McCarthy Catholic College’s Historical Background
It has been difficult to establish all the facts around the McCarthys. We do know that James McCarthy was transported to the colony from Antrim, in Ireland, on The Boddington, for harbouring Irish priests.
James married Mary Rigney, the daughter of a free settler, who he met through his association with Father Dixon, one of the colony’s first priests.
James and Mary had four children – twins Owen and Elizabeth (1803), James (1805), and Elizabeth (1806). The twin girls died in 1806.
James McCarthy excelled as a farmer and was given a land grant of 100 acres in the district of Castlereagh. In 1819 they made their first purchase of land – 50 acres adjoining their 100 acres, Cranebrook Farm, on the banks of the Nepean River, known by the aboriginal people as Deerubbin.
By 1828 their acreage had increased to 1,000 acres, and later 6,000 acres near Canberra. The McCarthy’s lived their existence in a new and hostile land – droughts and floods were common in the region. They experienced a great number of personal challenges and risks. Their children died at early ages.
The small cemetery in the McCarthy’s home is a reminder of James McCarthy’s faith. In the early 1800’s he donated an acre of his land as a cemetery (not exclusively Catholic) for the Castlereagh community. In 1806 his daughter Elizabeth was the first to be buried there.
One tradition says that Governor King allowed Father Dixon to live on parole with the McCarthy’s from 1800-1803, where he could celebrate mass on a restricted basis. After the Castle Hill (Irish) Rebellion in 1804 the Governor withdrew this privilege. Father Dixon is said to have remained with the McCarthy family, administering the faith in secret.
The McCarthy homestead was the centre of priestly contact in an oppressive English and Protestant era. The McCarthys, as lay Catholics, played a substantial role from 1808-1818, when the Catholic population of Sydney had no priest. It was a time when the faith was kept alive by people such as the McCarthys. They were people of faith, they were ‘real’, they believed in hard work, they were survivors who took risks. They showed courage and shared what they owned.
The McCarthys lived a life of Integrity, Justice and Peace. McCarthy Catholic College – staff, students, parents – strive to live these qualities each day to make the community a dynamic, active catholic learning environment.
McCarthy Catholic College was established in 1986 as a senior secondary college in the greater Penrith region. In 1999 it became a Year 7-12 co-educational college. In 2008 an industrial kitchen, hospitality classroom, extra Science laboratory and a multimedia room were constructed.
In 2010 the McCarthy Trade Training Centre (TTC) added to the facilities, servicing the needs of students who wished to remain at school to gain their Higher School Certificate and the first year of their apprenticeship. Seven trades are offered at McCarthy.