The obelisk is a common monument found within cemeteries, its definition coming from the Greek word ‘obeliskos’ meaning a pointed object. The tall tapering structure consists of a base, a shaft with four inscription panels, and a pyramid shaped capital.
Originating from Egyptian culture, it pointed to the sun and was a symbol of the connection to the afterlife. It became popular in the Victorian era when Christians adopted the monument to represent the flight of the soul to Heaven. It has become a symbol to represent the connection between earth and heaven; eternal life; and rebirth.
Obelisks are most often found on family plots where each panel records details of a family member’s life, or on the graves of notable persons.
An obelisk can also be used as a sundial where the end of the shadow can determine compass directions.
J. K. Rowling, the famed author of the Harry Potter series of books, wrote the saga while living in Edinburgh. Many of the characters’ names were consciously, or subconsciously, chosen from Edinburgh’s streets, landmarks and graveyards.
In Greyfriars Kirkyard near the George Heriot school gate is a tablet marking the grave of William Topaz McGonagall, (George Heriot’s school may have been the template for Hogwarts.) Professor Minerva McGonagall was the head of Gryffindor house at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry.
William Topaz McGonagall who was born in March 1825, died on 29 September 1902. He was a poet whose poems are considered the worst in English literature. Audiences threw rotten fish at him and his performances were banned leaving him a pauper when he died.
William McGonagall / Poet and Tragedian / Died 2nd September 1902 / Buried near this spot
“I am your Gracious Majesty
ever faithful to thee
William McGonagall , The Poor Poet,
That lives in Dundee.”
W. McG. 6th. Sept. 1877
The grave of Thomas Riddell also in Greyfriars Kirkyard, was chosen as the real name of the Dark Lord Voldemort. This character appeared in the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was released in 1997.
Thomas Riddell, who died in 1806 aged 72, shares his gravestone with members of his family.
Sacred / to the Memory / of Thomas Riddell Esq. / of Befsborough, / in the County of Berwick / who died in Edinburgh / on the 24. Novm. 1806, / aged 72 years. ALSO / of Thomas Riddell Esq. his Son, / Captain of the 14. Regiment, / who died at Trinidad in the West Indies / on the 12. Septm. 1802, / aged 26 years. AND / of Christian Riddell, / his Daughter, / who died in Edinburgh / on the 29. Oct, 1808, / aged 31 years. ALSO / Maira Jane Riddell, / his daughter / died 5th Sept. 1819 / aged 47″
Contradictory feelings on notes have been left at the graveside by people from all over the world.
“RIP Tom, thank you for making us all believe in magic. You are an inspiration.”
“Dear idiots, you know there’s a difference between fiction and reality, right?”
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death
Horseman, pass by. W.B.Yeats
The eye represented on headstones is a gateway between this world and the next, and symbolizes the all-knowing God. The icon is a Freemasonry (Masonic) symbol.
The eye within the clouds is a very early Masonic symbol.
When the eye is enclosed within a triangle it represents the Holy Trinity, and when also surrounded by a circle it symbolizes the eternity of the Holy Trinity.
Radiating rays of light surrounding the eye, or the eye placed within a sunburst symbolizes the holiness of the true God.
The sunburst eye is a reminder to Masons that their actions and deeds are observed as referenced in the Proverbs. (Prov. 5:21) ‘the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings’; and in (Prov. 13:3) ‘the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good’.
The carving below shows the All Seeing Eye of God, two hands clasped in farewell, and a chain with a broken link which symbolizes the death of a family member.
The all-seeing eye symbol is also associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The letters F, L and T within the chain links stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth.
This gravestone belongs to a member of the Orange Order reflected in the unusual iconography containing several symbols including the Eye of Providence.
The snake is a symbol of everlasting life, the arch is the passageway to Heaven, and the 5 pointed star represents the spirit rising to Heaven. The fraction beneath the arch is an emblem used by the Orange Order.
