St Patrick's Cemetery
St Patricks Cemetery at the junction of Church Street and Pennant Hills road is the oldest Catholic cemetery in Australia, the earliest memorials dating from 1822 although the land was not granted until 1836. Its distinctively Irish character is highlighted by the names on memorials such as Hourigan, Kelly, Ryan and O’Brien while many stones are embellished with shamrocks. A disproportionate number of burials in the early registers show many of those interred were people on the fringes of society coming from Parramatta’s institutions - the Lunatic Asylum, Female Factory (Convict Women’s Gaol) Poor House, Catholic Orphanage and Benevolent Asylum.
The oldest Mortuary Chapel in Australia, near the centre of the cemetery, was built in 1844 as a memorial to Reverend Thomas Francis Macarthy, a Capuchin friar. Services are still held here on All Souls day each year. Five Parramatta priests are buried beneath the floor: Dean Nicholas Coffey who built the third St Patricks Church, Dean John Rigney, pioneer of the Illawarra, Monsignor Thomas O’Reilly, who built Murphy House, and Monsignor Joseph McGovern, Diocesan Archivist and co-founder of the Catholic Historical Society. Other interesting memorials include those of Patrick Hayes, Inspector of Nuisances for Parramatta Council, Senior Sergeant Kelly who helped solve the Parramatta River murders, John Trott, member of the first Parramatta Council, William Watters, second President of St Vincent de Paul Society, Ann Bellamy, transported convict who lived to the age of 100 years and the family of Sir James Martin of Martin Place, Sydney.
Names on the memorials show patterns of early migration – French, Germans and Italians. Ah Lum and Po Tie indicate Chinese origins while the delightfully named Bridget Ah Ping denotes the beginning of intermarriage between cultures in Australia.
In 1972 the cemetery was closed to further use and trusteeship was vested in Parramatta City Council by deed of gift in 1975.
Today the cemetery is visited by tourists, as a place of research for historians and by school students fulfilling local cemetery studies for the school curriculum. Past Times Tours conducts tours of the cemetery for coach groups, schools, walking groups and individuals by appointment. There is a regular tour of the cemetery for St Patrick's day every year (closest weekend to 17 March). For further information and bookings contact email@example.com.
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