May 8-14, 2011: Issue 5

 Archpriest John Joseph Therry
1790 - May 25, 1864

Born in Cork and educated at St Patrick’s, Carlow, Therry was ordained in 1815 and did parochial work in Dublin and Cork before sailing to Sydney in May of 1820 aboard the Janus, a transportation ship carrying over 100 Irish men and women convicts. He had seen these fellow Hibernians being dragged to the docks in chains for transportation, and hearing they had no priest, applied for and was accepted as a missionary. The voyage took four months. Prior to his arrival in Australia Catholic convicts and freemen’ were to attend the Anglican services or be deprived of meat or flogged, 20 lashes increased to 25 lashes for a second refusal to attend what they considered ‘heretic’ services. The Catholic priests who were here had been transported for their involvement in the Irish Rebellion and were not allowed to conduct services as they too were convicts. Many of those transported had been associated with the Rebellion so attending Anglican services, those conducted by the ruling elite, was anathema to them.

From the outset Father Therry endeavoured to better the lot of his congregation and frequently incurred the ire of those who feared another uprising from those they governed in the fledgling colony. One third of those living here then were Irish Catholics. He may have spoke his mind, saying out loud what many were thinking but afraid to voice, and a sharp wit may have pricked some egos, but he professes a wish not to offend and a sense of surety of his work and his authority to perform it;

“Lest any zeal which I may occasionally manifest for the preservation in this Colony of the holy religion of which I am but a very humble minister should excite in your mind a suspicion that I dislike persons of the other persuasions, I now distinctly declare that it is my desire, as far as it is possible, that is, as far as it is consistent with paramount duties, to be in peace with all and to give offence to none ; that I dislike no man on account of his Religion; that I respect a moral man whatever religion he may belong to” (Letter. July, 1826.)

His association with Pittwater came through a land Grant in 1833. Some sources state he was given 1200 acres, others cite 1400. Either way this area ran from Newport to Careel Bay and encompassed most of Avalon. Published in the Government Gazette lists:

113. Thomas Warner, 50, Fifty Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the Northeast corner, and bounded on the East by a side Hue of twenty-five chains; on the South by a West line of twenty-five chains to Pitt Water; and on the West and North by the waters of Pitt Water to the commencing corner.
Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31st March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum,
 commencing 1st January, 1827.
114. Henry Gaskin, 
50, Fifty Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the North-east corner of Warner's fifty acres, and bounded on the West by a South line of twenty-nine chains; on the South by an East line of twenty chains ; on the East by a North line of twenty four chains to Pitt Water ; and on the North by the waters of Pitt Water to the commencing corner. Promised by Governor Macquarie on 31st March, 1821. Quit-rent Is. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1827.

115. John Joseph Therry, 1200, One thousand two hundred Acres, Parish of Narrabeen, commencing at the South-east comer of the Government Reserve of two hundred and eighty acres, and bounded on the North by that Reserve by a line West twenty-five chains to a Stream ; on the North by that Stream and Careel Bay to the North-east Gorner of Henry Gaskin's fifty acres; on the West by Gaskin's by a line South twenty-four chains ; on the South by a line West twenty chains, and again by a line North four chains to the South-east corner of. Warner's fifty acres; on the North by Warner by a line West twenty-five chains to Pitt Water; on the West by the waters of Pitt Water to the North-west coiner of John William's sixty acres ; on the South by that farm by a line South fifty degrees East 38 chains ; on the West by a line South forty decrees West sixteen chains ; on the North by a line North fifty degrees West thirty-nine chains to the North corner of John Taylor's thirty acres ; on the West by Taylor by a line South twenty three chains to Pitt Water ; on the West by the waters of Pitt Water to the North-west corner of James M'Donald's thirty acres ; on the South by that farm by a line East eleven chains ; on the West by a line South twenty-three chains to Robert Melvyn's sixty acres; on the South by part of Melvyn's farm, and by Porter's and Anderson's farms by a line East fifty chains to  Martin Burke's fifty acres; on the East by that farm by a line North six chains to a Stream ; on the East by that Stream, which is the Western boundary of John Farrell's sixty acres; on the South by that farm by a line East twenty-eight chains to the Village Reserve of one hundred acres ; on the East by part of the Village Reserve by a line North seven chains to a Stream ; on the South by that Stream, which is the North boundary of the Village Reserve to the Sea; and on the East by
the Sea to the commencing comer. Promised by Sir Thomas Brisbane, 200 acres,on 23d July, 1824 ; 500 acres on 1st September,1824; and 500 acres on the 19th December,1825. Quit-rent £9 8s. 4d. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1829.
 Classified Advertising. (1832, November 1). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 1. Retrieved from

