Diamond War Memorial Project

Memorial History

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Part One

Memorial Launch

A meeting, convened by the then Mayor, Sir Robert Anderson, JP, was held in the Minor Hall of the Guildhall on the afternoon of Friday, February 7, 1919, for the purpose of taking into consideration the initiation of a fund to be devoted to the erection of a memorial to Derry citizens who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War.

The Mayor, who presided, announced apologies from, among others, Sir Alfred Newton, Bart, Governor of the Irish Society, who wrote that that body would give cordial support to the movement. The Mayor having referred to the city’s record during the war, said he did not know exactly the number of men who volunteered, but he thought it would not fall short of 5,000 out of a population of 44,000.

Dealing with the schemes that had been suggested, he laid down what he suggested should be two fixed principles to guide them in the movement – first, it should be something in the nature of a perpetual memorial to the men whose names ought to be held in everlasting remembrance: and, secondly, that anything they decided upon should be of a final character, in that it would not entail anything in the nature of an endowment to maintain it. The memorial should be one in consonance with the history of the city and a work of art.

For such a memorial, which would be of bronze or granite, with the names of the fallen inscribed thereon, they had a beautiful site in the Diamond. Not included in the scheme, perhaps, but supplementing it, was the offer of the Mayoress and women voluntary war workers of the city to undertake the completion of the work of illuminating the Guildhall windows. They wanted to have a permanent record of their devotion, loyalty, and association with the men of the Navy and Army, and at the same time it would be a bond of sympathy, love and attachment between them and the mothers, sisters and sweethearts who gave their nearest and dearest in the cause of freedom and civilisation.

As to the cost of the monument, he had consulted Mr Robinson, City Architect, and had been advised that it would amount to £4,000 or £5,000. The Mayor further suggested the preservation in the records of the city in a parchment volume and on a brass tablet in the Guildhall of the names of every man and woman who played their part in the war, and incidentally mentioned that he himself intended to illuminate one of the Guildhall windows in recognition of his five years’ Mayoralty.

Mr Horace Bayer, High Sheriff for the city, in moving that the meeting heartily approved of the starting of a city fund to erect a war memorial, said he felt sure that the response to the call would enable a memorial to be erected worthy of the best traditions of the city, but still far short of what was due to the memory of their heroes.

Mr John R Hastings, DL, seconded the resolution, and said they could not show too great appreciation of the work done by their soldiers and sailors. Everyone should regard it as a privilege to help in this scheme. Captain JM Wilton, MC, said he had been in touch with many of the relatives of the men who had fallen, and he was sure they would like nothing better than what had been suggested by the Mayor.

Mr John Burns, chairman of the Derry War Charities Committee, said he was very pleased, indeed, to hear from the Mayor that the ladies were prepared to take up the scheme for the completion of the windows in the Assembly Hall. It was very creditable and enterprising, and the ladies deserved the greatest of praise.

At a meeting of the War Charities Committee the previous night it had been decided that they would undertake this work, but the enterprise of the ladies would now give the War Charities committee an opportunity of embarking on a larger and more ambitious scheme – namely, the filling of the windows of the Minor Hall with scenes commemorative of the achievements of the Irish regiments in the Great War. In short, they intended transforming the Minor Hall into the Great War Hall. He hoped the Corporation would comply with this proposal, and, in order to ensure success, lend the committee the services of the City Architect.

The Mayor then announced that he had already received subscriptions amounting to over £900, and invited further donations, and the meeting subscribed over £400. In reply to Mr JH Welch, the Mayor said after the money required had been subscribed a meeting of the subscribers would be called and the form of the memorial definitely decided. Mrs David Stevenson and Mrs Cooke said the Women War Workers would do all in their power to help the Mayoress’s scheme. Lady Anderson, the Mayoress, said they had some small funds in hands, and, with one or two efforts which she had in view, she hoped to raise the money for the windows, which would cost about £1,200. The proceedings then concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.

End of Part One

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