History with Brian James: Michael O'Mara, the man from Ironbark

Iron Bark Inn at Stuart Town in the present day.
Iron Bark Inn at Stuart Town in the present day.

Michael O'Mara was an Irishman from County Clare and arrived in Australia when he was in his early twenties. Gold mining was all the rage at the time and Michael went to the Bathurst District hoping to make his fortune.

He tried his luck on the diggings at Stuart Town, having no luck and hearing of the wondrous stories of the gold at Lambing Flat, decided to go there. Stuart Town in those days was known as Ironbark, and later made famous by Banjo Patterson's poem, the man from "Ironbark".

He decided to leave the gold digging to others and built a slab and bark hut and bakery at Spring Creek. He eventually converted his bakery to a general Store.

Spring Creek developed into a thriving little village, there was a hotel opposite and a Chinese Joss House nearby.

After the gold petered out and most of the miners moved on to other gold fields, Michael stayed on and established his home, purchasing land and maintaining a farming enterprise near Wombat.

Here he remained for the next 50 years of his life. Shortly after coming to Lambing Flat, or Young as it is now known, he married Mary Quoin.

This marriage was the first Roman Catholic marriage celebrated at Young in the old wooden church, which was demolished, moved and later used as a weather shed at the school.

They had a family of one son and eight daughters. One daughter, Mary, died in 1897 and is buried in the Waverley Cemetery.

A "True Hearted Gentleman"

The following is part of Michael's Obituary published in The Young Witness of April 8, 1919:

"During his long residence here, Mr. O'Mara made many friends, in fact many owe their present successful position in life to his generous assistance.

"He made a success of his own life and it was his disposition to try and help others do the same. Any of the residents within miles of his home will tell [of] what a kindly neighbour he was...

"Although not identified in public movements he nevertheless took a keen interest in everything that pertained to the welfare of the community and was a liberal supporter of his church and charitable institutions.

"This trait in his character was specially referred to by the officiating priest at Wombat on Sunday morning. There are many in the Wombat district who will regret the passing of such a true hearted gentleman.

"The funeral on Sunday afternoon was of exceptional length. The remains were laid to rest in the Catholic portion of the Young cemetery, the last prayers being said by the Very Reverend Dean Hennessy assisted by Reverend Father Costello. The pall bearers were Messrs M. O'Mara (Son) Dan Durning (Nephew) S. James Jr, G. Putt and T. McCormack (Sons-in-law).

"Patterson brothers carried out the mortuary arrangements.

"[The] deceased left a family of one son (Michael) and seven daughters, Mrs. Putt (Wombat), Mrs. S. James (Wombat), Mrs. Samuels (Wombat),Mrs. Northover (Sydney), Mrs. McCormack (Harden), Miss Della O'Mara (Grenfell), and Miss Clara O'Mara (Wombat). The late Mrs. Durning was a sister of the deceased.

"Ald. J.M. Durning (Mayor of Grenfell) is a nephew and was present at the funeral."

Michael O'Mara is buried in the Catholic portion of the Young Cemetery with his wife, Mary, who died on April 30, 1913, aged 70 years old and with two of his daughters, Ellen James and Margret Putt.