Friends at Clareville still hold documents of when their father’s father father purchased land with Father Therry’s name listed as owner. Pittwater’s first church at Careel Bay; St Josephs,  a small one room wooden church with a shingle roof, built in early 1870, was a Memorial to John Joseph Therry and stood near the present corner of Joseph (or George) and Therry Streets with farm lands around it that went back to bush. Catholic settlers of the area were fortunate if the church was opened once a year for Mass. The little church, known as the Barrenjoey Church of St Joseph’s, (the Catholic patron saint for workers) even though it was known as Father Therry’s, was not actually built until after his death.

Josephton was established on the shores of Careel Bay for his workers. These sought coal at Avalon Golf Course, farmed and collected shells for the manufacture of lime. One of many wills he wrote illustrates his plans for his farm here:

"I desire that my farm of eighty acres, formerly known as Peter Petitta’s farm at Pitt Water, which is beautifully and most advantageously situated, should be divided into four equal parts of twenty acres each which are intended as the sites for educational establishments for the Benedictines, Jesuits, Franciscans, and the French Mission of the Propaganda respectively.”

Also “to the land property with which I have been blessed, namely to establish five villages which are likely to become respectable towns the principal one at Pitt Water to be called Josephton” (Life and Letters. 1922). Other documents state he planned to call the whole district Josephton and Avalon was to be named Brighton.

What is certain is that Careel Bay, with its creek and sheltered cove, must have seemed ideal to his eyes, a place to dwell in quietly as respite from all his endeavours through the colony and elsewhere in Australia. Therry’s plans to build a church at St Michael’s cave illustrate the openness and beauty here kindled a rapport with the natural landscape and a sense of its innate sacredness in his heart.

A description of one of his visits here:

Yesterday, being Easter Monday, a pleasant steam excursion took place in connection with the St Benedict's Young Men's Society. The commodious steamer the Collaroy, under the command of Captain Mulhall, had been chartered for the occasion, and left the Australasian Steam Navigation Company's Wharf, Sussex-street North, with about 260 persons on board, at ten o' clock a.m. Part of the band of H. M. S. 12th Regiment were in attendance, their cheerful and untiring efforts contributing not a little towards making the day pass harmoniously and agreeably away. 

Wreck of the S.S. Collaroy, 1881 / photographer unknown. State Library of NSW Image No: a1528938: A passenger steamer owned by the Australian Steam Navigation Company, built in 1853, went ashore on Collaroy Beach in 1881 and remained there for almost 3 years, giving her name to the stretch of sand and ocean. When refloated she went back into service plying between Sydney and the Hunter River. She was withdrawn from duty in 1886, converted to a schooner, sailed to San Francisco, where she again ran ashore and broke her back on the Californian Coast in 1889.

