Little Doatys Grave


Little Doaty’s Grave, Blackwood – died 23 October 1878.

Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock Jan 2012. (grave fence maintained by members of the Blackwood & District Historical Society.©

The grave inside the gate of ‘Little Doaty’ was a little girl aged four years old named Josephine Margaret Rowan who died in Blackwood 23 October 1878, from diphtheria. Her parents called her Josie, but ‘Doaty’ was the way she could say her name, so that is what she was called.

Folk-lore of the local story of her death recalls how ‘Doaty’ was left in the charge of some neighbours for the day while her parents were away. Sometime towards evening she and another girl went for a walk. On the way they chased a mob of goats which were plentiful about Blackwood at the time. She became separated from the other girl and was later found drowned.

But on obtaining her death certificate it says she died of diphtheria. Her father was Joseph Rowan who was the Clerk of Courts in Blackwood, and her mother was Margaret Keiran, and ‘Doaty’ was named after both her parents, Josephine Margaret.

A report in the Bacchus Marsh Express paper states “Mr Rowan, Clerk of Petty Sessions, has, I regret to say, lost his oldest child, a fine little girl who died on Wednesday night at 10 o’clock from Diphtheria”.

After checking the Bacchus Marsh Express papers on the death of ‘Doaty’ there also appeared a report some six weeks previously which reported the death of a child, Selina Bass 21 months old who drowned in a waterhole on the 13th September 1878 at her grandmother’s (Margaret Lindsay) home. Maybe this last bit of evidence goes to show how the confusion about drowning and diphtheria could have arisen with the two little girls deaths being within a short time of each other. Evidence to show how folklore can be passed through the generations and the true story forgotten or mixed up with time.

Doaty’s father, Joseph Rowan went to live at Beechworth around 1886 where he remarried and became the Police Magistrate and Warden of the North Eastern Goldfields.©

This is just one story of a grave in the Blackwood cemetery.

Written by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. ©