The two war memorials at Elsrickle, South Lanarkshire

The main war memorial beside the church.
The main war memorial beside the church.
The main war memorial beside the church.
The main war memorial beside the church.

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.

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 this report, Elsrickle War memorial, 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 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.

The Wee Memorial

In that wee auld fashioned village

Were twa puirhouse bairns brocht up

Twa lads that gied their labour

For a bed, and bit and sup

But when they grew tae manhood

The great war it broke oot

And wae a wheen o’ ithers

They donned the khakie cloot

Frae oot that awfie carnage were some that ne’er came back

Tae the wee auld fashioned village

That lies aff the beaten track

No in the quiet kirk yaird their last resting place was found

But far frae Bonnie Scotland they lie in foreign ground.

In memory o’ thae gallant lads

A monument was raised

On which their noble sacrifice, commended was and praised

Their names were also written there

But sad it was to see

Nae mention o’ the puirhouse weans

Surely that couldna be

For they along with others had laid their young life’s doon

And juist the same as others, deserved fair honours croon

No muckle wealth nor gear had they but what they had they gied

Their very life blood they poured oot and for their country de’ed

The meenisters attention was drawn untae the fact

But he just dismissed the maiter and quite refused tae act

But in that wee auld village there was a man who refused to stand

Tae see in ony measure Man’s inhumanity tae Man

And sae tae richt the wrang, that his kindly hurt felt sair

A monument for their ain twa sels he had erected there

Richt at the ither end o’ the street, the tapmost end forby

It stands tae tell the story tae every passer by

The words engraved upon its stane are plain and clearly tell

That it’s for two gallant heroes, who in the Great War fell

And underneath their honoured names, withoot display or fuss

The vital fact it simply states, they also died for us

Oh may we like that honest man, gie honour where its due

Extending character and truth be pockets tim or fu

Praise humble as true riches whenever they abound

For in the mansions o’ the rich, they scarcely can be found

Let us think o’ anither ane wha gied hissel for us

And ask oorsels the question, what does it mean tae us

Surely it canna be that we wi cauld herts can despise

The Love Devine that bore our sins in Calvary’ sacrifice

But may we like that honest man, wi every word and act

Let oor lives be a memorial tae that great and glorious feat.