By Betsy Everett
Hawes residents will have a say on where the memorial to the late John Blackie will be placed, following complaints to the parish council.
The commemorative stone was to be sited on the green near the monument to the war dead after the design was approved in December by Hawes and High Abbotside parish council.
Gayle resident Richard Noble had planned landscaping around it, and assured the meeting this week that the stone would be about 40 feet away from the memorial to the 63 men who gave their lives in the two world wars.
He stressed he had no view on where it should be, but had merely drawn up a plan so that council members and residents could have an idea of the scale.
Mr Blackie, who died in July, was former chair of the council, as well as a county and district councillor, and had been instrumental in commissioning the war memorial.
Resident Bob Ellis told the meeting that neither he nor his wife, Penny, objected to the principle of a memorial to Mr Blackie, nor to the design.
But he added: “But the area is known as the memorial green and the memorial is to the war dead. [John’s memorial] is important, of course, but it is different.
“We have not initiated a conversation about this but people have said to us that it detracts from what is a well-respected monument to the war dead.
“There is a strong view in the community that you should look elsewhere.”
Kevin Nugent, a former parish councillor who worked alongside Mr Blackie for 11 years, spoke of the significance of the war memorial to the town.
“Sixty-three men named on that plaque left this town for a task they did not want to do. They left and never came back to their wives and families and best mates.
“I’ve been to St Margaret’s church for 22 years to the remembrance service and it is always packed out.
“People then follow the military men up that hill to lay their wreaths and as they do so that memorial comes into sight. I say to you: leave that green free for the 63 and show them the respect they deserve.
“If you don’t do that you are doing this parish a dishonour. You are not doing what the people of the town would prefer, given the option.”
He also argued it would not be what Mr Blackie, who died in July, would want.
“John played a major part in getting that memorial built and I don’t think for one moment if he were here tonight, considering a monument for someone – anyone – he would agree to it being on that same green,” he said.
Jill McMullon, chair of the council, said she had heard exactly the opposite view.
“The war memorial is of the utmost importance. Two of my own family are named on there. But the memorial to John will be 40 feet away and it’s of natural stone. A lot of people have said what a perfect place it is after all he’s done for the town,” she said.
Another resident said he had heard no objections to the siting of the memorial prior to the council meeting.
Mr Blackie had brought the community garage, the post office and the war memorial to the town so having his commemorative stone there was entirely right.
When another resident suggested a plaque be placed in The Neukin, where the community office is sited “at the centre of John Blackie’s empire,” Cllr McMullon said she thought he deserved more than a plaque.
Councillor Sheila Alderson said she thought the memorial green was appropriate.
“If it hadn’t been for John there wouldn’t be a war memorial there at all, so I think it is a very fitting place,” she said.
Councillor Barry Wilcox said he agreed with the symbol of remembrance for Mr Blackie, but thought Turfy Top would be a better location.
Cllr McMullon said that Calverts the builders, who had offered to donate the stone to the community, had said it would be too heavy to place there.
Other residents suggested Town Foot, near the shepherd sculpture.
Members agreed with resident Jake Dinsdale and others that there were too few people present to decide on such a potentially divisive issue and Cllr McMullon said: “We can put it to the town and the town can decide where it is going to be.”