It is interesting what you discover about Parramatta if you stroll around the shopping area looking up rather than down. Many of the facades and parapets of the commercial buildings bear some remnants or hints of this city’s commercial past and business personalities.

One of these I noticed recently was a building at 97 Macquarie Street, which looked unremarkable until I looked up and noticed a bas relief of a muscular man attempting to break a bundle of sticks over his knee. Under the relief was engraved the motto “Union is Strength”. The analogy being that each stick represents an individual. A stick on it’s own can be broken easily. But as a bundle or group there is strength and the sticks cannot be broken. The motto appears elsewhere in various wordings such as “Strength is Unity” and “Unity Makes Strength” and is used as a motto for a number of Cities and Countries including Bulgaria, Georgia, Haiti, and Brooklyn just to name a few.

This particular motto and figure seemed to have been used in Australia by The Australian Widows Fund. It was founded in 1871 in Melbourne. In 1910 the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Society Limited (MLC) took over the Australian Widows’ Fund. The parent company of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Society Limited (MLC), Citizens’ Life Assurance Company Limited, was incorporated in Sydney in 1886.

Macquarie Hall, Jubilee hall, Leigh Church,Macquarie Street, Parramatta, about 1930

The building on the far right is Jubilee Hall, then to the left is Macquarie Hall, parsonage, and Leigh Memorial Church. Photograph circa 1930

What is also interesting about this building is located on the site of the Jubilee Hall for the Wesleyan Church, built in 1865 to commemorate the Jubilee of Australian Methodism. MLC purchased the building from the Church in 1953 and extended the front of the building to create additional office space. Three years later in 1956 the Jubilee Hall was removed to create a two storey extension to the front of the MLC building.

 

 

Union Is Strength. MLC Building 97 Macquarie Street, Parramatta. Photograph by Peter Arfanis

Union Is Strength. MLC Building 97 Macquarie Street, Parramatta. Photograph by Peter Arfanis

 

 

Peter Arfanis, Archivist, Parramatta Council, Heritage Centre, 2015