Silent Waters, Silent Secrets: The Tragic Fate of Elizabeth Dale at Toowong Cemetery

On one fateful day in February 1905, grieving widow Elizabeth Dale was found lifeless, floating in a creek at the Toowong Cemetery.

Before the ill-fated day, the creek in the cemetery had been dammed to provide water for the beautiful flowers and grapes in Portion 10. The installation of taps to control the dam’s water level was in progress when destiny intervened.

Every day, Elizabeth would faithfully pay a visit to her late husband’s grave, following a familiar routine. Clad in a heavy black mourning gown and a veil, she walked along a path now referred to as Elizabeth Dale Walk.

Making her way across the walkway spanning the dam wall, she eventually reached the vicinity of the Blackall Monument. From there, it was a short distance to her brother’s burial site.

Her brother, Henry Harris Dodd, rests in Portion 11. One day in early 1898, Henry, who worked as a warder at St. Helena switched shifts with another warder, William James Downie. As fate would have it, while unlocking a cell door, a prisoner named William Archer mistakenly stabbed him, causing his untimely death. The prisoner had actually intended to harm the other warder.  

During the summer, Elizabeth would occasionally pause at the water’s edge, leaning over to scoop up a handful and refreshingly splash it across her face before proceeding uphill to her brother’s final resting place.

Tragically, on one fateful day, it is believed that Elizabeth met her demise. Unable to swim, especially burdened by the weighty attire she wore, she met an untimely end after inadvertently falling into the water.

Elizabeth Dale, a resident of Rosalie’s Baroona Road, was born in Dublin. She was forty years old when she died.

Although the newspapers neglected to mention Elizabeth’s husband’s first name, they did disclose the anniversary of his passing. They recounted that Elizabeth visited the cemetery to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of her husband’s demise. 

Interestingly, within the grounds of Toowong Cemetery, two individuals by the surname of Dale were buried in 1894. Among them was Thomas Dale, laid to rest on 2 February. It was on this very date, eleven years later, that Elizabeth would also be interred, sharing the same grave with her husband.

Eyewitnesses shared the chilling discovery of Elizabeth’s lifeless body. Constable Walsh, along with visitors John Littlechild and Kenneth Cooper from New South Wales, noticed her floating in a pool. They quickly alerted the cemetery attendants, who promptly arrived at the scene.

Thomas Francis Dodd, Elizabeth’s grief-stricken brother, identified her body.

As the investigation unfolded, peculiar details emerged. Grace Thomson, a trusted friend from the Salvation Army, revealed that Elizabeth’s departure that morning seemed unremarkable. However, she had experienced unconsciousness just two nights before, hinting at a hidden fragility beneath her brave facade.

Subsequent enquiries into her life and death revealed that Elizabeth had a frail disposition. She had delicate health, poor eyesight and was prone to fainting spells. An official report revealed traces of morphine in her system, likely from her dependence on Kay’s Compound, a medicinal tonic containing morphine.

Thomas Henry Brown, an assistant overseer at Toowong Cemetery, recounted the eerie moment he discovered Elizabeth’s body. After receiving reports of something amiss in the pool, he retrieved her lifeless form. The cold, stiff body lay approximately twenty feet from the pathway, adding to the enigmatic circumstances surrounding her demise. 

In the annals of Toowong Cemetery’s history, Elizabeth Dale’s story stands as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the eternal bonds that connect us to our loved ones, even in death.

Published 14-June-2023