The Cumnock Chronicle

October 7th 1921

From the Cumnock Chronicle of the 7th October 1921.


New Cumnock


THE SCHOOL WAR MEMORIAL



UNVEILING AND DEDICATION

Saturday was a great day in the history of the school, for it marked the unveiling of a splendid memorial to the pupils who fell in the war. Mr Archibald Brown O.B.E., now a prominent citizen of Liverpool, was the generous donor, and right well has he honoured the place of his birth and the building which he, when a boy, was the first scholar to enter on the day when they opened its doors to begin its great work.

The memorial is a large and massive brass mural tablet, heavily framed in rich mahogany. It measures 6ft. 3in. by 3ft. 9in., and is shown to full advantage on the back wall of the school hall. Chaste and simple in design, it is a choice example of the engraver’s art, and is a delight to the eye. With floral corners showing a design of grapes, and with a festoon of leaves across the top, it shows a bold headline with the motto – “Honour – Justice – Liberty”. The Roll of Honour is headed with the inscription – “In memory of the Boys of this School who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914–1919”. It is divided into three panels, and each panel holds twenty one names.

At the opening ceremony two Union Jacks enveloped the tablet, while another canopied it overhead. The platform party included Mr J.A. Wales, headmaster of the school, who acted as chairman; Mr Brown, the donor; Rev James Hamilton, Kilmarnock, chairman of Ayrshire Education Authority; Rev William Bodin and Rev William Scott. Beside the platform was a children’s choir, under Mr J.D. Burton, leading the praise. The attendance of the public was small, but relatives were well represented.

The ceremony opened by the company joining in singing the Hundredth Psalm, after which the Rev William Bodin read the scripture lesson and engaged in prayer. The children’s choir then sang the hymn “Oh come, ye desolate.”

The chairman prefaced his remarks with an expression of regret that the seating accommodation of the hall was so limited. He then briefly outlined the various stages culminating in the erection of the memorial. A year and a half ago he had received a letter from Mr Archibald Brown, of Liverpool, a former schoolboy in New Cumnock, in which Mr Brown expressed his desire to see a memorial tablet in the school to the pupils who fell in the Great War. He (the speaker) had immediately communicated with the School Management Committee for the Area and on their authority had replied to Mr Brown, thanking him for his splendid gift to the school. Lists of the names of the fallen were carefully drawn up and exhibited at various public places for inspection and, if necessary, for correction. Ultimately the completed list was dispatched to Mr Brown, and they now had the tablet fixed in its place. On behalf of all concerned he wished to express their great indebtedness to Mr Brown for his munificent gift. He (the speaker) had been teaching in New Cumnock School for over thirty years, and he was proud that the unveiling of the school memorial had taken place in his time. He called upon the Rev William Scott to unveil and dedicate the memorial.

Rev Mr Scott said, - As you, Mr Chairman, fittingly and impressively remind us, this is a great and historic day in our school life. From this hour, everything, even our most ordinary daily routine, will shine with a great and glowing splendour; this massive and handsome tablet, now set into our walls, will make this spot holy ground. Here, as they rest upon their way, coming generations of boys and girls, as of men and women, will read that the brave boys whose names are graven thereon “counted not their lives dear” but, as the tablet tells, proudly laid them down for Honour, Justice, Liberty, so making sacrifice supreme. Who are these boys? Whence came they? They were – nay, they ARE, for to us they can never die – New Cumnock boys, reared among us, taught in this school under this master and his staff; boys just like the other boys of their own time, very like the hearty, boisterous boys now filling school and playground with all the rich and varied tokens of their diligence and high spirits; boys for whom not even the proudest mother craved so glorious a crown. For the most part, from humble homes they came – Scottish homes chiefly, God-fearing homes; and one day these hearty, hefty lads. unaware of aught heroic in themselves or their deed, heard a voice, saw a hand:-

“I hear a voice you cannot hear –
I dare not longer stay;
I see a hand you cannot see –
It beckons me away.”

Let me frankly own, when first I heard that we were at war with Germany, my heart stood still. Nearly fifty years ago, just on the back of the Franco – German War, I learned from my old master in the Madras Academy that Germany led the world in the conduct of swift, sure, successful war. That all rushed back on me seven years ago – and my heart stood still. But the days passed. Awful days they were! In time, things found focus and proportion, though never for a moment was the sky quite cloud free. I well remember how slowly, at first, recruits came in. People could not really grasp the meaning of it all. I recall, too, the march of a recruiting party from our county regiment. passing thro’ the villages in search of recruits – and how poor the results! Some of us entertained that party, giving them “one glorious hour” ere they sped onward. That was November 1914. Then Kitchener spoke! The lads everywhere found “the fountains of the great deep” of their beings breaking up; and the boys – ours, too, remember! – blocked all avenues, forced every shut door, seeking gun, bayonet, uniform; demanding ship for France! Our boys among the first and best! Time and again, boys came to me, wildly impatient that, somehow, someone blocked their way; clerk, shopman, pitboy all came, impatient and indignant. And sometimes it was the recruiting officer who angered them – smiling affectionately at the manifest “fibs” some told of their venerable age; but, refused here, they went further afield – till, in the end, proud and happy as kings, they were uniformed and equipped, away on the Great Adventure; France, Gallipoli, anywhere, if only it led them to the foe! Then in due time, while world civilisation reeled, our boys faced what, possibly, no men ever faced before; “hell let loose into our upper world”. In the wild rush of the headlong charge some passed; others went thro’ the slow, slow furnace of trench or sap or mine; but, howsoever they passed, they pressed onward, thro’ fires and blood, right up to God. I recall Byron’s words, familiar since childhood, telling how British boys, a century ago, went into their fight “each blithe comrade his joke around him flings, marching to death with military glee”. So fought and so fell our brave boys, kings and heroes every man of them, for Honour, Justice, Liberty.

