The Cumnock Chronicle
December 9th 1921
From the Cumnock Chronicle of December 9th 1921
WAR MEMORIAL UNVEILED BY BR. – GEN. POLLOCK McCALL
Great success marked the imposing and impressive ceremony in Afton Cemetery on Saturday last. To begin with, it was such a Saturday as nobody ever saw in December before, for so genial was the weather that many lay on the grass while waiting for the procession. Before the advertised time of starting it was evident that proceedings were to be on a much bigger scale than anybody anticipated. The gathering at the Parish Church when the procession started was big and impressive, and it was augmented at every step all the way up.
First of all, the Pipe Band, under Pipe–Major Campbell, led the way. After the kilties came a firing party and buglers of the R.S.F. from Ayr. Then there followed a big representation of ex-servicemen, who mustered at their headquarters at the Liggate and marched down to the church. With them marched Brig. – Gen. Pollock McCall, who unveiled the memorial. The members of the Memorial Committee and the Parish Council, both strongly represented, came next in order, and following them the brethren of Lodge St. John. The public in large numbers followed, and very many relatives of the fallen heroes, carrying wreaths to lay on the plinth of the memorial were conspicuous as they marched along.
Thus the procession passed, adding to its numbers largely at the Toll and at the Shilling Hill, wending its way up Afton Road to the strains of the pipes playing “The Land o’ the Leal”. Another crowd joined up at the cemetery gate, and thus a very large concourse of people saw the monument unveiled.
Mr John Nicol, who has all along acted as chairman of the memorial Committee, presided on this occasion also. The combined choir under Mr Sydney Latimer, opened with the Hundredth Psalm, and all the gathering took up the venerable strain. Rev Wm. Scott offered the dedication prayer, as follows:-
Almighty and most merciful God, we bend before Thee in this solemn dedication hour, in lowly adoration, to worship Thee. We praise and magnify Thee for Thy great and glorious majesty, and that we may now approach thee. Be pleased to receive us as we draw near to Thee, and have us in Thy loving care for ever. Our sins rise up before us now as we behold Thee, but, spite of these, be pleased to accept us graciously, and, for his sake, forgive us. Uphold us now, O Lord that we may speak with Thee. We thank and praise Thee for Thy great and constant and wondrous kindness to our Empire, nation and people in the great World War; for Thy goodness vouchsafed through the slow, long years of agony; for finally leading us, with honour, to victory – for these O Lord, how can we ever praise Thee as we ought? For inspiring countless brave young hearts, the Empire over, to speed to the Flag; for leading hundreds of our very own valiant lads to venture all in the great emprise, to endure all things for Thee; for enabling the boys whom we this day remember, for love of honour, native land and Thee, to give their lives even unto death that we by their stripes might be healed; for Thy sustaining grace, given to their loved ones at home, we would anew thank Thee. We praise Thee for all Thy gifts – of guidance, patience, skill – bestowed on all generals, commanders, officers, non-commissioned officers and men, for nerving all in their several spheres till at length Thou didst give the victory. And now, by this cenotaph today we stand, our hearts humbled, our spirits solemnised, our wills seeking unto Thine. Be graciously pleased, O Lord, to receive at our unworthy hands this memorial, which now we dedicate to Thee, and have it ever in Thy loving care – that coming generations may, on this sacred spot, find their vision cleansed, their hearts uplifted unto Thee in holy love and adoration, learning here the lesson that only in sacrifice for God, Truth, Freedom, can life’s great rest be won. So now we would dedicate this memorial, ourselves and ours, to Thee. Bless the King, the Premier, all men of good will and loving heart now toiling everywhere for peace; bless our native land, our parish, this assembly; and, we beseech Thee, remember in Thy tender love all the loved ones who today, by this service, find sorrow stirred afresh, and flood their hearts with peace. May they work and watch and wait until the day break and the shadows flee away. These things, our Father God, we most humbly beg, for Jesus Christ our Saviour’s sake. Amen.
