Bb – is for Baby Crout

FAMILY HISTORY THROUGH THE ALPHABET CHALLENGE

It’s a crisp Autumn morning in Adelaide, South Australia and I wake with the memory of “Baby Crout” nudging through my sleep be-fuddled brain.  No more dithering, no more doubting, no more questioning for clearly “the little man” is the Bb for my “Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge”. His story is rather sad, as are many, but always reminds me of the care and com-passion which so often resides in the hearts of strangers.

~~~~~~~~~

Over 41 years ago, through the anguish and confusion of my baby boy’s unexpected death, I glimpsed a side of my father never seen before. He was grief stricken and inconsolable. Many years later, when mum told me the story of “Baby Crout”, I understood.

It was April 1934 and the “Great Depression” continued to cause great hardship but Harry Scarborough Crout and Constance Elsie Evans, married 13 Jul the previous year, were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child – a new life, a new beginning and re-newed hope for the future. Connie, sufferring from “pre-eclampsia”, was being treated by Dr Porter at the Port Adelaide Casualty, which was the only medical care available to the wife of a long term unemployed worker when, on the 21st April she went into labour and was delivered of a stillborn baby boy at the Queen’s Home, Rose Park, South Australia.

Harry Crout, riding pillion, with Sammy – NSW 1929. Copyright (c) C.Crout-Habel

Mum was ony 9 years old, Connie, her beloved half-sister, was 20 and Dad had just turned 22 when this tragedy struck. He’d only been in Australia for 6 years and most of this was spent in New South Wales, or “humping the bluey” around this wide brown land and sometimes “jumping the rattlers” and/or coastal steamers searching for work and to avoid being sent to a “work camp” in the bush. 

The Queen’s Home – 1914

So, as he was leaving the hospital and the nurse handed him a shoebox telling him to  “take it to West Terrace” he had no idea of the significance of those words. Trudging the 14kms home to 6 Denman Street, Exeter, where they were living with “Cousin Lizzie” she certainly knew the significance of the shoebox dad had placed on the kitchen table and put out the call, “Get Fred!”… Grandpa, Connie’s loved Step- father, harnessed the horse & buggy and took Dad and “Baby Crout” to the West Terrace Cemetery where our precious little boy was interred in a “pauper’s mass grave”, under the name “Baby Crout”. To add to Dad grief his beloved wife took her own life, in an excrutiating way two months later, by swallowing Lysol.

No doubt the unexpected death of his baby Grandson, Jarren Vaughan Habel, 36 years later brought many of those horrific memories flooding back.

Sunday Mail, 10 April 1934

Mum and I often lamented that “Baby Crout” had no grave or memorial then, one day in 1995, there was the newspaper article – Mr David McGowan, the West Terrace Cemetery Manager, announced the creation of a “Baby Memorial”,

“…to acknowledge the 30,000 children who died at birth, or soon after, and their parents who grieved in silence for so long.”    

Following the instructions, I soon located “Baby Crout’s” burial site at “Cemetery Extension, Path 4, Plot 6″. The “Cemetery Extension” a field at the rear of the cemetery which had been used as a site for mass graves from the 1920’s up to the 1980’s. This link will take you to the West Terrace Cemetery website where you can access the map, view the position of the “Baby Memorial” and the Photo Gallery. The mass burial site (Cemetery Extension) is marked “Road 5″, adjacent to the “Light Oval A.I.F.” 

On Thursday 7 Mar 1996, at 7.30pm and assisted by Mr McGowan, I quietly laid a bronze leaf engraved;

BABY CROUT
21 April 1934
SON OF CONNIE (NEE EVANS) AND HARRY CROUT
CEM EXT. PATH 4. PLOT 6

Although invited to the Formal Dedication Ceremony, the following Sunday, I had no need to attend. My heart, and mum’s, were at peace knowing our little boy had been claimed and acknowledged. This “heart’s ease” was only possible because of the work of David McGowan, and his supporters who were distressed by over 30,000 little bodies who lay in the forgotten fields at West Terrace Cemetery. Below is his description of the Baby Memorial they created.

