Part of the Great Wars Trail
The proposal for a war memorial in Holywood had influential support from the beginning, with a public meeting under the presidency of Sir James Craig.
The commission was given to an Englishman, Leonard Stanford Merrifield of Chelsea, a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, as announced in the local newspaper in September 1919. The base was to be of Portland stone, 9’6” high, on which would be a 6 foot high statue of a soldier in bronze.
The work was not complete until the afternoon of Saturday 28 January 1922, when Holywood’s memorial to those who died in the Great War was unveiled in the presence of a large gathering of townspeople.
The memorial was erected on a site facing the railway station in a central position in what was then known as Railway Square. The site had been purchased from the Harrison estate by Mr D A Fee J.P., Chairman of the Urban District Council and was presented by him to the Council for the town, as a site for the erection of the War Memorial plus an area of open space.
The memorial sculpture represents the soldier in full kit in the ‘on guard’ position and according to one description, shows by the expression of grim determination the stern task which these brave men faced in that world conflict. The statue stands on a plinth of Portland stone. A bronze plaque reads:
‘In grateful memory of the men of Holywood and District who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918. Their name liveth for evermore.’
CQMS Webster, Commandant of the Holywood Branch of the British Legion, read the names of the fallen, each name being followed by a beat of a muffled drum. Silence reigned during the ceremony. The Last Post was sounded by three buglers of the 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry Regiment (then at Palace Barracks).
Mrs Bessie Dunlop of ‘St. Helen’s’, the widow of the town’s medical practitioner Dr Dunlop, unveiled the statue. She said:
‘Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel very honoured on being asked to unveil this beautiful and striking monument, erected to the memory of fellow townsmen who gave their lives for King and Country. I am one of those who suffered a double loss among them. I think my eldest son was, of those commemorated today, the very first to fall. We are very fortunate in finding such an artist as Mr Merrifield to design the monument, which I now unveil.’
After the unveiling, Mrs Elliott of Sullivan Street laid the first wreath on behalf of the people of the town. She had lost three sons in the conflict – William, Joshua and Francis. William Elliott and John Dunlop were both killed in the last week of August 1914.