Stonehaven War Memorial
Stonehaven’s War Memorial is a particularly noticeable monument, standing on top of the Black Hill just south of the town. It is often thought of as being in a poor state of repair but this is the way it was designed to look – as unfinished or ruined as the lives of those it commemorates.
Whether it was Mr. Ellis’s choice of design or someone else’s we can only guess at but we can certainly appreciate its constant presence on our skyline. Tourists and strangers may think it’s a folly, a temple or a mausoleum but they certainly notice it, speak about it and remember it and, surely, that is what it was meant to do.
By the end of the evening, when a vote was taken, the meeting seemed to favour a park in some form.
It would seem as if the issue had been forgotten about, as at a Town Council meeting in April 1921the councillors were not too sure as to who was on the committee.
Discontent and embarrassment about the situation was made very apparent by some of those present. Something must have worked at that, or a subsequent meeting because, two months later in July, the architect John Ellis had been engaged and had produced two drawings of how he saw the two main ideas.
They were displayed in the window of Hugh Ramsey the Drapers on the Square. One drawing was for a cross, made in granite to be located on the ‘plain steans’ at the side of the market buildings on the square. The other was for a memorial like “a ruined temple” built in the early Doric style of architecture for the top of the Black Hill. The idea of a memorial park or hospital would seem to have failed for various reasons.
The editorial chastisement would seem to have had an effect, but in the wrong way.
It is four years since war ended and the community has done nothing. Not one single official scheme for the raising of funds has been started or is due to commence. It is twelve months since the public meeting decided on which scheme it favoured but since then nothing has been done except by individuals and societies outside the committee. The public is heartily sick of the situation ”.
This piece of editorial would seem to have hit a nerve as, the following week, the paper included: -an engraving of the finished Memorial, an appeal for contributions to the Memorial Fund and a promise to publish a list of all the contributors, but it did add ” It will, no doubt, come as somewhat of a surprise to most people to learn that nearly £600 has already been subscribed “. The report went on to say that the committee felt that as so much money had come in in such a short time, the building work could start as soon as possible. The total cost was estimated at £2000.
Personal donations flowed in and special arrangements were made for children to donate a penny per week. A special film show was held at the Queens Cinema in Allardice Street, which produced £17-5/-. The weekly list shows that a pair of stockings raised 7/6d, as did the sale of a bicycle frame. A torch light procession brought in £5-1/4., and the list shows “proceeds of pig £3-13/6.“
We are not told if the pig was alive or dead, in one piece or many. Twenty-seven pounds was raised by the sale of articles made by the soldiers at St.Leonards Hospital (now the hotel).
The regular appearance of these lists no doubt helped to keep up enthusiasm. By the end of March the total raised was £791. In April it rose to £1089:00, and May saw it clear £1140 !!.
The final £486:7/11. came mainly from Lady Cowdray who donated £300. The total donated was £2148: 7/11. and this would appear to have been raised within one year. No mean feat!
However despite a ‘making rapid progress’ report in June, by late August it seems that the granite suppliers were having difficulty in obtaining the right size of block in the type of stone specified, so the unveiling was put back to the following Spring.
The red swead granite block (which is white) for the centre, weighs10.5 tons and was supplied by Bower and Florence, The Spittal Granite Works, Aberdeen and cost £291:13/6.Four thousand and ninety nine lead letters were needed to make up the 162 names and cost £170:15/10.
The four iron seats that are still there cost £3 each and were made by Allardyce the blacksmiths in David Street, and £47: 10/- was paid to Jas. Burnett & Sons, Sawmillers for the wire fence, posts and gate to surround the whole area.
On the inside of the lintels is cut the quotation from Sankey’s ‘Student in Arms’ – “One by one death challenged them, they smiled in his grim visage and refused to be dismayed”.
Certainly a big step away from some inscriptions that seem to lack any inspiration or individualism.
Finally the day arrived- Sunday, 20th May 1923, at 3 o’clock. The unveiling and dedication of Stonehaven’s War Memorial.
It consisted of ex-service men, territorials, the Provost, Magistrates, the Town Council, Church Councils, the War Memorial Committee, various other public bodies representatives and a pipe band from Aberdeen.
Eight sentries were posted outside the memorial one at the base of each pillar their rifles reversed out of respect. There followed the dedication service with hymns and speeches and Lady Cowdray performing the unveiling. Then a wreath was laid and the last post was sounded followed by the National Anthem.
A poem composed specially for the memorial by Prof. John G.McKendrick of Maxiburn, Bath Street was read out at the very end of the service.