WHEN sculptor David Sutherland carved his figure of Peace to adorn Galashiels’ world-famous war memorial, little did he realise the magical effect that would be created when the monument’s eternal lights first flickered into life.
Because the figure leans slightly forward, with its head dipped, the lights that shine from the side created the appearance of angel’s wings.
Sadly, however, modern street and urban retail lighting mean the effect is rarely seen any more.
However, next week’s correlation of a once-in-a-lifetime set of dates will see a special ceremony marking the occasion and a rare chance for those attending to witness the “angel’s wings” effect once again.
The reason is that this year, Armistice Day – as opposed to Remembrance Sunday – will fall on Friday, the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of this century.
Armstice Day marks the date when the guns finally fell silent along the Western Front after four years of carnage had cost the lives of millions during the First World War.
Scottish Borders Council convener and veterans’ champion, Alasdair Hutton, is urging people across the Borders to pause next week and remember those who have given their lives in the service of their country.
“This is a unique date which will not happen again in our lifetimes and I would urge everyone to take two minutes at eleven o’clock to remember in silence all those who have fallen in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as earlier campaigns,” he said.
The special ceremony will take place at the memorial on the evening of November 11.
Event organiser Councillor Sandy Aitchison, told TheSouthern of the preparations to make it possible for those attending to see the angel’s wings effect.
“Galashiels has one of the country’s most impressive war memorials which is at the heart of Galashiels and is known across the world as Galashiels’ most prominent landmark,” he said.
“After its construction, one of the accidental characteristics seen by people in the town was the angel’s wings effect. This effect is rarely seen now, due to the very strong street lighting which is such a feature of the area around the war memorial.”
Councillor Aitchison explained that local resident Murray Dickson had asked whether it would be possible to switch the street lights off just once to see this effect again.
“This year seemed the most appropriate to me since it is the year of that unique date 11/11/11; therefore it seemed sensible to do it this year if it was possible,” added Councillor Aitchison.
“Also, it had to be at night to create the light effect. The timing of eight o’clock was also sensible because of the other characteristic of the clock – it plays some bars of ‘Braw Braw Lads’.
“Since this was first mentioned I have been amazed at the enthusiasm of organisations in Gala wishing to be part of this very special event.”
Because street lighting will be switched off round the memorial for the event, Albert Place, part of Market Street and part of Paton Street will be closed for safety reasons.
Galashiels Ex-Service Pipe Band and Galashiels Town Band will provide the music for the evening event, which begins at 7.30pm. Soldiers from 6 SCOTS of The Royal Regiment of Scotland will be on parade, along with the Royal British Legion standard.
This year’s Braw Lad and Lass will lay a poppy cross and bugler Alan Paterson will play the Last Post and Reveille.
Councillor Hutton, well-known as the voice of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, will give a short address outlining the history of the memorial.
The music to be played during the service will include Requiem for Heroes, which was written by exiled Galalean and former Royal Marine, Bill Elliot. This will be the first public performance of the piece, for which Mr Elliot will be present.
This special additional remembrance service does notreplace the normal service of remembrance, which will be held on Remembrance Sunday, November 13.
Memorial to town’s fallen
Galashiels War Memorial sits at the northwest end of the Burgh Chambers and comprises a bronze figure of an armed and mounted Border reiver in front of a Border peel tower which houses the town clock.
The equestrian statue was sculpted by Thomas J Clapperton, a native of Galashiels.
The names of the 638 men who fell in the First World War are inscribed on a bronze tablet with the figure of Peace located above, carved by David Sutherland.
Two more bronze panels with the names of those who fell in the Second World War were added in 1947.
Plans for the memorial and the extension of the Burgh Buildings were prepared by Sir Robert Lorimer and the work was funded by almost 4,000 public subscriptions, many from around the world, after an appeal for funds.
The then Prince of Wales was present at the official laying of a corner-stone in 1924 and it was officially unveiled by Britain’s former commander on the Western Front, Field Marshall Earl Haig, in October 1925.
The bells in the tower were donated by the Cochrane family, local mill-owners who had lost two sons in the Great War, and the clock became fully operational in 1928.
At 8pm each evening, after the eighth strike, the bells ring out the first four lines of Braw, Braw Lads, written originally by Robert Burns, as a daily tribute to the fallen of Galashiels in two world wars.