The History of Leith

June 1, 2008

Leith WW1 Memorial & Roll of Honour Re-dedication

Leith WW1 Memorial & Roll of Honour Re-dedication
On Friday 30th May 2008 at 10.30 am, a group of some 50 invited guests and dignitaries stood beneath the trees at the eastern corner of Taylor Gardens, Leith, as wreaths were laid in front of Leith’s War Memorial for the Great War 1914-18; World War One.
This tangible memorial was previously the Children’s Wing of Leith Hospital.
A display of the five volumes of the Roll in both original and computerised format is being held throughout the Leith Festival 2008 in Leith Library.

Despite the persistent rain, the Leith Academy prefects who ably assisted by checking the guest list and handing out name tags and programmes reported very few call-offs.
The two pipers, Gus Gilchrist and Alan Wannacott, (Trinity Old Pipers Society) played a medley of tunes as the guests arrived.
After a short introduction and welcome by Ian Ross, 1st Leith Company, The Boys’ Brigade; Ex- Members Association the pipers then played “The Green Hills of Tyrol” as the wreath layers moved forward: Lieutenant Colonel William MacEachen for 205 Scottish Field Hospital, Mary Moriarty for The Leith Festival Association, Leith Ward Councillor and Deputy Leader of the City Council, Rob Munn laid his wreath on behalf of The City of Edinburgh Council and Gregor Cowan CA for The 1st Leith Company Boys’ Brigade; Ex-Members Association.
A very moving tribute was then made by The Reverend George Shand of St Thomas’ Junction Road Church to the 2,205 Leithers who did not return from The Great War. This included a poem, a brief history of the War Memorial and concluded with the Re-dedication of the Memorial building.
The group then moved off to the less damp environment of Leith Library for the second part of the ceremony which was introduced and led by Steve Mitchell, 1st leith Company, The Boys’ Brigade; Ex-Members Association.
Lt Col ‘Willie’ MacEachan told of the role played by the RAMC in this and other conflicts even to his day and of the always and continuing need for volunteers and for the gratitude for the voluntary assistance given by the Leith BB during WW1 at their Scottish Field Hospital in Craigleith – ‘The now Western General’. Cllr Marjory Thomas in her role as this years festival ‘Provost of Leith’ spoke of the important part the people of Leith had played in fund-raising on behalf of the memorial fund and indeed the hospital itself in the years prior to the Children’s Wing being decided on as the Leith Memorial to the towns noble dead.
Mark Lazarowicz MP and current chair of the Leith Museum Group endorsed the previous remarks and thanked the organisers for exhibiting and bringing back to remembrance these artefacts. He also read messages from Rev James Scot-Marshall and Lord Ronald King-Murray, both members of the Leith Museum Trust a 1990’s predecessor of the current group. Ex-Cllr John Crichton a third member of that trust was also in attendance.
The formal part of the proceedings started by Rev Kenneth Baird, North Leith Parish Church, commenting that just as his colleague Rev George Shand he was a relative newcomer to the town (5 years in current positions) he had soon realised the community feel for the town.
After reflecting on the reasons behind this event and the importance of such recollections in today’s society he formally re-dedicated and blessed both the Leith and the 1st Leith BB Rolls of Honour –WW1.
Dr Mike Barfoot, Archivist; Lothian Health Services Archive told of the origination of the Leith Roll of Honour and of the somewhat dishevelled condition of the five volumes when they first came under the custodianship of his organisation. The volumes had from time to time been on ‘display’ in various public areas of Leith Hospital before its closure in the 1980s and in the present excellently refurbished condition in the Leith Community Health Centre but that this was the first occasion when the Roll could be truly ‘viewed’ by the public, made possible by today’s technology. Every page including a moving introduction about the forming and reasoning behind the Roll and indeed Memorial being beautifully inscribed in the opening pages of volume one.
The Ceremony was brought to conclusion by Margaret Allan, Leith Museum Group who read a poem by the fourth member of the then Leith Museum Trust – the late Rev Mrs Elizabeth Wardlaw:
“A Dream for Leith”
Throughout the event the Organisers and participants made known their thanks and appreciation to the City of Edinburgh Libraries and the Lothian Health Services Archive without who’s assistance, co-operation and permissions the event would not have been possible.

© 2008 – leithslivingarchives.

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