Monday, July 23, 2012

Taphophile Tragics # 31


This symbol was on a memorial in Rookwood Necropolis for Francis Burdett Dixon, who was the President of the Trades & Labour Council of NSW. He died in April 1884, and is interred in the Old Anglican section of the cemetery. He was only 48 and died of lung disease. He had been a stone mason, as was his father before him. Not only was he the President of the Council, but he had been instrumental in establishing it. He has a long entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

What I do not know, though, is just what this tied bundle of sticks symbolises. I do not think it is a form of 'fasces'.

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Welcome to the 31st week of Taphophile Tragics.

Your contribution is most welcome. Please ensure that you include some details of the cemetery in which you took your photographs, and link directly to your post, rather than simply to your blog in general. This week, Mr Linky opens at 9:30pm Monday, Sydney time (GMT+10), and closes at 9:30pm on the Friday. When you can, please visit the other contributing bloggers to show your appreciation of their endeavours. Due to time zone variations and overcrowded schedules, some contributions are made later than Tuesday/Wednesday. As per usual, we are working with the Linky with thumbnails, and displaying the oldest entry first, with no randomising.

20 comments:

Gene said...

Interesting symbol. None of my usual sources have it. I wonder if it's even more basic, a bundle of sticks to be used for a funeral pyre as a symbol of death.

Dina said...

Umm . . . maybe he just liked asparagus?

Breathing dust from cutting stone could lead to an early death, it sounds like.

Julie said...

One of his daughters died from the same lung disease just a few months later.

I have asked Ed Snyder if he can help me with the bundle of sticks. I have an idea it is a symbol of internation unionism: indicating a shared load. Not sure.

Gemma Wiseman said...

That is an interesting symbol! I was wondering if it may be referring to a faggot, a bundle of sticks carried by the poorer class of people. But then that is more British than Australian. So I don't know. Fascinating post!

Julie said...

Considering the year of this memorial, a British link is appropriate. Dixon was from Yorkshire. And faggot is probably close to the mark. Heretics who recanted were forced to wear a cloth faggot on their sleeve as a symbol, whereas if they did not recant, they were burned on a pyre, which is this symbol but upright. A faggot with only one tie, is known as a 'bavin'.

However, how is Dixon and heresy linked?

Julie said...

I need to be able to link faggots to the poorer clasees, because this would automatically link to trade unionism. In my mind, at least.

Julie said...

Wiki says: "The application of the term to old women is possibly a shortening of the term "faggot-gatherer", applied in the 19th century to people, especially older widows, who made a meagre living by gathering and selling firewood."

Still cannot see any of these meanings as strong enough to have on a memorial.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Interesting. Could it be a bushel of wheat rather than sticks? A bushel of wheat means - Body of Christ according to this website.

http://www.vintageviews.org/vv-tl/pages/Cem_Symbolism.htm

Julie said...

Ed Snyder [http://www.facebook.com/ed.snyder.547] replied:

"Certainly not a fasces - seems more like a variation on the sheaves of wheat (you know the song, "Bringing in the Sheaves:" Sheaves symbolizing a harvest; representing the fruitfulness of a long and productive life."

So something agrarian, symbolising a fruitful life, is gathering a consensus around it.

NixBlog said...

The bundle of sticks is a symbol of power, a device that denotes strength and success through the union of many weak units. It derives from a legend by Aesop:

AN OLD man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son: “Break it.” The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful. “Untie the faggots,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.” When they had done so, he called out to them: “Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.
“UNION GIVES STRENGTH.”

The symbolism relating to his Unionist activities is clear.

Thanks for hosting, Julie.

NixBlog said...

PS: The disease he probably suffered from is a pneumoconiosis called silicosis. It was very common in the past in miners, stonemasons, sand-blasters and knife grinders. It develops after many years of breathing silica dust particles. It makes of sufferers respiratory cripples and they usually die of heart and lung failure.

Wibbo said...

I thought the same as Dina - it looks like a bunch of asparagus.

Julie said...

Nick: wonderful. Thank you so much. For both of the snippets. The sticks is so obvious now.

Deb said...

Nick has it, it is also a masonic symbol so it is doubly appropriate for a union man who had been a stone mason.

hamilton said...

I was wondering if it might be a Masonic symbol as well. but I like Dina's interpretation :)

CaT said...

hahaha, i had exactly the same thought as some others; asparagus..!!
but how interesting to read nicks explanation!

Halcyon said...

Very interesting story behind the bundle of sticks. I like the simple imagery on this grave marker. :)

Dina said...

I'm glad it turned out to be a strong faggot and not limp asparagus.

Julie said...

*grin* ... me so, too, Dina. Although, your guess was quite enjoyable.

I see you have a second contribution. I shall be over in a tick.

Mark R said...

It's just great to see how a group of thoughtful people eventually provoked a meaning from this symbol.
It was fascinating to follow the thread.