by Shirley Jurmann
Historic Toragy Point Cemetery at spectacular South Head Moruya provides a unique window to the past. Of the 20 recorded burials, only about a quarter of made it past 65 years of age – the rest were young children or the result of drowning or accidents.
The first recorded burial is a three-month old baby girl in 1858, the last an adult man of Norwegian descent who died of heart complications in 1909. Moruya Heads’ first Pilot Captain John Ross & Moruya granite quarry founders John & Joseph Loutitt rest here.
The cemetery is now part of Eurobodalla National Park, managed by NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. To visit Toragy Pt, take the Loop Road to Moruya South Head – get directions
Toragy Point is a beautiful, peaceful spot at South Head, Moruya, near where the river enters the ocean. It has been the scene of much heartache and sorrow when young children and victims of drownings and accidents were being buried in the cemetery. It has also been the scene of weddings, picnics and happy celebrations.
The first burial to take place at the picturesque little cemetery appears to be that of Mary Jane Wyatt who died 22nd August 1858 aged three months. It was conducted by Christopher Brown. Mary Jane was the third child of Elias William Knight Wyatt and Sarah nee Cunningham, formerly Barr. Elias was the punt operator, then Agent for the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company and the family lived at “Tuffwood” near Preddy’s Wharf on the South Head Road at Moruya Heads. It would not be their last sad visit to this cemetery.
A drowning tragedy in the Moruya River saw the next burials. On 5th April 1862 five men, George Harrington, James Heritage, William Edwards, William McGleish and Robert Sharpe, employed as workmen on the harbour works at Moruya, got permission from William Wright, the contractor, to take a boat up to town to get some supplies. They started on their return journey about 1pm, by which time it was blowing fresh and raining. In the darkness they ran aground and consequently did not reach the river mouth until 9pm. By then it was blowing a hurricane and Sharpe begged his companions to stop on the north spit but they were all against this idea.
Just as they cleared the end of this spit in crossing the river mouth, they were hit by a large wave and the boat filled with water and capsized. Sharpe held on to the side of the boat, as he could not swim, but the other four, who were all strong swimmers, struck out for the shore. One of them made it but was found dead on the shore, having been overcome by exhaustion, but the other three were lost. After a long and desperate struggle to hold onto the boat, Sharpe was eventually washed ashore.
The bodies of Harrington and Heritage were recovered the next day. The coroner, Mr S. Caswell, and a respectable jury, with Mr Thomas Price, clerk of the government works, as foreman, conducted an inquest at the Ship Inn, kept by Mr Wyatt at the Heads. The verdict was accidental death by drowning. The two bodies were buried in one grave at the Toragy Cemetery.
On the Tuesday the body of Edwards was found and taken to the township for burial. The coroner and the same jury were assembled and returned the same verdict as in the first case. The body of McGleish was not recovered. He had once worked in the coal mines in the Illawarra area. Harrington and Heritage came from the Goulburn area and had been workmen on the building of the bridge at Bungonia. Edwards had previously been employed on roadworks but he and his wife had now been living in Moruya. Edward Walter conducted the burials of these two men.
May 1862 saw Elias and Sarah Wyatt, with family and friends, again assembled at the Toragy Cemetery. This time it was to bury another daughter, Sarah Ann Wyatt, who had died aged just 2. John L. Ross was in charge of the burial.
A month later there was the burial of another child, Matilda Brown, aged 11 months. She was the eighth child of Christopher Brown and Mary nee McLean. The burial was by her father Christopher. Christopher had been a ship builder on the Moruya River since at least 1847. Mary’s father, Allen McLean, was also a ship builder in the area.
Five years later and 1867 saw the burial of yet another child of Elias and Sarah Wyatt. This time it was Elias Wyatt, their 2 year old son, being buried by Edward Walter.
Next to be buried was John Ross who had been the Pilot at Newstead (South Head) for many years. He had been born at Forres, Morayshire, Scotland and been apprenticed to the sea in his youth. He had served with the East India Company for many years and was also engaged for a long period of time in bringing out convicts to NSW. He was responsible for getting improvements to the Moruya harbour and the Newstead Road started. He brought the qualities of the Moruya granite to the notice of authorities in Sydney. He was also involved in many community activities such as literary, benevolent and religious organisations in the town. He died in 1871 aged 65. Edward Walter conducted the burial.
Thomas Henry Hay died in 1874 and was buried by Edward Walter. He was the son of Thomas Andress Hay and Emily nee Munton. He was 21 years old. He died of lung disease having suffered for four years.
Thomas Andress Hay, father of Thomas Henry Hay died a few months after his son. Thomas senior, a mariner, had been born in America and married Emily Munton in South Australia. Eliza Downie nee Munton and her husband Walter Christie Downie lived in Moruya at one time where Walter was a boatman at Moruya Heads. Possibly this is why the Hay family was in the Moruya area. The burials of both father and son were by Edward Walter.
