Monday, 6 May 2013

A familiar object.

I love correcting lessons in history.
Correcting teachers who mention the wrong Queen Mary,
Correcting speakers who reference the wrong historic house,
Correcting movies (my favourite), and
Correcting exhibitions which date fashion history incorrectly (my pet area of expertise).
It's not that I like the superiority of being able to prove I'm right (ok, maybe a little) but it's that I absolutely detest people being fed incorrect history. I'ts hard enough to get people to cultivate an interest in the subject that when you do manage to get someone to absorb meaningful information it should at least be correct. Interesting, maybe even unbelievable, but at least correct.
Condensed I don't mind. Wrong I will not tolerate.

In a similar vein, I like sharing my knowledge with people. Entreating them to see the wonder and beauty and excitement that I see. Providing them with the context with which to better appreciate and understand the things before them. Just ask those friends who have been dragged through museums and art galleries.

The latest example was at the Azelia Ley Homestead Museum in Hamilton Hill. Having already succeeded in confusing the poor ladies on duty (see this post) my mother and I proceeded to explain one of the unlabelled pieces of linen pinned into a display case.

It was a shiny white bow and if you looked closely on one of the tails was the delicate embroidery of a goblet. The ladies had never really questioned its purpose assuming that it was simply part of a lady's wardrobe. In fact it was more delightful than that, if slightly misplaced in the master bedroom of this house.

This delicate white bow was part of a boy's First Holy Communion outfit. It was embroidered with the host and chalice and was worn around the upper arm with the ubiquitous sailor suit that all small boys seem to have been dressed in in the first half of the 20th century. And it looked incredibly familiar. Partially because less than a sennight earlier we had unearthed my grandfather's own arm band, little white gloves and miniscule book. No doubt this was the arm band of my great uncle when he had received holy communion in Alexandria, Egypt in the mid 1930s.

Mum (the lapsed Catholic amongst us) was unaware of how widespread the tradition was.
Were the Mannings catholic and therefore participants in this ritual? Was this ritual, carried out on the other side of the world, accompanied with the physical paraphernalia that our family had experienced in Egypt?

It was an interesting discovery and I like to think I'm, bit by bit, adding my piece to the history of this city. Now just to forward a copy of the delightful photo above to the museum to illustrate the way the bow was worn (and reinforce the twee outfits of the time). 


  1. Now that IS an interesting discovery! And so useful for ... things ...

  2. As per my last update, the item is in fact displayed in a cabinet with the family bibles, totally separate from any other costumes, and situated in the main bedroom of the Museum. Azelia was not Catholic, she was married under Presbyterian rites, so we do not assume this had any connection to her personally. The Collection encompasses any artifacts reflecting any local cultures and customs of the era and area. Thankyou for adding to its history and interest.


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