it or download it by clicking here.

Michael joined the Post Office from a young age. The Crookwell Gazette reported on Fri 7 Nov 1890 that he had been appointed Postal Assistant and Telegraph Operator at Crookwell. However in a nostalgic article written on Wed 18 Jul 1951, it mentions he had been working in that job from February 1884 (he would then have been aged 16):

(Contributed by Public Relations Officer, P.M.G.’s Department)

The story of efforts to establish the Post Office at Crookwell carries with it the story of Crookwell’s early days when the settlement was a few huts at Brooklands. It has been supplied by the Postmaster-General’s Department from its records.

Postmasters in those days still retained a great deal of independence of Head Office. This is shown by the fact that on 6th May, 1885, Michael O’Shannessy applied for a position of assistant. No answer was received from Head Office. He applied again on 4th November, 1885. It was approved in December, but O’Shannessy had been in the position since the previous February.

In 1888 Michael moved temporarily to Tuena, about 60km north of Crookwell, to cover for a sick postmaster; from the Crookwell Gazette on Fri 20 Apr 1888:

… Wending our way to the post and telegraph office, a wooden building totally inadequate to the requirements of the district, we found the whole of the front covered with applications for mineral lenses, &c. The acting warden’s clerk, Mr. Madew, was inside his office working away and surrounded by a dozen eager applicants sufficient to try the patience of any one, but each was treated with becoming courtesy. When our turn came to inquire at the post-office crib (we can call it nothing else), we were met with a well-known voice, namely that of Mr. M. O’Shannessy, who is in charge of the post and telegraph office at Tuena during the absence through sickness of Mr. Bell, and is assisted by Master Bremner. The people speak in the highest terms of Mr. O’Shannessy, although but a short time in their midst. The business was so brisk at the office on Saturday that both officials were kept busy the whole day. We would like to publish the returns of the warden’s and post and telegraph departments at Tuena; we are certain the amount would be considerably larger than that of many places of greater pretensions.

For a short time in 1891 he was at Gannons Creek Post Office on the Hastings River.

Michael, described as assistant and telegraph operator at Crookwell, was promoted to be post and telegraph master at Hillgrove West, a mining town about 30km east of Armidale, NSW (Goulburn Herald, Fri 18 Dec 1891).

Michael’s role in Hillgrove West was extended to one of issuing various licenses. Firstly, from The Daily Telegraph, Mon 22 Aug 1892:

Mr. Michael O’Shannessy, to issue at West Hillgrove, licenses under the timber, State forest and quarry regulations of December 2, 1889, as from the 8th

Then from The Australian Star on Thu 08 Sep 1892:

Michael O’Shannessy to be mining registrar and officer authorized to issue miner’s rights, business and mineral licenses at West Hillgrove

In 1896 his appointment at Hillgrove West was as Post and Telegraph Master (fifth grade) with a salary of £120 (The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Tue 07 Jul 1896). In the 1901 census he lived in Metz, a small town on the opposite side of the gorge that Hillgrove was built on. Next to him (but around the corner) was Catherine’s sister John O’Neill, who ran one of the hotels in Metz. Catherine’s father had died in 1887 and her mother in 1894 when she was just 17. It is probable that she moved to Metz in 1894; she would have been an immediate neighbour to Michael.

Catherine and Michael married on 17 Jul 1900 in West Maitland.

The Inverell Argus published Michael’s next move on Fri 11 Apr 1902:


… Mr. J. Long, post and telegraph master, has been transferred to Inverell. Mr. O’Shannessy, from Hillgrove, fills the vacancy.

Howell is a small town about 30km south of Inverell. He was next transferred to Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains; from The Sydney Morning Herald on Mon 01 Jun 1908 (P.M. = Post Master):


The following transfers of postmasters, etc., have been approved, with increased salaries, were shown, as from January 1, 1908. Below are the name of the officer, the present position occupied, and the salary attached to the new position:

M. O’Shannessy, P.M., Howell, £100 – P.M., Wentworth Falls, £160.

We are not sure of the date Michael’s next appointment. Prior to retirement he was postmaster at Arncliffe – this was mentioned in the report of his daughter Maris’s wedding. They were at Arncliffe as early as 1924, as Kit’s sister Nora had a child who died at that address; from The Sydney Morning Herald on 28 Jun 1924:

BARLING.- June 27, 1924, at her aunt’s residence, Arncliffe Post-office, Nora Gertrude, beloved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Barling, of Lithgow, aged 2½ years. R.I.P.

