Kerry O'Brien is one of Australia’s most revered television journalists. For many years he fronted the 7.30 Report and now hosts 4 Corners on the ABC. Kerry was born in Brisbane, in 1945, into a working class, Catholic family.
He embarks on a journey to find the first of the O’Brien’s to come to Australia and to test the validity of old family myths. He discovers ancestors fleeing from the terrible potato famine in Ireland in 1850; taking the perilous voyage on a disease ravaged ship to their new homeland.
Kerry’s great-great-grandfather Charles is struck down by illness but survives. He goes on to embrace the opportunities that Australia offers, becoming a businessman and hotelier. But Kerry discovers that his fortunes slide just as fast as they have risen. A long list of insolvencies follow and Charles ends up losing it all. Kerry learns that the strong bonds forged by those who undertook that dangerous voyage to Australia will come back to save Charles in his time of need.
Having always thought that his grandmother’s heritage was English, Kerry is surprised to find more Irish roots on her side of the family. Not only Irish, but convicts to boot. His great-great-grandparents Patrick and Hannah were both sent to the colony for livestock theft. Assigned to Coolangatta Estate in NSW, Patrick worked as an agricultural labourer, while Hannah had six children in a little over six years.
Kerry follows their trail to Sydney, where they had two more children, and also where, it seems, their criminal pasts catch up with them. Records show Patrick is charged with attempted murder, while Hannah is charged with running a brothel in the middle of Sydney’s worst slums.
Kerry reflects that out of this family who were always in trouble, came his grandmother and a family that was stable and honest. “Out of the dark side … comes a generation of stability and a light, if you like, at the end of the tunnel.”