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
On Monday, February 24, 1919, the Derry Standard published a special appeal by the Mayor, Robert Newton Anderson, to the citizens of Derry in connection with the City War Memorial Fund. The response up to that time had been most generous. Close on £3,000 had been promised, but £1,000 had still to be secured if the memorial was to be one worthy of the city and of the men who made for them and the Empire the supreme sacrifice.
Quite a number of business firms and individuals able to subscribe had not yet responded, but the Mayor felt certain this was only through an oversight, and that in due course their gifts would be sent forward. He trusted that his little reminder would be met with a generous and prompt response. Up to that time the list contained for obvious reasons very few contributors of from ten shillings to two pounds.
These were evidently waiting until the larger sums were completed, but there would, he was confident, at least be from three to five hundred that would without difficulty come into this category. He should be grateful if these kind friends would send on their gifts as soon as possible. The last £1,000, he recognised, would be the most difficult to secure, but he hoped that within the following fortnight he might receive large and small amounts sufficient to complete the £4,000 aimed at.
Time was passing. He who gave twice gave promptly. The Mayor’s ‘little reminder’ was met with a generous and prompt response, for within a month the £4,000 figure had been reached. This was acknowledged by the Mayor in the following letter to the Standard, written on March 26, and published two days later on Friday, March 28, 1919:
‘Dear Sir – I have great pleasure in acknowledging today the receipt of £70 to the above [War Memorial] fund from the president, committee and members of the Good Report Club, per Mrs Robert K Gilliland, this being the proceeds of an entertainment held in the Guildhall some time ago. I desire to thank very heartily all concerned for this most generous gift, and congratulate them on the success they secured. It will be seen that this gift will now bring up the fund to a little over the minimum aimed at – namely £4,000 – but I know there are quite a number who are still anxious to contribute, and I hope the amount may eventually reach £5,000.
‘A sympathetic and generous friend was good enough to promise me a contribution of £25 after I had reached the £4,000, and this I have now received, and may I express the hope that this will be an incentive to others to come forward and by their contributions bring the amount up to the larger figure, all of which will be needed so that the memorial in the Diamond will be one worthy of the men and the cause they fought and died for, and worthy of the city itself…’
In a further letter to the Standard, dated May 12, 1919, the Mayor expressed his desire to close the City War Memorial Fund at an early date, and appealed to all those who had promised subscriptions to lodge same with the hon. treasurers, the Northern Banking Company, at the earliest possible moment. He wanted to get all subscriptions in so as to enable him to summon a meeting of the subscribers to take the necessary steps in connection with the scheme for the memorial in the Diamond.
End of Part Two
A meeting of the subscribers to the Diamond War Memorial was held on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 5, 1923, in the Minor Guildhall. Sir Robert Anderson, DL, MP, (treasurer of the fund), who presided over a fair attendance, said they were all familiar with the reasons why the subscribers had not recently been called together.
On the last occasion on which they met it was considered, for various reasons, that it would not be prudent or advisable to proceed with the erection of a memorial then. He was sure every subscriber regretted that it was not desirable to proceed with the work earlier, but they all realised the disturbed state of the country and the unfavourable times through which they had been passing. He hoped, however, that those difficult and dangerous times had come to an end.
Occasionally he had heard people say that they did not know what had happened to the money collected. Well, he could tell them that the money originally subscribed was lodged in the bank to the credit of the subscribers. The original subscriptions amounted to £4,390 1s 1d, but with the interest that had accrued the total sum was now £4,947 2s 1d. There was also in the bank a list of the names of every individual or every company or every business firm that had contributed, so that a complete record was kept of every penny raised in connection with the fund.
Captain Wilton, MC, was then asked to act as secretary to the meeting, and consented. Senator JC Glendinning said he was not only voicing his own opinion but the opinion of many others to whom he had spoken in regard to the matter when he said that there was no reason whatever why they should not proceed with the scheme at once. Other cities and towns were doing so, and in many cases the memorials were already erected. It was the view of the public that they in Derry should delay no longer in the matter, but proceed with the memorial straightaway.
