Our Wee Duckie

In my previous post I mentioned the grave of little Samuel Cathcart who died aged 16 months, with the headstone inscription "Our Wee Duckie".


According to the copy of the  plan of burial plots in our garden, he is beneath our Pittosporum along the edge of the driveway.



In the book, Story From Stone, written by two local ladies, his story has been researched and he has a chapter of his own giving a brief summary.

His parents were William and Mary Elizabeth (Minnie) Cathcart.  Reverend William Cathcart was born in Northumberland in 1850 and Minnie, the daughter of a pawnbroker, grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne.  The couple had moved to Ramsey where William was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1878.  Minnie gave birth to two children,  Percival in February 1878 followed by Samuel in June the following year.  She appears to have moved to London for each birth, it is presumed as her brother in law was a doctor there.  In 1880 the couple were living in a house just around the corner from where we are now when little Samuel contracted a respiratory infection and  died of acute capillary bronchitis, aged only 16 months.  Sadly, only four years later Minnie herself died from asthma and bronchitis.

There are many such sad stories about the people buried here but this one touched my heart more than most.

Poor Wee Duckie.



28 comments:

  1. Very sad JayCee. Infant mortality was very common until fairly recently. My Irish grandmother had 7 children and 3 miscarriages. Only three of her children reached adulthood. This was very common in the nineteen thirties in rural Ireland.

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    1. I cannot imagine going through pregnancy even once, yet alone ten times. It must have been very hard for those women.

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  2. A very sad story. I'm amazed at the detailed story. Your ladies are doing a great job .

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    1. They have managed to uncover lots more too Linda.

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  3. Children dying is very sad. My 2xGreat Grandfather, although wounded, survived the Indian Mutiny, he came home, got married and they had six children. The children were still very young when He died of TB, then four of the children died one after the other and only a couple with TB. I can't imagine how my 2zGreatgrandmother and the remaining two girls got through such tragedy, although I do know what happened to them.

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    1. So very sad, especially as it happened to so many families in those days.

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  4. Poor Wee Duckie. Glad you can find out so much about all of your neighbors in the Memorial Garden.

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    1. There are some fascinating stories, particularly as it was a Strangers' Graveyard so most of them died in unexpected circumstances.

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  5. Oh poor Wee Duckie …. Every cemetery has similar tales to tell don’t they ? You were lucky if you survived in those days. XXXX

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    1. A lot died from respiratory diseases, no doubt caused by the cold and damp climate, poor housing, limited access to medicines and not much in the way of sanitation and heating. We are lucky aren't we?

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  6. Poor little soul. Parents too. Mum was soon reunited with her Wee Duckie. I have asthma and know only too well how easy it is to get respiratory infections and in those days they had no real treatment for asthma let alone infections.

    My paternal g.g. grandmother lost her entire family of 3 children in the space of a week - Diptheria or similar epidemic I assume. She went on to have more, but one of her sons died around 20 yrs old from TB. So sad.

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    1. I can't imagine what it must have felt like, to lose all your children to disease like that.
      The inscription on little Samuel's headstone showed just how heartbreaking it must have been for his parents.

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  7. Such a sad story and I suspect not all that unusual in those days before antibiotics.

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  8. So tragic to lose a child at that age. Samuel would have been laughing, walking and forming words with decades of life ahead of him. Just like our own "wee duckie" - Phoebe.

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    1. Oh my, yes YP. It is very hard when you think of your own little ones at that age.

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  9. Poor Wee Duckie. So many families must have experienced similar tragedies and lost children at an early age. Thank goodness for modern medicine - we are so lucky.

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  10. My granddaughter is nearing this age. What a devastatingly common experience it once was, and still is in some parts of the world. Sigh.

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    1. It is heartbreaking when you have your own at the same age and can imagine losing them.

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  11. We live in a wondrous age of modern medicine - so many of the things people used to die of are so easily cured today, in the western world anyway. Poor wee duckie..

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  12. Sad too that someone has broken whatever was on top of the stone.

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    1. There are a lot of damaged headstones. Not sure if it is down to age, weather, neglect, or vandalism. Possibly a combination of all.

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  13. I have got an autograph book that belonged to my grandma. Inside a small envelope I discovered a letter written ( in small writing) to my grandmother when she was 1 yr old in 1890. It was from her grandparents wishing her well on her first journey to Newcastle on Tyne with her parents ( from Manchester I think) A part of one sentence read....." if you should grow to be a woman". Obviously the possibility of dying young was great then!

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    1. Crikey! A cheerful note to a granddaughter.

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  14. How far medicine has progressed since 1878. As others have noted, antibiotics saved a lot of people who would have died of relatively minor infections. Lest we think that these cases all happened long ago...not so much. I was touched to read Red's post about his sister who died at age 15 of Kawasaki's disease. It shocked me, because an acquaintance's grandson came down with it, and while it was acute while it lasted, it was treated as a short term illness that has little long term effect. Medicine has advanced quite dramatically in our life time.

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Although I am quite used to talking to myself, any comments on my posts are very welcome, provided they are not abusive. I do reply to them so please check back. It's good to talk (!)