Helping hand to repair Lewis War Memorial

Lewis War Memorial in Stornoway.
Lewis War Memorial in Stornoway.

A Lewis landmark could benefit from funding made available to mark the centenary of the First World War next year - however any improvement works to Lewis War Memorial are unlikely to be enough to allow the interior to be re-opened to the public.

The 85 foot tower was built in 1924 as a memorial to the 1,151 island men lost in World War I with funds raised by the people of the islands and also a substantial donation from landowner Lord Leverhulme.

The interior includes an entrance chamber and four upper chambers accessed by steel stairs which were dedicated to the different parishes of the islands, giving long range views to their homelands. Additional plaques were added to commemorate those lost in World War II.

Sadly the tower has been closed to the public since 1975 due to deterioration and despite efforts to keep water out, it has never been fully successful.

However, this year funding for some improvements is to be sought from the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund announced this week by First Minister Alex Salmond.

The £1million fund is to help clean and restore memorials across the country which pay tribute to those who died in both world wars and other conflicts.

Mr Salmond said: “The events in 2014 to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War will not be a celebration in Scotland, but a commemoration of the servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price in defence of our country. Scotland’s war memorials – from the magnificent to the more modest – pay tribute to those fallen and will be an important part of the commemorations in communities the length and breadth of Scotland in 2014.”

He added: “Each memorial reminds us of the sacrifice made by those who died during the Great War, the Second World War and other conflicts. They remind us of the futility of war and the necessity that we never forget the sacrifice made by those who fell in conflict.”

A spokesperson for the Comhairle said re-opening the Lewis War Memorial to the public was unlikely due to safety concerns and said the majority of the commemorative stones from within had been relocated outside.

He said: “There is water penetration where the pointing has been weathered, predominately on the western elevation. It would be our intention to apply for grant funding to under-take external re-pointing of stonework and potentially some

minor improvements to internal metalwork and ventilation.”

He added: “The internal stairways and ladders are not suit-able for public use and the internal layout does not lend itself to practical modification.”

There are many other community owned war memorials across the Western Isles and the the Centenary Memorials Fund is open to applications from any community over the four year centenary commemorations.