Guest blog by Ruth Beattie, New Lanark Learning and Outreach Officer…
This year, Remembrance Sunday falls on November 13 when we will remember all soldiers killed in combat in the world wars and in wars and conflicts thereafter.
100 years ago in November 1916, Britain was over two years into the First World War and 142 New Lanark men were fighting for King and Country. 29 of them were killed during the war and are remembered on our war memorial which stands beside New Buildings.
The New Lanark War Memorial was erected on a snowy day in January 1922. In attendance was Major Henry Birkmyre of the Birkmyre family who owned the Gourock Ropework Company and New Lanark Mills. He commented: “this monument has been erected for the purpose of telling their children and their children’s children what splendid things these men have done.”
We have a biography for each of the 142 New Lanark soldiers and in some cases a well-rounded picture of the man’s life in the village before the war, of his time as a soldier and life after the war. It has taken over two years for me to research the soldiers and their families. Many living relatives got in touch to pass on their family stories, photographs and documents; a truly valuable contribution to the research. The task is by no means finished, but we now have a much broader understanding of the villagers’ role in the war, of war work and production in the mills and of the soldiers’ lives.
Our current exhibition, New Lanark & the First World War explores all these topics and focuses on four soldiers of New Lanark – Joseph MacPherson, Daniel Kirkhope, Thomas Jess and William Hawthorne. Of the four, only Thomas Jess survived.
The exhibition is dedicated to all the soldiers of New Lanark and their families past and present. We wanted to remember and celebrate the lives of the men who did not come home but also of those who returned and the story of their war. The exhibition was co-curated by Evelyn Whitelaw, Exhibitions and Events Officer and Ruth Beattie, Learning and Outreach Officer.
To learn more about the stories of the New Lanark soldiers and the village during wartime, visit the exhibition in the Saving New Lanark Room in Robert Owen’s School for Children. This is part of the visitor centre experience or tickets for the school can be purchased separately at £5 per person. The school building is open from 11-4pm daily in the winter. (November > March).
Ruth Beattie, New Lanark Learning and Outreach Officer