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My passion is genealogy and family history. I host a podcast about Australian family history, Genies Down Under. In my day job, I work as a lecturer and a researcher in higher education, teaching pre-service teachers.

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Memorial poetry about a much-missed mother

Margaret Ann NORTHCOTE (nee RILEY)

Margaret Northcote, nee Riley, had nine sons who were born between 1860 and 1887 in the NSW towns of Orange, Bodangora (near Wellington), Dubbo, Warren, Girilambone and Bourke.

Margaret lived to the good age of 84 years old. Here is a photo of her shortly before her death with two of her sons (Alf and Leo) at the front of the home she was living in at Five Dock.

All of her sons adored their mother and were very distraught when she died on 10 May 1927 at the home of her youngest son, Leo, in Five Dock (a suburb of Sydney). Her sons were known to regularly visit and tend her grave after her death. Here is Leo, her youngest son, near his mother's grave soon after her death in 1927. A year or so later, Leo met his future wife at this spot - at the foot of his mother’s grave while visiting the Field of Mars Cemetery one weekend. See the story: Love in the graveyard.

Soon after her death, some of her sons published lamenting poems in memory of their dear mother for three years on the anniversary of her death in 1928, 1929 and 1930.

The first memorial poems were published on page 10 of the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 10 May 1928:

In silent prayer and aching heart
I watched you day by day,
Although I loved you dearly, mother,
I could not make you stay.
The silent grief that’s in my heart
No human eye can trace,
For many a broken heart
Lies hidden beneath a smiling face

Inserted by her loving and lonely son, Leo

~ ~ . ~ ~

My heart just aches with sadness
For the face I cannot see.
God alone knows how I miss you,
Oh, why, why must it be.

Inserted by her loving son, Alf

~ ~ . ~ ~

Dearer to memory than words can tell,
Thoughts of a mother we loved so well.

Inserted by her loving son and daughter-in-law, Percy, Mary and grandchildren

~ ~ . ~ ~

Love’s last gift – remembrance.

Inserted by her loving son and daughter-in-law, Carew, Edie and Joyce

~ ~ . ~ ~

A beautiful memory left behind
Of a mother ever so gentle and kind.
We have lost, heaven has gained
The dearest mother God ever gave.

Inserted by her son, daughter-in-law and grandson, Will, Mary and William Northcote

~ ~ . ~ ~

Two years after Margaret's death, her sons were still publishing memorial poems about their mother. These poems appeared on page 10 of the Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 10 May 1929:

In tears I saw you sinking, mother,
And watched you fade away.
It’s God alone knows how I miss you
As it dawns two years today

Inserted by her loving son, Leo

~ ~ . ~ ~

Time may pass and bring its changes,
Fresh with every coming year.
But your loving memory I will cherish, mother.
Is the heart that loved you dear.

Inserted by her loving son, Alf.

~ ~ . ~ ~

One of the best that God could send,
A loving mother right to the end.

Inserted by her loving son, daughter and grandson, W. Northcote

~ ~ . ~ ~

For all of us she did her best,
May God grant her eternal rest.

Inserted by her loving son and daughter-in-law, Carew, Edie and Joyce

~ ~ . ~ ~

Even three years after her death, memorial poetry by three of her sons were still being published in the newspaper. The following three poems were published on page 13 of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 10 May 1930.

Till memory fades and life departs,

You will live forever in our hearts.

Inserted by her loving sons, Alf and Leo

~ ~ . ~ ~

Sweetest memories are all that are left,
Of my dear mother, who has gone to rest.

Inserted by her loving son, Will, and family

~ ~ . ~ ~


  1. Isn't it wonderful that online newspaper resources now allow us to access words written by ancestors.

    These little poems tell us so much about Margaret's qualities and the love her boys had for their mother.

    A wonderful post, thanks.

  2. Thanks Jill! By the way, love your blog!

  3. Isn't it amazing that they kept up the poetry and In Memorium notices for so long. They plainly loved her dearly and by doing so have left you with a wonderful legacy as well.

  4. Memorial poems are a lost art here in the States.I suppose it's because the fee now is to high for the grieving families to afford on top of the funeral expenses.

    Thanks for sharing these and for taking part in the Challenge!