Family History

family

The O'Bryan family sailed from Cork in 1891, bound for the new world. Fleeing the famine, they braved North Atlantic storms, Castle Garden bureaucrats, corduroy roads, the Erie Canal, and the uncertainties of subsistence farming in Indiana to bring you this traditional Irish pub.

That first Irish-American O'Bryan family had only two surviving children, but the fifth generation of that family, that of Sylvester and Julia, had 14 offspring. And what a brood they turned out to be: lawyers, military men, real sisters (as in nuns), mechanics, coaches, businessmen, scientists, farmers, builders, and true community volunteers. In the words of sister Judy, "Mom and Dad taught us to laugh, love, share, pray, and live."

Jerry O'Bryan, the founder of Nine Irish Brothers, is the youngest of nine boys (Bert, Jim, Michael, Willie, Norman, Bobby, Tim, and Johnny) and five girls (Patricia, Colleen, Muriel, Judy, and Karen). Jerry and his wife Jan pay tribute to his brothers with the pub's name and honors his sisters with an inscription above the bar: & Five Irish Sisters. (He also says that the siblings took a vote, and the the name was decided 9 - 5.)

Family is core to a traditional Irish pub, and O'Bryan's Nine Irish Brothers is no exception: Family members helped build the pubs and helped to prepare for operations.

The family tradition runs strong even today: while Jerry and Jan have passed on management activities to their daughter Maggie and her husband Matt, you are likely to find Jerry and Jan enjoying the Craic, or see youngest daughter Mollie helping out at the West Lafayette pub. Grab a stool and a pint, and it won't be long before you, too, feel like part of the O'Bryan family.

Nine Irish Brothers and Five Irish Sisters

Bert

Berton William Patrick O'Bryan, the first Irish brother, was, in his own words a "strong, healthy, handsome, intelligent, and adorable lad." In fact, Bert claims that when he was born, "Mom and Dad felt so blessed, they tried again and again—in fact 13 times—to replicate their first bundle of joy.

In the 50's, Bert juggled working on the O'Bryan family farm with his college work at Marian College, until his country called. Drafted and shipped to Europe, Bert defended his country honorably. Returning to American, Bert courted and won the love of a young blonde Swedish beauty, Marlene, and added two sons and a daughter to the growing O'Bryan clan. Bert practiced law in Indiana for over 50 years, and he was gracious enough to donate much of the stained glass that adorns our pubs.

Jim

James Sylvester O'Bryan, brother number two, left the family farm at the age of 16 for the seminary. And while his mother Julia prayed that he would become a priest, God
and Jim had other plans, and by the mid 50's, he was serving his country in the US Army in Japan. At the end of his service, Jim married Mary Anne, earned his accounting degree from Marian College, became a CPA and Indianapolis businessman, and had three beautiful Colleens.

Though he never became a priest, "Buddy" served God all his life, which he left too soon. He loved a pint and would have felt quite at home in his brother's pubs. So let's raise a glass and toast him with a slight paraphrase of how the Irish remember JFK: Jimmie, we hardly knew ye."

Sister Pat

Patricia O'Bryan was the first of the sisters, and a true "sister" at that! A Catholic nun, Sister Pat was also the founder and director of Edelweiss House, a home for abused boys in Southern Indiana. Sister Patty loved being the eldest female and remembers how much fun it was to help raise her other brothers and sisters; and they, in turn, have helped Sister Pat in her mission to turn around the lives of the misfortunate.

Sister Pat loved Bert's family baseball games, where everyone played, regardless of the fact that they were too young to swing a bat. Her favorite memory from childhood is that of the vacuum cleaner salesman, who was demonstrating for mother Julia: All of a sudden, all of the brothers and sisters burst through the front door, and into the room. Amazed, the salesman asked Julia, "Are they all yours?" When she replied in the affirmative, he retorted "Lady, the sweeper is yours. You deserve it." Sister Pat has left us now, but before she did, she was pleased to bless our pubs.

Colleen

Colleen O'Bryan, the second Irish sister, remembers being seven years old and playing dolls with her sister, Pat, when they both decided that "they were going to take care of all the poor kids in the world." Little did either of them know that Patty would start a home for children, or that Colleen would be "raising a bunch of my own."

