Sunday, 23 August 2009

Hands clasped in Memory 2

Since my last post, I have revisted the folder of photographs taken in Fleetwood Cemetery and think I may have found two female hands clasped on a gravestone. The clothing on the wrist of the hand on the right is slightly worn, but sufficiently 'frilly' to look feminine. I compared it to others in the same cemetery and the only other variation from the jacket sleeve with shirt cuff bearing a cufflink was what seemed to be a knitted [perhaps Fairisle?] pullover sleeve. The latter being a popular item of clothing among males working in the then Fleetwood fishing fleet.

It is quite an interesting gravestone and besides, possibly, hiding some tragic event, it also demonstrates the potential for confusion when first read.

Robert C Stirzaker
Son of John and Mary Stirzaker
Who died February 28, 1893
Aged 24 years

Also Martha, Wife of Robert, the aforsesaid
Died April 6, 1893, aged 25 years

Also Daniel C Stirzaker, their son
Died October 3, 1893, aged 23 years

. . . . . .

Also the above John Stirzaker
Who died February 5, 1907
Aged 69 years

Also Mary Stirzaker
Wife of the Above
Who died May 31, 1911
Aged 72 years

Once we have worked out that Daniel is the son of John and Mary and not of Robert and Martha as the inscription seems to indicate - the confusion - we are left with the fact that a man, his wife and his brother died within a few months of each other.

I have not looked at Census Returns or Death Certificates, but Margeret Pangert is fond of inviting people to use their imagination to come up with a reason for something. So I'll start:

I immediately thought that illness might have been involved - husband and wife - and maybe the brother killed himself in grief. Then, I thought that, perhaps, the brother had an affair with the wife, the husband killed himself and the errant wife couldn't live with her guilt . . . Maybe, then, the guilt of unintentionally causing the deaths of the other two weighed heavily on his mind . . . ?

That's my thoughts, but my writers' imagination has probably worked overtime. What do you think happened?


Gale Wall said...

My goodness. I can't beat that scenario. Very interesting though. I do hope you'll search further and share it with us.

@eloh said...

An accident where the injuries sustained allowed some to linger in this world longer than others.

Laurie said...

Thanks, Beth. When I find out, I'll post it here.

Hi @eloh, Now why didn't I think of that!


@eloh said...

Because your idea is the stuff that causes poetry and novels...mine's just boring.

Cathy said...

I'll offer that people rarely have inscribed on their tombstones phrases that describe the truth of their actual perhaps banal lives (like most of us) Yet these two may've asked for "We Part To Meet Again" but I doubt it, they didn't live long enough to think about such things. John and Mary lived a long time, longer than their son and daughter-in-law, and grandson Daniel who must've had a rough time losing both parents so young then dying before 30. Smallpox I'd imagine, it was everywhere in that era. I expect it was his grandparents who took over his guardianship. It was common in the late 19th century for blood and air-borne viruses to take lives, w/family nursing family, and it seems John and Mary made it just in time before the devastation of the avian flu. But 2 women's hands clasped? I looked very closely and don't agree - not only doesn't it make any sense but even if requested, I doubt the mason would've carved such a rendering in the post-Victorian age. Those antiquated ideals lasted far too long in America and especially among emigres, which this family surely was, say one or both of John and Mary's parents, if not themselves. As for tightly clasped hands, denoting a firm pure faith in the Christian God, shared by both, you'll notice his hand on the right almost completely encloses his wife's, with a strong thumb and larger certainly than hers. There's certainly tragedy here but it was fairly rampant in those years before penicillin, unfortunately. Very interesting journal! Thanks for sharing this most intriguing info.

Laurie said...

Thank you Cathy. A fascinating explanation. When I have checked the local paper and/or death certificates, I will publish details here!

Gale, my apologies. For some reason I typed Beth instead of your correct name - sorry.


Harnett-Hargrove said...

I'm following on your other blog...unsure of which one you post most often...

There is a resonance here.


very neat post! the fun of thinking about the lives of people whose names are on the gravestones is one of the reasons i enjoy visiting old cemetaries - and there is something so special in the words and art on the stones - so many untold unfinished stories, leaving us to our imagination, as yours, laurie - wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Robert C. Stirzaker: I think the C stands for Collinson. I need to check my family tree to establish the exact relationship but the 'other' Robert Collinson Stirzaker who died in 1959 was my grandfather.

Steedie1978 said...

Evening, what an awesome post! The C indeed stands for Collinson. Robert Collinson Srirzaker (no2), the grandfather referred to here was the son born to Jane Ann Jackson and Henry Stirzaker, who lived in the same road as the John and Mary and all their children. John and henry were brothers. She would have named her son after this poor young man as they died and were born in the same year. The Collinson here for Robert was his Mum Marys maiden name. So sad, think Im off to get a death certificate to see how! Such a tragic tombstone. Thanks for posting and all the speculation! Rhiannon

steedie1978 said...

And..the whole family were fishermen. For many generations in Fleetwood the Stirzaker men were all working for one another with the lines of Henrys and Jacks (John) until one son was so seasick he became a carpenter and when the John buried here died, so did the fishing. John was a master mariner and eventually captained his own vessel. So Id assume the clasped hands were for the latter reason .

Anonymous said...

More on the Stirzaker men:
Robert Collinson Stirzaker AND Daniel Collinson Stirzaker who both died age 23 and 24 respectively in 1893, were brothers, sons of John Stirzaker who married Mary Collinson in 1859.

Both were mariners with Robert listed as Ship's steward - which suggests a liner. A check on the ships lost at sea for around that period shows that it wasn't only the Titanic which White Star lost to an iceberg collision.
Daniel is listed as having sailed on the Gwendoline which was lost at sea on 17.11.1893 - which coincides with Daniel's death record showing Oct, Nov, Dec 1893, though I can't find a specific date.

"Martha" (Robert's wife) is listed as Margaret Wignall in the marriage record in February 1889 and they appear to have had a son, John, who was born and died in the same year.

Anonymous said...

PS: That Daniel Collinson Stirzaker's name is not engraved on this headstone, despite dying the same year as his brother, suggests all the more that he could have lost his life at sea.

Anonymous said...

Ooops!! Scratch that last comment! Daniel is included on the headstone.

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An illustrated look at the World of Graveyards and Cemeteries. There are many Stories behind the Stones that Stand in them. Who knows what we might find?


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