Over the four-year World War 1 centenary period, Argyll and Bute Council, with and through the World War 1 Commemoration Steering Group and actively engaging with young and old alike in local communities, has supported various individuals and organisations to deliver an inspirational and ambitious programme of commemoration events and acts of remembrance. A key element of this has been ensuring that the benefits outlast the events themselves and provide a lasting legacy for Argyll and Bute’s communities.
The Islay event created a palpable sense of pride and sense of place exhibited by the islanders in reflecting on their past and building on this through new partnerships for the future which ultimately will be an ongoing tribute. Some of the other activities included:
- WW100 Trail is being developed. The trail will identify and mark significant WW1 sites across Islay with discreet WW100 Islay plaques supported by a website and printed brochure. Incorporated into this is a collaboration with the RSPB to improve the interpretation panels around the American Monument and will also tell personal stories from both American servicemen and Islay people.
- All war memorials cleaned and lettering redone.
- The American Monument is now scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland.
- Historical and cultural links with the return of the original American flag made by islanders in 1918 and the modern recreation produced by Islay Quilters in 2018.
- Community garden project and ongoing involvement with a range of island charities.
- Two WW100 woodlands are being planted at Bruichladdich and Storakaig, Dunlossit—12,000 trees, four for each island resident.
- Events organised by the local WW100 Islay Group, linked to the Tuscania and Otranto commemorations were the focus of two BBC documentaries and national TV coverage.
Victoria Cross Paving Stone Programme
The laying of four Victoria Cross Paving Stones in Cardross, Helensburgh, Innellan and Portnahaven has enabled residents to gain a greater understanding of how Argyll and Bute fitted into the First World War story. The paving stones will remind residents and future residents of the local heroes within our communities and will serve as a focus point for future commemorative events.
The work of the Live Argyll Library Service (formerly Argyll and Bute Library Service)
Over the course of 18 months a series of World War I Roadshows took place in libraries throughout Argyll and Bute. These events comprised an evening talk by Yvonne McEwen, WWI historian and researcher, focusing on the Scotland’s War website and a Saturday morning drop in session for people to bring WWI documents, photographs and artefacts.
The drop-in sessions were along the lines of an antiques roadshow where Yvonne gave advice and information on the items submitted. All items were photographed or scanned with owners’ permission and the images will be used for future events, as well as being archived as part of the local collection. Some have already been incorporated in exhibitions.
The service is a partner in the Scotland’s War project, which is run as an independent charitable trust. Information about local participation in WW1 has been uploaded to the website under topical headings on pages specific to Argyll and Bute and these will continue to be populated over the coming years.
Many local societies and communities have done work on their local war memorials and produced booklets giving details about the servicemen and women whose names appear on the memorials. Work is ongoing to identify these publications and obtain copies to be held in the Library Service’s Local Collection.
A complete list of all the memorials in Argyll and Bute has been compiled and work is continuing to research the memorials not completed by local groups. Some of this work has been undertaken by volunteers and the remaining memorials are being researched and recorded by library staff.
Cowal: A Call to Arms
Alongside the numerous positive relationships which blossomed before, during and after A Call to Arms, the messages and stories from the programme enthused a new generation of people to carry out their own WW1 research.
The organisers remain delighted in the marked upsurge in interest in carrying out investigations encouraged by the programme of events. More people are finding out about their own families or people with local links who were involved in the war.
They are developing proposals to make this research publicly available, to complement the research carried out for the event itself.
The Cowal commemorative parade, like the one in Oban in 2014, was captured on film, opening up access to other people unable to attend and, crucially, preserving it for future generations.
Photo Credits: Jenni Minto and Ian Giles /Live Argyll Library Service