First World War Centenary: Glasgow switches from sporting triumph to sober recollection - Home News - UK - The Independent

First World War Centenary: Glasgow switches from sporting triumph to sober recollection

 

Political Correspondent

From the ecstasy of sporting glory to the the hell and horror of remembered war.

After welcoming the world for almost two weeks of athletic contest at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow fell quiet yesterday as locals and visitors reflected on a time when international rivalries had darker consquences.

At 9.30am, a half hour before the gathered dignitaries including Prince Charles David Cameron were fully seated in Glasgow Cathedral for a special service to mark the outbreak of the Great War, eight-year old Cooper Black from the nearby town of Cambuslang was already in place and proudly holding his ticket in George Square in the city centre.

 

Last year Cooper travelled to the Somme battlefield with his father and his sister Eva. He said he wanted to visit the square - the site of the main UK cenotaph commemoration - to “thank the soldiers because they fought for us.”

Along the line from the Black family - and wearing the bright yellow officials’ jacket that he had worn to the Games - was Alan Juleosi from the tiny South Pacific island state of Niue. He wished to pay his respects in person “because my grandfather joined up the day the war started.”

The Polynesian island, with a population of 1,190 is the size of small parish. But Alan’s grandfather, like others, joined the larger New Zealand force that sent its young men to Europe.

A few paces away, a Commonwealth athlete from the South Atlantic island of St Helena also paid his respects. If he had been born 100 years earlier, Lee Yoen might have signed up for one of the Scottish regiments with which his nation had ties and fought in the trenches, rather than travel to Europe to play badminton for his country.

People viewed wreaths laid at the cenotaph in George Square People viewed wreaths laid at the cenotaph in George Square (Getty) He admitted to “not listening in school” when the First World War was being taught. “But it interests me now.”

In the cathedral a few miles away, broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald promised that over the next four years – the duration of the war – more would be heard of the “courage and suffering” of who those who fought and gave their lives.

There are dangers in such services of remembrance that war itself looks like it is being celebrated.

Inside the cathedral, there were evident efforts to prevent that. Acknowledgement of the “mixed feelings of the legacy” left by the conflict were stated; that more could have been done diplomatically to prevent it. Gordon Campbell, the Canadian High Commissioner, spoke of the “flaming wind of war”.

Ranjan Mathai, India’s High Commissioner, used the words of a Punjabi Rajpuyt soldier to describe the rendezvous with death and the horrific truths that those not on the frontline never fully appreciated at the time.  “Do not think this is war. This is not war. It is the ending of the world,” the soldier wrote.

Perhaps the most moving reading came from Joanne Thomson. Recently graduated from Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire, she took on the role of the young wife of the Welsh poet Edward Thomas, who knew when waving goodbye to her officer husband, it would be the last time she would see him alive. In character and close to tears she said “there was nothing but the mist and snow and the silence of death.”

The 11 days of competition at Glasgow 2014 were timed to end the day before the centenary of the Great War. It ensured that representatives from across the Commonwealth were in Scotland to mark what one speaker called the “day the world changed … and the memory of which still haunts us.”

A former serviceman places a poppy to mark the centenary A former serviceman places a poppy to mark the centenary (Getty) However one army major in George Square, there to pay respects, but not part of the official service, remarked that although the lessons of the Great War are taught, it was “never the war to end all wars”. Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere reveal that war remains an enduring political reflex, and is not always the end result of failed diplomacy.

In the square, the Duke of Rothesay – as the Prince of Wales in known in Scotland – laid the first wreath of the cenotaph ceremony. Further wreaths were gently placed by the Prime Minister, the Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, the Labour leader, Ed Milband, and the heads of the UK’s three devolved parliaments, including Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister. Scores of Commonwealth representatives followed.

The pipes and drums of the Scots Guards, the band of the Parachute Regiment, and representatives of the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, all stood silent. And as a lone bugler played the Last Post, two women in a corner of the square lifted a small home-made banner embroidered with the words “Lest we Forget”.

But we do. Less than a year after the Great War ended in 1919, the coalition government in Westminster ordered troops and tanks into George Square to quell angry trade union demonstrations demanding lower working hours to ease growing post-war unemployment.

A 4.5 Howitzer field gun was placed outside the City Chambers. David Cameron and Prince Charles stood in almost the same spot for the service’s march-past.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week