With regard to the form it should take, he was in favour of an ornamental memorial erected in a public place rather than a memorial of a utility character. That was also the view, he might say, of nearly every one with whom he had discussed the subject. He proposed that the scheme be proceeded with immediately.
Mr John Burns, JP, in seconding, said he also thought the time opportune for proceeding with the scheme, and he agreed with Senator Glendinning that the memorial should take the form of an obelisk or cenotaph erected in some prominent place in the city, because it was only by some such memorial that the citizens and those visiting the city could see what Derry had done in the Great War. The motion was unanimously passed.
The Chairman said when the original appeal was made it was stated clearly and definitely to the subscribers that the money was for the erection of an ornamental memorial in the Diamond. It was on that understanding that he had received the subscriptions, and the original intention could not be altered unless with the consent of the subscribers. Therefore, no motion to erect the memorial in the Diamond was now necessary.
Captain Wilton said at a previous meeting the wish was unanimously expressed that they should erect an ornamental memorial in the Diamond. He had been closely in touch with the relatives of deceased soldiers for the previous few years, and he knew their views on the matter. They were all in favour of such a memorial as was suggested, with the names of the fallen inscribed thereon. Mr TF Cooke, HML, asked if the memorial would cost so much as £5,000. Captain Wilton remarked that if there was any surplus money it could be usefully and appropriately employed. The meeting unanimously favoured the original project, and Captain Wilton, at the request of the Chairman, kindly consented to act as hon. secretary while the scheme was being carried out.
The Chairman mentioned that a considerable amount of trouble would be involved in determining what names should be inserted on the memorial, and, therefore, the services of a military man of Captain Wilton’s local knowledge would be invaluable. The following were elected a Memorial Committee, with power to add to their numbers: Sir Robert Anderson, DL, MP, Lady Anderson, OBE, Miss MacKillip, Senator JC Glendinning, Messrs AA Crockett, JR Hastings, DL, Robert Smith, TF Cooke, HML, TJ Gilchrist, and Robert Watson, JP. The Chairman expressed the hope that the memorial would be a credit to the city and worthy of the men who gave their lives for us.
End of Part Three
At the meeting of Londonderry Corporation, held on Monday, September 17, 1923, the Mayor, Alderman MS Moore, said that he had had a consultation with the War Memorial Committee, who wanted the Corporation to dedicate a site on which the memorial would be erected. The chairman of the committee, Sir Robert Newton Anderson, DL, MP, had told him that numbers of the subscribers had given their money on the understanding that the memorial would be erected in the Diamond.
He (the Mayor) had been talking to some of the subscribers, but they said they made no conditions as to where the site was to be. Personally, he agreed that the Diamond should be the site. A lot of people felt that the memorial should be erected inside the City Walls. Other people had suggested a site in front of the Guildhall, but it was felt that the presence of the Guildhall and the Walls was against having such a site.
A Councillor Watson said Councillor Captain Wilton, who was especially interested in this matter, regretted extremely that he could not attend the meeting and asked him to state that at two public meetings the unanimous wish was expressed that the site of the memorial should be in the Diamond, and that, indeed, no other site was mentioned. On behalf of Captain Wilton he proposed that the Corporation dedicate the Diamond site for the war memorial, subject to the plans and specifications being approved.
A Councillor Walker seconded the motion.Councillor Anderson said while he was in favour of the motion they should know first whether any objection would be raised by the Irish Society. A Councillor Thompson stated that he understood the Irish Society had already approved of the Diamond site. Not only was it the wish of the subscribers that this should be the site, but he had the authority of Captain Wilton for saying that he had been in touch with the relatives of those whose names would be inscribed on the memorial and they were all in sympathy with the Diamond site.
Personally, he could not imagine any other site for a Derry war memorial. A Councillor Magee said before they agreed to the site they should know something as to what form the memorial would take. They had enough spoiling views in the city already, and if the construction of this memorial in the Diamond was such as would interfere with the view from that area he would be very reluctant to give his consent. He moved that consideration of the matter be deferred pending the submission of plans.
