We are still learn­ing ‘lessons of sac­ri­fice’ a cen­tury later

As we com­mem­o­rate the centenary of the end of the First World War, Remembrance and the red Flan­ders poppy are an in­te­gral part of our na­tional char­ac­ter. Poignant sen­ti­ments ex­pressed in November 1918 are, for so many, sim­i­larly rel­e­vant to­day

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - DR DEREK PATRICK DR BILLY KENEFICK A piper plays a lament in front of the names of the thou­sands of Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth sol­diers who died in the First World War.

At hame that nicht I minded o’ Those fallen in the fray; Thou­sands re­joic­ing, thou­sands more Are sor­row­ing to-day.

To those who lis­ten for a voice They never more shall hear, There’s agony in every shout,

A stab in every cheer.

As we com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the Ar­mistice to­mor­row, it is the un­spo­ken hope that our world will never suf­fer war on this scale ever again. How­ever, it is a stark fact of mod­ern life that there are count­less con­flicts taking place across the globe, many in­volv­ing our brave ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women.

Pop­pyscot­land came into be­ing in 1921 (then known as the Earl Haig Fund) with a com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing lifechang­ing sup­port to the armed forces com­mu­nity. Ninety-seven years on, that need has not di­min­ished and the char­ity raises mil­lions of pounds each year in or­der to sup­port vet­er­ans through­out the coun­try.

In 1918, de­spite the hys­te­ria, mil­lions were left be­hind in the af­ter­math of the Great War, but it is Pop­pyscot­land’s on­go­ing quest to en­sure that all of our brave ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women do not suf­fer the same fate 100 years on.

The Dundee Law War me­mo­rial was of­fi­cially un­veiled on May 16 1925 and, to com­mem­o­rate the event, the Peo­ple’s Jour­nal pub­lished the Dundee War Me­mo­rial Sup­ple­ment, with more than 20 pages de­voted to The Great Me­mo­rial Roll of Dundee’s Glo­ri­ous Dead.

The Rev Har­court M David­son, VD (Vol­un­teer Of­fi­cers’ Dec­o­ra­tion) re­flected on “the lessons of sac­ri­fice” learned be­cause of the Great War, while re­flect­ing on the near-spir­i­tual quality and nat­u­ral at­tributes of the Dundee Law, site of the city’s war me­mo­rial. On that hill the war me­mo­rial would stand as a bea­con of hope, love and sac­ri­fice – for­ever “the im­mor­tal mem­ory of 4,000 and more of our brave ones who loved us and gave them­selves for us”.

It was a ter­ri­ble toll of our best but “what have we gained by it?” At a time when “the Na­tion seems all wrong (and) split into sects, par­ties and fac­tions. Who will show us any good?” By learn­ing from those we hon­our, he an­swered, and in turn hon­our­ing their shin­ing virtues: “Brother­li­ness, courage, un­selfish­ness, dis­ci­pline.” Yet some gains were made and re­alised. There was a fresh un­der­stand­ing that solid, de­pend­able and healthy work­ing-class hous­ing was needed to be­gin to re­verse a de­plorable health record of a city sec­ond only to Glas­gow.

Plans were sub­mit­ted in 1918 and, un­der the pro­vi­sions of the Ad­di­son Act, a pro­gramme of slum clear­ance be­gan and work on the first mu­nic­i­pal hous­ing scheme in Scot­land com­menced at Lo­gie in Dundee in 1919 – more than 700 houses were built in a few years.

Sim­i­lar slow-but-sure im­prove­ments in med­i­cal health and so­cial wel­fare pro­vi­sion made a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the lives of women and chil­dren more gen­er­ally.

In 1918, de­spite the hys­te­ria, mil­lions were left be­hind in the af­ter­math of the Great War...

The gen­eral elec­tion of 1922 trans­formed the po­lit­i­cal map of Scot­land and pro­vided the elec­toral break­through for Labour across the coun­try dur­ing the 1920s – so much so that Labour formed two mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments in 1924 and 1929. Much of the ground­work for this break­through was firmly laid dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial up­heavals taking place dur­ing and im­me­di­ately af­ter the Great War, and the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial im­pact in Dundee was no less trans­for­ma­tive.

Eco­nomic de­pres­sion deep­ened af­ter a short-lived post-war boom, and from 1921 on­wards every ma­jor in­dus­trial cen­tre in Scot­land suf­fered like­wise. With the jute in­dus­try con­tin­u­ally un­der pressure, Dundee’s econ­omy suf­fered dis­pro­por­tion­ately when com­pared to that of Scot­land as a whole.

The 1920s would prove to be a gloomy decade for Dundee and the 1930s would of­fer no respite. Recorded un­em­ploy­ment reached five per cent by the early 1930s and this did not in­clude those caught in a cy­cle of poverty and short-term em­ploy­ment.

Poet Hugh MacDiarmid sug­gested that had Dante been com­pelled to live in Dundee at that time he would have added “a sen­sa­tional new cir­cle to his In­ferno”. For many, the 1930s was sim­ply the Devil’s Decade.

Many might well have won­dered, as the Rev David­son de­bated: “What have we gained by it?”

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