Michael had retired by 1932. The electoral rolls in the 1930s and 1940s are rather interesting. A Catherine O’Shannessy shows up alone in the 1930 to 1937 registers at Loretto Convent, Carabella St, North Sydney. In the same period Michael O’Shannessy lived at 12 Camaray Ave, Camaray, not very far away. From 1932 to 1934 at the same address was Calsen Joan O’Shannessy, a typist; in 1936 and 1937 at the same address was Austin Herbert O’Shannessy, a clerk. Catherine then appears with Michael at the Camaray address in the registers between 1943 and 1954. No registers were compiled during the war. (It is possible that a work address was used for the registers rather than a home address. She is described as being at that address in the 1934 wedding of her daughter Colleen.)

Michael O’Shannessy died on14 May 1957 in North Sydney (record 11548), aged 89, Kit on 03 May 1962 (record 13357), aged 84.

Michael and Kit’s family:

01. Maris Stella (b. 11 Jun 1901 in Hillgrove, d. 16 Apr 1980)

02. John Joseph (b. 01 Oct 1903 in Annandale, d. 1940)

03. Jessie (b. 1906 in Annandale, d. 09 Jan 1986)

04. Claire (b. 1906 in Annandale, d. 1907)

05. Colleen Joan (b. 1909 in Katoomba, d. 109 Apr 1953)

06. Austin Herbert (b. 19 Jan 1915 in Chatswood, d. )

01. Maris Stella O’Shannessy married Philip Justin Stormon in Sydney in 1928; a description of the wedding was reported in Freeman’s Journal on Thu 25 Oct 1928.

Philip was born in Moruya on 11 Sep 1898, his parents being Michael Stormon & Rosina Ellen Ryan. Philip’s mother’s name is recorded as Rose Ellen in his death record; the inscription on his tombstone has 1899 as his birth year, and reads my husb, father of Therese. Philip was a medical doctor. In the Sands Directories of 1930 and 1932-3 his practice was stated to be at 238 Victoria Ave, Chatswood; The Sydney Morning Herald had carried an announcement of the commencement of his practice at that address back on Sat 20 Oct 1928.

Philip died in Willoughby on 09 Nov 1954, aged 56; his probate record shows his first name as Phillip. The 1954 electoral roll has the couple living at 240 Penshurst St Willoughby, as has his funeral notice:

STORMON -The Relatives and Friends of Mrs. Maris Stormon and Therese of 240 Penshurst Street Willoughby are invited to attend the Funeral of her dearly beloved Husband and her dear Father Dr PHILIP JUSTIN STORMON M. B., Ch. M., which will leave St. Thomas Church High Street Willoughby This Day (Thursday) at 9.30 am for the Catholic Cemetery Northern Suburbs. Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul will be celebrated at 7 o clock this morning.

In several newspaper articles Philip’s surname is spelt Storman; for example, from The Inverell Times, Wed 07 April 1937:

Mrs. P. J. Storman, wife of Dr. P. J. Storman, of Willoughby, accompanied by her baby daughter, Therese, is visiting her sister, Mrs. J. Kearns.

Philip’s name appeared in countless newspaper notices of fund raisers (especially for the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Crows Nest), of dances and of medical incidences which he attended.

web_Therese Storman

The Australian Women’s Weekly carried an announcement of Therese Storman’s engagement to John Playoust on Wed 18 Sep 1957 with the photo above:

ENGAGEMENT. John Playoust and pretty Therese Stormon, who have announced their engagement. Therese is the only daughter of the late Dr. P. J. Stormon and of Mrs. Stormon, of Willoughby, and John is the only son of M. and Madame Fernand Playoust, of Killara.

There is an electoral roll record of a John Joseph and Marie Therese Playoust living at 7/9 Werona Ave, Killara, in 1972 but we are not certain this is the same couple.

From the death notice for Maris Stella O’Shannessy’s brother Austin that Therese and John Proust placed (see below) it appears they had four children Luke, Julian, Marguerite and Nicholas.