David McGowan assisting in the laying of a memorial leaf – 7 Mar 1966

Thankyou Mr David McGowan
~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright © 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. “Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family  

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21 thoughts on “Bb – is for Baby Crout

    • Thankyou Angela… ah, blessings on that tiny baby all that way across the seas. The symbolism of the Memorial is truly beautiful indeed… young leaves falling from the Family Tree…

  1. Catherine, this is so beautifully and evocatively written. You reduced me to tears with this sad story and its tragic outcome for Connie.and your Dad. No wonder he was so devastated, along with you, when you lost Jarren. He probably feared for you as well.

    But the sadness is leavened by the commitment and inspiration of David McGowan, who saw the grief for the families of all those tiny babies. People like that deserve an OAM more than many of the big names. Thank you for sharing this tragic yet inspirational story.

    • Oh Pauline, thankyou for the insight. It never occurred to me that dad’s behaviour may also have been driven by a fear for me. Oh dear, poor man. You’re so right with you comment about David McGowan. He was an incredibly compassionate man whom I can’t speak too highly about re: the Baby’s Memorial and the personal comfort he offerred to grieving families.

      I’m sorry to be writing sad stories but, as you know, they do have to be told. Thanks for your continuing friendship and support as I settle into this new “journey” of blogging :-)

      • Nothing like a good cry I say and this story deserved for us to care. I’m “pleased” that you are writing the stories that need to be told. I’m so enjoying reading your posts.

  2. Wonderfully written Mum. The true, devastating story of Baby Crout and Connie. I feel Nana smiling down. Lots of love xxx

    • Thankyou my darling. So glad you can feel your Nana’s approving presence. She certainly would want for the myths, that have been developing over the years, to be “sorted” and it’s wonderful that I’m able to do that. Love you xxx

  3. Pingback: Family History Through the Alphabet – B is for … | Genealogy & History News

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  6. This one made me cry too Catherine, rest peacefully babies!! I was able to help a lady living in Queensland with photos of the area where her sister was buried and the lovely memorial. It was special just taking the photos and passing them on to the family.

    • Thanks for caring Kylie and for commenting. Ahh… I’m sure those little souls are resting peacefully now they’ve been duly honoured, respected and remembered. How wonderful of you to help out that lady up north. That’s so beautiful.

  7. You write wonderfully. It also made me cry–what I sad story. But at the same time, it’s heartwarming how you enabled the baby to be remembered with the bronze leaf.

    • Thankyou for your kind words Sheryl. It’s wonderful how David McGowan gave mum, me and the relatives of so many other little souls the opportunity to honour their sadly missed little ones all these years later. A truly compassionate man.

  8. Pingback: Australia Day 2013 ~ Remembering Susan Kelleher & Harry Crout… | Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

  9. A beautiful story and then a memorial to a dear little baby. Many have family members who lost babies at birth or shortly after altho our little brother who is buried in Penola is in an unknown location and so far from us. We love to visit our “babies” and put flowers on their graves at WTC. David is such a caring person who came to our Family History Group and told us the story of the Baby Memorial. A very caring man.

    • Thankyou Ros. There is no doubt that, for many of us, the need to visit the burial site of those who have gone before is a powerful need, and part of the grieving process which seems often to not diminish over the generations. Why this is, I don’t know… I just know that it is.
      When my own baby boy died I was obsessed with him having a proper burial/ gravesite and memorial. We laid Jarren to “rest in peace” way over there in the Midland Cemetery, Western Australia. Thankfully, through “Saving Graves – WA” there are caring people keeping a watch over him.
      Whenever thinking back to the laying of the memorial for “Baby Crout” I will always remember David’s quiet, caring presence amongst all the emotional turmoil and especially his hands as he helped me position, and secure, that bronze leaf for my little half brother/ nephew who will forever be remembered. Thanking David always for the memorial which will reach out over time to let it be known how dearly loved this little scrap of humanity was.
      Thanks for dropping by Ros and for your heart warming comment.

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