Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Taphophile Tragics - Ego's folly


This is one of the most visited memorials in Rookwood, indeed, THE most visited. But I guess that is because it is presented in a particular way that appeals to the egalitarian nature of most Australians. And because it is on the schools' visiting programme. For mine, it is the salutary story of one who believed his own promotion.


John Frazer was a mercantilist of the nineteenth century, a shopkeeper if you will. Not to denigrate that noble calling, but it is just the way you earn your living. No more, no less. Not in my eyes. It is what you DO with your wealth, should you have the skills and the wit to accumulate same, that may justify your place in history, if that is what you crave. Frazer sought to memorialise himself to his city, by building water fountains to enable the citizenry access to fresh water as they go about their day. There is a Frazer Fountain in Albert Square, at the entrance to Domain Road, opposite St Mary's Cathedral. There is another Frazer Fountain in Hyde Park North at the pedestrian crossing over College Street to access Sydney Grammar School. This latter has been moved twice already as the city grew around it. The Albert Square fountain has had its water disconnected because of the futility of trying to access it in the middle of a traffic roundabout. A classic folly in pursuit of renown.

Yet Frazer's most grandiose folly is the monument built to house his mortal remains. Its footprint is in the shape of a giant tear-drop, bordered by a wrought-iron fence of which the lead photograph is part. Frazer died in 1884, leaving an estate of 405,000 pounds. Although others of his family were also eventually interred in the vault, due to fears of vandalism, the remains were more recently dis-interred and cremated. His descendants donated the monument as a shelter for birds, asking that the high windows be removed to allow them access. Within 6 months, the windows had to be boarded up again, because the birds were attracting vermin.

So rather than a testament to John Frazer, Esq., the Frazer Vault stands as a testament to the workmanship of stonemasons of the past. Egalitarianism will have out.

17 comments:

VioletSky said...

Lofty goals, I'm sure he (and his family) had, but poor judgement for what the future might bring.

Gemma Wiseman said...

His final resting place seems quite bizarre! Fountains are always fascinating but to create such ostentatious self promotion is just a little "sick"!

hamilton said...

Although it seems such a waste of money, I am rather fascinated by such personalities and their follies!

Bob Crowe said...

Sic transit gloria mundi. The world is full of overblown tombs, from the Pyramids to the Taj Mahal, but I've never heard of one in the shape of a teardrop. Not only egotistical but terrible, terrible taste.

Fascinating post, superbly illustrated.

Ann said...

Am familiar with both of those fountains but had no idea they were associated with anyone in particular. Am particularly drawn to the one opposite St Mary's (and outside the building where I used to work).

Joe said...

I wonder what Frazer would say to his folly being turned over to the local birds.

Nicola Carpenter said...

What a beautiful monument. Such a shame that his remains and that of his family were unable to rest in it.

That rusted flower is simply beautiful.

Herding Cats

Joan Elizabeth said...

The monument is impressive but I do love the little flower. It would be nice to have a row of them around my grave.

Julie said...

Sadly, Joan, so many of them had bent until the snapped. Like a rhody head ...

Jim said...

It's marvellous.

diane b said...

There is something about the last shot that is eerie and unreal.

Deb said...

Can't help but think the money could have been better spent, a smaller memorial, endow a scholarship or two perhaps. Still it was a gesture of it's time and looks beautifully made.

CaT said...

i very much like the last picture, with the tall grass and the stones that are not standing up straight anymore... some cemeteries (the old ones) around here look like this as well, and i really like those... (its also how they are often depicted in the movies, haha! but how i had never seen it back in the netherlands)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I've never come across a cemetery where you find these topsy turvy markers. Not that I would mind.

How sweet is that fence detail of the flower?

JM said...

Julie, I honestly don't know which photo I most like. Altough very different, they're all wonderful!

Dina said...

I'm seeing this post a bit late but glad to read it. So strange.
Wonderful photos to give the mood.

Mark R said...

A great story - well told and well photographed!
Iy may have been hubris for him, but (generally) I am in favour of Folly...