Working along through the ever changing scenery displayed on the shores of our harbour, the Collaroy at length rounded the Heads, and, taking a northerly course, rushed past that enormous barrier presented by the weather-worn cliffs which face the ocean between the Great North Head and the seaward aspect of Manly Beach. Following on the interesting coast line of Curl Curl, Dee why, Long Reef, and Narrabeen, &c, - varied succession of wooded eminences, long sandy reaches, towering precipices, and grassy park-like slopes, - the pleasure-seekers were at length abreast of the singular headland of Barrenjoey, forming the extreme south-eastern limit of the estuary which serves as a common outlet for the River Hawkesbury and the Pitt Water. Shortly after passing the Custom House station the course of the Collaroy then took a southerly direction, and so brought the holiday folks into the lake-like solitudes of Pitt Water, until wooded hills seemed to be rising on every side of the vessel.

f.110 Mount Saint Patrick road to Broken Bay.: Image No.: a5894118h all three from album: Volume 1: Sketches of N. S. [New South] Wales, 1857-1888 / by H. Grant Lloyd, courtesy Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales - Mount Saint Patrick was the name for what we now call Bangalley Head - Mount Saint Mary, opposite, is where Stapelton park now sits atop this hill/'mount'. Visit John Collins of Avalon and Careel Bay Jetty and Boatshed

The passengers were landed at a small, but commodious wharf, erected on the property of the Venerable J. J Therry, under whose especial patronage the excursion had been got up. Most of the visitors set off in quest of St. Michael's Cave, determined not to lose the opportunity of seeing so great a natural curiosity. The walk, it was found, lay through woods, a long flat, and a hilly scrub, until, facing to the east at the head of the inlet, the merry party, in a straggling Indian file, at length arrived in the vicinity of the cave, cautiously descending the rocks, and creeping carefully along a narrow path specially made for their convenience on the face of the cliffs, they were thus finally rewarded for their perseverance. Almost every body managed to scramble up into the cave, and not a few of the more adventurous explored its inmost recesses by candle-light. The effect of the gloomy inner arch looked down upon from the top of the second angle of the cave, was much admired; and so also was the wider arch at the entrance, as contemplated from the spot where the bright daylight again began to stream down upon the faces of the returning explorers. There was, for some time, a pleasant buzz of conversation and a discussion of food at the mouth of St Michael's Cave, and then the party set out on their way back to the steamer, where dinner had been prepared.

Some with sharpened appetites posted thither at once, but many remained with the band near the house on the flat, and amused themselves with dancing, playing cricket, and so on. There was some dancing also at the steamer after dinner was over. The Kembla steamer visited the wharf at an early hour, landed some passengers, and afterwards returned for them. The Collaroy left the wharf for Sydney at about five o'clock, and arrived safe at Sydney soon after eight. The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Sydney, the Mayoress, and other members of the family were on board. We also observed the Rev. Fathers Corish, Curtis, Hanson, and Powell, besides the Venerable J. J. Therry. The trip appeared to give general satisfaction, although a slight shower, soon after the arrival of the Collaroy at Pitt Water, interfered with some of the arrangements.
PITT WATER. (1862, April 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

{From Thursday's Herald.)

Our readers will learn with surprise and regret the death of the Very Rev. John Joseph Therry, Roman Catholic Missionary Apostolic of New South Wales, which sad even occurred suddenly yesterday morning at four o'clock, at the deceased gentleman's residence at Balmain. The reverend gentleman attended the levee at Government House on the day previous, and then appeared in his usual good health, nor up to the time of his retiring to rest on Tuesday evening was there the slightest symptom of illness. Shortly before twelve o'olock, however, he was seized with spasms, which became so violent that it was deemed advisable to send for a medical man as speedily as possible and Dr. Gilhooley, accompanied by Archdeacon McEnroe, at once proceeded to Balmain, but before their arrival the venerable priest had expired. It is thought he must have died from disease of the heart. 

The Very Rev. Joseph Therry was seventy-three years of age, and arrived in this colony on the 23rd of April, 1820, and has consequently been a resident here forty four years. He, with the Rev. Mr. Conolly, was appointed to the Roman Catholic mission in Australia after the return to Europe of the Rev. Mr. Flinn. Mr. Conolly proceeded to Tasmania, and Mr. Therry remained in Sydney, and continued in the unassisted discharge of missionary duties until 1829, on a salary of £100 per annum. 

