St Joseph's Orphanage Cemetery


Location: off Mackay-Bucasia Road, Bucasia on western side behind Jenvey's pineapple farm (Private Property)

Local Government Authority: Mackay Regional Council

Access: Only approximate location of cemetery known. No noticeable markers to note actual location.


Father Pierre Bucas arrived in Mackay in 1869 from Brisbane. Born in Brittany, France on 20 August 1840. He was the 11th child of a family of 12 children. He was studying for the priesthood in Paris when answered a call for help and served in the army of Pope Pius IX in Italy who was fighting for the papal states.

Father Bucas went to New Zealand in 1865 for ordination and served on a Maori mission. At the time the British Army were involved in fighting the Maori in a serious of confrontations known as the "Maori Wars". Father Bucas it appears was accused of aiding the Maori in their resistance to the British Army. He then arrived in Australia and then proceeded to Queensland upon invitation by Queensland's catholic Bishop James O'Quinn.

At the time there were French convicts from New Caledonia who had escaped and were trying to settle on the Queensland coast In 1874 Father Bucas established an orphanage in an area known then as "Marara". It later became "Seaview" and is now known as "Bucasia".  The orphanage buildings were situated on a low sandy ridge separated from the sea in front by a strip of forest and closely surrounded on all other three sides by a large swamp. The orphanage consisted of a house for the priest to live in when he visited, a two storey dwelling for the nuns and a dormitory on the ground level for the children.

Father Bucas brought the first nuns to Mackay, the Sisters of St. Joseph who ran the orphanage from 1876 to 1879. When they withdrew, they were replaced by the Sisters of Mercy who ran the orphanage from 1880 to 1885.

In 1884, following a visit from a medical officer, strong concerns were made about the location of the orphanage as well as the ongoing serious health problems with the children. The medical Officer, Dr Cutfield reported that many children had an unhealthy appearance and suffered a heart condition, which he believed came a malarial disease from being located in the swampy area.

They suffered badly from what was called then "Malarial Poison" which was thought in those times to be poison that emanated from swamps. It wasn't till research many years later that it was discovered to be a disease carried by mosquitoes.

 In 1885 the Queensland Government discussed the closure of the orphanage and relocation of the remaining children. A new orphanage known as the "Meteor Park" orphanage was built 11 km's from Rockhampton in 1885 and the 57 remaining children from Mackay arrived there on 22 December 1885. This orphanage was later known as 'Neerkol".

At least 19 children died at the St Joseph's orphanage during the period of when the orphanage was in operation. There are no headstones to mark these burials or is there an indication of where the burial ground was. The former site of St. Joseph's orphanage was in later years identified by the number of fruit trees planted by the orphanage inhabitants, mangoes, guava's etc.

Father Bucas also tried to establish an Aboriginal Mission in the Cape Hillsborough area following the failure of the orphanage. In 1912 he left Mackay for Barcaldine where he lived in semi retirement. Father Pierre Bucas died in Rockhampton, on October 26, 1930, aged 90 years. He was buried in Rockhampton however in 1946 his remains were brought back to Mackay and reinterred in the old Mackay Cemetery.

A memorial to father Bucas was unveiled in 1988 on the sand dunes on the Bucasia Esplanade.

Number of Burials: at least 19 as per the Mackay Deaths Register.

Notes: The Cemetery has no identifiable graves. 



Surname First Names Death Date Age Notes
BAKER William 10 August 1885 6 years Son of Robert BAKER.
BERGIN Henry 13 June 1884 9 years No parents names given on Death Registration.
BOLAND Eva Mary 29 March 1885 2 years Daughter of Michael and Mary BOLAND.
BUCKLEY Loftus 2 October 1885 5 years Son of Thomas BUCKLEY and Mary GARNER.
CALLEGHAN Michael Francis 3 March 1882 5 years Death registered under Surname of CALLAGHAN.
Son of Denis CALLAGHAN and Margaret Agnes MURPHY.
FITZGIBBON Richard Beagley 5 March 1884 1 year Death registered under name of Richard Bedgley FITZGIBBON. Son of Mary FITZGIBBON.
HALL Patrick 2 August 1880 4 years No parents names given on Death Registration.
HALLIGAN Mary Kate 19 July 1884 6 years Daughter of Patrick HALLIGAN and Mary Josephine DUNN.
HALLIGAN Patrick 8 June 1884 11 years Son of Patrick HALLIGAN and Mary Josephine DUNNE.
LONG Henry Vincent 16 November 1885 8 years Son of Henry LONG and Lucy Mary TRACEY.
LYNCH Margaret 2 July 1883 4 years Mothers Surname of Death Registration given as LYNCH.
MAY Ernest 27 January 1885 3 years No parents names provided on death registration.
RICHARDSON Joseph 8 July 1883 4 years Mothers Surname of Death Registration given as RICHARDSON.
ROLLS Henry 6 February 1885 9 years Son of Henry ROLLS and Elizabeth ?.
ROLLS Walter 2 June 1885 6 years Son of Charles ROLLS and Elizabeth ?.
SIMMONDS Thomas William 20 January 1885 3 yrs 6 mths Son of William SIMMONDS and Ann Jane KING.
SMYTH Joseph Charles 7 December 1884 9 years No parents names provided on death registration.
STRONG Alice Armstrong 25 March 1882 12 years Death Registered under the name of Alice ARMSTRONG.
No parents names provided on death registration.
TURNER Charles 26 April 1881 2 years Son of William TURNER and Bridget McCARTHY.
b. 30 May 1879.
birth registered under name of Charles Clark TURNER


Bucasia - A Short History, by Betty Clark, Mackay Historical Society.

Daily Mercury article 1988 undated, Mackay Historical Society archives.

Mackay Burial Register, Mackay City Council.

Mackay Family History Society Archives.

Genie Gossip, Mackay Branch Genealogical Society of Queensland, No. 70, March 1995.

Queensland Pioneers Index 1829-1889.

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