Alderman Sir John McFarland, seconding, suggested the Guildhall Square as the most appropriate site. On a division, Councillor Watson’s motion was carried, the only members voting for Councillor Magee’s amendment being himself and his seconder. Alderman McFarland – We might as well erect the memorial in the Waterside, where you would require a finger-post to indicate its whereabouts.
End of Part Four
On Tuesday, November 11, 1924 – the sixth anniversary of the 1918 Armistice – the Sentinel published the following letter signed by ‘An Ulster Boy’:
‘Sir – As a native of the old, historic city of Derry I feel greatly grieved to see her so far behind as regards our long-talked-of war memorial. Other cities have their memorials, and what is delaying Derry’s memorial? I hope some abler pen than mine will take this matter up, and not allow another year to pass without a service round our memorial, where all who took part in the great struggle to free Europe could gather and pay respect to the memory of our gallant dead. Lest we forget!’
The disgruntlement felt by ‘Ulster Boy’ was echoed in the sentiments of ‘An Ulster Scot’ published two days later in the same newspaper:
‘Sir – I, like your correspondent, ‘Ulster Boy,’ have been grieved and astonished as each year passes to find that Derry’s War Memorial has never been erected. At the ceremony to-day [the letter is dated November 11] in Guildhall Square, where the crowd of people was greater than ever, one felt that something was missing, and that the scene would have been more impressive and complete could we have gathered around our War Memorial, in whatever form it may take, to keep the two minutes’ silence, and to give those who have lost dear ones an opportunity of laying wreaths thereon in fond and loving memory of their fallen.
'It was most distressing to witness a member of the Sussex Regiment having to lay the wreath of the regiment, inscribed with the words, ‘In loving memory of our fallen comrades,’ on the flower bed in the centre of the Diamond Gardens in lieu of the War Memorial.’
Alluding to an advertisement appearing in the November 11 Sentinel, concerning a compilation of a list of the city’s fallen, ‘Ulster Scot’ went on to say: ‘I am glad to see an advertisement in to-day’s issue of your paper asking relatives to assist in the completion of a register of names necessary for inscription, which is a step in the right direction. Let us hope that the Committee responsible will push on the work, and that on Armistice Day of next year the citizens will be able to gather around that sacred spot where our War Memorial shall stand.’
Less than a week after the appearance of the two letters, the matter of the list of the city’s fallen was on the agenda at a meeting of the Londonderry Corporation, held on Monday, November 17. Councillor Captain JM Wilton, MC, secretary of the Londonderry War Memorial Committee, stated that a draft list of all the men from the city of Derry entitled to be commemorated on the War Memorial had been prepared. That involved a great deal of time, trouble, and correspondence with the various regimental record officers. He had a picture gallery of different war memorials.
These would be put before the committee in charge for selection of the design of the memorial for Londonderry. They would then ask the Corporation’s approval, the Corporation having agreed to give the site, subject to their approval of the design. He proposed calling a meeting of the War Memorial Committee in the next few days. Alderman McFarland – Where is the site to be? Councillor Wilton said he anticipated a difference of opinion on that subject. It would be subject to the approval of the Corporation, but so far as the memorial was concerned there would be no delay.
It would go straight ahead now.
End of Part Five
At a meeting of the Londonderry Corporation, held on Friday, January 23, 1925, Councillor Thompson moved that the Corporation take part officially in the local observances to be arranged for Armistice Day that year. He pointed out that in other towns and cities the responsible authority took part, and he thought the time had come for the Corporation of Londonderry to be officially associated with this Day of Remembrance. When they read of what happened in Belfast the previous Armistice Day they felt that the Corporation of Londonderry were out of it altogether.
Councillor Burns, in seconding, said to his mind it was a right and proper thing for the Corporation to have, as all other cities had a complete and well-appointed plan for Armistice Day. It was an eye-opener to many of them to see how Dublin rose to the occasion on the last Peace Day celebrations, while Londonderry Corporation, unfortunately, allowed it to pass unacknowledged.
Councillor Captain Wilton said hitherto the arrangements for Armistice Day had been taken charge of by the British Legion because no one else seemed to have made any move in the matter. Speaking for the British Legion, he could say they would be delighted if the Corporation took part in the ceremony, and they would consult the Corporation as to what part they would take in connection with the next observance, when it was probable they would have some shrine to go to.
