Monuments of Remembrance: Inverness War Memorial, Cavell Gardens

by Marion Ruscoe (NOSAS)

In November public focus is on remembrance as we commemorate the dead from conflicts of WW1 onwards and that focus centres on the many war memorials scattered throughout the country.

Inverness War memorial (NH66481 44506; HER MHG15630) is sited at Cavell Gardens on the River Ness and at the east end of the Infirmary Bridge. It consists of a red sandstone Celtic cross on a stepped plinth with two walls extending to either side with panels containing plaques with the names of the dead of conflicts from WW1. The wings have terminal pillars surmounted by lamps. The memorial was designed by J. Hinton Gall and carved by D & A Davidson of Academy Street.

The best view of the memorial is from the opposite bank of the river

The Burgh Coat of Arms is carved on the front of the plinth below the shaft of the cross, and below that is the inscription:

TO THE
GLORIOUS MEMORY
OF THE MEN OF THE BURGH
AND PARISH OF INVERNESS
WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES
IN THE GREAT WAR
1914-1918

On the left hand side of the plinth is the inscription:

This monument is more than bronze and stone
A people’s gratitude is here revealed
By this for evermore our debt we own
To those whose blood our victory hath sealed

This is now a truly sacred place
And while the Ness reflects our native skies
This shrine shall point for each succeeding race
The path of duty love and sacrifice

WE HONOUR THEM
FOR
WHAT WE OWE THEM

And on the right had side of the plinth is a further inscription:

THEY FOUGHT FOR
KING AND COUNTRY
FAITH AND FREEDOM
NOR DID THEY FIGHT IN VAIN
Fear not that ye have died for naught
The Torch ye threw to us is caught
Ten million hands will hold it high
And Freedom’s light shall never die
We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders Fields

On the back of the plinth at the foot of the shaft is inscribed:

IN THREE CONTINENTS
AND IN THE DEEP THEY LIE
BUT IN OUR HEARTS THEIR DEEDS
FOR EVER ARE ENSHRINED

Below that on the rear face of the plinth is a record of the unveiling of the monument:

DURING THE WAR
UPWARDS OF 5000 MEN OF THE BURGH
AD PARISH OF INVERNESS
ENT OUT ON ACTIVE SERVICE
AND NOBLY UPHELD THE HONOUR
OF THEIR COUNTRY.
OF THESE GALLANT MEN 717 RETURNED NO MORE
TO THEIR MEMORY THIS MONUMENT
WAS ERECTED BY A GRATEFUL COMMUNITY
AND UNVEILED ON THE 16TH DECR 1922
BY COLONEL THE MACKINTOSH OF MACKINTOSH
LORD LIEUTENANT OF INVERNESS-SHIRE

On a smaller panel below is inscribed:

THE PANELS COMMEMORATING THOSE
WHO FELL IN 1939-1945 WERE
UNVEILED ON NOVEMBER 11TH 1956, BY
PROVOST ROBERT WOTHERSPOON

The wings terminate in pillars on which are carved the battle honours while the 14 panels on the inside of the wings record WW1 casualties, giving rank, surname and Christian name.

It was decided that the memorial would include communities from as far east as Balloch and as far west as Abriachan.

Although WW1 was believed to be the war to end all wars, by the 1930s Europe was heaing towards war again and war memorials had to accommodate more casualties. Inverness’s War Memorial was able to use the back of the wings for this purpose and to the right of the cross are six panels recording the names for WW2.

Names are unfortunately still being added and 7 names from post 1945 conflicts are recorded at present.

As early as February 1919 a proposal was put forward that Inverness Town Council should take steps to erect a suitable War Memorial and the Provost was tasked with convening a public meeting to consider what kind of Memorial would be appropriate. But it wasn’t until January 1920 that the matter was moved forward and an editorial in the Inverness Courier commented on the fact that the Council had at last come to ‘some realisation of the duty which it owes to those of its citizens who fought in the late war’. A War Memorial Committee was set up and subscriptions invited, though the Provost had initially expressed some concern at raising the £2000 to £3000 which would be required. There were many suggestions as to what form the memorial should take. One correspondent in the Inverness Courier suggested the purchase of the Bught Estate which could then be turned into an amenity area for the town. In April 1919 the Inverness United Trades Council suggested that the memorial should be something of use to the community and proposed Public Baths and a Gymnasium and in January 1920 a letter from the General Secretary of the Scottish National Council of Young Men’s Christian Associations suggested that the memorial should take the form of an Institute for young men and boys. The provost himself suggested that the memorial should be something of use and proposed erecting a hall which would be large enough for public meetings with shops which would generate an income to cover running costs. Alternatively, the Forbes Fountain could be moved and a cenotaph erected at the Exchange. At this point Council members were encouraged to think about what kind of memorial would be suitable. The decision taken in February 1919 to convene a public meeting does not seem to have been acted on but general advice was available regarding the kind of memorial which should be considered. The Royal Scottish Academy advised that it should be monumental rather than merely utilitarian and Ludovic Maclennan Mann, in a pamphlet called War Memorials and the Barochan Cross, suggested that it would be appropriate to use Celtic designs –‘ in the case of heroes of Celtic descent it would be appropriate to draw on Celtic art for the embellishment of the memorials’.

By 10 June 1921 the fund was standing at £2206.6s though the provost noted that ‘thousands in the town had not given a single shilling’ despite the sacrifices made on their behalf. Eight designs had been submitted and the choice came down to that by the architect, Mr. J. Hinton Gall, a slightly more expensive design by sculptor, W. A. Fraser, and one by Messrs. Garden & Coy, Aberdeen. The cost was clearly critical since Mr. Gall’s design was adopted with the proviso that it cost no more than £1600, thus allowing some funds for the establishment of a Roll of Honour in the Town House. But the fact that Gall’s design included space to list the names of casualties seems to have been a deciding factor. The monument would consist of a Celtic cross, flanked by two smaller Celtic crosses with a tapered dado on which the town crest and motto would be inscribed. Raised panels would be provided for inscriptions and the whole would be constructed out of ‘finest red Dumfries freestone’ and Covesea freestone. It was designed for a prominent site at the east end of Ardross Street by the river though there was an alternative site suggested – the east end of the Infirmary Bridge – and there was still some consideration of an alteration to the design by including a figure symbolising Peace. Despite Mr. Gall’s preference for the Ardross Street site, in September 1921 the Committee fixed on the recently named Cavell Gardens. The Inverness Courier described this as an open picturesque site ‘where it is likely to be seen in future by all visitors to Inverness’, though there’s no doubt that on the riverside at the foot of Ardross Street would have been a more prominent position. The Memorial was unveiled by Mackintosh of Mackintosh in December 1922 in front of a crowd of 5000.

Cavell Gardens had been recently named in memory of Edith Cavell and made use of a gap site at the east end of the Infirmary Bridge. The road between Ness Bank and Haugh Road had been realigned earlier in the C20 and with the siting of the War Memorial gardens were laid out with paths and iron railings.

The upkeep was the responsibility of the Parks and Cemeteries Department and a correspondent to the Courier in October 1924 praised the well tended gardens, though in May a letter suggested that the wreaths should be removed as they were withered and unsightly. This seems to have been an ongoing problem as in February 1927 the Council minutes record a request that the withered wreaths should be removed and the place tidied up.

Most of us live within easy reach of a war memorial. What is your local war memorial like? And what is its back story?

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