02. John Joseph O’Shannessy we know little about. He married Brenda May Alberd in Waverley on 02 Feb 1924. The marriage lasted just a few years. In 1930, Brenda petitioned for divorce on the ground of desertion for three years and upwards without just cause or excuse (Sydney Mail, Wed 19 Nov 1930); the degree nisi was granted in 1931 (The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 3 Jun 1931).

John and Brenda had a son, John Leo O’Shannessy, born 17 May 1924, who married Jacqaline Mabel Taylor on 02 Apr 1949. The couple had two children.

The family record has John Joseph O’Shannessy’s death in 1940 as being in Amsterdam, but we have no verification of that to date.

03. Jessie O’Shannessy married Leo Bernard Cullen in Sydney in 1924 (the NSW marriage record, 13943, has her first name spelt Jesse), but they had separated by 1934. A report in Sydney’s Truth on Sun 04 Feb 1940 is quite informative about Jessie’s life during those years:
Jessie O'Shannessy


£2 10s Week for Advertising

It’s a curious thing. He calls himself assistant manager of the King’s Hotel, Pitt-street. The wages book says he’s manager. Mr. Callinan, the licensee, calls him practically manager. But he says when he goes up from head barman to assistant manager he receives an increase of only 10/ a week.

MR. McLELLAND. counsel, made this claim to the Deputy-Registrar in Divorce (Mr. Doughan) last week, when asking for £2/10/- a week alimony pendente lite for Mrs. Jessie Cullen (nee O’Shannessy) [see photo], of Cammeray Avenue. Cammeray. Leo Bernard Cullen, of the King’s Hotel, was respondent to the application.

The Cullens, after more than six years apart and after very recent rejoicing by the wife that perhaps they would come together again as business partners, have reached the matrimonial cross-roads on the wife’s petition for divorce alleging adultery. Cullen and a Cessnock woman are charged. The allegations are denied.

Mr. McLelland devoted considerable oratorical powers to denouncing Cullen’s claim that, of £7/10/- shown as paid him in the hotel wages book, £2/10/- being for entertainment expenses, to be spent in the bar on behalf of his employer, Albert Callinan.

Callinan corroborated Cullen’s evidence.


“For 18 months Mrs. Cullen was left without support,” said Mr. McLelland. “Then she had to get out to work. She first went to her aunt in Wollongong, then to the Pymble Hotel for five years.

“If the husband can now support her, surely it isn’t right to say she must still go out and work?

“Why can’t she take up the attitude “I’ll live with my mother and father and son and my husband will support me”?

Leo CullenMr. Akhurst, for Cullen: I put it to you, Mr. Registrar, it’s most peculiar that a couple of weeks after Mrs. Cullen took out this petition she resigned from her job purely and simply, I say, for the purpose of these proceedings.

Mrs. Cullen broke down into tears after telling the Registrar her side of the story. She kicked off by saying in an affidavit H. Cullen is paid £7/10/- with free board and residence. She added H. Cullen recently told her he had an offer to invest £800 capital in Callinan’s Hotel Pty. Ltd., and would be taking over other premises as licensee manager. She alleged also H. Cullen made money by betting, though Mr. McLelland (by McFadden and McFadden) said he didn’t stress this claim.

However, Mr. Akhurst then questioned Mrs. Cullen at length on her own Hotel Pymble job. You left shortly after Mr. Jack McCarron sold out? Yes.

Why? – I was given different work. The circumstances were altogether different. With the new people I was in the bar.

I resented being in the bar and left three weeks ago.

You had been helping in the bar for many years? – Yes. I relieved in the saloon bar, but I was never really working there.

You worked in the bar for your aunts at Wollongong? – Yes.

You don’t mean to say it is in any way degrading or anything like that? – I had been living. You don’t consider your social position would be affected? – I didn’t like the work I was doing.

M. Akhurst: No one likes work, Mrs. Cullen.

Mrs. Cullen added that she didn’t leave Pymble because of proceedings pending. She wished to be with her 13 years old son. She refused to go to the country for a job, even if Mr. McCarron has a job for her there.

Mr. Akhurst: You spoke to your husband about Callinan Hotel Pty., Ltd.? – Yes. He asked me to go back to him and help him manage the King’s Hotel. I thought it would be quite nice and was quite willing to come back. He was to phone me a fortnight later. I have not heard from him since.


Questioned about the £800 investment, Mrs. Cullen said she was aware Cullen went broke at Cessnock and left a lot of creditors behind him.

