Mary Watson Monument Cooktown

Cooktown, Cook Area

This monument was erected in 1886 by the residents of Cooktown honouring Mrs Mary Watson. Mary, her infant son and Chinese employee Ah Sam, perished from thirst and exposure after fleeing Lizard Island in October 1881. Ironically the memorial includes a water fountain.

Mary Watson's husband Robert had worked a bêche-de-mer processing operation on the island and both lived there after their 1880 marriage. Two Chinese men, Ah Sam and Ah Leong, assisted in the house and garden. Mary gave birth to her son in mid-1881. In September there was a conflict with an Aboriginal group while Robert was away. Ah Leong was killed and Ah Sam wounded.

Mary, the baby, and Ah Sam launched a cut-down ship's tank, and left the island on 1 October. They made it to No 5 Howick Island, which unfortunately lacked fresh water. Mary's last diary entry was on 11 October 1881. Returning to find signs of an attack and his wife and child missing, Watson searched in vain. Mary Watson, her son and Ah Sam's remains were found in January 1882. Mary Watson's story saw her raised to heroic status in Queensland's history.

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