May I stay a moment or two to say a word about the grandeur of our womenfolk? It’s too sacred for me; the fitting gifts are not mine. ‘Tis a theme for Sir Walter, at his best – nay, for immortal Homer. If our women wept and prayed, it was “in silence and alone” that, all the better, they may smile and bravely “carry on” before the world. The agony, the sheer Gethsemane, so many of them passed thro’ – endless hours, days, years, as they must have seemed, God in heaven only knew and knows. I, who moved among them, know somewhat – more I dare not say. Well, this noble brass reveals their secret, too; their inspiration and their crown. Not less the boys – the mothers, sisters, sweethearts, wives endured for Honour, Justice, Liberty; in the words of “our grand old Bible” “they endured as seeing Him who is invisible”.

And now, we are here this afternoon. The boys we now honour rest “in lands far distant”; they lie today in strange, lone, far severed graves. Even so, they are today more entirely ours than when with us; we are their debtors forever. “Being dead, they yet speak”. They do not call us to hallow their memory – unasked, we’ll try to do that! But, ruling us from their glorious sepulchres, they do not ask us to recall that for which they died: for Honour, Justice, Liberty. They call to us – I can hear the call in the shrill pibroch’s note and in the “wild charge they made”:- they call us to wear and bear the clean, white soul within; to cherish reverence for all – above, around, beneath; Carlyle’s three reverences; to accord Freedom to every man, woman and child everywhere. That is their charge to us, this day renewed. If we fulfil this, if we nobly seek to fulfil this, and hand on this divine tradition to children’s children, therein and thereby we raise to our young immortals a fresh memorial of immortality, in a sense grander than even Horatian dream: exegi monumentum aere perennius – “ I have raised a memorial more during than brass”. An undying memorial in honour of God, King and Fatherland!

And now in your name, and at the large hearted donor’s call, we solemnly dedicate our boy’s memorial to God, and, by His grace, to this school and to its pupils in perpetuity. May God graciously receive our offering, and have it and us and ours in His holy care for ever. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet. The place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” – Amen and Amen!

The Chairman then read the Roll of Honour, making special reference to Pte. Nisbet Graham (sic), Black Watch, whose name had unfortunately been omitted from the list.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

(Webmaster’s note – there then follows the list of names on the tablet. Pte. Nisbet Gray, Black Watch is missing.)

Rev Mr Bodin dedicated the memorial in prayer, after which the Last Post was sounded.

Mr Archibald Brown said it was a great privilege to him to be able to be present that day. He was an old schoolboy himself; indeed he was probably one of the first boys to enter that school. He had not served in the war, but had often been in a position to see the terrible havoc and destruction it had brought in its train. When he first suggested the erection of a tablet he had no conception that so many New Cumnock boys had made the supreme sacrifice. It was a sad but glorious legacy they left. They had with them that day the Rev James Hamilton, Chairman of the Ayrshire Education Authority, and in his own and in the school’s name he respectfully handed over the memorial to the custody of the Authority to preserve for all time and all generations.

Rev Mr Hamilton said that while he esteemed it a great privilege and a still greater honour to accept custody of the memorial on behalf of the Education Authority, he was not unmindful of the responsibility involved. Of the many varied duties which had fallen to him to perform in the execution of the Authority work, none had appealed to him so deeply as that assigned to him that day. It was his privilege, while in France, to meet many New Cumnock lads and better or truer souls one could not wished to meet. They came from a district brimming with the gloriously sacred traditions of their Scottish life. No one could ever tell how much their country owed to the lads from the Scottish country schools, for their noble courage and undaunted heroism in the years just past. They never counted the cost or thought of risk, and were undoubtedly the telling factor in their country’s victory over might and oppression. Surely it said much for their Scottish education that these young men had gone forth to the battle so thoroughly equipped in intellect and resource for the many emergencies of war. The Ayrshire Education Authority owed their faithful lads a great debt, and in their endeavour to advance the cause of education in their beloved shire for the benefit of those for whom their lads had fought and died, they would not be shirking their obligation. He was glad that their memorial was the gift of an Ayrshire man who, although resident elsewhere, had still the great Ayrshire spirit. He could assure him that the memorial would ever be preserved in a worthy place, bringing to the remembrance of future generations the great sacrifice their forebears were proud to make for Liberty and Justice.

The company then joined in singing “ O, God of Bethel” and the National Anthem, and the Rev Mr Scott brought the proceedings to a close by pronouncing the benediction.


SIXTY-TWO OF THE BEST

Sixty-two o’ the best and the bravest o’ men
From the auld village school near the foot o’ the glen
Where as boys they were taught to play the straight game
And as men they responded and won undying fame

Tho’ they’re scattered afar from the scene o’ their joys
Where they drilled in the hall as wee bits o’ boys
Their names are engraved for future pupils to see
That they laid down their lives for the land o’ the free

Their lives were but brief in this world of strife
But God judged them not by the length o’ each life
But actions performed earned them heavenly rest
New Cumnock’s brave sons – sixty-two o’ the best

THE BURNTON BARD

 

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