Alexander Burnett Helmrich was born on the 16th January 1850 in Paddington. Paddington was and is a comfortable inner city suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. He spends the remainder of his life living within the same area. Alexander was one of seven children to John Helmrich and Margaret Mathieson bounty assisted immigrants from Scotland.
Alexander’s siblings were John Lambertus Helmrich b. 1837, George Donadldson Helmrich b. 1841, Charles G Helmrich b.1845, Margaret Helmrich b.1845, John Helmbrich b.1847 and Mary Jane Helmrich b.1852
In 1871, Twenty one year old Alexander is a Volunteer with the Volunteer Armed Forces in Sydney and wins a prize and subsequently is mentioned in the papers. Private A.B. Helmrich in the Volunteer Armed Forces Sydney Morning Herald. Rifle Association Annual Prize Meeting./Sydney, Australia. No doubt his family were proud as punch to have this appear in the paper.
24th January 1877, Alexander is listed on the manifest as a passenger on the City of Melbourne vessel sailing from Melbourne to Sydney/Sydney, New South Wales. It’s possible that this might have been the time he met Florence? She being from Melbourne in Victoria.
Alexander and Florence marry on the 27th Februrary in 1879, The Herald Sun Newspaper reports that she is a young lady from Melbourne.
Florence Macgill Glendinning Gay is the daughter of Captain. William Gay of Middlesex in England and Eliza Brereton Howard of Barbados. She was born in St Michaels, Barbados.
Alexander would go onto reasonable success in business and he and Florence would own several properties. Family lore from several sources confirm that they were quite financially well off. They live at their home “Cooma” at 15 Point Piper Road for many years. Eventually it’s name is changed to Jersey Road. I visited Jersey Road in 2014 and it is a very old yet gracefully kept street in the high end real estate sector of Sydney. Cooma is a white brick terrace house that I understand sold in the early 21st century for just over 1.25 million. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. At the time that the Helmrich family were living in Woolhara it was considered a pleasant suburb that was reasonably close (4 kilometres) from Sydney CBD. Convenient for Alexander as it was in Sydney central that he was employed.
Whilst financially Alexander and Florence may have lived a trouble free existence they suffer extreme losses in their personal lives and undoubtedly these caused the family a great deal of heartache over the long years ahead. How much these losses contributed to the tragedy that eventuated at Cooma one can only imagine.
Of their six children who are all born in the home only three survive to grow beyond childhood. Three of their sons die at home whilst young children. First Herbert aged just 3 in 1887, followed by Frederick aged 5 in 1897, and Henry aged 8 in 1890. To date I am unsure of why these three boys died but given their young ages can’t help but ponder did they fall to illnesses or something genetically inherited or some other reasons of which I do not yet know.
The following notices are put in the newspaper by the family.
Sydney Morning Herald, 17th December 1887.
HELMRICH.-At his residence, Point Piper-Road, Woollahra, on the 12th December, Herbert Charles, the beloved son of A. Helmrich, aged 3 years and 6 months.
In 1887 Sands Directory records show Alexander and Florence living at their home “Cooma” at Point Piper Road. Alexander’s occupation is given as a Clerk.
The Helmrich family put a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 20th December 1890 for their son Henry –
HELMRICH.—December 19, at the residence of his parents, Point Piper-road, Woollahra, Henry Albert, dearly loved son of A. and F. Helmrich, aged 8 years and 9 months.
A mere seven years later and their son Frederick aged 5 dies in 1897.
Within a few years another tragedy befalls the family when Alexander takes his own life at Cooma. The story makes news across Australia and appears in several papers as far afield as Western Australia.
21st July 1906 – The Advertiser Adelaide.
A HUSBAND’S SUICIDE. DESPONDENT THROUGH ILLNESS. Sydney, July 20. 1906
A resident of Jersey-road, Woollahra, Alexander Burnett Helmrich, was found dead in bed this morning by his wife with his throat cut. The deceased, who was 56 years of age, was a sugar expert. He broke one of his legs last April, and had been laid up ever since. Lately Helmrich had become despondent at being confined to his home for so long a period.
21st July 1906 – The Sydney Morning Herald.
DEATH OF A PADDINGTON RESIDENT.
Alexander Burnett Helmrich, living in Jersey-road, Paddington, was found dead at his residence yesterday morning. It appears that some time ago deceased fractured one of his legs, and had been laid up since. Recently he had been somewhat despondent, but it was never thought that he would take his life. Yesterday morning his wife went to his room shortly after 7 o’clock, and discovered Helmrich lying on the bed with his throat cut. A blood-stained Razor was lying close beside him. The police were informed, and a doctor was called in, who pronounced life extinct. The City Coroner (Mr. A. N. Barnett) conducted an inquiry yesterday afternoon, when a finding of suicide was recorded
21 July 1901 – The Kalgoorlie Miner.
NEW SOUTH WALES, Alexander Burnett Helmrich, a resident of Woolahra was found dead in bed this morning by his wife with his throat cut. The deceased, who was 50 years of age, was a sugar expert. He broke one of his legs last April, and lately he became despondent at being confined to his home for so long.
The Albury Banner & Wodonga Express expounded further :-
Alexander Burnett Helmrich was found dead in his bed at his residence, Jersey road, Woollahra. He had cut his throat with a razor. Helmrich who was an elderly man, sustained a fractured leg in April last, and had been confined to his room since. He had become somewhat despondent. For many years Helmrich was connected with the firm of Harris, Harris, and Ackman, and was possessed of considerable property.
* Harris & Ackman was a well known Auctioneers business in Sydney.
The family newspaper entry is far more brief :-
HELMRICH.— July 20, 1906, at his residence, 15 Jersey road, Woollahra, Alexander Burnett Helmrich aged 56 years. By request, no flowers.
By the time Alexander takes his own life both of Florence’s parents are dead and she has buried three of her own children and her remaining children are young adults. Her youngest Arthur is an impressionable 18. I wonder as to Florence’s own mental state and how she coped with the decision made by her husband. His death was extremely violent by it’s nature. I assume because of Alexander’s business dealings over the years that Florence had sufficient finances to save her from ruin in the years ahead.
Florence goes on to live to the age of 72. She dies on the 19th February 1927 at Waverley. Her administrators are her three surviving children.