On the following Monday the committee in charge of the War Memorial would be considering a large number of designs, and there was hope that not only would they have a War Memorial but that on that occasion or prior to it they might have some distinguished visitor to unveil it.
The Mayor (Councillor Magee) said the proposition was a most proper one, and it would be his great desire as Mayor to take part in the ceremonies of the day. The motion was passed unanimously. Three months later, at a meeting of the Londonderry City War Memorial Committee, held on Friday, April 24, the design of the city’s War Memorial was approved.
A model of the memorial, a tenth of the size of what the original was intended to be, was on view in the Council Chamber in the Guildhall on the same day, when the Marquis of Hamilton was presented with a Corporation gift in connection with his coming of age.
Remarking on the model of the memorial, the Londonderry Sentinel said that it was of very striking design, and should be one of the finest war memorials in the United Kingdom. It was to be erected in the centre of the Diamond, and would be a worthy memorial of the gallantry, devotion, and self-sacrifice of the sons of Derry who answered the call of duty and went forth to the Great War, 1914-18.
The Memorial, which was to be of bronze and Portland stone, was to reach a total height of nearly forty feet, and was to be twenty-seven feet wide at the base. The design would consist of a centre monument, bearing at its summit a figure emblematic of Victory in War, typified by the laurel wreath extended forth over the four panels, which would contain the names of all those sons of the Maiden City who died in the war.
Near the base of the centre shaft on either side there was to be a smaller one, bearing on the one side a bronze figure of a soldier in the act of taking a trench, and on the other side a bronze figure of a sailor coming hurriedly on deck, pulling on his oilskin as he goes, and having all the atmosphere and spirit of the sailor.
On the four panels the names of the fallen were to be engraved in raised letters, and would be cast along with the panels themselves, making sure for all time that they would not need renewing.
The designers were Messrs. Sidney & Vincent March, of Bromley South, London, and their quotation of £5,000 for the erection of the Memorial had been accepted. The design was to be submitted to the Corporation for their formal approval, and when this had been received the work of preparing the foundations in the Diamond for the Memorial would be proceeded with. The Memorial itself was to be completed within twelve months.
End of Part Six
At the meeting of the Londonderry Corporation on Monday, May 18, 1925, the Mayor (Councillor Magee) presiding, a letter was read from Captain Wilton, hon. secretary of the City of Derry War Memorial Committee, requesting the Corporation’s approval of the design of the War Memorial.
Councillor Walker proposed and Councillor Sherrard seconded that the plans be approved of subject to the approval of the Irish Society. Councillor Hamilton thought the site for the memorial should not be the Diamond, but the square at Carlisle Bridge, where it would be seen to better advantage.
Alderman Sir John McFarland considered the Corporation should not go to the expense of removing a statue to an old and respected citizen of Derry, Sir Robert Ferguson (then situated at the top of Shipquay Street, but now in Brooke Park). The Mayor pointed out that a site in the Diamond had been dedicated by the Corporation for the memorial.
Councillor Logue considered the site should be changed either to Waterloo Square or Carlisle Square, because by putting the memorial in the Diamond they would destroy the view from Bishop Street to Shipquay Street. The Mayor said they would not be in order to alter the site that day. Councillor Logue suggested that Councillor Wilton should take the matter into consideration.
Councillor Wilton said two public meetings of the subscribers to this war memorial had been held, and 98 percent were in favour of the Diamond site. The Corporation had already dedicated the site, and all arrangements made on the understanding that the site would be in the Diamond. The designers had visited Derry, and had assured the Committee that in none of the places where they had erected memorials had they found a finer site than the Diamond. He considered it would not be advisable to interfere further.
Alderman Sir John McFarland considered it would be a pity to spoil that beauty spot in the Diamond, and he believed the Guildhall Square would be the proper site for the memorial. Everybody passed the Guildhall, including the numerous visitors to the Town Clerk (laughter).