An accident at the Adelaide Hotel in Moruya in 1876 resulted in another burial. John Barr Evans, aged 33, a respectable married man, residing at Newstead, witnessed a group of young men supposedly having a “lark” with a man who was very much under the influence of alcohol. The “joking” involved touching the man’s hand and other parts of him with a lighted cigar, taking great delight in seeing the drunken man react to the pain.
One “joker” went too far and touched the man behind the ear with the lighted cigar. The man was suddenly awakened by the stinging pain, sprung up and struck his tormentor on the head with a glass he had in his hand. John saw the blood flowing from the wound and raced out of the hotel at his utmost speed, with the intention of fetching Dr Dansey. He ran from the lighted room into the dark outside, and before his eyes adjusted ran straight into one of the short posts fitted with hooks and rings, used to tie up horses outside the hotel.
One of the hooks went into his stomach. He stumbled a little further and held himself up on some fencing. When Dr Dansey did not appear and John did not return, another man was sent to see what had happened. He found John clutching onto the fence and assisted him back inside to rest on a sofa. No one had any idea of the extent of his injuries.
Dr Dansey eventually arrived and found he had two patients instead of one. He quickly saw the seriousness of John’s injuries and sent for Dr Boot. However nothing could be done to save John and he died. The young man who had so thoughtlessly and cruelly started the “lark”, suffered severely from the cut from the glass but made a recovery.
John had been born at Muswellbrook, NSW, in 1842, the son of John Evans and Sarah Cunningham. Sarah remarried to Samuel Barr in 1846 and Samuel adopted John. Samuel, an ex-convict, was a ship owner and operator at Moruya Heads. He is believed to have drowned on a trip from Pambula and Sarah then married Elias Wyatt and had a further seven children. The burial was by Edward Walter.
Another child, Lavinia Louttit, died in 1876. She was the fifth child of Joseph Louttit and Margaret nee Etherden, born at the Louttit Quarry on South Head Road, Moruya, 26th September 1869. She was aged six years and eight months at the time of her death. (Age and spelling of name are wrong on the headstone.) The cause of death was croup.
John Igene’s death in 1877 was due to drowning. He was a foreigner but had been a crew member of the ship “Kiama”, a steamer which regularly made trips from Sydney to the far South Coast. On this occasion in 1877 the ship left Sydney bound for Moruya and Tathra. She encountered adversities due to rough weather almost as soon as she left Sydney and it took her some time to reach Moruya. Here she rested peacefully in the harbour but the worst was yet to come.
The captain decided to resume his journey and with this object in mind sent a boat with four men, including the first and second mate, to check out the sand bar before attempting to steam over it. They measured the depth of water and were returning to the ship when the boat was struck by heavy seas. The boat was completely submerged and the men were thrown out to battle with the water. The second mate succeeded in swimming ashore.
The accident occurred at a distance from where the steamer rode of about one and a half miles. Another boat from the “Kiama” at once put off and succeeded in rescuing two of the men, but returned without the third. By this time he would have drowned. Shortly afterwards the first engineer took another boat and recovered the dead body. Of the four men one had managed to save himself, two had been rescued and one unfortunate man, John Ingene had met his death. An inquest was held and a verdict of accidental death was returned. The unlucky man was buried in the Toragy cemetery and the steamer resumed her journey to Bermagui and then Tathra. It had been one of the most protracted trips known on the coast. Edward Walter was in charge of the burial.
A fourteen month old child died and was buried in 1880. She was Eva Millicent Ross. She was the daughter of John Andrew White McGregor Ross and Jane nee Thompson, and granddaughter of John Ross who had been the first Marine Pilot at the Moruya Heads Pilot Station and had already been buried at Toragy cemetery. Eva was buried by John Ross.
Joseph Louttit died in 1895, aged 69. Joseph had been born in Stromness in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. He had been a seamen, sailing around the world several times and serving on ships along the Australian coast for some years before settling in Moruya where he and his brother started a granite quarry on the southern bank of the river. They supplied granite for many projects in the Moruya area. The quarry was leased to John Young in 1868 to supply granite for the pillars of the Sydney GPO and other monuments in Sydney. When the seven year lease expired the Louttit Brothers again took over the quarry. Joseph also had a small ship which sailed up the river picking up produce from farmers and taking it through to the Sydney markets.
He married Margaret Etherden and they had eleven children. One, Lavinia, was already buried in the Toragy cemetery. In 1895 he developed a severe attack of pneumonia and died. His and Lavinia’s headstone, along with most of the others, was attacked by vandals in the late 1970s and left in pieces in the grass. Fortunately this Louttit one was only broken off. It was rescued by family members and re-erected and re-enforced. A plaque was put on the back to explain the origins of this family. John Louttit, son of Joseph and Margaret is also remembered on this headstone but he is not buried here. He died in Newcastle and was buried in Sandgate cemetery. Joseph was buried by John L. Ross.
