‘The soldiers are not gone if they are remembered‘
by Evelyn McKechnie
Back in 2007, I was extremely fortunate to meet Glasgow housewife and mother of three, Liz Cree. I still remember her infectious, bubbling enthusiasm about her quest of remembrance. She had been on the hunt for three years to trace a missing Roll of Honour to the men of Lyon Street, Glasgow who died in the Great War.
Her three-year quest has taken her to the People’s Palace, various funeral parlours, the Archdiocese of Glasgow, the Army, the Mitchell Library, the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum, various pubs and libraries. Liz made enquiries as far afield as Canada and Australia in her hunt for the missing Roll of Honour.
The memorial has been lost since 1985 and there has been no trace of it ever since, despite extensive research. However, it is entirely due to the inspirational efforts of Liz Cree, that a new Roll of Honour has taken pride of place in the local school, St Joseph’s Primary. The school was built on the original site of Lyon Street, in Cowcaddens, Glasgow.
Glasgow – the ‘Dear Green Place’
Glasgow, the second city of the British Empire, the industrial heart of Scotland and beyond, was a thriving, bustling city during the Great War. The River Clyde snaked its way through the centre, the blonde, grey and red stone tenements standing tall, some four or five stories high, perched on many of its hills.
Glasgow is a city of hills – Maryhill, Sighthill, Broomhill, Govanhill, Blackhill, Budhill, Cranhill, Dowanhill, Firhill, Garnethill, Jordanhill, and many many more. Glasgow is also home to many beautiful parks – hence ‘the dear green place’, but at the turn of the century, it was also home to slums which sadly remained until well after the Second World War.
Some of the working class tenements were severely overcrowded with horrendous dampness, and one of these streets was Lyon Street. It was a relatively short street, stretching from North Woodside Road to Garscube Road. The street housed around 1500 men, women and children in 1914. It is reputed that during the First World War more men were killed from Lyon Street, now renamed Raglan Street, than any other street in Scotland.
Such was the outpouring of grief of the loss of their husbands, brothers, sons – that the women left behind got a Roll of Honour made, which carried the names of those soldiers who did not return home. Every Remembrance Sunday from 1919 to 1939, Maryhill Barracks, home of the Highland Light Infantry, would send a piper to play “the Flowers o’ the Forest”.
A bugler would play the Last Post for the fallen soldiers of Lyon Street as the procession of mourners would proceed down Garscube Road. At the end of Garscube Road they would hang a large black cross, with RIP in white, adorned by a wreath of poppies. The Roll of Honour with its gold gilt frame would be displayed, it included 16 names of men who never came back; the 27 who were wounded, and two were simply marked missing on the roll.
Liz said, “It seems that at one time more people attended this ceremony
than the official one at George Square”.
Lyon Street was not a long street; it had eleven closes (entrances) and suffered severe overcrowding. Some closes housed up to 30 single ends (one apartment) and hundreds of families lived there. 211 men enlisted from these eleven closes, making on average some 10 men from each close. Some 20 of these men were Bantam soldiers whose height was between 5’ 1” and 5’ 4 and over 100 men from Lyon Street joined the Highland Light Infantry.
These men served in nearly every Scottish Regiment that fought in the Great War and supposedly Lyon Street was the most decorated street in Scotland if not the whole of Britain.
Sidney Allison, a Canadian film producer and military history, wrote of the men of Lyon Street, in his book, ‘The Bantams – the Untold Story of World War One.’ In Chapter Four, entitled ‘The Devil Dwarfs’, he wrote:
‘Precisely at eleven o’clock in the morning on each November 11th, the haunting melody of bagpipes playing “the Flowers of o’ the Forest” would skirl across the hushed back streets around Lyon Street, Glasgow. Women and children huddled close in doorways and stern-faced men pulled off cloth caps while they watched the kilted pipe-major march slowly back and forth’.
Five soldiers died from just one close, No 9 Lyon Street – James Gallacher (31), John Cotton, Terence McLaughlin, James Trotter (21), David Young. Five soldiers who died have no known grave – Privates Galloway (29), Kelly (died on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme), Quinn (19), Scott and Trotter (21). Those who have named graves are buried in Scotland, France, Belgium and in Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel and Palestine.
Liz, 41, got involved in the hunt for the missing Roll of Honour after attending a school board committee meeting at St Joseph’s Primary..
The school wanted to get fencing around tenement stones and cobbles which were all that was left of Lyon Street and was right in the middle of their playground.
Liz said, “It was then I found out about why the stones and cobbles were left there in the first place, it was as a memorial to the street and for the loss that was suffered. I just needed to find out more about what happened as I knew nothing about the Great War, not even when it started or finished.”
Liz learned that Lyon Street was pulled down in 1963 during the Glasgow slum clearances. In 1965, St Joseph’s Primary School was built on part of what was Lyon Street and now known as Raglan Street.
Liz said, “I found out a lot from different sources and by word of mouth. It seems that the Roll of Honour was kept by a different pub every year along Maryhill Road and Garscube Road and brought out every Armistice Day. It was later on that it was taken into St Joseph’s Chapel in Raglan Street but that was demolished in 1985 and it has not been seen since”.
Liz contacted the Archdiocese of Glasgow and drew a blank. She then went into every pub in the area and spoke to lots of elderly customers who remembered the Roll of Honour. Then she went to funeral parlours to find out if they could help with records of monumental sculptors who might know something. Again, she drew a blank.
She said, “Even in the local library, I would chat to older folk and they often could recall the memorial and the actual procession on Armistice Day”.
She contacted Alex Mosson, ex Lord Provost of Glasgow and as he was local to the area, helped Liz get a new plaque made. On 18th November 2005, on the 40th anniversary of St Joseph’s Primary School, a new plaque was unveiled to the memory of the soldiers of Lyon Street and takes pride of place in the school hall.
Mrs Caldwell, the school’s headmistress said, “We are very grateful for all the research that Mrs Cree did and the contacts that she made to establish the story behind the stones which resulted in getting the plaque designed and placed in the school hall”.
Back in 2007, Liz Cree’s youngest daughter, Shelby, 8, said of her Mum’s efforts, “She’s done a good job. It is sad about all the soldiers and they need to be remembered.” Liz’s son Alan, 12, said, “It took Mum a long time but even though she did not find the original Roll of Honour she got one made. The soldiers are not gone if they are remembered”.
Full list of those who died can be found here https://www.firstworldwarglasgow.co.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=30454&p=0
The Men of Lyon Street
Theres a little street in Glasgow
At the top of Garscube Road,
That has bred some noble soldiers
Worthy of a King’s abode.
The street is not a long one,
Just about six hundred feet,
But it’s turned out a man per foot
The Men of Lyon Street.
Some of them were in the Seaforths,
In the Sweeps or H.L.I.
The Argylls and the gallant Gordons:
In a foreign grave they lie.
Some are in the Forty Second,
Or the Borderers, so neat,
Cameronians, Fusiliers, all fighters,
The Men of Lyon Street.
Some are serving in the Navy,
Royal Scots, and R.F.A.
Some are in the Royal Irish
Pushing Fritz out of the way.
One a least has gained the honour
Of commissioned rank complete,
As they won a score of medals, have
The Men of Lyon Street.
They have surely made a record,
Even in this record war,
And we ought to sound their praises
Over all the world afar.
They have nobly done their duty
Those men who can’t be beat,
Who are worthy of all honour,
The Men of Lyon Street.
7th December 1917, R.F Morrison
Images courtesy of http://www.firstworldwarglasgow.co.uk
Thanks for reading. Evelyn McKechnie
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