Alderman Thompson expressed surprise at Alderman McFarland’s suggestion that the memorial would spoil the beauty of the Diamond. The fact was that it would enhance the beauty of the Diamond. Alderman Sir John McFarland – Another inconsistency of Sir John (laughter).
The motion was passed.
Almost two years later, on Tuesday, March 22, 1927, the issue of the removal of the Sir Robert Ferguson statue, before the city War Memorial was unveiled, dominated a meeting of the Londonderry Corporation. Councillor Gilliland moved that the statue be removed from the head of Shipquay Street to Carlisle Square. An amendment by Alderman Meenan that the statue be transferred to the Little Diamond, at the Slaughter House, Bogside, was received with loud laughter.
Councillor Gilliland characterised the amendment as contemptuous and unworthy of the gentleman who moved it. He was aware that Alderman Meenan’s old followers were in favour of the motion. He did not move the resolution in any disrespect to the memory of a man who had served this city and generation well, but there would be a serious interference with the view to the War Memorial from Shipquay Street if Sir Robert Ferguson’s statue were allowed to remain in its present position. Sir Robert Anderson, chairman of the War Committee, had told him he was in favour of his proposal. Carlisle Square would offer a most suitable site, because the statue would help divide the traffic at that point.
Alderman Captain Wilton, MC, in seconding, said if Sir Robert Ferguson was the type of man his grandfather often told him he was, and if he could come back to life, he (Captain Wilton) was sure that he would be the first to suggest that he should stand aside, and be proud to do so, in order that there should be no interference with the view to a war memorial erected to the grandsons and great-grandsons of Derrymen who lived in his day.
There might be some difference of opinion as to whether the statue should be placed at Carlisle Square or Guildhall Square, but the latter would be an unsuitable position, having regard to the frequency with which the square in front of the Guildhall was used for ceremonial purposes, with troops in attendance…
Councillor Magee said he did not think the statue seriously interfered at present with the view of the memorial from the footpaths in Shipquay Street, but if it was found to obstruct the view when the memorial was completed steps could then be taken to have it removed. Councillor Bradley remarked that, as well as the statue, four standard lamps were obstructing the view, and he thought they also should be shifted. Captain Wilton said he understood it was the intention of the City Surveyor to change the position of the lamps…
A further amendment to the effect that the statue be removed to Brooke Park, and placed between the two big guns at the museum, was moved by Councillor McMenamin and seconded by Councillor Corbett, but eventually Councillor Gilliland’s motion was agreed to.
End of Part Seven
On Wednesday, May 25, 1927, the Derry Standard reported that the Diamond War Memorial was rapidly nearing completion, and the previous day in addition to the majestic figure of Victory, which had been placed in the centre column, the citizens got a glimpse of one of the other two figures which would occupy the outside columns.
This was the sailor, as the sculptor conceived him getting ready for action. The rugged outlines of the figure, the weather-beaten features, the powerful frame, with every muscle taut, typified the men who, in ever-present peril of their lives, kept the enemy from landing on Britain’s shores. The sailor who had been placed in position was truly a grim figure, but one which the war produced.
On the other column would be placed the figure of a soldier in action with bayonet and rifle. It would be an equally interesting reminder of the desperate fighting through which the infantry had to pass before victory was won, declared the Standard.
The bronze medallions bearing the names of the fallen had been placed at the corners of the base of the central column, and these had been covered pending the unveiling ceremony.
The names had been cast as an integral part of every panel, thus ensuring the permanency of each letter. A fortnight later, on Thursday, June 9, the Sentinel announced that an impressive ceremony would be associated with the unveiling of the Diamond War Memorial, on the 23rd inst. by Major-General FF Ready, CB, CSI, CMG, DSO, General Officer Commanding the Northern Ireland District. The Right Hon. Sir RN Anderson, PC, DL, MP, chairman of the War Memorial Committee, was to preside, and places of honour at the Memorial would be occupied by the bereaved relatives, ex-Service Men’s Associations, representatives of disbanded regiments and his Majesty’s Forces, the clergy, and members of public bodies.
A guard of honour would be provided by the British Legion, and the band of the 1st Battalion the Sherwood Foresters, as well as a large choir, under the conductorship of Mr JT Frankland, St Columb’s Cathedral organist, would take part in the ceremony.
