Translated literally, Labor onmia vincit
means "Work (Labor) conquers (vincit) everything
(omnia)." It is taken from a Latin poem written by the
Roman poet Virgil about 29 B.C., during the time of Augustus
Caesar (the successor of Julius Caesar). The poem was the
first of a series of four, called the "Georgics",
which were written as propaganda for Augustus's "Back
to the Land" campaign designed to encourage Romans to
take up farming.
(The word "Georgic" is Greek in origin, and means
"A book about work on the land." "Land-worker"
It includes a description of the growth of agriculture from
primitive beginnings, and in this there occur the lines :-
Labor omnia vincit
(vicit is the past tense "conquered" of vincit "conquers)
Improbus, et duris urguens in rebus egestas
This might be freely translated as
"Every difficulty was overcome by hard work, egged on
by grim necessity."
The phrase Labour omnia vincit has
been taken from this poem and used as a motto by many people
since then (just as somebody might take, say "The play's
the thing !" from Shakespeare's Hamlet for a motto).
It is now the motto of the City of Bradford; of Ashton-under-Lyme;
of Ilkeston in Derbyshire; and of Cheltenham College. Pollokshaws
(where by coincidence, our No 2 Training Centre was situated
during the War), near Glasgow, has simply Labor vincit for
a motto in English - "Labour overcomes all things."
Some towns have substituted Industria (Industry) for Labor.
Thus Morley in Yorkshire has Industria omnia vincit, and Bury
has the same words the other way round Vincit omnia industria.
Accrington is apparently not satisfied that Industry can do
the job alone, and accordingly has "Industry and Prodence
Similar sentiments are contained in
the "Nothing without Labour" of Haslingden, in Lancashire,
and in several Latin tags which mean much the same thing -
Nihil sine labore of Govan in Lanarkshire, Sine labore nihil
fioret of Brierly Hill, and Absque labore nihil of Darwen
in Lancashire and of Stalbridge in Cheshire.
Nor is the use of the motto confined
to Great Britain. Labor omnia vincit is the motto of the American
Federation of Labour, and of the State of Oklahoma, while
Manchester, in New Hampshire, USA, has Labor vincit. I have
also come across Omnia vincit labor on the title page of a
guide book to the City of Florence ("Florence- a new
illustrated guide" by Francesco Lumachi, published by
the Societa Editrice Fiorentina.") As I have not met
it anywhere else in connection with Florence, however, I think
it must be the motto of the author of the publishers, rather
than of the city itself.
Labor omnia vincit, or some similar
phrase, is the motto of at least six British Barons (Adams,
Calverley, Lucas, St Leonards, Terrington, Overdale) and five
Baronets (Burbridge, Marr, Richmond, Rowlan and Waterlow).
Amongst other notable English families, Labor omnia superat
is the motto of the Turners of Willington Hall in Derbyshire;
Labor probus omnia vincit of the Wengers of Trentham Priory,
Stoke on Trent; Labor vincit omnia of the Hasells of Dalemain
in Cumberland; and Nihil sine labore of the Cators of Woodbastwick,
Norwich, and of the D'Abreu family of Handsworth, Birmingham.
The nearest I have been able to find
amongst the Scottish Clans is the E Labore dulcedo ("From
work comes pleasure") of the Macinness or Clan Aonglais.
The McKie family of Bargaly, Glencaird, Auchencairn, and Ernespie,
have simply Labora ("Work"). If anyone knows of
any other uses of the motto, I shall be glad to learn of them.
It was suggested that our motto "cannot
be bettered or improved upon." So far as Latin mottos
are concerned, I agree. The only possible competitor I have
come across is Labora sicut bonus miles ! ("Work like
a good soldier !", which is the motto of the Miles family,
formerly of Kings Weston, Gloucestershire. (This incidentally,
is an interesting example of a punning motto - the pun in
this case being on the name Miles and "miles," the
Latin word for "soldier.") Personally, however,
I feel we should be able to find a more appropriate motto
for the Corps than one taken from a peom about agriculture,
written by a foreigner in a dead language two thousand years
ago. I would like to see us have a motto in our own language
- a slogan hammered out by Pioneers themselves in the forge
of War. There was one that went the rounds amongst us in the
Central Mediterranean during the War which seems to me very
suitable. It was "No Labour - No Battle !" But perhaps
some of you know of others equally appropriate.
P.S. Work was not the only
thing which Virgil regarded as all conquering. Elsewhere in
his poem he said Omnia vincit Amor et not cedamus Amori !
- Love conquers all things; let us give way to love !"
After painstaking (and on occasions somewhat painful) research,
carried on over a number of years, I have come to the sad
conclusion that this does not seem to be the motto of the
W.R.N.S., the W.R.A.C., the W.R.A.F., the U.S. Army Nursing
Corps, E.N.S.A., the Chorus of the Windmill Theate, the Folies-Bergere,
the Spanish League of Lady Bullfighters or the National Union
of Barmaids. My researches continue as opportunities present
(Article from The Royal
Pioneer, Issue No 40, September 1954)