Dougan, Mary

Mary Elizabeth Dougan (nee Coles) (1902-2007) was born on the Clarence River where she learnt her love of gardening from her grandfather who had “worked in some of the very notable gardens in England” but had been crippled after being gored by a bull. While still young, she remembered holidaying in 1910 at Seven Mile Beach with Lord Kitchener and his wife. They “became more like friends to me and … took me with them … wonderful stretch of beach that was.” Lord Kitchener was in Australia to advise the Commonwealth Government on the establishment of a defence force [1]. She attended high school in Sydney, travelling from her home as an unaccompanied child on a coastal passenger boat [2]. Between 1922 and 1930 she was a shorthand typist in the Ministry of Labour & Industry [3].

Mary married and she and her husband moved to Beecroft after World War 2 and lived at what initially was 15 Kirkham Street but which became 6 Parker Close. Her garden was one in which she loved to grow plants. She was a great collector of seeds and corresponded with people as diverse as Mr T Sakata of Japan who sent her clivia kewensis seeds from his seed company in 1967 to Dr Nathan Mutch of Pitt White who sent her cyclamen herderafolium seeds. Her garden also contained spotted gum, black tupelo and ginko biloba to name a few.

She described herself as a “joiner. That’s how I learnt about everything and met so many interesting people.” She was a member of a diverse group of gardening associations including the Society for Growing Australian Plants, Australian Garden History Society, Royal Horticultural Society, Scottish Rock Garden Club, Alpine Garden, American Rock Garden Club and joined the Garden Club of Australia and the Beecroft Garden Club in 1956.

After the death of her husband she studied a Bonsai course at what was then Ryde Horticultural College.

In 1988, at the age of 88, she moved to Mowll Village in the Anglican Retirement Villages, Castle Hill. Notwithstanding a heritage order, her garden was largely cleared by the next owners with the consent of Hornsby Shire Council [4].

 [1] N Meaney The Search for Security in the Pacific 1901-14 (Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1976) p 187

[2] R Burge “Mary Elizabeth Dougan (nee Coles),” Branch Cuttings Issue 55, June 2018 pp 4-5; Sydney Morning Herald 6 September 1994

[3]NSW Public Service List 1923; NSW Government Gazette 19 September 1930 No. 130 p. 3770.

[4] Hornsby Shire Heritage Study 1993 updated 2012 E45 referenced in R Burge “Mary Elizabeth Dougan (nee Coles),” Branch Cuttings Issue 55, June 2018 p 5.