The Chairman briefly introduced Brig. – Gen. McCall, who had kindly consented to unveil the memorial, and who was a well known figure to local ex-servicemen, many of whom had served under his command for several years. Brig. – Gen. Pollock McCall, addressing his large audience in the terms ”friends and comrades”, said that the beautiful monument which he had been asked to unveil would surely be for all time a fitting memorial to those whose names were engraved there on. Like those to whose memory it had been erected, it stood forth square and solid to the four winds of heaven. It recalled to mind those heroic lads who in 1914 had answered their country’s call and stood forth to defend her honour and keep inviolate her pledge to protect smaller nations. It recalled how so many had dared all and sacrificed all – even life itself – in defence of Right and Liberty. It recalled to those at home and those who had come through the mighty conflict, unspeakable hardships and trials borne ungrudgingly in far – fetched fields of battle. It brought to vivid remembrance not only the possibility of death and savage mutilation, dealt by an invisible foe, but the icy fields of Flanders, the freezing winds, the mud and water – logged trenches, the long and weary days of waiting, the insufficient food and sleep and the grim silence of sentry – go in a night of drenching rain. To others it would recall long and laborious marches over endless tracks of shifting, burning sand, unshaded from the rays of a sweltering sun. Yet in spite of such awful privations and suffering he was infinitely proud to think that their lads had stood firm to their task and had brought their country safe to victory in the end. The nation’s heart had never failed throughout the anxious years, and those whose duties lay at home had worked hard and earnestly for the common cause. The womenfolks had answered the call nobly and well, and gave of their best and dearest with splendid courage and fortitude, till victory had dawned. Assuredly generations yet to come would look on their memorial with pride and honour. The name of father or grandfather everlastingly engraved would incite anew the glorious memory of a duty well done; and should they ever in their turn be called upon to stand forth in defence of their native land, their liberty and rights, that stone would act as an inspiration to them and tell again of dangers dared unflinchingly, regardless of cost. Brig. – Gen. Pollock McCall then unveiled the memorial “To the glory of God and in everlasting memory of those whose names are engraved thereon”.
The Chairman then read the list of names engraved on the memorial.
Then followed a most impressive part of the ceremony. The firing party, who throughout the proceedings had stood with heads bowed and hands clasped over the butts of their reversed rifles, now stood to attention and fired three volleys, between each of which the bugle sounded. After the last volley the soldiers stood at the ”Present” while the “Last Post” was sounded. There was an intense hush during this part of the proceedings, the large audience standing with reverently bowed heads.
Mr James Brown M.P., said that they had just listened to the saddest of all bugle calls. To many sorrowing hearts it would recall the memory of some dearly loved one sleeping far off in a soldier’s grave. To them, however, even in their sorrow, there would be a great uplifting and gladness of heart in the knowledge that their boys had been true to their King and Country, and true above all to themselves. They loved to crown the victory and honour those who had deserved it, and surely all homage and praise was due to their dear lads in their sacred sacrifice. At the committee’s request he was about to place a wreath at the foot of their memorial, but before doing so he wished to say to all whose hearts were heavy that day – “Be of good cheer and have the utmost faith, leaving your dear ones in God’s keeping, and in the surety of a glorious resurrection”
Mr Brown then placed the committee’s wreath and the general public were given an opportunity to follow his example, and soon the plinth was covered with beautiful floral tributes.
Mr William Hyslop, of Bank, said they had been most fortunate in having Brig. – Gen. Pollock McCall with them that day. There was no one who had been more closely associated with many of their local lads during the war, and it was most appropriate indeed that he should be with them to unveil their memorial. In name of the committee he expressed his gratitude to Brig. – Gen. Pollock McCall for his ready acceptance of their invitation to him to do honour to their glorious dead, whose names would live forever.
The company then joined in singing the Second Paraphrase and the benediction was pronounced by the Rev William Bodin. The singing of the National Anthem brought the proceedings to a close.
