Death parted them and then reunited them – The Pointing Finger Symbol update

Anderson memorial - the downward pointing hand in detail. ©Carole Tyrrell
Anderson memorial – the downward pointing hand in detail.
©Carole Tyrrell

In my  recent post on the Pointing Finger symbol I was bemoaning that I hadn’t found an example of the downward pointing version.

Someone must have heard me because, lo and behold, as I was pottering through Brompton Cemetery I suddenly saw one.  It was on a side path and set back from it in front of a thick clump of brambles which probably engulf it when they’re in high season.  Winter is always a good time to  look for symbols as the encroaching ivy; brambles and long grass will have died down and don’t obscure them.

The Anderson family grave headstone.in Brompton Cemetery ©Carole Tyrrell
The Anderson family grave headstone.in Brompton Cemetery
©Carole Tyrrell

There is a fascinating story behind this memorial as it’s the tale of two Irish brothers who first enlisted together at the tender age of 11.  They both had action packed lives in military service together until one died before the other at a young age.  This confirms what I said in my previous post,  that the downward pointing finger denotes an untimely, sudden or unexpected death.

The headstone   announced that it was the ‘Family Grave of Thomas Anderson’ and there are six members of the family commemorated on it.  The first one was to Andrew Anderson, who was a sargeant in the Coldstream Guards Band until died suddenly, aged 35, on August 11th 1856.   Sadly it doesn’t give the cause of death so we can only guess at what might have happened to Andrew. The epitaph also says that his death was ‘regretted by all who knew him’ so he was obviously popular and much missed.  Accident?  Heart attack? Murder?  We may never know but I may do some further investigating.

Andrew Anderson's epitaph in detail. ©Carole Tyrrell
Andrew Anderson’s epitaph in detail.
©Carole Tyrrell

Underneath  Andrew’s epitaph are recorded two more members of the Anderson family.   These are Thomas Anderson’s  ‘infant daughter’,  Alice Jane, who died at 17 months on November 19th 1859 and also his wife and Alice’s mother, Euphan.   She died on September 22 1888 aged 63.   The quotation underneath reads ‘Sleep on dear one and take thy well earned rest.’

The Anderson memorial. Andrew, his brother, and Thomas's infant daughter, Alice Jane, and his wife Euphan are also commemorated. ©Carole Tyrrell
The Anderson memorial. Andrew, his brother, and Thomas’s infant daughter, Alice Jane, and his wife Euphan are also commemorated.
©Carole Tyrrell

And then underneath is Thomas himself.  He died on 15 July 1891 aged 70 with the motto ‘His end was peace.’

Initially I presumed that Thomas was Andrew’s father.   But, after doing some online delving, I discovered a post on an Irish library forum by a respondent who claimed to be Thomas’s great, great, great grandson. He was trying to carry out his own research into the family history.

According to him, Thomas and Andrew Anderson were actually brothers, probably twins, who were both born in 1821 and came from Ennis, County Clare.  This would fit in with Andrew’s age at death and there were other coincidences  between the information on the headstone and what the great, great, great grandson  was saying. The unusual name of Thomas’s wife was helpful and this led me to the Clan McFarlane website as McFarlane was her maiden name.

The brothers were very close and, aged 11, they both enlisted in the 40th Regiment of Foot on February 2 1832 and were then both discharged on 7 September 1839 aged 18.

It was the Royal Navy that beckoned next and they set off for adventure on the high seas aboard HMS Wellesley when they enlisted in 1839.  They both played their part in the Opium War of 1839 – 1842 and, as a result, they both received the China War Medal.  This was awarded to members of the Royal Navy who had ‘served with distinction’ between 5 July 1840 – 29 August 1842.

 

After that they moved on and back into the Army which is where the Coldstream Guards connection comes in.  As you might expect they both signed up: Thomas on 8 May 1850 and Andrew on 8 May 1844.  Thomas was discharged on 17 May 1860 after becoming a  lieutenant.  We know Andrew’s story but Thomas’s is less clear.

According to the family member he was living at 6 Hospital Street in Glasgow in 1845 and married Euphan McFarlane in 1863.  She came from the Gorbals which always had a reputation as a really tough area and so good preparation for the life of an Army wife.   She and Thomas had three more daughters; Elizabeth Euphan, Rosina Edith and Rosina Elizabeth.  But there’s no mention of Alice Jane.  Both Elizabeth and Rosina Edith married.

But the family member didn’t mention Alice Jane or John so one wonders where they fit in.

Thomas supposedly died in Middlesex  but after his death he joined Andrew in Brompton Cemetery.

Thomas Anderson's epitaph. ©Carole Tyrrell
Thomas Anderson’s epitaph.
©Carole Tyrrell

There are two more Anderson Family members recorded on the headstone; John, Thomas’s son, who died on 15 February 1925 aged 65 and John’s daughter, Isabella, but  her dates were too indistinct to read.

John Anderson's epitaph - not very readable now as it's near the base of the headstone. ©Carole Tyrrell
John Anderson’s epitaph – not very readable now as it’s near the base of the headstone.
©Carole Tyrrell

 

Family stories can change over time as they’re handed down through the generations   but this seemed to tally with the information on the headstone.   I am trying to contact the great, great, great grandson via the County Clare forum for more information.