The Patriarchal cross and the Cross of Lorraine are so similar that the names have become interchangeable. PATRIARCHAL CROSS
This unique cross has one vertical post and two horizontal arms. The top arm is shorter than the lower arm.
As a naval memorial this cross is combined with an anchor. The inscription on the anchor states: This Monument Is Dedicated To The Memory Of The Sailors Of The Free French Naval Forces Who Sailed From Greenock In The Years 1940-1945 And Gave Their Lives In The Battle Of The Atlantic For The Liberation Of France And The Success Of The Allied Cause.
CROSS of LORRAINE
Very popular in France this cross has two crossbars, which technically should be placed one above and one below the midpoint.
Variations of this cross show the crossbars the same length or with the lower crossbar being longer.
A massive cross of Lorraine stands at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises in France as a memorial to General Charles de Gaulle.
The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of the French Resistance group, F.F.I. as seen in the photo below. The grave is located at the Natzweiler_Struthof Concentration Camp.
A Russian version of this cross contains a short, slanted crosspiece near the foot of the vertical post.
The Papal Cross resembles the Patriarchal Cross, but with a third horizontal bar. This cross is used only in processions that involve the Roman Catholic Pope.
This memorial to fishermen is located at Shore Street on the south corner of Dunbar harbour, East Lothian, Scotland. Dedicated to the fishermen of Dunbar, it houses a weather forecasting mercury barometer.
The Fishery Storm Barometer, introduced to Scotland by Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy with the intention of saving lives lost at sea because of unpredicted storms, was issued to many ports along the coastline. Mr. William Brodie of Seafield Brickwork saw an example of the thermometer in Eyemouth and launched a successful subscription to install one in Dunbar.
The 15ft high monument of ashlar stone houses the thermometer supplied by Alexander Adie & Son Edinburgh. The year of the monument’s erection, 1856, is displayed in Roman Numerals at the top of the structure. The structure was listed a category B historic building on 5 February 1971.
A plaque beneath the thermometer case is inscribed with the legend;
“O, weel, may the Boatie row,
That wins the Bairnie’s bread!”)
Extract from “The Boatie Rows” by John Ewen (1741-1821 Note: this extract is incorrect, as the second line should read That wins my Bairnie’s bread. http://www.bartleby.com/333/204.html
Within the wooden display case are details of:
1. a history of the structure
2. the sculpture
3. how to use the barometer
4. a letter relating displeasure at the lack of maintenance
5. the restoration of the monument
1. The Fisherman’s Monument
This remarkable monument stands by Cromwell Harbour and holds a mercury barometer for the local fishermen’s use. It was set up by subscription in 1856 at the instance of William Drodie of Seafield at West Barns who had been impressed by the value of a public barometer at Eyemouth. Above the wooden case housing the barometer on a moulded panel there is a plaster group in a relief executed by Alexander Handyside Ritchie of Musselburgh. The group comprises, in the centre, a fisherman in his boat, with his wife evidently begging him not to sail and pointing to the barometer below. In the stern of the boat an old woman, pointing out the cloudy state of the sky to a small boy and at the bow two larger boys preparing to cast off. Above the panel, and framed by a heavy swag of seaweed, shell-fish and shells, a bulging sail hangs from a spur and bears the inscription, “Presented To The Fishermen Of Dunbar To Those Whose Perilous Industry The Burgh Owes So Much Of Its Prosperity.”
Adapted from Miller, J “The History of Dunbar” (1859) Note: Regarding William Drodie – his name was actually William Brodie, an engineer with Seafield Brick and Tile Works.)
2. The Original Sculpture
The sculptor, Alexander Handyside Ritchie was born in Musselburgh in 1804. He trained in Edinburgh and later studied in Rome under the sponsorship of the Duke of Hamilton and Lord Minto. After his death in 1870 fellow sculptors erected a memorial stone to his memory at Inveresk cemetery where he is buried.
