The MOVES to dedicate the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree to the Queen have been criticized by local residents and their descendants.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs Tree in Tolpuddle, has a history dating back to 1833, when six farm workers later known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, gathered at this sycamore to organize efforts to improve working conditions .
They were found guilty of taking a secret oath and sentenced to criminal deportation to Australia, although this was overturned three years later due to massive public outcry.
Janet Johnson, who lives in one of the Martyrs’ cottages in Tolpuddle, said: “I think it is very insensitive and an insult to their memory that the Martyrs’ Tree is dedicated to the Queen on her Jubilee of platinum.
“It was parliamentarians and their cronies, including royalty, who were responsible for convicting and transporting the Tolpuddle men for taking an unlawful oath.”
Descendant of one of the martyrs, Susan Standfield, said: ‘I understand the intention was probably good, but I have asked that they add an additional initiative to support labor and working class rights focused on young people in Dorset.
“The tree honors the hardships of my ancestors and all workers in this country, but its use for the Jubilee does not address that, which I think will seem insensitive.”
The sycamore is part of an initiative to dedicate a national array of 70 ancient trees or woods to each of the queens 70 years on the throne.
It has already been dedicated for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, when it was one of 50 Great Britain Trees to be dedicated in 2002 by the Tree Council.
Nigel Costley of the Trade Union Congress said: “I think people have strong feelings about the role of the monarchy, but this year with street parties in towns like Tolpuddle, it’s important that we recognize the role of Tolpuddle’s story. Martyrs plays in national history.”
Jo Atkins of the National Trust said: “The trees chosen to be part of the Queen’s Green Canopy to mark her 70th Jubilee have been dedicated as remarkable trees which have themselves witnessed remarkable periods in history and have their own stories to tell.
“The significance of the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree is recognized and its inclusion provides a moment to remember the story of the life and sacrifice of the martyrs themselves.”