On her first day of high school, Colleen's Civics teacher asked for all the Catholics to raise their hands. "In my grade book, C' stands for Catholic," he said, which made Colleen so mad that she earned an A despite him. No one could ever write a better Irish toast than our Colleen:

"To my parents who gave me such a wonderful childhood. To my husband and children, who opened so many doors for me to travel through. To my Nine Brothers and four Sisters who taught me to have fun, to care, to share, and to stand up for myself. And to God who made Ireland and the Angels who found it."

Muriel

"Mo" is the third Irish sister, and as her father called her, the first "blue-eyed blonde good luck charm" to be born into the family. She idolized her two older brothers (that is,
until the day they chased her around the barnyard with a chicken.). Though none of the brothers were ever "allowed" to attend she and her sisters' "elegant" childhood tea parties, Muriel always welcomed them to walk down to the outhouse with her after dark to keep the boogeyman away. "I guess they learned to be protectors way back then, God bless 'em."

Muriel will never forget the two separate house fires that twice left the O'Bryan clan homeless for short periods while growing up, but the family always stuck together, moved into new houses, and life went on without skipping a beat. Muriel and her husband, Joe, had five children and 16 grandchildren, but she didn't stop there. For many years, Muriel was a house-mom at Purdue.

Judy

Julia Josephine Elizabeth was the sixth O'Bryan child. As she claims, Judy was "of such beauty that God caused only boys to be born in the family for the next six years." A real tomboy (as you would expect her to be with nine brothers), Judy loved to climb trees, fight like the boys, and even once, at her brothers' urging, climbed up for a ride on the back seat of the manure spreader. She never did that again.

Once when her uncle came to the farm with a bottle of Irish whiskey to celebrate the purchase of a new car, Judy and one of her gullible younger brothers drove that car down the lane and into the fence. Since none were tall enough to reach the pedals and see out of the window, Judy took the wheel, and the brothers the pedals. Christmas was always Judy's favorite time on the O'Bryan farm, and to this day she can still smell her dad's cigars and taste her mother's fine pastries.

Michael

Michael Joseph is the third brother and seventh overall. Born after a string of four girls who doted on him, by the age of six he was know as the "little chef" for making his older brothers pancakes, bacon, and eggs every morning before they went out to milk the cows.

Michael's fascination with cars started when he would drive the tractor while his brothers "skied" behind across a wet farm field. Not only could (and would) Michael race them, but he could fix 'em. Mike earned the nickname "Tiger" the hard way, but all the younger brothers credit him for teaching them to stand up for themselves. Mike and his wife Mary Ann have three girls, a boy, and many grandchildren. The Tiger is still flipping pancakes for them.

Willie

William Thomas, the fourth Irish brother, is absolutely certain that the teachers at Lebanon High School "could wait to get me out of school!" Willie had his first job at 15 and never looked back, ending his working career after 31 years at GM. Willie now devotes his time to volunteering at St. Joseph's.

Be careful, though. Especially if you catch Willie eyeing you for measurements: He also worked 29 years at a mortuary! Our pubs have been the sight of many a joyful wake, and Willie's spirit presides over them.

Norman

Norman is the fifth Irish brother. Sandwiched, he claims, "between the wise older ones and the gullible younger ones." Both he and brother Tim remember how they cooked up the Great O'Bryan Plan: The boys had to milk the cows in the morning and were always running behind for the bus. If they missed it, it meant a four-mile walk to school. Tired of the walk, the boys decided that as the bus would pull up at the end of the long farm lane, each child, one by one, would walk slowly the length of the lane to the bus. The driver couldn't leave if there was still a walking O'Bryan child in sight of the lane.

After a career I the hair salon and beauty school business, Norman made a career change to the development of and research in hardwood trees, specifically Black Walnuts. Norman has three children, one of whom with Norman laid the stonework for the archway of the West Lafayette pub; likewise, the "Walnut Room" is clad in Norman's beautiful Walnut.

