Patrick O’Toole (1808-1879) was born in County Wicklow, and married Teresa Boyle in Dublin before the couple arrived in Sydney in 1842. As a stonemason, Patrick was drawn to Pyrmont, and as an active and literate Catholic he campaigned for funds to build the St Bede’s Church. The family prospered, becoming owners or lessees of three houses in Way (now Ways) Terrace. They had three children: the eldest, Hannah, entered the Good Shepherd Convent as Sister Elizabeth, Teresa was the second-born, and the youngest, Hugh, won a scholarship to Lyndhurst College.
Another O’Toole dynasty arrived in Pyrmont a decade later. They came from County Wexford in a long series of family sponsorships leading eventually to the arrival of Thomas and Hannah, the family progenitors. They likely came from a farming background, without much schooling.
John Francis O’Toole was baptised in St Bede’s in 1908, and in 1930 was the first – and so far the only – Pyrmont boy to be ordained priest. In 1935 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and had to endure three operations and much pain before he died in 1938.
Phillip Patrick O’Toole (1913-2007) son of Joseph and Mary Therese O’Toole, spent his childhood in the O’Toole clan in Pyrmont. He worked a clerk, and soon became active in union affairs. He helped to displace the Communist Party-aligned executive of the NSW branch of the Clerks Union in 1947, becoming Branch Secretary and later a member of the Federal Council. During his long career in the Clerks Union and the Labour Council, he represented the Union overseas, and was awarded an MBE in 1977 and an OAM in 1988. A keen football player and swimmer, in later life he chaired the NSW Swimming Association.
The Gaelic prefix ‘O’ was out of favour until the 1870s, when many families restored or adopted it as an expression of Irish patriotism.