"Those who went first did not hesitate to pay the greatest penalty."
Cllr Craig Gamble Pugh attended Western Road Memorial event on Saturday to commemorate the former Westways pupils who served in the First World War. With fellow Labour Councillor Tony Damms, he led the procession and spoke words from the 1919 planting ceremony and from 2017 local residents. Later, artists and residents painted and drew each memorial tree.
Cllr Gamble Pugh's speech:
"Today, the beauty and grace of these memorial trees, will be captured in the works of art to be produced. I’d like to paint a picture of my own, using the words of others, from 1919 and from 2017.
I’ll begin with the words of the local newspaper articles covering the 1919 planting ceremony:
“The intention of the memorial is to commemorate the self-sacrifice of four hundred and one former pupils who have served in the war, sixty-four of who have been killed.
During the past week the girls and boys of each class have been out planting the trees, and yesterday [4th april 1919] there was a
ceremony when the trees immediately outside the school gates were planted.
Carrying flags, the children paraded into the street, and trees were planted by Miss maxfield, the Rev W. pearson, Cllr J Kaye, her majesty's inspectors of schools Mr Quine and Mr Morris, and the three head teachers Miss Hassall, Miss corner and Mr Cotton.”
At that ceremony, my predecessor on Sheffield Council, Councillor Kaye, said: “There is nothing more delightful than to make the streets more beautiful and to honour those who have done so well for their country.”
Councillor Kaye said he “considered it a magnificent scheme” and “impressed the children with the necessity of seeing that the trees were kept free of damage.”
The local vicar, Reverend Pearson, also spoke on that day. He said:
“It is noticeable that those who had died were amongst the brightest and best of our manhood. Those who went first did not hesitate to pay the greatest penalty. Now it remains for the boys and girls of today to make England a place better worth living in. They will beautify streets and beautify lives.”
The community of 1919 summed up the purpose of the memorial succinctly and simply, carved here next to me in this stone:
“The trees in Western Road and Gillott Street were planted in grateful appreciation of the part taken by former pupils of this school in the Great War 1914-1919”
And the community of 2017 have also made it clear how dearly this memorial is loved, from the hundreds of messages from local people that I have received. I’ll share the words of two of them with you:
Richard emailed me to say:
"My grandmother planted one of the trees in 1919. Her name was Bessie Line and when she was alive, she would tell us why the trees were there. I now take my child to Westways, and I tell him about my grandma when she was a little girl, and about the boys from his school who went to the war and didn’t come back. The trees are a memory for generations of my family."
Finally, Elizabeth, another local resident, put it like this:
“Over its 100 year lifespan, as the trees have matured and become strong, so has the community they stand protectively over: standing over passing generations of those loved ones each soldier left behind, and over the wider community, for which the soldiers gave their lives."
They stand over us today- and, lest we forget, long may they continue to do so."