16 May 2023

Here dead we lie because we did not choose

To live and shame the land from which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,

But young men think it is, and we were young.

Here dead we lie by A. E. Housman

 Sunday 20th May 1923. The skies were grey as the procession marched from Stonehaven’s Market Square up to the Black Hill.  It was a solemn occasion, and Lady Cowdray spoke of “the blank left in homes where son, father, husband or brother come not again”.  Gallant lives so tragically lost.

The War Memorial was completed at last, and the great and the good of the town gathered for its dedication.  Sentries posted at each pillar - their rifles reversed.  The mood would not have been lifted by the laying of wreaths, or the piping of laments, or by the reading of John McKendrick’s “The Memorial”

When generations after generations have passed away

And those who loved have long since departed;

The gathering years will dull the brightest memories:

Still this monument will tell the story

Of why they died!

Professor John G McKendrick

 The Memorial - Our Memorial - names eight battles of the First World War.  Gallipoli, Jutland, Marne, Mons, Somme, Vimy, Ypres and Zeebrugge.  On sandstone quarried near the harbour for the Memorial designed by local architect John Ellis.  It is octagonal in shape, with the names of one hundred and sixty-two of the fallen on a centrally placed triangular stone.  Tablets remembering those killed in WWII were added later.  And the ruined look was deliberate – designed to signify the ruined lives.

Saturday 20th May 2023.  One hundred years to the day from the dedication.  There will be another procession and if you wish you can join the muster in the square.  As many as a hundred pipers will lead the march off at 1.30pm. Up the Bervie Braes just like 1923.  And on the Black Hill the re-dedication of the Memorial is from 3pm.  Lady Cowdray’s great-grandson, The Hon Charles Pearson, will unveil a commemorative plaque.  And tears will be quietly shed.

Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,

And I shall see that still the skies are blue,

And feel once more I do not live in vain,

Although bereft of You.

Perhaps by Vera Brittain

 The weather may be better this time.  The mood may be lighter.  But the story is the same. There are thirty-two countries at war today.  Today.  Men and women are still dying.  Remember the one hundred and sixty-two.  And remember the others – sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters.

Of why they died!