As we again remember those who have fallen during conflict, a new chapter begins at Prestonpans War Memorial.
Over the past few years, a project to repair and refresh the Civic Square and War Memorial has been ongoing and has now reached a quite stunning conclusion.
Refreshed and repaired stonework and railings, and superb additional name plaques have been installed, while work to create 'seascape frames' in the sea wall has created an engaging space which can be experienced on many levels. While we visited, we took the time to meet up with Dr Johnston-Smith, who has been instrumental in the conservation project, and Iain Williams of G Brown Stonemason Ltd, contractor for much of the repair work.
It was clear that seeing this project through to its final stages has been a source of great pride for both DJ and Iain. DJ gave some background on the focus of what they had set out to achieve in a conservation project which has involved many local trades over the past couple of years:
He said "It has been an enormous honour to play a part in identifying and researching the 88 individuals now commemorated on a new war memorial in Prestonpans Civic Square. Seven of them unfortunately had their names spelled incorrectly on the nearby century-old memorial by William Birnie Rhind, the rest are being honoured by the residents of Prestonpans for the very first time."
DJ is passionate about telling the untold stories of the people whose memory had faded and been nearly forgotten: "The list of names is long, and I hope to be able to share a little more about their lives and sacrifice in due course, but the one whose memory I particularly dwelled upon as a small crowd of us gathered at the memorial to mark the Armistice at 11am today was Cecilia Cochrane Sunshine (nee Edmond).
Born and raised in Prestonpans, from an old-established local family, the 19-year-old private in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was seriously injured while home on leave at her parents’ home in Prestonpans in 1942 and sadly succumbed to her wounds in hospital in Edinburgh the next day. Having died while engaged on active service, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission honoured her with one of their official headstones in the town cemetery. Eighty years later her hometown now does the same by adding her name to this new civic memorial, the first local woman to be so recognised."
Like many of us, he reflects on his own family history at this time, and how to pass down these stories and memories to the next generation.
He commented: "Over this weekend of remembrance, I shall be talking to my son about Cecilia and all of the other individuals listed on both memorials, as well as about members of our own family who fell during World War One. As the line that tops our new memorial encourages those standing before it, “No one is ever truly forgotten whose name is still spoken.”
The hard work and dedication of those who have worked to bring a new chapter to the Civic Square and War Memorial is clear to see, and this wonderful, engaging space is tangible evidence of that. The square is well worth a visit, whether to take a moment of personal reflection or to enjoy the new history boards and stunning views.
More information about this and the other fantastic heritage locations can be found here.