When the Memorial Committee began its work, it determined to set up nothing but the best design. After some delay, caused by the universal experience, a rather meagre response, those in charge of the movement were fortunate to secure the services of Sir John Burnet A.R.A., R.S.A., Glasgow, who is Scotland’s foremost architect. After that it was decided at a public meeting to erect the Memorial to the Fallen in the Cemetery. Many designs were considered, and some had to be dropped owing to lack of funds. In the end Sir John Burnet’s modified design was adopted, contracts were let, and the work proceeded with. Work began in the middle of summer and has just been completed. The memorial takes the form of a cenotaph. It was properly described as a cenotaph by the speakers on Saturday. It is built of a Northumbrian freestone, hard and close-grained. The mason who did the work declared that it kept him sharpening chisels all day long.
Starting from the base it rises four square, massive and inspiring. Then there come courses of bold and full moulding, finishing a plinth of noble proportions. From these courses there rises the main body of the monument, courses of cambered freestone, reaching a squared capital. These cambered stones show five panels, all cambered – one at each end and three in front. Of the three, the centre panel is in high relief, two inches in front of its flanks, and each panel holds twenty-two names. Severe, classic simplicity marks the finish. Springing from the main column a bevelled course rises to its apex, and there the memorial stands four square, as the heroes stood, whose names its sculpture shows.
Surrounding the monument are two steps forming a chaste, simple, expressive base, and on Saturday these steps were covered with wreaths. There was the laurel wreath which James Brown laid, as already reported; there was the broken column wreath which the ex-servicemen laid; there was the wreath of the poppies that grow on Flanders fields; and there was the last wreath laid. The little girl laid it; her grandmother led her up by the hand; her mother was there, and her father’s name was on the list. All the fifteen feet or thereby of the front were covered. So were the five feet or thereby of the ends, and the monument, about twice the length of a man, acquired a new significance. The great crowd at the cemetery went home with something of the New Significance impressed on their minds. Crowds visited the memorial on Sunday. All day long Afton Road was black, and throughout the afternoon the visitors formed a queue at the top end and proceeded slowly along the front. On Sunday night the unveiling ceremony came to its conclusion.
OUR HONOURED DEAD
(Webmaster’s note – a list of the names on the memorial now followed)
Written on the unveiling of New Cumnock War Memorial, Dec 3, 1921
With head bowed down
I stand before this stone,
And read the names of manly lads thereon:
Heroes for God and heroes for the right,
They laid their lives well down – and won the fight.
Our worthy sons, they
did not seek applause,
They fought for Freedom and their country’s cause;
The weak were needing help, and they went there,
The Tyrant to withstand, his hosts to dare.
And loving hearts
are crushed beneath the strain,
For these brave lads will ne’er come home again;
But, oh, the thought! A few short years soon o’er,
God will unite us on the Happy Shore.
William McKay Gray,
The Hawtrees, New Cumnock
On the next week of publication, December 16th 1921, the following verses appeared
A TRIBUTE TO THE BRAVE
(New Cumnock Memorial to the Fallen, unveiled Dec. 3, 1921)
The sun peeps over
And sheds its ray upon the stone,
A tribute to the brave:
Our kinsmen and brothers, New Cumnock men,
Who rest far away from their Afton Glen,
In glorious soldiers’ grave
With never a thought
but to meet the foe
In Flanders field where the poppies blow,
They died for the dear homeland;
New Cumnockians number’d ‘mong the slain
On Gallipoli wild, and the Strumna Plain,
And some sleep ‘neath desert sand.
We see them not, but
they liveth still,
As we gaze on the stone at the top of the hill,
Their memory shall never wane;
For generations to come will learn of the fight,
Be inspired to do what is noble and right:
Then they will NOT have died in vain.
To those who still
think of the battlefield
With hearts still sore and wounds unhealed,
Father, Thy will be done;
As the sun goes down with a flaming ray,
We tender our thanks at the end of the day,
Our thanks for the victory won.
THE BURNTON BARD
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