When Therry obtained the land most of today’s Leichhardt was part of a large estate known as the Elswick Estate and was owned by Sydney solicitor and MLA James Norton, who with his family, lived on the estate in a large house known as Elswick House. In later years the Sisters of St. Joseph purchased Elswick House to establish a school and today, although much altered, it is part of the offices of the Catholic Education Office.
How Father Therry obtained the land is both fascinating and a little mysterious. It is thought that around 1857, Therry did a ‘deal’ with James Norton to obtain the land on a progressive payment basis, regrettably both Therry and Norton died before the transaction was completed. It is now thought that the cemetery land is one of the many blocks of land that Therry bequeathed to the Society of Jesus in Ireland to encourage them to come to Australia.
The cemetery land eventually passed to the Balmain parish in January 1869 when it was legally transferred to a committee of trustees comprising Archbishop Polding, the Balmain parish priest Father Dillon and two well known Balmain identities, Michael Hyland and Martin Cherry.
Whilst there are legends that Father Therry began to carry out burials in 1857, the first ‘proven’ burial is that of Catherine Leahy on 16th September 1868 and the funeral notice of Matthew Byrnes dated 12 December 1868 states that his place of burial is the new Catholic cemetery at Balmain. This suggests that burials actually started around the end of 1868.
Regrettably the burial register has been lost and knowing who is buried under the buildings now on the site is very difficult, however a local historian with fond memories of growing up in Leichhardt has written a history of the cemetery and is working to re-create the burial register and is anxious to hear from any readers who have memories or photos of this cemetery and especially anyone with information about burials which took place there.
If you can help, please contact:
Patrick Callaghan by mail at
1 Katina St. Turramurra or by
email at: email@example.com