St John’s Orphanage for Boys at 52- 56 Mundy Street Goulburn was opened on the 17th March 1912 by the Reverend Gallagher Bishop of Goulburn.
The Sisters of Mercy ran the orphanage for its duration until closing in 1978. The building was designed to house up to 100 boys but that figure reached as high as 250 during the war years.
As many as 2,500 boys went through the doors over the 66 years of operation. Interestingly only a very small number were orphans, the figure being around 4%. The boys were from poor families that couldn’t afford to keep them. However, the vast majority were boys from “broken” or troubled families. During the orphanage’s life, the role call for the Sisters of Mercy posted to St. John’s rarely reached more than 5 at any one time. A difficult task to care for so many!
This website is designed to “open the door” to many of those boys. Especially for their families, to give in some small way an appreciation of the life spent at St. John’s.
The Gallery holds many photos of “old boys” and we are looking to improve the photo portfolio by having past boys or their families contact us for input.
There is also a current register of approximately 450 “old boys”; unfortunately this cannot be posted on the website. But if you are looking for past or current relatives, information may be available, by contacting us.
Life at St. John’s varied from tough to very tough depending on the era that boys were housed there. (The war years being the hardest). But this was often no different to the times and trials facing “normal” families. Many old boys often comment that “the life was tough but fair.” The age of the boys was supposed to range from 6 to 16, however the Sisters of Mercy could not say no to a family in need and the Orphanage often took in children as young as 3 or even younger. The aim where possible, was to keep brothers together and if the boys had sisters they would be housed at St. Joseph’s Girls Home at Kenmore.
St. John’s was a place where boys received their education, learnt to play many sports and developed lifelong friendships. This friendship and long held mutual respect for each other has developed from a sense of survival and is revealed by the attendance at many reunions. With as many as 400 people turning up for a reunion of St. John’s and St. Joseph’s held in Goulburn in 2005 (See News)
A normal school day would start at 6.00am with many designated morning chores to be done, mostly designed around cleaning. Next would be mass at 7:15am, then breakfast followed by school. At the end of each day, depending on the weather in Goulburn at the time, boys would play sport, go to boxing classes, play, and have Hockey or Rugby League training. The weekends would revolve completely around sport. Winter would see the boys play Hockey, Rugby League and Soccer all on the Saturday. St. John’s was always very proud of its feared reputation in Goulburn for the manner in which it played Rugby League.
Survival of the Orphanage over those years was also greatly due to many charitable people and businesses in the Goulburn district that supported with food, clothing and donations. With a handful of businesses taking boys as apprentices in trades as diverse as panel beating to baking. Where possible the Sisters endeavored to find a trade for their boys as they finished school.