Australians are not known for building grand family mausoleums or enormous burial monuments that are often found in other countries. Rather it is far more common for people to have a stone, sometimes on older graves an obelisk or an angel, or perhaps to have the grave paved over with tile and an iron fence (although most of the iron fences were removed long ago, for a variety of reasons). These days, most modern cemeteries simply encourage the use of a metal plaque on a concrete block to facilitate mowing the lawns. But this building is something else. It is large, topped with an urn made of concrete, and with walls of stained glass.
On seeing it front-on you are met by a Lintel entitled “The Temple of Peace,” with four marble-lead plaques with text, and within the small chamber, there are a number of marble tablets, lettered in lead against the back wall (to the memory of Fred, Gordon, Victor, Henry and I). Around the ceiling are the names and places of death of two of his sons, and at the back stained glass documenting Victor’s death, and “Fred, my boy, and I” on the ceiling. At the front, toward the entrance is a statue of a small dog, who was said to have been poisoned maliciously. On its face it seems a grieving father’s memorial to his four lost sons taken by war and self-inflicted harm, and a beloved pet whose life was taken too soon.
Research, however, has shown that there are deeper and more obscure reasons for the temple’s construction. Richard Ramo, the builder of this mausoleum was not highly literate and left no papers. However, it is now widely believed that most of the face-value claims made about the temple are false, or misleading. Ramo may well have been a fantasist who constructed at least three of his “sons” from nothing. He did actually have children, but none of their names appear in the tomb. There was also some connection between Ramo and the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) and the Rationalist Society, which is backed up by the reference to the Red Flag inside the Temple, and some other references on the marble panels.
On December 6, 1924, the temple was dedicated “before thousands,” according to a marble plaque installed on the front, right corner of the building, most of whom were from either the socialist or pacifist communities. A casket, apparently containing the remains of his “adopted son” Fred who had taken his own life, was interred in the temple. The dedication was made by the president of the Rationalist Association.
Ramo, who was not considered a wealthy man, somehow managed to pay for this and other monuments which were also built within the Toowong Cemetary. This is another of the mysteries of this particular monument. One is left wondering if this was an enormous joke? If it was the ravings of a lunatic or the creation of a broken mind? Was it funded by others?
The final chapter of Ramo’s involvement in this story was his own death in 1951. His ashes were added to the monument he built to honor sons he never had who didn’t die in the war.
In the years since his death, the monument has been preserved. In recent years the windows have been covered in plexiglass to protect them from the vandals who have in recent years attacked this puzzling, but meaningful monument to the cessation of war.
Know Before You Go
The Toowong Cemetary has a number of other important war memorials. They were some of the first to be erected in Australia, not least including one to the soldiers who fought during the Boer War from Queensland. Toowong Cemetary is one of the most historical and largest in Brisbane with well over 100,000 monuments. It is well worth a visit for those who enjoy such things.
On Fridays and Saturdays, there are Ghost Tours. The cemetery is generally open to the public.
There are several Brisbane bus routes that stop at the cemetery as well as links on the Brisbane metropolitan railway lines.