The two war memorials at Elsrickle, South Lanarkshire

19 June 2018

The wee village of Elsrickle, in South Lanarkshire was recently made famous as being the village near the oldest known place of human activity in Scotland; Howburn Farm where people arrived from Denmark, by following reindeer over what is now the lower North Sea, and 14,000 years ago. They left their mark by leaving hundreds of flint tools on their camp site, in what is now a field. The Biggar Archaeology Group discovered the site (Ballin, Saville, Tipping & Ward 2010 and Saville and Ward 2010).

However, Elsrickle has another unique distinction, that of having two war memorials in the village. One is beside the now unused church at the bottom of the village, and commemorates four Privates, killed in various battles in WW I, while the other much smaller memorial is at the top of the village beside the main road for all to see, but one suspects few people will ever notice the fact, or wonder why this should be. The second memorial remembers a further two soldiers killed in WW I, but also another who was killed in WW II.

The main war memorial beside Elsrickle Church

The main war memorial beside the church.

It is a sad story, as any memorial is, but here is a strange tale and one that reflects badly on the community and its leading dignitaries, including the minister of the time – apart from one man.

Two young lads, not locals but who worked on local farms were not considered to be ‘of the Parish’ and consequently when they were killed in the War, their names were not to be recognised as the ‘fallen’ from Elsrickle. They would therefore remain for evermore anonymous, as to their ultimate sacrifice for their country.

One man, refused to accept the situation and paid for a special little cenotaph for the two soldiers who were excluded from the main commemoration. A poem was written about the disgraceful situation and it is given here, in it the author expresses views which are more in common with the humanity one would have expected from such a business, and clearly castigates those uncaring voices, which included, incredibly, the local ‘man of God’; the minister.

The wee memorial

The wee memorial.

Elsrickle lost a single man in WW II and somehow the decision was taken to commemorate his name on the wee monument at the top of the village. Probably that was because of the two stones, only the wee one had space for the other name, and so the forlorn two now have company.

Of interest on the ‘official’ monument is the spelling of the village in old form as Ellsridgehill, and at the base of the inscription are the words “They died that we might live”, while on the wee monument the words at the bottom are “They also died for us”, seemingly as a reprimand to the uncaring community. It was poignant to note that of the two monuments photographed in May of 2018, it was the wee one which retained a poppy wreath, firmly tied to the cross shaft, clearly and thankfully, earler attitudes no longer prevail in Elsrickle.

The present writer is unaware who wrote the poem and who the generous and compassionate man was, who erected the second memorial, they may be one and same. If anyone knows the answers, or any other supplementary information regarding the matter, they may like to contact the writer who can revise this tale.

References

Ballin T B, Saville A, Tipping R and Ward T 2010. An Upper Palaeolithic Flint and Chert Assemblage from Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, First results. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 29(4) 323 – 360. 2010.

Saville A & Ward T 2010. Howburn Farm, Excavating Scotland’s First People. Current Archaeology, Issue 243, 18 – 23. 2010.

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