The deceased gentleman was a native of Cork, in which city he was born in the year 1791. Under the care of watchful and religious parents he passed the first years of his childhood. At the proper age he was sent to Carlow College, where he completed his course of ecclesiastical studies, under the professorship of Dr. Doyle, and the Rev. Mr. Slattery, the former afterwards becoming Bishop of Kildare, and the latter Archbishop of Cashel, by both of whom he was much esteemed. At Carlow College Father Therry first laboured on behalf of the Foreign Mission in connection with the Roman Catholic Church, and organised a society of young eccle-spastics who bound themselves to offer their services for some foreign mission if it pleased God to spare their lives. In April, 1815, Mr. Therry was ordained a priest by the Most Rev. Dr. Troy, of the see of Dublin, and his first mission was to his native city, Cork. It was here that the reverend, and at that time youthful priest, first formed the resolution to visit Australia, and devote his services to the Roman Catholic convicts of New South Wales. 

In the year 1818 Mr. Therry was introduced to the Rev. Mr. Flinn, who had previously been on a mission to New South Wales, but was compelled to leave the country through what has been considered a very arbitrary act of the then colonial Government. Mr. Flinn gave sufficient reasons to induce Father Therry to succeed him as Roman Catholic pastor in Australia, and he set sail from Cork in January 1820. He reached Sydney after a passage of nearly five months-a not very long voyage in those days. Divine service ac-cording to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church was first performed by him in a temporary and humble wooden chapel in Pitt-street, and subsequently in the old court-house, and finally in St. Joseph's Chapel, at present a part of the priory of St. Mary's Cathedral.

On 29th October, 1829, Father Therry laid the foundation stone of that edifice, which was regarded as too extensive in its proportions, but which he has lived to see extended still further. He made great exertions in New South Wales on behalf of the Catholic orphan children of that portion of the Vicariate. A misunderstanding arose between Mr. Therry and the local Government on the establishment of Protestant parochial schools, and some expressions were made use of by him in reference to the subject which became the basis of a charge made against him, and which resulted in his being deprived of his official appointment as colonial chaplain. In 1837, however, the salary was restored to him by order of the Imperial Government. 

In 1838, Father Therry was sent to Van Diemen's Land by the most Rev Dr Polding, then Bishop of Hiero-Cesarea. His labours in that colony were earnest and incessant. He had also similar difficulties with the Roman Catholic orphan question in that island. He wrote letters and petitioned the Governor and Legislative Council, but in vain, and finally memorialised her Majesty on the subject; and his memorial was not only immediately attended to, but the justice of his claim was also fully recognised. For some years past the Very Rev. Father Therry has officiated at St. Augustine's Church, Balmain, where he was universally respected by all classes of that district, and the people of this colony. In disposition ho was extremely amiable, and his Christian virtues had won the warm friendship of many who differed from him in religion. He has been properly termed "The Patriarch of the Roman Catholic Church of Australia."

The remains of the deceased will be placed in St. Mary's Cathedral to-day, and this evening a "solemn dirge" will be performed for the repose of his soul. The funeral, we are informed, will take place on Saturday next.

We add some further particulars from the Empire of the same day :


The announcement of the decease of this venerable clergy man will, notwithstanding his advanced age, be received with surprise, the more particularly when it is stated that he appeared in perfect health up to within two hours of the illness which carried him to his grave.

Father Therry, for that is the name by which he has been for nearly half a century known in this colony, rose on the morning of the Queen's Birthday in no wise indisposed, but wearing that cheerful countenance by which he was known to those who were most familiar with him. Going regularly through those religious duties of his Church, the performance of which commenced at an early hour in the morning, at noon he prepared himself for the levee at Government House, whither he was driven, in his own carriage, by a kind parishioner, Mr Hyland. At the Governor's reception Father Therry was as cheerful as he was wont to be, and conversed freely with several of his clerical brethren whom he met there, particularly with the Venerable Archdeacon M'Enroe, to whom he was greatly attached, and who did not observe anything unusual in his appearance. 

