Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the time of the armistice that ended the Great War. Remembrance in November has been the UK’s biggest act of commemoration for a century now. This year’s ceremony at the Cenotaph was different with Covid spacing, the monarch in a mask, and no crowds. Restrictions on meetings meant many had to contemplate sacrifice without company. The lonely path of loss.

The main ceremony in Shetland is at the County War Memorial at Hillhead in Lerwick. Commemoration needs a focus. In 1920, just a couple of years after the armistice, there was no major remembrance ceremony. After much deliberation and thought Shetland got a war memorial on January 6, 1924. It isn’t quite a century old yet.

A lot of war memorials in Britain were unveiled by women who had lost sons, a way to honour the dead, and the grief of their mothers. Three women in Shetland lost three sons. Mrs Elizabeth Mann had died by the time of the memorial, Mrs Charlotte Gear didn’t feel well enough. Mrs Janet Hardy also lost three boys. Thomas, one of Shetland’s few regular soldiers died in France in 1914, Charles died in 1916, his ship torpedoed, and William was accidentally drowned in 1917. A son and a daughter survived.

Mrs Hardy initially refused, citing “bad health in the loss of my three sons,” in a letter. It isn’t surprising that she didn’t feel up to it – the stress of love and sadness, and how often a home offers reminders of what has gone. In the end she changed her mind. Her daughter, Margaret Hardy, was there. Her husband too, wearing his sons’ medals. A large crowd saw her take a few steps forward and pull aside a flag, then she laid a wreath below the panel with her boys’ names.

The newspaper reports didn’t say anything about what Mrs Hardy felt. Probably, it wasn’t something they felt proper to ask about, or print. As Shetlanders would say, an ill laek ta do. Private things remained private. The onlookers though, with their own burdens of grief, would have known that she was undertaking something deeply difficult.

Note. For more on the history of the war memorial see Linda Riddell’s book, Shetland and the Great War. Mrs Hardy’s letter is held in Shetland Archives, CO7/77/1.

Related Posts

Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Letters on Shetland

I got a book in the post the other day, always a good thing. 'Letters on Shetland' by Peter Jamieson (1898-1976), published in 1949 ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

World Book Day

On World Book Day, it is worth musing about the history of library collections in Shetland. There have been highs and lows in the ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Shackleton's Shetland Pallbearers - A Talk

Shetland Museum and Archives will be kicking off its Year of Stories by marking the 100th anniversary of the burial of Sir Ernest ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

550 Years Ago: how Shetland became part of Scotland - part 2

Shetland and Orkney became part of Scotland 550 years ago, on 20 February 1472. Denmark’s economic interests were concentrated in ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

A reminiscence of a traditional Shetland wedding

When lockdown came, one of our first sad tasks was to tell two couples who’d planned a wedding in the museum that it couldn’t ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

550 Years Ago: how Shetland became part of Scotland

A fortnight ago some women and men from the South Mainland of Shetland marched in Glasgow with torches. They were commemorating the ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Up Helly Aa - the Venues

We’re missing Up Helly Aa again - not just a fire spectacle but a major social event, with dances and performances in many venues in ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Origins of the Up Helly Aa Song

A huge procession of torch-carrying guizers is one of the most spectacular sights of the Shetland year.  For anyone who heads out in ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

A historical walk to Culsetter

There is much more to Shetland than the popular places where people go: the Hams of Muckle Roe and the Sands of Breckon, for instance. ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

The New Year, 1872 and the Truck Commission

The New Year of 1872 began in a special way in Shetland. On the first of January Sheriff William Guthrie began hearings in the Queens ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

A Lerwick Christmas One Hundred Years Ago: 1921

The Town Council decided which day the Christmas holiday should be on, there had been petitions. After some deliberation they settled ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Shetland Museum and Archives awarded funding for Year of Stories

Shetland Museum and Archives is delighted to announce that it will be celebrating and showcasing many of Shetland’s untold stories ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

Accounts with Women Labourers

Thomas Hardy, probably the Victorian novelist most familiar with the grit of rural life, described the work of his agricultural ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

The Maiden

Hallowe’en at the end of October is traditionally a part of the year when macabre things are thought of and expressed. Perhaps a ...

Read more
Unveiling the Shetland War Memorial, 6 January 1924

The Tolbooth Jail

We don’t have many records that make a direct reference to a person’s personal appearance. Important people might be described, ...

Read more