John Leahy 1817-1873
Margaret Leahy 1816-1903
Patrick Leahy 1851-1893
The Hopetoun Cemetery Conservation Management Plan provides this information, ‘John Leahy, born in Tipperary, Ireland, to Patrick and Ellen Leahy, migrated to Australia in 1841. In 1844 he leased land on the Lerderderg River, east of the present township of Bacchus Marsh. In 1846, in partnership with his brothers-in-law John and Michael Egan, he purchased 160 acres of land at Bacchus Marsh, Portion 9, Parish of Merrimu. Together they built a house ‘Springfield’ and a barn/stables which still stand today. They were strong supporters of the Catholic faith, but the Catholic Church in Victoria in the 1840’s suffered from a lack of priests, and visits to the far-flung settlements of rural Victoria were rare events. Bacchus Marsh is not mentioned in the St Francis’ Melbourne registers until 1849, when Fr John Kavanagh performed a marriage there. He returned a year later and performed a baptism.’
In 1844, John, son of Ellen and Patrick Leahy, married Margaret Egan at St Francis Church in Melbourne. They lived on their farm at Bacchus Marsh in the area colloquially known as Tipperary Flats. Their home, at one time, operated as a hotel (Leahy’s Hotel). The house was derelict for some time but is being restored by the current owners.
In 1850, John Leahy and the Egan Brothers set aside an acre of their land at Bacchus Marsh for the Catholic Church, for use as a church, school and cemetery. John Leahy also donated 400 pounds, half the cost of a chapel/schoolhouse to be erected on the land.
Bishop Goold laid the foundation stone of the chapel on 16th October, 1850, and later celebrated the first mass recorded in Bacchus Marsh. This was believed to have been held in Leahy’s barn. The chapel was dedicated to the Irish saint, St Laurence O’Toole, Archbishop of Dublin from 1162 until 1180. The brick chapel was 35 feet long, 15 feet wide, 14 feet high and could accommodate 150 people. It was ready for occupancy as the Hopetoun Denominational School on 1st January, 1851. Four Leahy children attended the school.
Margaret Leahy nee Egan was born at Borrisoleigh, Tipperary. She had six children: Ellen, Mary, Patrick, Margaret, Alice and John.
Ellen married Michael O’Connell at Fr Eugene O’Connell’s residence, Darley on 04.11.1862.
Margaret married James Bourke at Gisborne on 23.02.1874. Fr O’Callaghan officiated. James Bourke was the Bacchus Marsh Shire Councillor who initiated the planting of the Coimadai Avenue of Honour in 1918. Margaret and James had a son, James Casimer Bourke, who served with the 6th Battalion during WW1.
Mary Ann Leahy was married at Maryborough to Henry Kelly on 11.11.1884.
Patrick, born 1851, died at Mt Egerton. He is buried at the Ballan Cemetery. He is listed at Hopetoun as he is named on his parent’s tombstone.
Alice married Phillip Cantwell at Ballan on 20.07.1880.
John died at Yea in 1911.
Margaret Leahy (Egan) died in 1903 at Maryborough. John had pre-deceased her. He died on 2nd August, 1870 at Bullengarook.
The ‘Express’ that week reported,’ An old and respected colonist, long resident of the district, has gone to the place appointed for all men. The deceased arrived in Victoria (then Australia Felix) in 1841 and soon after settled in Bacchus Marsh, where he accumulated considerable wealth, but like the majority of old colonists, he was not successful in retaining it. Mr Leahy was of a generous disposition, liberal in his dealings, and ever willing to relieve those unfortunates who required assistance.
He was a general favourite owing to his many amiable qualities – being kind, sociable and benevolent. His funeral took place yesterday, and was attended by a large concord of farmers and relatives, who were anxious to pay a last tribute of respect to a man who in life was admired for his straightforward conduct and honest career.
John Leahy was listed on the West Burke Electoral Roll of 1856 as a Bacchus Marsh publican (freehold).