On Father Therry's return to Balmain in the afternoon, nothing happened to excite attention. He took his meals withont any unusual remark, and in the evening at seven o'clock he officiated at St. Augustine's Church, which is situated close to his residence. After service the very reverend gentleman had a meeting in his church, with a committee which had been formed to establish in Balmain a branch of the Sydney Institute of the Guild of St. Mary and St. Joseph. He conversed very freely with the several persons who were assembled there on the occasion, and did not part from the meeting until ten o'clock, when he retired to his home, and, having taken supper, retired to rest. His bed was so situated that a man and his wife who slept in an adjoining room could hear him if he called. About midnight he was heard to call out, when, on the housekeeper going to him, he said he felt very unwell, and complained of cold. Warm coverings were placed on the bed, when he seemed to feel better. Towards three o'clock, however, he said he was getting worse and thought he was dying, and requested that the Venerable Archdeacon M'Enroe and his physician should be sent for at once. Mr. Hyland immediately proceeded in all haste to Sydney, and soon after he had gone Father Therry began to assume reliable symptoms of death, when his attendant read, at his wish, the Litany for the Dead, which he audibly responded to, but after a short time, without a sigh, quietly breathed his last at about a quarter past four o'clock. Archdeacon M'Enroe arrived in half an hour after with Dr. Gilhooly, but found the venerable clergyman beyond the reach of medical aid. The Archdeacon, who remained in Balmain during the greater part of yesterday, was plunged in the most poignant grief at losing the companionship of one who, longer than any other clergyman in the colony, and during a period of thirty-two years, had been his friend and companion as a soldier of the cross. These two very reverend gentlemen have been the pioneers of the Catholic religion in these colonies.  

Shortly after Father Therry's return to Sydney he took charge of the parish of Petersham, fixing his residence in Balmain, and during a period of eight years, winning for himself the respect and admiration of all classes and creeds. He was regarded by his flock, and, indeed, by numbers of the older residents of the colony, with sen-timents of the deepest veneration. The reverend gen-leman's word was law with them; and the good old man, as he walked about, was everywhere regarded as a friend.

E'en children followed with endearing wile,

And plucked his gown to share the good man's smile.

On the 4th of the present month Father Therry gave out in his church that it was the forty-fourth anniversary of his arrival in this colony, and he was consequently the oldest minister of any denomination in the colony. A considerable number of persons vis¡ted the chamber of death yesterday, and both old and young might be seen approaching the body in tears.
DEATH OF THE REV. J. J. THERRY. (1864, May 28). The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893), p. 2. Retrieved from

References and Further reading:

  1. TROVE - National Library of Australia
  2. Shelagh Champion OAM and George Champion OAM, in their Profiles of the Pioneers in Manly, Warringah and Pittwater (1996 - revised 2013)
  3. Archpriest John Joseph Therry
  4. John Collins of Avalon - Pittwater Patriarchs Series I
  5. Maria Louisa Therry - Pittwater Matriarchs Series I
  6. Careel Bay Steamer Wharf And Boatshed
  7. The Mulhalls Of Broken Bay And Barrenjoey - Australian Champions
  8. Light Keepers of Barrenjoey Lightstation
  9. Captain Francis Hixson
  10. The Collaroy Paddle Steamer: New Ephemera Added To Public Accesible Records - Her Connections To Pittwater
  11. Albert Thomas Black
  12. John Black 

The Marriage dollar said to have been loaned to financially embarrassed bridegrooms by Father Therry to pay for their marriage service; FROM:

Parents: John Therry and Eliza (nee Connolly); remained in Cork.
Brothers:  James and Stephen Therry, the former of Hobart Town, the latter of Cork, Ireland. Sister: Jane Ann Therry of Hobart Town.

