Symbols of War and Peace
The Union Bank of Scotland First World War Memorial
To coincide with Armistice Day our From the Collections this month focuses on the theme of remembrance.
The ‘terrible carnage’ of the First World War devastated communities across the globe. The constituent companies of Lloyds Banking Group shared in this suffering. Nine hundred and seventy members of its staff were killed or died on military service.
It was a huge loss. Many institutions, including the Glasgow-based Union Bank of Scotland, felt a need to commemorate it in a permanent and public way. In April 1922, this imposing memorial, carved from wood, was unveiled at the Bank’s head office, ‘to do honour to the memory of the brave men… who served and fell in the Great War.’
It was designed by the artist and architect Thomas Callendar Campbell Mackie, who was based at the Glasgow School of Art. Beautifully ornate and intricate, Mackie’s design was intended to make ‘everything full of meaning’. Around and below the three panels containing the names of the dead are symbols of conflict – swords, thorns and ‘Dogs of War, grim beasts let loose upon mankind’. Countering these are more hopeful emblems, reaching up to overgrow the former: lilies of peace in the two centre columns, and above the dedication, peacocks and grape vines signifying the soul and eternal life.
Eighty-four men are listed on the memorial. Amongst them is Walter MacLay, the very first casualty suffered by the Group. MacLay was employed as a messenger at the Union’s head office in Glasgow. He was also a reservist with the Second Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and was recalled for military service at the outbreak of war. The Highlanders were amongst the first troops to be shipped out to France.
MacLay was killed on 26th August 1914 at the Battle of Le Cateau. He had been in France for just 12 days. Due to the immense number of British casualties and troops taken prisoner, MacLay was at first recorded as missing. It was only in 1915 that his death was finally confirmed.
You can find out more about the six other memorials maintained by Lloyds Banking Group in Our Memorials.
To discover more about the impact of the war on the Group, or read further items on staff who served, see our World War One exhibition.
Thanks are due to David McNay of the Scottish Military Research Group for information on Walter MacLay.