Tim

Timothy Patrick, brother number six, also loved Christmas on the family farm, more than any other day, because of the "five gallon lard cans full of cookies and the piles of oranges, apples, and candy under the tree." The best Christmas morning? Well that would be the one when the boys got BB guns. The worst? The same one, when they proceeded to shoot out all the windows of the henhouse. Their dad lined the boys up and book all the guns over the cottonwood tree. But the spirit of Christmas still lives on in Tim: Tim and his wife, Karen, have three grown children and several grandchildren, and to this day, Tim dresses up like Santa Claus for his grandchildren.

Tim is a handyman at heart, which came in handy in the building of the first two pubs, where Tim served as the General Contractor. A job well done, wouldn't you say?

Bobby

Robert George, brother number seven, claims to have worked at different times for Michael, Norman, and Jim, but he doesn't remember actually getting paid for the work. Bobby was educated at Ball State, where he was a wrestler and a soccer player. He taught school for 33 years and coached just about every sport any kid in Indiana ever played, including Chess. He also worked as an EMT for several years.

Like the other O'Bryan siblings, he remembers the good times they had growing up on the family farm, "the corncob and duck egg fights, sicking Rags on the neighbor kids, egging the police car with Judy." He still plays basketball and soccer with the young guys, declaring "if I have to die, I'd rather it be in a soccer field than in a hospital bed." I
wonder if he'll take up Hurling?

Karen

Karen Gerard Patricia is sister number five, whose parents were surprised when their promised bouncing baby boy turned out to be a girl! She says she may as well have been a boy, though. In sixth grade, she hit a home run so far that it busted out the stained glass window in the church at the very end of the schoolyard. The other family Tomboy, Karen could eat watermelon face-first, expertly stall the bus driver at the end of the lane, build bonfires, and knock down hard-hit grounders with the best of the brothers.

Like her sister Pat before her, Karen entered the convent out of high school, but by her own admission, "the Mother Superior and I very quickly decided that being a nun was not my calling." She turned to business and found her niche in training, bringing out the best in sales people in the insurance industry. Married and the mother of three, she still wants to know that "Girls Rule," and that "Five Irish Sisters" is a better name for an Irish pub.

Johnny

John Anthony is the second-to-last Irish brother, who made a grand entrance into the world, "butt first." His formative years at St. Joseph's Elementary, where the nuns presided as "judge, jury, and executioner," prepared him for a career in the military. After graduating from Marian like his brother Berton, Johnny joined the National Guard and eventually retired after twenty-two years as a major in the U.S. Army reserves. Simultaneously, he forged a career in insurance and mortgage financing, before agreeing to help do the books at our Indianapolis location.

One of Johnny's favorite memories was watching the Gillette Friday Night Fights with his dad: Sylvester had been a prize fighter under the name "Buster O'Bryan," and being one of the youngest, John was always home on Friday nights to watch the fights. "What great evenings we had, ducking and weaving with every punch, and Dad analyzing the fight between each round." When not watching the fights, baseball was the order of the day, and the O'Bryan's could easily field their own team. "City kids would bicycle five miles to the farm to play us, and we'd have to clear the field of cow pies and use whatever we could find for the bases."

Jerry (Gerard Daniel O'Bryan)

Jerry (or "Gerd" as his grandson Jack likes to call him), is the younger of the Nine Irish Brothers and Five Irish Sisters who gave this pub its name. Jerry claims that, when he was born and his parents took a look at him, they realized "after 13 tries, they had FINALLY reached perfection!" There are others among us who don't share his certainty. Jerry is the baby of the family, and by admission of all, the orneriest of all.

For Jerry, growing up with 13 siblings was an adventure, and he credits the treatment of his older brothers and sisters for his "great patience and sensitivity today." When he was playing high school football, Jerry would cringe every time his Aunt Once screamed "Go Baby Jer!" from the stands, but he still hasn't outgrown that nickname from his brothers and sisters.

One of his formative memories defines all that was good about growing up an O'Bryan: "A man came to the farmhouse door holding a duck he had accidentally killed with his truck, and he asked Dad if he could keep it. We didn't have much of anything at that time, but Dad said 'no,' but he could have a fresh one for his family. At the time, I thought we need the duck for our own meals, my my dad said that that man must have needed it more, and he was honest to come and ask."