Month: March 2018

Rutherglen Reformer article -How should we mark the centenary of the Great War Armistice?

15th February 2018

In the archives of the National Library of Scotland, you can see a silent moving film of the unveiling of the Rutherglen Cenotaph on 26th October 1924 in the presence of an enormous crowd. The Imperial War Museum record says the Cenotaph contains 544 names.

The majority of these names are from the First World War which ended with the Armistice on 11th November 1918 – 100 years ago this year.

The Reformer reported that the bells were rung from the Town Hall – but against an atmosphere of mixed celebration and pain:

“The hoisting of the Union Jack was a signal. It seemed as if a fairy wand had passed over the Burgh…

But mingled with joy … there was a sad recollection of loved ones who had gone away…”

Over a million members of the British and Commonwealth forces died in the War – with many more crippled, gassed or suffering horrendous psychological damage. The Great War changed our country in many ways too.

In Rutherglen, Australia, a Memorial Park completed in 2007 shows the names of 115 men who died in WW1, many at Gallipoli. The trees planted in the park originated from cuttings brought back by soldiers returning from Gallipoli.

The toll of local deaths is inscribed on the cenotaphs in Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Westburn but on other memorials in club houses or places of work too. At Gilbertfield Road there is a cairn in memory of men who marched from Dechmont to Newton station going to the front.

1918 is now a long time ago but we should remember the sacrifice of the men from Rutherglen in fitting ways relevant to all our people, young and old.

These might include:

  • A major exhibition of Rutherglen and its people in 1918, perhaps in the Town Hall
  • A gathering of all the local Churches, religious groups, voluntary organisations and local people in Rutherglen at the Cenotaph for the November Armistice event
  • A linked event with Rutherglen, Australia

I would be interested in any imaginative ideas on this. The men and women of 1918 are part of our collective heritage in Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

Rutherglen Reformer article – A Desperate Need for Leadership

10th January 2018

Over the holidays I have been reading two inspirational books – Barack Obama’s book Dreams from my Father, and a new biography of Bobby Kennedy, the Democratic candidate for President assassinated in his prime in 1968.

Bobby Kennedy, brother of JFK, was the hero of my youth. He had the ability to recognise the great issues of his time – the Vietnam War, colour segregation, urban hopelessness – and to try to do something about them. I can still see the pictures of so many poor people, young people, black people, standing in sorrowful salute along the tracks as the train bearing his coffin back to Washington passed by, taking with it the hopes of a generation.

Barack Obama’s book described his search for his family roots and identity in Chicago, Hawaii and Kenya. The book is shot through with political insights, the challenges facing people ground down by economic insecurity, class and colour divisions and their frustrated aspirations for something better.

In 2018, we have Trump, Brexit and drift – a fearful, populist and nationalist agenda, oozing division and blame.

The indecisive European referendum of 2016 cried out for leadership, recognising the alienation that contributed to the result – but also the uncertainty and the division. Instead of the hard Brexit – or even the “no deal’” Brexit – the Conservative Government are pursuing, the Prime Minister should have tried to deal with the grievances and unite people behind agendas of hope and common cause, a new vision of European partnership not the insipid “Brexit means Brexit” slogan.

Theresa May’s botched cabinet reshuffles may have one good result – able people like Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Justine Greening are lined up resentfully on the backbenches. There is a potential cross party alliance with the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Greens.

The missing piece is Labour – who, with notable exceptions have lined up behind the Tories as pitiful cheerleaders for a hard Brexit. My hope for 2018 is that Labour MPs will get some backbone and articulate the European future that most of them believe in.

In 2018, we seem bereft of leaders able to steer a more hopeful course!