Meeting Report: War Memorials in Dumfries and Galloway

Date: 
9 November 2012
Speaker(s): 
Paul Godwin

Paul Goodwin from Dalry is well-known for his dedicated work for the War Memorials Trust of Dumfries and Galloway, a field in which he has been conducting research and making photographic records since 2006. His background of 27 years in the army, followed by involvement in IT, has equipped him well for such endeavours.

His address to Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society took the form of portraying the many interesting memorials throughout the region, each one with an interesting history. Scotland has many monuments to battles, such as the Waterloo Monument at New Abbey. However, Paul claims that Scotland's first War Memorial is at Balmaclellan and in this case it is uniquely to the Crimean War, not to human sacrifice.

In considering design and architects in the field, the Troqueer and Maxwelltown Memorial on the New Abbey Road is to a Henry Price design, like the one at Annan, and it is so outstanding that it was chosen for the cover of Frank Borman's book, British War Memorials. George Henry Paulin drew up a number of designs in Scotland, Wales and even Belgium, as well as the magnificent one at Kirkcudbright. Dodds of Dumfries designed the World War One Memorial at New Galloway and Kells. They were built by Alexander McCubbing whose own son, John, is named at Kells.

Amazingly and tragically for the families, Gatehouse, Kells and Crossmichael War Memorials each include four brothers as casualties. The World War Two Memorial for Kells, located in New Galloway Town Hall, is also a work of art by Jessie M. King.

Memorials to the fallen take different forms: for instance there is a stained glass window at Balmaclellan Church to Rev. George Murray and to his son, a KOSB, who died in 1917 and who is also remembered with honour on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Though the cover is distressed, a book in Balmaclellan Church is a magnificent record with hand drawings and paintings of badges, not only of those who died but, in addition, of those who survived.

The pedestrian bridge at Annan serves as a World War Two Memorial. The communion Table in Castle Douglas Church records the names of the fallen on the ends.

Plane crashes in the region are also recorded on memorials: a B29 crash in 1951 is recorded in a field beyond Carsphairn and the Memorial has wreckage from the plane at its base; and the badly-weathered stone plaque to eight crashes on Cairnsmore of Fleet, accidents of geography, now has a new brass plaque, thanks to War Memorial Trust.

Closure of churches and demolition of buildings places memorials at risk. The Civic Memorial in the former Beeswing Church caused the Planning Department to stipulate that the stained glass must be wholly visible and that visitors could request to see it. Now that Cummertrees Church has been sold, the Parish War Memorial, which took the form of the lych-gate and which was renovated by means of a grant from the War Memorials Trust, is also likely to be protected by conditions. Sections bearing names from the former Sanquhar Institute, after demolition, were incorporated into a stylish external display.

The stories behind some 'lost' memorials reveal an element of good fortune. The Roll of Honour for the Oddfellows was rescued from a skip at New Abbey Church. There were two stained glass windows in the former Tarff Church. One is lost. Three sections out of four of the other one, by artist Una Anderson, were found at the back of a shed underneath a tarpaulin. Castle Douglas Roll of Honour was said to be in the Post Office, where it was eventually tracked down, through Paul's persistence, in a cloakroom.

Moves are afoot to bring recording up to date, as happened recently when the names of Stephen Gilbert and Joseph Pool were added to Dumfries War Memorial beside St.John's Church, which, incidentally, also includes World War Two losses for Maxwelltown because of the uniting of the two burghs in 1929.

Paul and his fellow researchers are amassing a huge body of information about Dumfries and Galloway's rich heritage and making it available on-line. The region is to the fore in Scotland. In 12 years 20 publications of parish studies have emerged.