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Friday 29 October 2010

Lost memorial - Rampside

I was recently trawling through the archives, looking at old newspapers. After 1918 there are almost daily entries about war memorials; meetings, fund raising, proposals and unveilings. One very short article I came across was so very poignant.

Captain Birnie was Edward D'Arcy Birnie son of Isabella and Robert Birnie of Sycamore Terrace, High Harrington, Cumberland. He died of wounds aged 26 on March 22, 1918 while serving with the 8th Bn Border Regiment. Before being commissioned in November 1915 he served as sergeant, 845, with the 5th Borders. He was in France from October 26 1914.

His father, Robert, a Scot, was a Head Gamekeeper who in 1901 was living at Winscales, the community largely obliterated by the Nuclear Industry.

Edward was clearly a fine young officer ...

On December 8 1916 the London Gazette carried a notice of the award of the Military Cross to Temp- 2nd Lt E D'A Birnie, Borders ..
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a successful bombing attack against an enemy strong point, himself killing at least 8 of the enemy.

Again, on July 23 1918, the London Gazette carried the report of the young acting-Captain's award of the Distinguished Service Order ...

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When hard pressed by the enemy he led several counter attacks against their bombing parties, and for hours kept large forces of the enemy at bay. At one time he took up a position on the parapet,and (being a marksman) accounted for many of them with a rifle. Finally, when his position became untenable, he successfully withdrew his men. He displayed exceptional skill and courage in face of great odds.
So upon his death he got a memorial gate light from his young fiance, at Rampside, an isolated church above The Bay on the coast road outside Barrow in Furness.

Who was Miss Pollitt? There was a Pollitt family living at 85 Rampside in 1901.

Thomas, the head of the family, was a Hatter, Hosier and Gents outfitter. Although there is no young girl with a name starting 'M' living with the family at the time there is a Margaret Henrietta, born Barrow in 1894, staying with her Grandparents in Ulverston. Perhaps this is her.

Sadly there is no sign now of a gate light in the churchyard at Rampside today. And no doubt Miss Pollitt is herself long dead - as is the memory of her love of a young officer. But this post remembers it.

The Shap road - Skelsmergh

An iconic place in the the North is Shap, the old A6 that runs over the high fells between Kendal and Penrith. In former days, prior to the construction of the M6, it was the only western route up Britain often packed with vehicles nose to tail. In winter the road was regularly blocked with snow drifts, sometimes for days at a time. Lorry drivers and any others caught had to sleep in isolated farm houses or at the once legendary ' Jungle Caf', now merely a caravan retailers.

Coming south off Shap, a couple of miles north of Kendal, a church appears on a slight prominence. This is St John the Baptist, Skelsmergh, a chapel of 1869/71, built on an earlier site and close to a Holy well.

The entrance to the church is through an elegant lych gate - designed by John Flavel Curwen??

It has an Art-Deco feel about it.

The rafters bears an  inscription, 'Gate of Remembrance', that betrays its purpose as the primary parish memorial of the Great War.

Inside the church itself is one of the Oak Crosses that it seems were given to the parishes of his Westmorland constituency in 1916 by Colonel Weston JP, MP of Enyeat. Like at Crosthwaite and elsewhere it was placed in the churchyard as the wartime memorial, where families might nail a brass plaque with service details and date of death of their men and boys. 

The central brass bears a dedicatory inscription ...

Forget us not O land for which we fell
May it go well with England - Still go well
Keep Her bright banners without blot or stain
Lest we should dream that we had died in vain

The repousse copper plaque to the left carries Binyon's elegiac words,

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old ....

It is perhaps the 2nd World War Memorial.

Google Earth image of High Hesket

It is quite productive in terms of War Memorials to take a tour of Cumbrian villages via Google Earth, quite a number are plain to see. A typical image is that of the church and memorial at High Hesket on the old road between Carlisle & Penrith.

The chancel arch of the chapel is apparently of 12th/13th century date but the main body is probably 16th century. Many corpses were interred here following an outbreak of plague about 1530 and a chapel was erected or enlarged about the grave pits. What is seen now is largely Victorian.

The sundial bears a wonderful inscription, download image for a clear view;

The memorial is an example of the work of Beatties of Carlisle, a prolific provider in the north of the county. Note the signature sculpture of military items on the base ..

It bears the names 'In Proud and Affectionate Memory ...' of both Great War & Second War dead.

'They Rest From Their Labours'

Sadly the church was locked when I was passing but there is probably a roll inside.