Therry, J J, Rev Waterlily (schooner) Sydney (1845 Jul 6) to Hobart Town
Therry, J J, Rev James Watt (steamer), 142 tonsHobart Town (1845 Feb 10) to Sydney (1845 Feb 16)
Therry, J J, Rev Velocity (schooner) Sydney (1846 Sep 19)to Port Phillip (1846 Sep 25)
Therry, John Joseph, Rev Esther (ship) Sydney (1833 Sep 5) to Norfolk Island


Character and Conduct of Reverend Therry
Your Lordship will perceive that Rev. Therry is a man of strong feelings and not much discretion. He is evidently disposed to be troublesome, and, constituted as the community is, might be dangerous, a large proportion of the convicts being of the lowest class of Irish Catholics, ignorant in the extreme, and in proportion bigoted and under the domination of their Priest. He is indefatigable in his endeavours to preserve his influence amongst his countrymen, and is constantly going from place to place with this view. From the similarity, he can hardly fail to succeed......
I must confess to your Lordship that I have no desire to see any more of the Clergy of the Catholic persuasion here. The good they might affect through the medium of education is counteracted by the subjugation of mind, in which those under their influence are kept.
Mr Therry is anxious for the completion of his church, but though fully disposed to assist in this object, as far as your Lordship has directed, it is not in my power to do so at present without interrupting the progress of some of the public buildings. I have informed him that, so soon as I possess the means, I shall afford him the necessary aid.......
I understand Rev Therry is acquiring wealth, and, as his influence will increase with his means, his immediate removal appears the more desirable. I would beg to point out that, in selecting a Catholic Priest for this Colony, it is most important that an Englishman should have the preference, the Catholics here being, I believe, nearly all Irish’.
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Volume 12, pp 543-44].

Unwillingness of Reverend Therry to Leave
‘On communicating to him [Reverend Therry)] the Orders of His Majesty’s Government, he informed me .... though deprived of salary which he observed he had intended to relinquish, he should consider it incumbent on him to continue his assistance to the Roman Catholics, until the arrival of some accredited Clergyman from Home.
He stated that it was not his intention to leave the Colony, though, if required to do so, he should not resist the Orders of Government. It has not, however, appeared to me advisable to give such an order, as I do not anticipate any evil consequences from his continuing his assistance, until the arrival of his successor; and any order for his immediate removal would in all probability have called forth some expression of the public opinion in his favour, which is as well avoided and might for the moment have excited an unpleasant sensation’.
[Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Volume 12, p 693].

Therry remained in the Colony despite his suspension and continued his work as a chaplain without salary. 


Above: Pittwater 1818 courtesy the National Library of Australia. 

Narrabeen's New Church
A most interesting ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Sydney when, he recently blessed the new Church of St. Joseph at Narrabeen, in charge of the Rev. Father E. Brauer. In welcoming his Grace, Father Brauer said that 42 years previously Archbishop Vaughan visited the little church, which was then situated on the shores of Creal Bay, about eighteen miles from Manly, on land which had been .selected by the late Father Therry. For some years Mass had been celebrated at Mrs. Gorman's cottage, Narrabeen, but the congregation had grown too large, and it was decided to transfer the building from Creal Bay to Narrabeen. The cost of taking down the church and its reerection, together with the new roof and sacristay, was £160, which work had been carried out under the supervision of Mr;' Jack Hennessy. Th« land cost £400, making a total, with, sundry expenses, of £601. 

St Joseph's at Careel Bay before moving to Narrabeen in 1917. - courtesy of and from an original photo held at Maria Regina, Avalon and Lakes Parish, St. Joseph's Narrabeen.

Original Careel Bay Church, moved to Narrabeen - courtesy of and from an original photo held at Maria Regina, Avalon.

HIS GRACE THE ARCHBISHOP. His Grace the Archbishop stated that he was a very willing servant of the people of Narrabeen. The great increase in the population of the district called for the erection of the church, and in helping to-day the people were carrying on the work of God, as did the priests of the old days, like Dean Hallinan and their worthy successors, the priests of St. Patrick's! College, who shared in being the apostles of the district. The Mass is .the great sacrifice of our faith, and we must have a place worthy of the great act. Life would be a desert without the spiritual nourishment we obtained from the Holy Mass. Narrabeen's New Church. (1918, January 10). Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1932), p. 32. Retrieved from
Archpriest John Joseph Therry - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2011.