Alexander Handyside Ritchie
A devoted sculptor
A brave and true man
Born 1804 Died 1870
Erected to his memory by
Tow brother sculptors W.B. and J.R.
3. Instructions on how to use the barometer are known as Fitzroy’s Rules.
On the left:
Long foretold Long last
Short notice Soon past
1st A steady rising Barometer which when continued shews very fine weather.
2nd In Winter the rise of the Barometer presages frost
3rd In wet weather if the Mercury rise high and remain so, expect fine weather, but if the Mercury rise suddenly very high, fine weather will not last long.
4th A rapid rise of the Barometer indicates unsettled weather, a slow movement the contrary.
N.B. The Barometer rises highest of all for North and East winds.
The scale on one side of the Diagram beneath shews the height of the Mercury at different elevations, thus at the top of Ben Nevis the Mercury stands at about 25 inches at the top of Mont Blanc about 17 inches, and at the summit of the Himalayas 5½ miles in altitude at only 11 inches.
On the right:
Fast rise after low
Foretells Stronger blow
1st If a fall takes place with a rising Thermometer Wind and Rain may be expected from the South Eastward, Southward or Westward.
2nd A fall with a low Thermometer foretells Snow or Rain.
3rd A sudden fall off the Barometer with Westerly Wind is generally followed is a violent storm from N.W. or N.E.
4th A rapid fall indicates Wind or Wind with Rain.
5th In very hot weather the fall off the Mercury denotes Thunder or a sudden fall indicates high wind.
Indications of approaching changes are shewn less by the height of the Barometer than by its falling or rising.
The Mercury falls lowest for wind and rain together, next to that for wind, except it be and East or North-east wind.
4. The following letter was printed in the East Lothian Courier on the 25th April 1865 only nine years after the monument was erected:
Sir, The approaching demonstration in connection with the Life-Boat forcibly recalls to mind a very important unimplemented obligation by the magistrates and Town Council meant and equally laudible effort to benefit the seafaring population. I refer to the barometer, encased in that most beautiful building, ornamented with marble sculpture which was presented to the fishermen some nine years ago. In handing over such a legacy to the keeping of the Magistrates and Council, it was stipulated by the donor that, in addition to taking charge of the instrument and building, and having the barometer set regularly by the harbour master, they were to be at the very trifling expense of erecting a lamp so as to allow the seamen to have recourse to the instrument at any hour of the night. How far such obligations (which might have been considered a labour of love) have been implemented, one only has to look at the disgraceful dirty state of the building, damaged by ruthless hands, its beautiful festoon of shells going to ruin for want of an occasional coating of oil to preserve it from the action of the atmosphere – the plate glass broken in more than one place, and a piece of patchwork, in the form of a deal board, as a substitute, reminding one of a house to let. As for a lamp, it does not even appear to have been once thought of. As lucifer matches are now so cheap, it may have been decided to continue to use them instead of a lamp, thus saving a few shillings annually to the town. For an additional protection to the building it was once suggested that the old cannons from the battery should be transformed into a sort of fence, but even that was grudged by an economical Magistracy, and the cannons sent to the founders furnace. The dirty and dilapidated condition of the barometer has become quite a by-word of late, and now that the public mind is being excited to philanthropic efforts to save valuable lives, which may be by stress of storm cast upon our iron-bound coast, I trust the state of the barometer will be immediately considered; else with the memory of many ever-to-be-regretted deeds of former officials this additional neglect may grow with infamy the very name of Dunbar. I am &c.
Dunbar, April 25, 1865
5. The Restoration of the Monument
The monument was restored by the Dunbar Initiative in 1997. Both replacement carvings, the swag of shellfish, seaweed and shells and the relief below were sculpted by Michelle de Bruin of Sinclairshill. The stone mason work was undertaken by John A. Smith of Athelstaneford. The replica instrumentation was supplied by James Ritchie and Son (Clockmakers) of Edinburgh.