A Quick Recap Of The Dark History Behind Sydney’s Macdonaldtown Station

Gen Z are discovering the grim reason Macdonaldtown is no longer a suburb.


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Sydney station Macdonaldtown is once again having its time in the limelight after people on TikTok began questioning why the seemingly redundant stop is even on the train line at all.

— Content Warning: This article discusses murder and child abuse. — 

The sleepy station serves mainly a handful of residents, people heading to nearby Royal Prince Alfred hospital, fare evaders taking advantage of the lack of staff there on their way to King Street, and NUMTOTs who like to look at the parked trains at its adjoining stabling yard.

Wedged near the inner west’s Newtown and neighbouring Erskineville — both of which also have their own stations — Macdonaldtown was actually a council area and former suburb in the late 19th century, according to Domain.

But two decades later, a horrific crime changed everything. In 1892, plumbers working at a property in Macdonaldtown happened upon two dead babies wrapped up in clothing. Police were called in, and a total of seven bodies were found buried in the backyard. An additional four corpses were later recovered at other properties.

An investigation led towards John and Sarah Makin, who had since moved to Chippendale, where another two dead infants were discovered there. The couple had been fostering kids in a heavily unregulated, colonial practice known as ‘baby farming’ — taking in illegitimate children for cash.

The Makins would let the kids in their care die before hopping between houses to avoid suspicion about the blood on their hands. They would evade questions and make up excuses from the parents who wanted to visit their children, while continuing to collect the money from each baby they took in.

A constable who worked on the case said that the children had been stabbed in the heart with a needle, according to The Feed. John was ultimately sentenced to death, while Sarah served life in prison in Bathurst.

It’s believed that the Macdonaldtown Mayor at the time thought changing the name would increase property value, and separate the municipality from its gruesome associations. The area became what we now know as Erskineville in 1893, with plans for the train station to be renamed ‘North Erskineville’ in a proposal that never got off the ground.

More than a century on, the station divides its equally avid supporters and doubters — their duels memorialised in a series of Facebook events at the end of 2018 passionately called DELETE MACDONALDTOWN, and counter-protest DELETE “DELETE MACDONALDTOWN”.

Now, Gen Z are catching on, and asking the age-old question every commuter ponders on the T2 line service.