Our first burial - Bernard McHugh
Opened in 1867, Nudgee Cemetery was Brisbane's first Catholic-operated burial ground. A number of notable Brisbane residents are buried on the site. It is Brisbane's largest private cemetery.
In 1862 the Roman Catholic Church became the largest single landowner within the Nudgee District when the area was surveyed and put up for sale. The Church's holdings extended all the way to Moreton Bay, to what is now the suburb of Nudgee Beach.
Under the sponsorship of Bishop James Quinn (also known as O'Quinn), the order of the Sisters of Mercy established St Vincent's Orphanage on 3,500 acres of land fronting Queens Road. In order for the Priests and Religious to be buried in Community and as a result of the Orphanage's opening, a further need arose for a site to bury any of the Orphanage's residents or staff. The Nudgee area also had a growing population of farmer families, such as the Childs, who established Toombul Vineyards in the district in 1866. Thus the need arose for a community cemetery.
The land that is the site of the Nudgee Cemetery was bought by James Keatinge of Brisbane on 8 September 1863. Keatinge paid £18 for 18 acres of former crown land described as Portion 236 in the Parish of Toombul. On the same day, he paid the same price for the 18 acres contained in Portion 235 and £19.16s for the 18 acres in Portion 234. It is presumed that Keatinge was acting on behalf of the Catholic Church, for he transferred ownership of all of this land to Bishop Quinn, on 2 October 1863.
The 54-acre site, though covering three subdivisions of farmland, was unsuitable for any purpose other than grazing, as it was subject to flooding from the nearby Nudgee Waterholes. This site, situated down the hill from the Orphanage, was allotted as a cemetery site by the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop acting as trustee of property. Then in 1867, Bernard McHugh became the first person to be interred in the new Nudgee Cemetery. While the cemetery was owned and run by the Catholic Church, persons from any denomination were permitted to be buried on the site.
Nudgee Cemetery, as the first Catholic cemetery in Brisbane, became the chosen burial site for many people, especially Irish immigrants who lived outside the district. Access to the cemetery was facilitated by the opening of the Sandgate railway on 11 May 1882. The rail line lead to the erection of a station and goods shed, which not only allowed local produce to be sent to Brisbane's markets, but also allowed coffins to be transported out to Nudgee. Such was the popularity of Nudgee Cemetery as a burial site that Irish stonemason, Timothy Wrafter, moved to the farming district and established a monumental masons' works there in the 1890s. Many of the surviving early gravestones in the cemetery were made by the firm of T Wrafter & Sons Pty Ltd.
When Bishop Quinn died on 18 August 1881, the cemetery site passed to the trustees of his Will, James Murray and Mathew Quinn. On 22 February 1897, the cemetery came under the control of Archbishop Robert Dunne. He leased the site, probably for grazing purposes, to local farmers Henry Walton Robinson and Joseph Kreutzer on 18 May 1898. The lease not only brought in income of £30 per year to the Catholic Church, but also would have provided a means to control the growth of grass and weeds within the Cemetery. The lease was extended on 25 June 1904 with the rental being £36 per annum.
When Archbishop Dunne died on 13 January 1917, the property passed into the hands of his replacement James Duhig. Duhig acted as trustee of the cemetery in partnership with Denis Fouhy, Andrew Joseph Thynne and George Wilkie Gray. They continued to lease the cemetery land with Joseph Kreutzer obtaining a 10 year lease (at £30 pa) on 4 May 1921.
The 1946 aerial photograph of Nudgee shows that the cemetery had its main entrance leading from the gates off St Vincent's Road. The entrance road leads to the graveyard that had spread across the top end of Portions 234 and 235. Two side entrances to the graveyard can be seen coming off Childs Road. A house (since demolished) situated at the top end of Portion 236, off St Vincent's Road, acted as the sextant's residence. The majority of the remainder of the site contained thick bushland.
When James Duhig died on 10 April 1965, the cemetery passed to his successor, Mary O'Donnell, who acted as trustee with Monsignor Vincent Francis Cleary. When Archbishop O'Donnell died on 2 November 1980, the cemetery became the responsibility of Archbishop Francis Rush. He acted as trustee along with John Joseph Gerry (now retired Bishop). By the 1980s, Nudgee Cemetery was maintained by funeral directors K M Smith, who acted on behalf of the Catholic Church. The cemetery is currently run by the Corporation of the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.
The main entrance on St Vincent's Road is marked by a set of sandstone pillars that hold iron gates. Lot 234 contains much of the older components of the cemetery. These are gravestone areas designated as Portion A1, Portion A (in two distinct parts), Portion B, Portion J, Portion H, Portion F, Portion G (in two distinct parts) and one section of Portion D. There is also a timber Mourners' Shelter Shed and a hedge with a portico within this part of the cemetery. As well, there are a number of more recent grave sections marked at Portion 10A and the Lithuanian Section, together with a Lawn cemetery marked "A".
Lot 235 contains the remainder of the older components of the cemetery. These are gravestone areas designated as Portion B1, Portion A, Portion B2, Portion C, Portion C1 and the other Portion D. The other sections, Portions A2, A3, A4, 5A and 6A contain post-1946 graves.
Among the notable citizens of Brisbane who are buried at Nudgee Cemetery are the department store owner and philanthropist, T C Beirne, the former managing director of Castlemaine Perkins, George Wilkie Gray, and the controversial Premier of Queensland and founder of the Democratic Labor Party, Vince Gair. Since 1950, Nudgee Cemetery has become a focal burial site for members of Brisbane's Italian and Lithuanian communities.
When in 1930, the Brisbane City Council took control of all the cemeteries within its boundaries; Nudgee Cemetery was the only burial site to remain outside of Council's control. It remains Brisbane's largest privately owned cemetery to this day.
Bernard McHugh (born c.1808) with his wife Ann (nee Kilbride) arrived in Sydney from Ireland 20 May 1839 aboard the vessel "Formosa". He went farming at Crookhaven in the Illawarra District. In 1862 he purchased 54 acres on the Logan River, Queensland. At the time of his accidental death in 1868 he was an established dairy farmer adjacent to the Nudgee Water Hole.
On the morning of 8 June 1867, Bernard set out riding to Brisbane on business. When it was after teatime and he had not returned home, his wife sent out the German farm labourer to meet him.
About a mile from home the man found Bernard lying on the ground. His head had struck a thick overhanging branch in the dark and he had fallen from his horse. He was unable to move and complained of a headache and numbness from the neck down. With assistance he was brought home by cart and put to bed.
Mrs McHugh thought it unnecessary to call a priest or doctor as she thought the numbness resulted from lying so long on the cold ground. He was obviously suffering from serious spinal damage, because at 5.00am the next morning when his wife attempted to prop him up to drink some tea - he fell back dead.
NB. Headstone shows "Died 8th June 1867 Aged 51 years". Inquest and Death Certificate shows 9th June 1868 Aged 60 years. Bernard's wife Ann and married daughter Mary Ann Thornhill are also interred here.
(Portion F- Section 5- Allotment 31)