 

 

 

 

The Anderson brothers seemed to have led exciting lives in military service and  certainly did their bit for King and Country. So rest in peace Andrew and Thomas – you have certainly earned it.

© Text and photographs Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

 

http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=379308.0

http://www.ourlibrary.ca/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=551

http://www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info/genealogy/TNGWebsite/getperson.php?personID=I769&tree=UL

http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/genealogy/don_tran/mil_rec/rh_chelsea_clare_soldiers_service_docs.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_War_Medal_(1842)

 

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Symbol of the Month – The Pointing Finger

 

finger2

This is a more unusual symbol although hands often feature as motifs in cemeteries usually in the more familiar clasped hands..

The Pointing Finger is usually  one finger,  the index one, pointing upwards or downwards. On the three that I saw, it was the right hand that was being depicted with the remaining fingers and thumb turned down into the palm.   I have yet to see the downward pointing version but rest assured that it doesn’t indicate that the departed is going ‘down below’ or to Hell.  Instead it can signify an untimely, sudden or unexpected death. As you’ve probably already guessed, the upwardly pointed finger is meant to reassure the grieving family that their loved one has ascended to Heaven and has received the reward of the righteous.

However, I found these three lovely examples in Beckenham Cemetery during a recent visit, much to my surprise, and they made me wonder why it isn’t more popular. In all of these the pointing finger and hand are surrounded by flowers.

The first one is  to John James Lumsden who died on 25 November 1903 aged 63.  It’s very well carved with a daffodil on one side of the hand and two sprays of Lily of the Valley flanking the hand.  When I first saw it, a thick branch of ivy obscured the flower on the other side of the daffodil. But on a return visit in January 2017 the branch had been trimmed back and a rose with one full blown bloom and a bud was now visible again. The bud is significant as it often appears on childrens  graves to symbolise a life unlived, that never fully bloomed and was ‘nipped in the bud.’ But not on this one.

In floriography or the language of flowers the daffodil is an important representation of resurrection.This is because of its association with Easter, rebirth and renewal.   The Lily of the Valley is also associated with Spring as its month is May. Other qualities that the Lily represents are chastity, purity and the return of happiness. It’s mentioned in The Song of Solomon 2.1

‘I am the rose of Sharon

And the lily of the valley.’

 There’s also the legend  that Mary’s tears turned into the lily of the valley at the exact spot when she cried at the Cross so an alternate name for the flowers is ‘Mary’s tears.’  The Lily is also meant to have healing powers and has other nicknames such as ‘Jacob’s Tears’ and ‘the ladder to heaven’.

This is to Charles Henry McKay who died on 1 November 1910 at only 23 and was the only son of Charles and Ellen McKay as it states on the epitaph. Although the flowers surrounding the pointing finger and hand are the same here as on Lumden’s, on this one they are more stylised and 2D.  They would have mourned his short life and unfulfilled ambitions.  So there is an added poignancy to the rosebud as his was a life cut short.   There is also the word ‘GONE’ carved on the cuff of the hand which emphasises that he has gone to a better place.   It really stood out amongst its neighbouring grey stones so it may have been recently cleaned or restored.

 

There is a third memorial featuring the pointed finger which is in the same style as Lumsden’s but not as well kept.  .This was to  ‘Will, eldest son of William and Sarah Greenfield. Born 10 December 1874 died 1 August 1905’

This is the third example from Beckenham Cemetery dedicated to Will Greenfield. ©Carole Tyrrell
This is the third example from Beckenham Cemetery dedicated to Will Greenfield.
©Carole Tyrrell

Again, another memorial to a life cut short as Will died aged only 31.Three other members of the Greenfield family are also commemorated on the headstone.

To our eyes they could be seen as sentimental but I found them very touching with their aim to comfort those left behind through the use of flowers.

But here’s a mystery from my own local churchyard:

This is to a woman who died at 38 called Georgiana Margaret Barns and it has a pointing finger on the headstone. But instead of pointing upwards or downwards, it’s pointing to the left and apparently into thin air.  The hand appears to have a woman’s lacy cuff and I noticed that, although her husband’s dates are also recorded, he isn’t actually buried there. Instead he lies in Hilderstone churchyard in Stafford.  He died at 76 nearly 20 years after his wife.   Is the finger pointing towards his resting place?  Is it a personal symbol known only to them?  I found a few details about them online but not much more so I am intrigued and mystified by this one.

I have to admit that The Pointing Finger symbol does remind me a little of a palmist drawing of the hand but in the ones that I’ve seen it’s also very decorative and moving.

Text and photos Carole Tyrrell otherwise stated.

References:

http://www.lsew.org.uk/funerary-symbolism/

http://genealogy.about.com/cs/symbolism/p/hands.htm

https://mysendoff.com/2012/08/the-grave-secrets-of-symbols-and-iconography-of-the-cemetery/

http://mrssymbols.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/hands-beyond-grave.html

http://www.john-attfield.com/paf_tree/attfield_current/fam3951.html

http://www.allaboutheaven.org/symbols/996/123/pointing-finger

https://www.verywell.com/headstone-symbols-finger-pointing-up-1132433