Cullen’s affidavit set his wages out as £5, together with £2/10/- a week entertainment expenses. He denied betting and any suggestion that he was to invest £800. He hadn’t any cash, he averred. He paid 10/- a week on a Children’s Court order at Cessnock for a child alleged to be his.

“My wife, till a short time ago was employed at the Hotel Pymble,” he added, “and will be employed by Jack McCarron.”

He denied at length to Mr. McLelland that he was anything higher than assistant manager of the King’s Hotel, under the supervision of Albert Callinan.

Sometimes he would not spend £2 10/- a week in the bar, he agreed, but at others he would spend £5, the balance above £2/10/ coming out of his own pocket.

Shown an affidavit by Michael O’Shannessy, his father-in-law, supporting Mrs. Cullen’s evidence that Cullen had mentioned putting £800 into Callinan Hotel Pty Ltd, Cullen said some of it contained untruths.

Mr. McLelland: Did you mention £800 to him? – No. Why should I?

Did you mention any sum? – No.

It is quite false? – Yes.


Cullen added it was quite untrue to say he had told O’Shannessy that a former employer named Horseman had made him substantial gifts.

Then Mr. McLelland and Mr. Akhurst paused in the inquiry to exchange compliments.

Mr. McLelland: If you are going to lead, Mr. Akhurst, lead accurately.

Mr. McLelland: Thank you for those kind words.

Mr. Akhurst: Mr. Horsman did not make you any presents in cash except salary? – No.

He made you promises but didn’t keep them? – Just forget all about them.

You are not on good terms with him now? – No.

Following evidence by Callinan that Cullen got £2/10/- a week for advertising, which is a small sum, seeing that Callinan himself spends £1 daily, the Registrar gave Mrs. Cullen 10/- weekly and the son £1.

The Registrar: I must accept that the whole or part of £2/10/- is spent on entertaining. Mrs. Cullen voluntarily worked for six years. I think I must take into account that she can earn a couple of pounds weekly.

Leo became the licensee of the Criterion Hotel in Sussex St, but ran foul of the law during war time. The case was reported in every major and provincial newspaper at the time.

Leo Cullen 2

This report is from The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 31 Dec 1943:


An appeal by Leo Bernard Cullen, licensee of the Criterion Hotel, Sussex Street, against the sentence of imprisonment imposed upon him for black marketing liquor was dismissed yesterday.

Cullen sold a bottle of whisky to a United States provost for £4, the maximum fixed price being 21/6. The transaction took place on the footpath outside the hotel after closing hours. On being charged before Mr. Wood S. M. on November 15 with a breach of a National Security Regulation he was fined £100 and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Against this he appealed upon the ground that the sentence was of excessive severity.

When sentencing Leo, the judge in the original trial had commented “nothing more damaging could be found than profiteering by selling liquor in the way in which whisky had been sold”.

Jessie died on 09 Jan 1986 (record 2849). There is a record of a Leo Bernard Cullen’s death in 1971 (record 50039). We do not have any information on their son. If anyone can assist please email

05. Colleen Joan O’Shannessy married John Stanislaus Kearns in Sydney in 1934 (record 4883). The ceremony was described in The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer on Tue 24 Apr 1934:

A wedding which united families well-known in the northern suburbs was that of Miss Colleen O’Shannessy, third daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. O’Shannessy, of Cammeray Avenue, North Sydney, to Mr. John S. Kearns, eldest son of Mr. J. Kearns, Commissoner of the Rural Bank, and Mrs. Kearns, of Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, which took place last Saturday morning at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney…

In the 1930 and 1933 electoral rolls John was described as a clerk, living his mother at his parents’ home, 337 Victoria Ave Chatswood. In the 1936 roll the now-married couple were living in Chisholm St, Inverell; John was described as a bank clerk. In 1943 they were living in the Court House Hotel, Gunnedah; he was then described as an accountant. In 1943 they were back in the family home in Chatswood. At the same address were Francis Edward (articled clerk), Josephine Sheila (nurse) and Patrick (clerk).

By 1949 the couple had taken over the running of a newsagency, 177 Glebe Rd, Glebe. During taht time he was the victim of a break-and-enter; from Sydney’s Truth on Sun 11 Nov 1945:


HAPPY indeed were the two British sailors as they ambled along Broadway, City, around midnight on November 1. They hoped to be in England again by Christmas and they were loaded with toys for the kiddies back home and presents for the grown-ups.

