The Fraserburgh War Memorial
Sunday 9th September 1923
Fraserburgh War Memorial: Something Special
an essay by Mary Melville
How many times do the inhabitants of Fraserburgh drive past the war memorial and hardly give it a second glance? We all know it was built as a memorial to the members of our community who were killed during two world wars. We all know that wreaths of poppies are laid at the foot of the memorial every year around the 11th of November to commemorate Armistice Day. How many of us give the monument any further thought?
The statue is poised on the top of a granite plinth which itself is a work of art. The granite is the silver-grey granite, which came from Kemnay quarry, the very same granite which was chosen to decorate the outside of our new Parliamentary Building in Edinburgh. Messers Charles McDonald Ltd. of Aberdeen carried out the granite work to the design of Edinburgh architects Messers Leadbetter, Fairley and Reid. A Scottish thistle is engraved into the top of each of the outer columns.
Mr J. G. Corbett, a Fraserburgh mason who can be rightly proud of his work, carried out the erection of the monument. Bronze plaques with the names of the 411 men who laid down their lives in the Great War are inserted into the granite pedestal and further plaques with the inscribed names of the 139 fallen in Word War II are located on the outer columns.
Alexander Carrick, a native of Musselburgh who was born on 20th February 1882, sculpted the statue itself. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1918 and made a Royal Scottish Academician in 1929. The son of an edge tool maker, he trained as a stone carver in Edinburgh and later attended the Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal Cambrian Academy in London. Later he taught at Edinburgh College of Art, becoming the head of the sculpture department.
The eight foot statue represents the concepts of Justice and Valour and is named “Justice Guiding Valour”. Justice is depicted as a cloaked woman seated on a rock and her steadying hand supports, restrains and guides Valour, the partly clad youth who has in one hand a mighty sword and in the other a defensive shield.
The reporter in the Fraserburgh Herald of 1923, when relating the moving dedication ceremony, described the statue as “simple and dignified in its bearing”.
It was decided that the memorial should be sited on the spot occupied by the Fountain, outside what is now called James Ramsay Park.
A dedication ceremony was held on Sunday 9th September 1923 and was described in detail in the Fraserburgh Herald. The memorial was unveiled by General Sir Ian Hamilton G.C.B. G.C.M.G D.S.O. A.D.C., the former Colonel of the Gordon Highlanders and was attended by relatives of the fallen and ex-servicemen from the army and navy. The local dignitaries representing the Town Council, Harbour Commissioners, Feuars Managers, Customs and Excise, Parish Council and Coastguards. There were also office bearers of the Solomon Lodge of Freemasons, the Eastern Star, The Free Gardiners, the Oddfellows, the Shepherds, the I.O.G.T and the massed choirs of the churches.
“Oh God our help in ages past” was the opening hymn. Then followed prayers and reading from the scriptures. Sir Ian Hamilton, gave a brief speech then unveiled the memorial stating “To the glory of God and in memory of the heroes of Fraserburgh”. Buglers then sounded the “Last Post”. Sir Ian then spoke of justice and valour and Colonel McDonald spoke of fallen comrades.
It is somewhat humbling to be made aware that 3,425 men from Fraserburgh Parish joined up during the Great War. 2,075 went to the Army and 1,350 went to the Navy. A further 288 men volunteered along with 50 nurses and 30 of the Ambulance Class. As well as those killed, 745 were injured, 36 suffered from shell shock or were gassed, and there were 49 Prisoners of War. Also 221 men were decorated with a total of 350 decorations and a further 35 heroes were Mentioned in Dispatches.
On the 12th November 1950, following a service of remembrance held in the Parish Church, the memorial was re-dedicated. Major-General Sir James Lauderdale Gilbert Burnett, 13th Bart., of Leys, a soldier of great distinction, fought in the Great War as a Colonel of the Gordon Highlanders. He ... unveiled the four bronze plaques, which were attached to the corners of the plinth. Three plaques have the names of the 108 names of the fallen. The fourth has the names of the 39 civilians killed between 1939 and 1945.
In June 1950 the matter of re-locating the War Memorial was first proposed. The Parks and Beach Committee argued that they could not carry out any further developments until the decision regarding the move was made and, if so, a suitable location agreed. At their October meeting The Town Council decided on the grounds of safety for motorists and of those attending the wreath laying ceremony, to give their consent, but to leave the final decision to other “interested parties”. The proposal was to re-erect the monument either “within the present bowling green garden, or at the corner” of what is now the James Ramsay Park. When the public were consulted it soon became evident that they did not want it to move anywhere, and so it is today.
Alexander Carrick died on 1st January 1966 in Galasheils but as long as his works remain on view he will never be forgotten. One of Scotland’s brilliant artists, Fraserburgh is privileged to be the owner of one of his magnificent sculptures. Next time you pass, take a second look at the wonderful work of art.
In common with many towns and villages throught Britain the matter of a suitable memorial to those who died was a subject that surfaced very soon after the cessation of hostilities, and in some cases even before. In March 1919 the local Fraserburgh newspaper reported the on-going discussions of the Town Council regarding the various forms a memorial could take - either a monument and/or an institute, or even a social centre. As the paper recorded :"Unfortunately neither of these latter two seem to curry much favour with the general public, most of whom have had the experiences of the general collapse of such undertakings through lack of interest after the causes had been promoted. Yet no one seems to have struck a happy medium whereby, if funds permit after the erection of a memorial proper, they could be profitably expended so as to provide something from which both the aged and youthful could benefit." Discussion also entred upon where a monument or suitable building could be located.
Eventually it was decided to erect a monument inscribed with the names of those from the town and nearby areas who had died. Members of the community contributed names and lists were prepared and published in the Fraserburgh Herald. People were asked to contact the Memorial administrators if changes needed to be made.
Finally the names of 411 men from all branches of the services were assembled and inscribed onto bronze panels. Some stories behind those names are recorded here.
The unveiling of the Monument September 1923
A postcard from the early 1930s
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