Re-dedication of Linlithgow War Memorial during Marches civic service

Fitting tribute...Brian Lightbody and Jim Rae at the now fully restored war memorial in St Michael's Parish Church.
Fitting tribute...Brian Lightbody and Jim Rae at the now fully restored war memorial in St Michael's Parish Church.

The restoration of Linlithgow’s war memorial will be fully unveiled during the annual civic service on Sunday, June 16.

Officers from the Royal Scots – who will lead this year’s Marches parade – will also be in attendance at the re-dedication ceremony in St Michael’s Parish Church.

Some of the men who are named on the memorial, which was first dedicated in 1921.

Some of the men who are named on the memorial, which was first dedicated in 1921.

They will lay a wreath to commemorate the raising of the 2/10 Battalion in Linlithgow in 1914.

For the property team at St Michael’s, it will mark the end of an eight month long project to restore the memorial to its former glory.

Erected in 1921, replacing a temporary memorial at Low Port School, initially three bronze plaques bore the names of 158 young men from the parish who gave their lives in the Great War.

An additional panel was added following the Second World War to include the names of a further 67 men.

But after almost 100 years of service in the town, the memorial itself started showing signs of its age.

The fixings of the First World War bronze plaques had corroded, cracking the stonework and threatening the stability of the structure.

Something had to be done – and fast.

St Michael’s property convener Jim Rae and fellow member Brian Lightbody discovered funding was available but they had a small window of time to apply.

Jim takes up the story: “We were told that the War Memorial Trust was granting funds to restore memorials but we only had two weeks to do so before the closing date.

“So we quickly drafted an application for consideration and were delighted when we were granted £14,255.”

Frances Moreton, director of the War Memorial Trust, is delighted to have played a part in the work.

She said: “War memorials are a tangible connection to our shared past, creating a link between the fallen and today.

“It is vital we ensure all our memorials are in the best possible condition for their age so we were delighted to support this project.”

An additional grant of £5000 from West Lothian Council meant the congregation volunteers who man the property committee could forge ahead with the work, without the need for public fundraising.

The fixings have now been renewed in stainless steel, the bronze plaques refurbished and the cracked stonework repaired with 18 new sandstone blocks.

Conservation Masonry Ltd from Glasgow was employed to carry out the work, while the architects were from local practice Pollock Hammond.

The church’s property team members were also on hand to supervise the work.

Brian recalled: “There was a short delay in work getting underway as we wanted to wait until after Remembrance Sunday.

“We had to find a match for the existing sandstone but we couldn’t find a record of what was used.

“So we sent a small sample to the British Geographical Survey in a bid to find a good match.”

Once the sandstone was sourced from Hutton Stone in Northumberland, the conservation team spent three weeks on site completing the work.

While this was underway, Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh carefully cleaned and refurbished the plaques so that they could take pride of place once again in the refurbished memorial.

This time, however, they were fixed in place with stainless steel fittings to safeguard the structure from any further corrosion.

The property team also took the opportunity to include a time capsule for future custodians to enjoy.

Jim explained: “The memorial served us well for almost 100 years without any need for repairs.

“The work that has been carried out should safeguard it for future generations.

“However, should any work be required in a further 100 years time, our successors will discover a treasure trove hiding behind the central bronze plaque.”

The time capsule contains details of the restoration, a memorial history written by local historian Bruce Jamieson, the latest church magazine and guide book, commemorative items from both World Wars and the latest issue of the Journal and Gazette.

The church is also moving with the times to ensure everyone enjoys services.

Explaining why workmen were still on site during our interview, Jim added: “They are installing power cables as, from now on, we will have four televisons positioned in the church to give everyone a better view.”

The congregation will see how that works in practice during the re-dedication on Sunday at 11am.

An excerpt from Bruce Jamieson’s memorial history

On Sunday, July 24, 1921, the war memorial for the Great War’s fallen was unveiled in St Michael’s Church, Linlithgow.

In front of a packed congregation, many of whom had lost family members in the conflict, Mrs Ella Coupar, wife of the minister, pulled aside the Union Flag and revealed the white sandstone monument, designed by eminent Scottish architect, Peter Macgregor Chalmers.

The designer was instructed to choose materials to harmonise with the church’s existing Kingscavil sandstone.

The committee set up to organise the town’s tribute always intended to construct the memorial within St Michael’s.

That committee included representatives of all the town’s denominations and no objection was made to the placing of the memorial within a church where most of the families of the deceased would have worshipped.

On the Sunday afternoon of the unveiling, many of those families were in the congregation – seated in the south aisle with the best view of the table-top cenotaph with its three bronze panels listing the 158 young men who had given their lives in the war.

The packed house sang the 23rd psalm before the address was given by the Very Rev A. Wallace Williamson, minister of St Giles. He exhorted the congregation to think of “the noble and brave and good who have trod the miry ways of earth and now live forever in the stainless light of God”.

The Rev Robert Coupar then read out the names of the fallen – amidst sobbing and weeping; the congregation standing for many minutes as the 158 names were read. It must have been equally hard for the minister as the second name he read out was that of his own son, Catpain Sydney Coupar.