Under their arms they carried toy monkeys, a cute little bear, a cat, a motor-car, a doll, and a toy John Bull. And for the grown-ups there were an ornamental ashtray and no fewer than 18 pairs of earrings.

But alas, the sailor boys’ joy was short-lived. Reason: The sailors had “pinched” them out of a shop window.

The story of the toys and the sailor boy’s was related at Glebe Court last Tuesday when David Vaughan (23) and Richard Bell (23), of H.M.S Alert, a Royal Navy shore establishment in Sydney, were charged with breaking and entering the premises of John Stanislaus Kearns, newsagent, 177 Glebe Point Rd., Glebe, and stealing the articles mentioned.

Mr. Cookson. S.M., said there was no evidence of breaking and entering, and altered the charge to one of stealing, to which Bell and Vaughan pleaded guilty. They were each sentenced to a month’s gaol and ordered to pay Kearns £9 13s compensation. A further charge against them of having maliciously damaged a plate-glass window in Kearns’ shop, valued at £20, was dismissed.

By 1952 John had become the licensee of the Castle Connell Hotel in Sydney, because on Tue 21 Oct 1952 the license was sold:

Hotel Licences Transferred

The Licensing Court yesterday granted permission for the transfer of the following hotel licences:

Castle Connell Hotel, Kensington Street, Sydney, from John Stanislaus Kearns to Robert Alexander Smith, of Bondi Road, Bondi.

Sadly, Colleen passed away at the family home soon after, aged just 44: from The Sydney Morning Herald on Fri 10 Apr 1953:

KEARNS, Colleen Joan.- April 9, 1953, dearly beloved wife of Jack Kearns, of 337 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, loved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. O’Shannessy, fond sister of Maris, Jess, and Austin. Requiescat in pace.

John remarried in 1953 to Nancy Lily Lake (record 15939). In 1954 John was still described as a hotel keeper living in 68 Kensington St, Chippendale. In 1958 and 1963 the couple had moved to 2 Reddall St, Manly. John passed away in Manly in 1965 (record 29632).

We do not know whether Colleen and John had any children.

06. Austin Herbert O’Shannessy married Eileen Constance Herlihy in Sydney in 1940. The wedding was described, with this photo (reduced here in size), in Sydney’s The Sun on Sun 07 Jan 1940:

web Austin and Eillen O'Shannessy

Latest Nuptials
Transfer Speeded Wedding

ENGAGED and married ail in a fortnight – that was the romance behind the wedding of Miss Eileen Herlihy and Mr. Austin O’Shannessy last night at St. Mary’s Basilica.

Arrangements were expedited because of the bridegroom’s transfer to Finley, on the Victorian border, which will be Mr. and Mrs. O’Shannessy’s home for the next twelve months.

There is a notice in The Sydney Morning Herald on Sat 08 May 1943 announcing the birth of a son Kerry:

O’SHANNESSY (nee Herlihy) -April 21 at Mater Misericordiae (private) to L /Cpl and Mrs Austin O’Shannessy -a son (Kerry)

Austin enlisted at Paddington, service number NX91280, giving Eileen as his next-of-kin. He was discharged on 16 Jan 1946; he had served as a driver with the 2/4 Motor Ambulance Convoy. After the war Austin entered the Public Service. In the 1949 electoral rolls the couple lived at 58 Parramatta Rd, Summer Hill. In 1963 his address was 240 Penshurst St Willoughby, the home of his sister Maris Stella O’Shannessy, her husband Philip having died some 10 years earlier; Eileen was not listed with him. There is another roll for 1963 in which he is described as a sales manager living at 5/444 Pacific Highway, Lindfield. This is his address until at least 1980.

Eileen lived in North Cronulla in 1980; she died in 1988.

Austin passed away on 01 Jul 1990. Three death notices appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on Wed 04 Jul 1990: one was from his friends Tom & Judy Farrell. One from his niece Therese Playoust (see above), her husband John and (evidently) their four children Luke, Julian, Marguerite and Nicholas. The other stated “loved husband of Jean”. An family tree suggests that this was an Ailsa Jean, born on 10 Nov 1923, died on 06 Aug 1993 in Sydney at the age of 69. We have no other information at this stage.

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