The band would discourse a programme of music between noon and 12.15 p.m., when Major-General Ready, accompanied by the Mayor (Senator Hamilton, JP) and Town Clerk (Sir F Henry Miller), would leave the Guildhall and proceed to the War Memorial. On arrival at the Diamond Major-General Ready would inspect the guard of honour.
The band and choir would lead the singing of Kipling’s recessional, ‘God of our fathers,’ after which Major-General Ready would unveil the Memorial, and, having delivered a short address, would dedicate the Memorial. Then one minute’s silence would be observed by the assembly, the commencement of the period of silence being indicated by the sounding of a drum roll.
Subsequently the choir and the assembly would sing, to the accompaniment of the band, the hymn ‘The supreme sacrifice.’ This would be followed by the sounding of ‘The Last Post’ by the buglers of the 1st Battalion the Sherwood Foresters, the playing of a lament by the band, and the sounding of ‘The Reveille’ by the buglers.
Next, the Chairman would formally hand over the custody of the War Memorial to the Mayor, who would accept on behalf of the Corporation and place a wreath on the Memorial on behalf of the citizens of Londonderry. Wreaths would also be placed on the Memorial by Major-General Ready, on behalf of the Northern Ireland District, and by Councillor H Crawford McCay, on behalf of the British Legion.
The solemn service would conclude with the band playing and the choir and assembly singing the National Anthem, after which floral tributes would be placed on the Memorial by representatives of disbanded units, regimental associations, public bodies, and relatives of deceased Service men.
End of Part Eight
An ex-service person’s antipathy towards the presence of men at the pending War Memorial unveiling ceremony, who were eligible to fight in the Great War but did not do so, was expressed in the following letter published by the Derry Standard on Monday, June 13, 1927:
‘Dear Sir – I see that the programme for the unveiling ceremony of our War Memorial has been given out, and I note that, amongst other items, a large choir will be present to render selections. I hope whoever is responsible for the forming of this choir will not be so tactless as to include in it any men who were eligible for war service, yet stayed at home. Obviously their presence on such an occasion would be a slight both to the men to whose memory the Memorial is being dedicated and to their comrades who will be present at the unveiling.’
The sentiments of the letter, signed by ‘One Who Served,’ were endorsed by ‘An ex-VAD’, whose views were published in the same newspaper two days later:
‘Dear Sir – I read with much satisfaction the letter written by ‘One Who Served’ in Monday’s issue of your paper. It is pleasing to find at last someone courageous enough to voice the opinions which have been held by most ex-Service men and women in this city. I regret to say that, up to now, ex-Service men have taken very few of the principal parts in our commemorative ceremonies.
'Surely this would be an admirable opportunity to let those who served in the Great War have the honour of publicly paying homage to their fallen comrades! I am sure all ex-Service men and women will heartily endorse the sentiments expressed by ‘One Who Served,’ and, at the same time, agree with me.’
At the same time that ‘ex-VAD’ was expressing their resentment, another correspondent in the same newspaper was directing attention to the suspension of work at the War Memorial in the Diamond owing to a dispute in the building trades, and, in view of the fact that the opening ceremony was only eight days off, appealed to workmen to complete the contract in time for the ceremony:
‘Sir – June is getting on; in fact, there are only eight days between today and the 23rd, and everything is at a deadlock apparently in the Diamond. The contractor’s crane is still there, and the concreting cannot be finished until it is removed. The Ferguson statue is still there, notwithstanding all appeals to have it taken to another site. What can be wrong? If the cessation from work is due to the strike in the building trade, surely the members of the union which governs the action of the men engaged in that industry do not intend to allow a squabble about wages to prevent the unveiling taking place?
'That would be a course which every citizen, whether employer or worker, would condemn. There is not a moment to be lost if the site is to be finished in time, and I cannot believe there are not a sufficient number of masons and labourers in Derry who would be prepared to complete the contract and prevent what would otherwise be a shameful insult to the memory of Derry’s fallen sons, in spite of any union prohibition.
