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Who was Lady Duncan? and who was Dame Duncan?

Lady Jean Gordon Duncan (wife of Sir John J. Duncan)?

OR Lady Bessie Duncan (wife of Sir Walter Duncan, John's second son)?

Formal portrait of Sir John James Duncan
Hon John James Duncan, politician and grazier

Benefactor and miner Walter Watson HUGHES died in England on New Year's Day, 1887.

Hughes and his wife Sophia Hughes had returned to England in early 1873.

  • In 1875 Hughes Park was given to his nephew John James Duncan by Walter W. Hughes, to occupy, and

Following W W Hughes' death in 1887, (Sir) John James Duncan inherited both Gum Creek and Hughes Park properties.

  • Duncan enlarged and added a second storey to the Hughes Park mansion in 1900 with fine stone work and a three storey tower.

The tablet (above) commemorates Sir John James Duncan who was an Elder of the Flinders Street (Presbyterian) church, Adelaide.

  • Sir John James Duncan (1845 - 1913) was a politician in the colony and State of South Australia.

  • He died following an operation for gallstones and was buried at Penwortham cemetery.

  • Of his considerable fortune he left a large sum to a wide range of church and charitable institutions, including

    • the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia,

    • the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church,

    • St. Mark's Church, at Penwortham,

    • the Home for Incurables,

    • the Adelaide Children's Hospital,

    • South Australian Institution for the Blind and Deaf and Dumb,

    • the Royal Institution for the Blind (formerly Industrial School for the Blind),

    • the Home for Weak-minded Children, and

    • the University of Adelaide.

John James Duncan was

John James Duncan was knighted in 1912, only a year before his death in 1913

  • His wife then became Lady Duncan from 1912 - 1927 when she died in England.

However, this brass plaque styles her as Dame Jean Duncan:

Brass Plaque re Dame Jean Duncan
Plaque for Dame Jean Duncan
  • Duncan, Jean Gordon, (Lady) (1860-1927);

  • Grant, Jean Gordon (1860-1927)

Her gravestone at Penwortham (above) also titles her as Dame Jean Gordon Duncan.

My humble conclusion: See the white corrected area? This headstone was patched from Lady to Dame after Bessie Duncan (see below) also became Lady Duncan, and distinguishes between the living Lady Duncan, and the commemorated Lady Duncan.


The website Obituaries Australia records her as...

Duncan, Lady Jean Gordon (1860–1927)

Cause of Death pneumonia

Cultural Heritage: English Religious Influence: Presbyterian

Key Organisations

  • District and Bush Nursing Society (North Adelaide) (supporter, ?-1927)

  • Adelaide Children's Hospital (supporter, 1896-1927)

The death in England from pneumonia, of Lady Duncan, the widow of Sir John Duncan was reported on Monday by cablegram, (and) was very sincerely deplored by a wide circle of friends.

Lady Duncan was on a visit to her son, Captain Colin Duncan, at West Grimstead, Sussex. She was the daughter of Mr. James Grant, London solicitor, and was married to Sir John Duncan in 1879, immediately prior to coming to Australia.

  • She was always a noted philanthropic worker, whose advice and help will be greatly missed.

  • She was for many years one of the most active members of the Children's Hospital Board, having been a life governor since 1896, and always a liberal contributor to its funds.

  • She was also deeply interested in the District Trained Nursing Society, and her work on the council of that body was highly valued.

  • She was for many years a member of the committee of the Cottage Homes.

  • During the war she spent four years in London actively engaged in war work.

  • Although she lived to a large extent a retired life in her home at Mitcham after the death of her husband, her philanthropic activities were maintained up to the time of her departure for England, not long ago, when she left in good health and with no doubt that she would return to her family, the members of which are greatly distressed to know that she has passed from them.

  • She was an ideal mother and a devoted friend.


Lady Walter (Bessie) Duncan


Popular Royal Show Hostess

Lady Duncan, whose husband. Sir Walter Duncan, M.L.C., received his knighthood in the New Year Honors published today, is known to all women whose interests bring them closely into touch with the Royal Show, as hostess at official functions.

She has been for several years a member of the council of the District and Bush Nursing Society and has taken a genuine interest in welfare work in Adelaide's poorer districts, especially in Port Adelaide.

She was a keen worker in Lady Gowrie's Lend-a-Hand Club.

Lady Duncan, who before her marriage was Miss Fotheringham. was born in South Australia.

She has two daughters. Misses Margaret and Jean Duncan, and one son, Mr. John Duncan who was recently married to Miss Rosemary O'Dea.

Her homes are at Park Terrace, Parkside, and Henley Beach South.


Bessie Graham Fotheringham was born on 27 December 1885, in Medindie, South Australia, Australia, her father, Anthony Skeock Fotheringham, was 32 and her mother, Margaret Graham Inglis, was 27.

Sir Walter Duncan had retired due to age and increasing deafness in 1962.

  • His last years were shadowed by the death of a daughter, Bessie's ill health and his own battle with cancer.

  • Sir Walter died on 27 August 1963, survived by his wife, son and a daughter, he was cremated.

  • His estate was sworn for probate at £125,617.

  • G. A. Thorley's portrait of Duncan is held by the Legislative Council.

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