My grandfather, Patrick Aloysius O'Brien, was a doctor in France during the Great War and later Casualty Surgeon to the Central Police Office in Glasgow. On the night of 10 May 1941, he was called to examine an injured pilot parachuting from a Messerschmitt 110 fighter plane at Eaglesham south of Glasgow. The injured man was Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer of the Third Reich and leader of the NAZI party.

Hess had flown to Scotland on an unauthorised personal mission to meet with my father's Commanding Officer, the Duke of Hamilton, whom Hess had met at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. His naive expectation was that the Duke would secretly arrange for him to meet with the King of England behind Prime Minister Winston Churchill's back. It was a sincere but ill-fated attempt to end the war between Britain and Germany. Coincidentally, my cousin, also Dr Patrick O'Brien, was Hess's physician shortly before his death in Spandau Prison on 17 August 1987. Hess was found by a warder strangled by a length of electric flex. 
I was to be named after my grandfather; however, in April 1947, my youngest uncle's ship, the SIR HARVEY ADAMSON, foundered with the loss of all 269 souls in mysterious circumstances off the Tenasserim Coast in the treacherous waters of the Mergui Archipelago after leaving Rangoon. Lloyds believes the ship struck a stray mine during a typhoon, and it was never seen again. When I was born the following year, I was named John Alexander O'Brien after my missing uncle, who at the age of nineteen had been the ship's Chief Radio Officer and was known in the family as 'Alec'. Alec would have sent a distress signal if one could have been sent, and only a sudden catastrophic event prevented it.

I am the first of seven children and was born in Scotland in 1948. In 1953 I came to Australia with my mother and father. My mother qualified in medicine in 1944. My father saw active service as a Spitfire pilot with the ROYAL AIR FORCE during the Second World War. He flew offensive operations against the LUFTWAFFE and the REGIA AERONAUTICA in France and North Africa and during the SIEGE OF MALTA in 1942. After the war, he completed his medical training and qualified as a doctor in 1950. In 1952 he joined the ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE. He was posted as Chief Medical Officer and Head of the infant Aviation Medicine Division at Point Cook (RAAF Base Williams), where I grew up.


When my father completed his commitment to the RAAF in 1957, he commenced private medical practice in St Albans, then teeming with European immigrants and refugees with no doctor. My father practised there until six months before his death on 29 September 1998, having delivered three thousand babies. It was the best decision my parents ever made to come to Australia, where my mother gave birth to my six siblings. 

I was educated at Xavier College and Melbourne University, where I graduated in law and philosophy in 1972. I was articled to distinguished Sunshine solicitor Mr Patrick Cannon + and was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1973. I read for the Victorian Bar with Mr Anthony Graham (now The Hon. Anthony Graham Q.C.) and practised at the Victorian Bar from 1975 to 1980 principally as a criminal defence attorney.

During a career spanning over forty-four (48) years, I have conducted and managed many diverse and notable cases in the COMMON LAW jurisdictions of the superior courts in Victoria, New South Wales, Northern Territory. I have worked intimately with leading members of the Senior Bar throughout Australia, of whom all were later appointed judges of the Supreme and Federal Courts. 

Between 1977 and 1982, I was a reserve officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and prosecuted and defended courts-martial throughout Australia. In my leisure time, I enjoy fishing, technology, history, biography, and philology.

I am the erratic patriarch of an extended family of forty, one nephew married to a Chinese girl, another to an Indian girl, another to their gay partner and several of whom are also members of the legal profession.