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Scattering ashes around the Tolpuddle tree

Here is an article from the guardian newspaper from November 2012 the expericnce of one family scattering, well actually placing, the ashes of the husband and father at the famous Martyrs tree in Tolpuddle, A tree which became an iconic symbol when it was the site of one of the first ever trade union meetings has been dated for the first time in 1834. The tree then became a place of pilgrimage since the Tolpuddle Martyrs met there.

Here is the Guardian, written by Jane Williams repeated in full.

Ken lives on in the Tolpuddle tree

Taken in 2011, this picture shows me sliding my husband’s ashes between the roots of the martyrs’ tree in Tolpuddle, Dorset. My adult children, Kate and Daniel, were with me. It was very much a family occasion.

That morning, Kate and I had spooned ash from Ken’s cardboard repository. We stared at the cindery grains; fascinated and a little uneasy at this novel view of husband and father. I opened a plastic bag. “Oh, no! Not Tesco,” said my daughter, rejecting the association with the supermarket. “Let’s have this scarlet one. It looks like the Red flag. Much more suitable for Dad.” And so we three set off on our last journey as a complete family. That is if you count ashes as family.

The journey began in 1941 when I met Ken. He was 22, on leave from the navy. I was a schoolgirl of 17. What a culture shock. He was a socialist/Marxist, poor, charismatic, charming and intelligent, reading the Communist Manifesto. I was reading Emma. But the mind can be an erogenous zone. I fell in love. Later, when I carried a trade union banner, he teasingly christened me Sister Anna, a born-again socialist.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were Ken’s heroes: six Dorset labourers who, in 1834, were convicted and sentenced to seven years’ transportation for forming a trade union. Ken’s father had been one of nine children. When his mother was widowed, four children were sent to distant relatives in Canada, and the rest began work, as young as 10 years old.

My husband’s socialism had deep roots. He committed his life to working with deprived and troubled children. Charming, but resolute against suspicion and some hostility, he pioneered therapeutic counselling, believing that listening was more effective than caning. His book, The School Counsellor, was published in 1973.

We both knew he was dying the last time we visited The Old Court House in Dorchester, where the martyrs were tried and convicted. I watched him walk across the courtroom floor, past the judge’s dais, past the jurors’ benches, to stop in front of the old dock. He stood for a while, then reached out and touched the wood. It was a gesture that needed no words. When he saw my tears, he smiled and said, “Sister Anna, I think we both need a Dorset cream tea.” How right. How Ken.

The snapshot reminds me of the day we took his ashes to Tolpuddle. We picnicked happily under the martyrs’ tree – strong workman’s tea and celebratory champagne. That seemed appropriate. Jane Williams

I love these sorts of articles, it is the little details that give us an insight into the state of mind and emotions of those sharing their experience. Here, the detail the author finds poignant is the bag in which they carry the cremation urn. The Mrs Williams seemingly grabbed a bag in which to carry the urn, a Tesco bag, and the daughter had picked up on this and deemed it unfitting. She opted for one with more symbolism, which is funny in itself as the whole location was massively symbolic, yet the up to that point it was really utilitarian: the cardboard urn and carrier bag. What we also see is the ever present British humour that the bag symbolic of cooperate dominance and capitalism would not do for ‘dad’.

Also we would not recommend putting the ashes in the roots of the tree as they could impact its health of the tree which could prove disastrous. Why not make a big circle thinly scattering right around it – providing you have the land owner’s permission…

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