New memorial to be re-dedicated

Ashington Mayor Coun Ely Turnbull buys the first poppy in this year's appeal from John Simpson, Gloria Leith and Richard Fullarton before the new town war memorial.
Ashington Mayor Coun Ely Turnbull buys the first poppy in this year's appeal from John Simpson, Gloria Leith and Richard Fullarton before the new town war memorial.

A family is travelling from Canada to Ashington to join thousands in paying tribute to war heroes.

Descendants of an Ashington-born First World War hero are planning to be present to see the war memorial in Ashington re-dedicated two days before the Remembrance Sunday service on November 8.

They will join local residents to pay their respects to Sergeant Hugh Cairns, who died on the battlefield in France on November 2, 1918, and other people who lost their lives in the wars.

Hugh was born in Ashington in 1896, emigrating to Saskatoon in Canada in 1911. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery.

An information board recalling Hugh’s actions in the war is also being installed in a newly-created Memorial Garden on the site of the previous war memorial in the centre of the town.

The £150,000 Ashington Memorial Garden project has been developed and driven by Ashington Town Council in association with the Ashington Branch of the Royal British Legion and the Western Front Association.

At the centrepiece of the new garden, designed by Hugh Massey Architects, will be a relocated war memorial with a specially commissioned plinth.

One of the main features of the new plinth is that more than 130 additional names have been added to four plaques listing the names of service personnel from the town who lost their lives in the two world wars.

Mike Slaughter, town clerk for Ashington Town Council, said: “When the Town Council took over responsibility for the war memorial in 2011, it became apparent that the old plaques listing those killed in conflicts were incomplete with a number of names missing but nothing could be done to correct or add inscriptions because of the way the existing plates were designed.

“Over the past two years thousands of hours have been spent researching records by volunteers, including Margaret Allison, Gloria Leitch and David Easton in order to correct both omissions and errors.

“The new commissioned plaques now list the names of over 1,000 local service personnel – 840 from the First World War and 165 from the Second World War.

“Sadly, David Eastern of the Western Front Association died in 2014 so did not live to see the memorial re-dedicated.

“During that research it transpired that families of servicemen and women killed in the First World War had to pay to have their names inscribed on their local war memorials all over the country, but many could not afford the cost so their names were not recorded.

“Hopefully, to the very best of our knowledge, we have now corrected that in Ashington.”

As part of the project pupils from four local schools have been involved in researching and developing six information boards to be permanently installed in the memorial garden supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Coun Ely Turnbull, Mayor of Ashington, said: “The dedication service closely followed by the Remembrance Service will be poignant occasions for the townspeople, many of whom have relatives remembered on the memorial.

“We firmly believe that the town will now have a new garden and fitting memorial to the memory of those local service personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country.”