Catherine Leigh (1781–1831)

CATHERINE LEIGH was an experienced midwife and coadjutor, who sailed  with her Wesleyan missionary husband, Reverend SAMUEL LEIGH, for Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Together with others, the couple established the mission Wesleydale at Whangaroa. CATHERINE was likely the first European-trained midwife to deliver babies in New Zealand; skills she likely used in Parramatta and Sydney. There she also served as a Sunday School teacher and non-ordained leader in Wesleyan congregations and a pastoral visitor to the distressed and infirm. In Kāeo, Aotearoa she showed great aptitude for learning the Māori language and operated a crèche and mothercraft school. CATHERINE passed away in 1831, most likely from influenza, and was widely eulogised.


  • Maiden name: CATHERINE CLEWES
  • Alternate: MRS. LEIGH
  • Colloquial: MRS. L

Burial Location

  • Section 2, Row U, No. 1, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

Related Content

Catherine Leigh: Faithful Coadjutor (2019)

By Elizabeth de Réland

Abstract: During her 11 years as ‘Mrs. Leigh,’ Catherine Leigh sailed thousands of nautical miles, survived the shipwreck of the Brampton on a deserted island, lived among cannibals, managed the extreme summers of Sydney’s West, saved her husband from a Māori chief hell-bent on disposing of him, and spent time in the company of everyone from the Governor of New South Wales to Samuel Marsden, Māori warriors, Parramatta convict women, Aboriginal families and members of her own Parramatta Wesleyan Church. Catherine and her fellow mission wives were key contributors to the early history of South Seas Methodism. Wesleyan women were its glue. Living, working, witnessing to their faith and birthing in environments underpinned by convictism, cannibalism and the harsh realities of colonial politics and moral lassitude meant that they prevailed against all odds, and with genuine courage. more >>



Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

  • Hilary M. Carey, God’s Empire: Religion and Colonialism in the British World, c. 1801–1908, (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  • Hilary M. Carey and Glen O’Brien (eds.), Methodism in Australia: A History, (Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2015).
  • Alison Clarke, Born to a Changing World: Childbirth in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand, (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2012).
  • James Colwell, The Illustrated History of Methodism: Australia: 1812 to 1855, New South Wales and Polynesia: 1856 to 1902: one volume, two parts: Part I: THE MISSION, Part II: THE CHURCH(Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Wellington (N.Z.): William Brooks & Co. 1904).
  • Elizabeth de Réland (ed.), Samuel Leigh: Parramatta Mission Pioneer, 1815–2015, (Parramatta: Parramatta Mission, 2015).
  • Elizabeth de Réland (ed.), Samuel Leigh: First Wesleyan Missionary to Australia and New Zealand, (Parramatta: Parramatta Mission, 2015).
  • Pauline Jones, Milton’s Missionary: The Life and Work of Rev. Samuel Leigh 1785–1852, First Methodist missionary to Australia and New Zealand, with a Brief History of Leigh Memorial Methodist Church, Milton, built 1865, (Milton: Leigh Memorial Methodist Church, 1986).
  • Glen O’Brien, “Not Radically a Dissenter: Samuel Leigh in the Colony of New South Wales,” Wesleyan and Methodist Studies, Vol. 4 (2012): 59–77,, accessed 1 July 2019.
  • Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder, The Fountain of Public Prosperity: Evangelical Christians in Australian History, 1740–1914, (Melbourne: Monash University Press, 2018).
  • Gloster Udy, Spark of Grace, (Parramatta: Parramatta Mission, 1977).
  • Don Wright and Eric Clancy, The Methodists: A History of Methodism in New South Wales. (St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1993).


# Came Free

# Ship: Brixton (1821)

# Missionary

# Wesleyan

# Burial year: 1831

# Grave: marked