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More than 100 people packed a poignant gathering at The Rockfield Centre on Sunday in an event that was the culmination of activities to celebrate the centenary of the unveiling of Oban War memorial.
Among those present were families of some of the 247 service people whose names are on the memorial overlooking the town’s bay over to Mull, Lismore and Kerrera.
Angus Boyd, 91, made the journey from North Berwick to remember his big brother Iain who was just 20 and a corporal serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders when he was killed in action at El Alamein on October 29, 1942. Angus, who was 10-years old at the time, said the day that the devastating news reached home was still “all too vivid”.
An impressed Mr Boyd paid tribute to the band of hard-working and dedicated volunteers of Oban War Memorial Group who organised a series of events for this year and spent the last 18 months carrying out painstaking research into the lives of those named on the monument, which has just been given listing status by Historic Environment Scotland.
The legacy of the group’s work with photographs and life-stories appeared throughout the year in The Oban Times and is now contained for posterity in a number of Lest We Forget books that will be accessible to the public. One of the available user-copies will be kept in the hub of Oban at The Rockfield Centre.
John Scott, the grandson of the memorial’s sculptor Alexander Carrick was also in Oban for Sunday’s Remembrance. Lewis Owen wore an authentic First World War uniform to re-enact the Silent Soldier who stood head-bowed at its unveiling.
It took four years of fundraising and subscriptions from townspeople to pay £1,450 for the memorial. Not all names of the fallen are listed – some families chose not to have their loved ones names displayed on it.
The memorial lists the name of 173 men with an Oban connection, who each gave their lives in the First World War. A further 73 men were added after the Second World War, and then in 1984, after the Falklands War, the name of Marine Gordon MacPherson was also inscribed on it.
This weekend all of those whose lives were lost in the world wars and other conflicts, as well as those who did return and continued to carry the physical and mental wounds, were remembered.
Lord-Lieutenant for Argyll and Bute Jane MacLeod, the region’s Provost Maurice Corry and MSP Jenni Minto paid tributes too.
Jenni Minto also made particular mention of the women who gave support on war fronts as well as from home, including those who nursed the wounded and who knitted socks for the men on the front line. That action still continues today, she said, referring to the many knitters and crocheters who handmade poppies to adorn town landmarks.
Earlier in the day Oban Pipe Band led serving soldiers, veterans, councillors, members of the emergency services and other uniformed groups and civilian organisations to the memorial. Members of the public filed in behind and walked up the west side of the bay in unison.
As the pipes and drums ceased, the parade fell quiet with the Oban RNLI lifeboat standing at attention just off the shoreline. A speech of remembrance was then given by Reverend Peter Park. Two CalMac ferries entered the bay during the commemoration with the MV Isle of Mull sounding a symbolic blast of its horn at the end.
Earlier in the week, senior pupils from Oban High School and Tiree High School came together to present an assembly on the history and the importance of Remembrance Day last week. Students and staff paid their respects, while taking time to pay special tribute to those community members who gave their lives. School captains laid a wreath at the school’s war memorial and headteacher Peter Bain played Last Post and Reveille.
Kilchrenan began its remembrance event with an early morning breakfast at the village hall. Letters from soldiers writing home from the front were read and after a meaningful get together the congregation walked to the war memorial accompanied by piper Iain McIntyre.
“Reverend Tom Telfer led the services at the hall and up at the monument, where there was more pipe music accompanying the celebration. The early morning mist lifted just in time for a wreath laid by Chris Cowley,” reported Wimmie van Rein.
On Seil, a short service was held first in the old graveyard, where children placed crosses at the four Commonwealth War Graves. This was followed by the main Act of Remembrance, led by Fiona Cruikshanks. The piper was DJ MacDougall, the Legion Standard Bearer was Donny Reynolds. Wreaths were laid by Jamie Mellor as Depute Lord Lieutenant on behalf of the King, Peter Hadden for the Easdale Branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland, Ian McDougal for Seil and Easdale Community Council, Ella Bevis and Ruagh Smith for Easdale Primary School, and Fiona MacLarty on behalf of the volunteer fire service.
The gathering at the war memorial was followed by a Remembrance Day service in Kilbrandon Church also led by Fiona Cruickshanks.
Across the Cuan Sound, Luing also paid tribute at its war memorial. Members of the community and the Royal British Legion gathered at Kilchattan Church before being led to the war memorial by piper Innes MacQueen and standard bearer Iain Cruickshanks. During the service, conducted by Fiona Cruickshanks, wreaths were laid by Sandy Shairp for the Royal British Legion Scotland, Micheal Fothergill on behalf of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and Mary Braithwaite for Luing Community Council .
Kilmelford marked its Remembrance Day with a customary gathering around the war memorial at the village church led by Major Donald Campbell-Baldwin, late Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Volunteer leader Keith Smith laid a wreath on behalf of Kilmelford Community Fire Station, with Sarah-Jane Edwards in attendance representing the Fire Station. Sergeant Pauline Rowell laid a wreath on behalf of Kilmelford and the wider community. As in former years, the piper was Jim Robb, who then led the crowd into church for the service, also conducted by Major Campbell-Baldwin.