‘Have the officials of the society been approached about the matter? Sir, for the honour of the city, please call upon all concerned to do their duty before it is too late.’
The strike did not last much longer, however, for the Standard, on Friday, June 17, reported that the settlement of the builders’ strike in Derry had afforded much gratification to the ex-Service men and women of the city and to all others interested in the unveiling of the War Memorial the following Thursday. Apprehensions, the paper said, were entertained for a time that the strike, seriously retarding as it did the work in connection with the completion of the memorial, would upset the arrangements for the unveiling ceremony, but there was now every hope that what yet remained to be done would be easily accomplished before that event took place.
The Master Builders’ Federation had made an offer of settlement on the conditions as to wages and hours that applied before the dispute, and it was expected that all those affected by the strike would be back at work soon.
End of Part Nine
On Saturday, June 18, 1927, the Sentinel announced that the statue of Sir Robert Ferguson, at the head of Shipquay Street, was to be removed before the unveiling of the Diamond War Memorial.
The crane used for placing the figures in position on the War Memorial was to be employed for the removal of the Ferguson statue. It had apparently not been decided where the statue would be placed, but there was a strong opinion that a suitable site would be at the junction of the two avenues immediately at the main entrance to Brooke Park, where it would form a striking feature.
The granite base was so heavy that a special crane was being brought to effect its separate removal. It would, therefore, remain in the same position until after the unveiling ceremony.
Four days later, on Wednesday, June 22, the Derry Standard reported that the statue of Sir Robert Ferguson, which for over sixty years had weathered the storm at the point where Shipquay Street merged with the Diamond, took a long farewell of its old surroundings the previous day, greatly to the regret of the citizens, who had come to regard ‘The Black Man’ as part of the thoroughfare, a fixture immovable and unchangeable.
When the huge crane got to work and Sir Robert, encoiled in giant ropes, was slowly swung from his pedestal, the heavy bronze figure slowly revolved as if taking a last look in all directions at the spot where it had for many years enjoyed undisputed sovereignty. ‘He is waving goodbye,’ remarked one of the many hundreds of spectators who witnessed the process of transferring the statue to a Corporation lorry, which conveyed it meantime to the municipal yard at Strand Road.
Amongst the spectators was a lady who proudly boasted that she had witnessed the interesting ceremony of unveiling Sir Robert’s statue. ‘It is a shame to remove it,’ she declared indignantly.
The solid granite block on which the statue rested still remained temporarily in Shipquay Street, but the removal of the bronze figure had undoubtedly made it possible to obtain from that thoroughfare a perfect view of Derry’s striking War Memorial, the unveiling of which the following day would be marked by a ceremony that would doubtless, the Standard opined, linger pleasantly in the memories of those who would witness it for a long time.
Whatever the feeling may be against the removal of Sir Robert Ferguson’s statue, continued the Standard, it could not be gainsaid that ‘The Black Man,’ as the figure was so familiarly known, would have interfered seriously with the view of the Memorial, and it was for this reason that the Corporation decided to place it elsewhere.
That decision, while it had given rise to some controversy at that time, would doubtless be approved by the citizens generally in the near future, when, instead of the drab, weather-worn statue, there would immediately strike the eye of the pedestrian in Shipquay Street the tall, graceful, and impressive figure of ‘Victory.’
End of Part Ten
Part Eleven - The opening of the Diamond War Memorial
The Diamond War Memorial, erected by the people of Londonderry to 756 citizens killed in the Great War and to 4,000 men and women who volunteered for service, was unveiled by Major-General FF Ready, CB, CSI, CMG, DSO, General Officer commanding the Northern Ireland district. Long before the unveiling ceremony every part of the Diamond and adjacent streets was crowded, and all points of vantage above ground, such as shop windows, and even rooftops, were occupied.
Amongst those present were: Rt. Hon. JM Andrews, DL, MP, Northern Ireland Minister of Labour; Viscount Charlemont, Minister of Education; Rt. Hon. JM Barbour, Minister of Commerce; Alderman MS Moore, HML, County Londonderry High Sheriff; Major James Colhoun, MC, City High Sheriff. Amongst the units represented were – The Hon. The Irish Society, Royal Navy, Air Force, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve; First Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Irish Fusiliers, Omagh Depot, 36th Ulster Division. The bereaved relatives, representatives of disbanded regiments, ex-servicemen’s associations, public bodies, and clergy, also occupied places of honour near the memorial.
