Labour of love as He­len hon­ours 39 men who died in world wars

The Oban Times - - News -

AR­CHI­TECT He­len Glen­nie from Seil re­searched each life and story be­hind all the names in­scribed on the Slate Is­lands’ war me­mo­rial, which com­mem­o­rates lo­cal sol­diers who died from Kil­bran­don Parish dur­ing the First and Se­cond World Wars.

‘This has taken me two years,’ He­len said. ‘I did not think it would take me this long. Thirty-nine men lost their lives in the First World War: 20 per cent of the el­i­gi­ble young men. In a small com­mu­nity, 39 is an aw­ful lot. Most of the men who died in the Somme have no known graves. They went over the top and were mown down and killed, blown to bits. I num­bered them all one to 39 and put in all the in­for­ma­tion I could find. I’ve just been re­search­ing as much as I can on­line.’

Af­ter fur­ther ex­ten­sive re­search in reg­i­men­tal and Oban Times ar­chives, she added: ‘I’ve gone as far as I can. Now I need other peo­ple to help me.’

As He­len talked, a di­rect de­scen­dant of one per­son named on the me­mo­rial, Ed­ward MacInnes, ap­proached.

‘This is what we hoped would hap­pen – peo­ple com­ing in and fill­ing in the blanks,’ ex­plained Ron Hether­ing­ton, who con­ceived the ex­hi­bi­tion’s show­piece: a full-size model of the Seil war me­mo­rial and, be­low it, a scale trench from the Somme.

Re­call­ing his first meet­ings with Mr Shaw, chair­man of the Scot­tish Slate Is­lands Her­itage Trust, Ron said: ‘ We knew He­len’s re­search on the war me­mo­rial should be the cen­tre­piece. I said, “Why don’t we build a war me­mo­rial? Let’s recre­ate a First World War trench”. I got pho­to­graphs of the trenches from the Somme and I just sketched it out and gave it to Alan.’

Three is­land men – Alan Coutts, Ge­orge Hous­ton and Bill Clark – set to work con­struct­ing the model, com­plete with hes­sian sand­bags stuffed with poly­styrene, sil­ver spray-painted card­board as cor­ru­gated iron, lit­tered with spent shells, bully beef tins, cig­a­rette play­ing cards and a fluffy toy rat.

‘My imag­i­na­tion ran riot, but I am pleased with the re­sults,’ Ron said. ‘No­body re­fused us any­thing. It turned out ex­actly as I saw it in my mind’s eye.’

Fol­low­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, the trench model went on tour to the pri­mary school and will be in Kil­bran­don Church for Ar­mistice Day on Fri­day Novem­ber 11, dur­ing the 100th an­niver­sary year of the Bat­tle of the Somme. Or­gan­is­ers hope the model will then go on dis­play in Oban’s War and Peace Mu­seum. He­len is also writ­ing a book com­pil­ing the sto­ries of all 39 sol­diers listed on Seil’s war me­mo­rial.

15_T45 Seil ex­hi­bi­tion War Me­mo­ri­al_ 02

Ron Hether­ing­ton and He­len Glen­nie at the war me­mo­rial ex­hibit which He­len spent two yeas com­pil­ing.

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