Alexander Burnett Helmrich (1850-1906) and Florence MacGill Glendinning Gay (1854-1927)

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.

HELMRICH-GAY.-February 27, at Paddington, by the Rev. P. F. Mackenzie, Alexander B. Helmrich, of Sydney, to Florence M. G. Gay, of Melbourne. Sydney Morning Herald 13th March 1870


Alexandr Burnett HelmrichFlorence Glendinning Gay Helmrich-1

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.

Helmrich Family Photo

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 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.


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.

15 Jersey Road Woolahra House

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.


3 thoughts on “Alexander Burnett Helmrich (1850-1906) and Florence MacGill Glendinning Gay (1854-1927)

  1. Hi Darienne,

    I saw your request on re information about Charles Hellmrich (born c1775 in Germany) and married to Elspeth Symmers. I am also a descendant of Charles Hellmrich, through his fifth child, Charles Fredrick Hellmrich (c1814 -1880). Charles Fredrick was my great great grandfather. I live in Sydney as my father, Peter Helmrich, migrated to Sydney from Aberdeen in 1953. I see on my family tree that you descend from his older brother John, who migrated to Australia in 1838 and was a stonemason. I have his information and his children, and then grandchildren, but no further along your line.

    We have no information about Charles Hellmrich’s origins, except Germany. One old family tree says that an Aberdeen librarian said he was possibly from Bavaria or Gdansk. (a bit odd – Bavaria being in the south and Gdansk – Danzig – being in the north in Poland – which would have been Prussia back then). Your information about him being from Bayern is interesting, also that his father-in-law was also from Bayern. I had not given a thought to Elspet, assuming that she was Scottish as they married in Aberdeenshire. What more do you know about her?

    I would be very interested in knowing. We are thinking of going to Germany this year on our way to London where our son lives, and thought to see where the original Hellmrich came from would be fantastic.

    I hope to hear from you, Darienne.

    Regards, Fiona Moore (nee Helmrich) – the second ‘l’ was dropped when my great grandparents married in 1886 – although I do realise that correct spelling was not their thing back then!
    Kings Langley, Sydney, NSW

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