A guard of honour was provided by the British Legion under Lieut.-Colonel WA Bowen, DSO, whose adjutant was Captain JF Desmond, JP. The colour party were in charge of ex-RSM Gorry, DCM, whilst the memorial guard consisted of men of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The band of the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters and a large massed choir under Mr JT Frankland, were also present.
Major-General Ready, accompanied by the Mayor (Senator James Hamilton, JP) the Town Clerk (Sir Henry Miller), and the members of the Corporation, in their robes, at 12.15, marched from the Guildhall to the Diamond, where Major-General Ready inspected the guard of honour. Lady Anderson, CBE, who occupied the chair in the unavoidable absence, through illness, of the Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Anderson, PC, DL, MP, who was chairman of the War Memorial Committee, regretted the absence of her husband, and said:
‘During the long and strenuous years of the war the men and women of Londonderry, as in her historic past, played their part nobly and heroically, and when the call came for service they rushed to the ranks of the fighters and workers on sea and land, with glowing enthusiasm and with hands and hearts ready for work and sacrifice. They lived, they served, they died gloriously.
'The record for the city of over 4,000 volunteers is something of which we, and posterity, may ever be justly proud, and the 756 names of our honoured dead inscribed on this our memorial will show that these brave and noble ones came from all creeds and classes, so that every citizen can join today when we proudly commemorate their glorious deeds.’ Lady Anderson then asked Major-General Ready to unveil and dedicate the memorial.
Major-General Ready referred to the honour conferred on him in asking him to unveil the Memorial and said he should be proud to do so in any city, but much more so in Derry, ‘whose history is an example to the whole Empire for its loyalty and devotion to the Crown.’ Proceeding, he said: ‘On an occasion such as this we are stirred by two great emotions.
'We are moved to a great feeling of pride in that these sons of Londonderry have shown how they were prepared to sacrifice all in order to carry on this glorious heritage of devotion to the Crown handed down to them by their fathers, and we are moved to a great feeling of sorrow, knowing full well the grief and suffering which the loss of these brave lives has caused and indeed still causes to their sorrowing friends and relations. But besides recording these feelings of pride and sorrow, this memorial so skilfully designed and executed, and so beautifully sited, fulfils still another role.
'It stands for all time to remind those that come hereafter that, should ever the just cause again arise, the men of this city will come forward as fearlessly as they have done in the past, to add another page to the splendid history of this great city.’ He then unveiled and dedicated the memorial, and the assembly observed one minute’s silence.
The hymn, ‘The Supreme Sacrifice,’ was sung by the choir, conducted by Mr Frankland, and accompanied by the band of the Sherwood Foresters. Subsequently the ‘Last Post’ sounded and the band then played a lament the ‘Londonderry Air.’ Lady Anderson, in handing over the Memorial to the Corporation said, addressing the Mayor: ‘On behalf of the War Memorial Committee, I now hand over to your custody as representing the citizens, this beautiful War Memorial, for safe and reverend care and keeping, praying that to every citizen and to posterity, it may ever be an incentive to courage, loyalty and devotion, and that it may show through the long years to come that in the Great War Derry’s sons and daughters were true to her glorious history and willing to lay themselves on the altar of sacrifice in defence of their country, justice, and liberty.’
The Mayor, in accepting, after alluding to Sir Robert Anderson’s zeal in making the Memorial the success it was, said in taking over the future care and guardianship of that beautiful Memorial they might rest assured that the Corporation of that day and of future generations would zealously guard the trust committed to them… A large number of wreaths were then placed on the Memorial. The first was placed by the Mayor on behalf of the citizens, and contained the Red Hand of Ulster, and others were by Major-General Ready, on behalf of the Northern Ireland district; by Councillor HC McCay, on behalf of the British Legion, as well as by representatives of disbanded units, regimental associations and public bodies, and by relatives of the deceased.