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Babies' grave adds to saga of Walloon

FOREVER YOUNG: Joan Busby, a relative of the famed but tragic Babies of Walloon, unveils the new Babies of Walloon statue.
FOREVER YOUNG: Joan Busby, a relative of the famed but tragic Babies of Walloon, unveils the new Babies of Walloon statue. David Nielsen

THE discovery of the gravesite belonging to the drowned sisters that Henry Lawson dubbed "The Babies of Walloon" has added another important piece to a famous story.

Ipswich City Council used ground radar to narrow down the search for the final resting place of Bridget Kate and Mary Jane Broderick, the six and seven-year-old girls who drowned in a shallow pond in Walloon in 1891.

Then a journalist at Brisbane newspaper The Boomerang, Henry Lawson was so moved when he heard the tragic story that he wrote a poem about it.

While a statue honouring the girls has graced Henry Lawson Bicentennial Park in Walloon for years now, little was known about the girls' grave at Ipswich Cemetery, or of what happened to descendents of the Broderick family.

Cr David Pahlke said the discovery of the gravesite was one of the most important developments in the city's history.

"It has helped us get the total picture," Cr Pahlke said.

"I am absolutely thrilled."

Adding to the find was the fact that council was able to make contact with the niece of the drowned girls - 90-year-old Rockhampton woman Joan Busby. Mrs Busby's mother Annie was only four years old when her older sisters went on that ill-fated errand in 1891.

The council recently arranged for 32 descendants of the drowned girls' family - including Mrs Busby - to visit the site at Ipswich Cemetery, as well as the Babies of Walloon statues and the place in Walloon where the girls met their fate.

"We never knew about the poem, but my mother always warned us to stay away from water lilies," Mrs Busby said. "All this time, members of our family believed that the girls had drowned somewhere up in Rockhampton.

"We are very pleased about what Ipswich has done and we all think the world of the place now."

After the death of her older sisters, Annie also dealt with the untimely loss of her mother. It was this second tragedy that led to her move from Ipswich to Rockhampton, to live with her aunt Ellen.

Cr Pahlke said it was likely that members of the family had not visited the gravesite in 100 years.

The councillor is now pushing for a small monument to be erected at the site, as well as at Toowong Cemetery, where the girls' mother was buried.

The drowning site remains heritage-listed.

Topics:  henry lawson walloon



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