During 1909 Colonel James Burns (later Sir James Burns) wrote the following to the Presbyterian Church.
“Understanding that your Church is desirous of forming a Presbyterian Boys’ Home, where orphan and abandoned lads may be trained to become useful citizens, I am prepared to purchase and have transferred, free of all cost, the piece of land which has been shown to you, comprising forty-five acres of good agricultural land, in an elevated and suitable position near my own residence.
And should you accept this land, then it will be understood that a substantial building will be erected worthy of the district and position occupied, and I agree to make a donation of 500 [pounds] towards such a building, and will otherwise assist as far as I possibly can.”
This was to become the start of what was to become the Burnside Homes at North Parramatta. What prompted Burns in with this idea was that whilst travelling from Katoomba to Sydney by train he had been inspired by the buildings of orphanages, convents and homes that had been erected by the Catholic Church that he had seen from the railway. Whilst Burns had proposed a Boys home the Church thought that a home for boys and girls would be more appropriate.
The first of the Burnside Homes was “Blairgowrie” which opened on Saturday 17 June 1911 over the years more homes were erected and given Scottish names and the site became like a little village with its own vegetable farm, dairy, gymnasium, swimming pool, and sports grounds. Eventually there were 13 homes.
Sir James Burns own home of “Gowan Brae” was situated across from the Burnside Homes. Sir James Burns did not want his name reflected in the property. However the board, given the task of selecting a name for the property, decided on Burnside as a burn (Scottish for creek) ran through the grounds.
During more recent years some of the Burnside property and “Gowan Brae” has been sold to private owners.
Kings School, the Tara Girls High School, Burnside Public School and the Redeemer Baptist School were either purchasers or became occupiers of a number of the Burnside properties particularly on the Northern side of Pennant Hills Road.
On the 20th February I organised a tour of the Burnside Museum, which features a number of interactive displays, for the Winston Hills Northmead Combined Probus Club. Coming up I will be organising a tour of the Brislington Hospital and Nursing Museum at Parramatta for the Probus group.