The Babies of Walloon


During my recent trip to Ipswich for the StoryArts Festival, I was kindly taken on an afternoon drive out to view the monument for ‘The Babies of Walloon‘. Henry Lawson’s poem told the tragic story of sisters Bridget Kate and Mary Jane Broderick.

The girls, aged six and nine, were students at Walloon State School.

Speak their names in tones that linger, just as tho’ you held them dear,
There are eyes to which the mention of those names will bring a tear.
Little Kate and Bridget, straying in an Autumn afternoon,
Were attracted by the lilies in the water of Walloon.

The outcome is too tragically sad, as both girls drowned in a waterhole on that day in March 1891. Lawson wrote his poem that same year. The monument is a poignant tribute to these two small girls. There’s a railway sleeper theme, interspersed with the lily flowers, as the girls’ father worked as a lengthman on the railway. Perhaps the most tender touch of all, that child’s doll, lying beside a lily flower…

Collage of images

The above photos were taken at Walloon, and the Ipswich Cemetery. You can read Henry Lawson’s poem in its entirety on the Ipswich Poetry Feast website.

You can read more Poetry Friday posts over at Poetry For Children



  1. If the sculpture of the girls doesn’t get to you, the doll surely will! One of my most precious keepsakes from our time in Australia is the hefty double volume collection of poetry we brought back to the US– Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson. Thanks for sharing “The Babies” today, Kat.


  2. Oh, what a story…and what a poem…and what a monument. Amazing how art can help us miss those who died so many, many years ago. Those we never knew are brought to life through their death and through art. Thank you… xo


  3. You’re right, Kathryn, that doll is heart-breaking. Isn’t the phrase “the lilies in the water of Walloon” beautiful? It actually sounds like the words are liquid. Lovely!


  4. There is such a lingering sadness to this story. There was a third, littler sister, Annie, who, at four years-old, was prevented from going that day. Being so young, and her mother dying soon after, she never knew the full story, or the connection with Henry Lawson and his poem. It was only recently discovered, through Annie’s 90 year-old daughter, who was at the memorial services, both at the monument, and the graveside. So much sadness… And special moments, too.


  5. Hello again, Kat–
    I just went to US Amazon to see if Bully on the Bus was available, and it is, but it’s listed as for GRADE 7 and up, age 12 and up. Just thought you should know, since that can really affect sales.


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