The 1890s were a sad time for the James Constable and Isabella nee Wyatt family when two of their children died. John Constable, their twin son died in 1896, aged 18 months. The cause of death was teething convulsions. They registered his death and buried him the next day. James paid Mr Ross £2/7/6 for the burial. James got £2 from Odd Fellows Lodge for the burial. John was buried by John L. Ross.
Later that year John’s twin sister, Sarah was very sick in late August and early September and had to be taken up to town to Dr Quilter. The fact that she was taken to the doctor shows the level of concern the parents had that they might lose her too. She survived this illness but at the end of January 1899 she became ill with Rheumatic Fever. Dr Parsons made several visits to treat the patient but she died at nine o’clock at night on 14th February. She was 4 years old. Mr Ross was again paid for the burial in the Toragy Point cemetery next to her twin brother with John L. Ross again conducting the burial.
Towards the end of 1899 James commenced to cut stone to mark John and Sarah’s grave. Using a hammer and cold chisel he made kerb stones and a flag stone for the top of his little twins’ grave. In November he cemented them into place and painted them. A marble headstone with names and dates was erected later. It was the work of stonemasons Joseph and Rudolph Ziegler who had a quarry on the northern side of the river. When vandals attacked the headstones in the cemetery Sarah and John’s headstone was the only one left whole.
Isabella Constable nee Wyatt’s mother Sarah Wyatt, became very ill. The Wyatts had left “Tuffwood” and were residing at Mantle Hill, Moruya. She died in December 1899 and was buried in the Toragy cemetery where four of her children (John Barr Evans, Mary Jane, Sarah Ann and Elias Wyatt) and two of her grandchildren (John and Sarah Constable) were buried. Sarah’s burial was by John L. Ross.
John Flett Louttit was laid to rest in 1901 alongside his brother Joseph and niece Lavinia. John had been born in Stromness, Orkney Islands but went to the USA with two other brothers. They stayed on in the USA but John found his way to Australia and eventually to Moruya where he purchased land in 1857 on the South Head Road. The land had a granite seam which stretched from the north side of the river under the river and reappeared on the southern bank.
Here John and his brother Joseph obtained rock for the breakwater being constructed to confine the river. Later they leased their quarry to John Young who used the granite to construct the pillars of the GPO and base of the Captain Cook statue in Hyde Park. It was while this stone for the statue was being loaded onto a ship for transport to Sydney that John was badly injured when a support broke and fell on him. It was thought he could not possibly survive so no attempt was made to set his many broken bones. However with careful nursing by Joseph’s wife, Margaret, he did live but because his broken bones had not been set he “knitted up all crooked” and suffered severe pain for the rest of his life. He died aged 71. Burial was by John L. Ross.
Born in Denmark in 1830, Jacob Thomson came to Australia when a young man, eventually finding his way to Moruya. Here he met and married Mary Ann Brown, daughter of Samuel Brown and Sarah Ann Pond who had settled on the Moruya River in the 1850s. Jacob was a farmer at Garlandtown. He died in 1902 at the age of 76 after a long period of illness and was buried in the Toragy Cemetery by John L. Ross.
The last known burial at this cemetery was that of Peter Gabriel Gausted in 1909. Peter was born in Norway. He was married to Charlotte Wyatt, daughter of Elias and Sarah Wyatt, in Moruya in 1898. He had had heart trouble for some years and in 1909 took a turn for the worse while he was working on a dredge at Ballina. He was taken to a Sydney hospital for treatment. He was brought home to Moruya on the “Hillmead” on the Friday but died on the Monday. He was buried by John L. Ross at Toragy Cemetery with several of Charlotte’s relatives.
Only about a quarter of the people buried in the Toragy Cemetery were aged 65 or older. The rest were young children or the result of drowning or accidents.
Toragy Point has seen happy times too. It is often visited by tourists and sightseers, by descendants of people buried there, seeking family history information, although there is not much still available as so many of the headstones were destroyed by vandals. People have had picnics there or nearby. It has been chosen by some couples as a place to be married, some because it is such a pretty place, some because they have connections to the area or because they are descendants of someone buried there, as was the case when Tim Jurmann married Jacky Hunt. Tim is the great, great grandson of Joseph Louttit.
The Louttit Family restored the Louttit headstone:
Louttit family Photos: Provided by Shirley Jurmann
- Moruya and District Pioneer Directory
- Life on the Moruya River by John Sewell
- Sydney Morning Herald 17th April 1862
- Examiner (Kiama) 22nd April 1862
- Weekly Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) 1st April 1876
- Louttit Family History
- Cemetery headstone photos by Peter Applebee at www.australiancemeteries.com.au/nsw/eurobodalla/toragypoint.htm