Centenary War Monument

Address from Mr Brian Rae MBE, representing the Clague Cooil Briscoe Trust, at the handing over of the New Arbory Centenary Monument to the Arbory Parish Commissioners. 20th April 2016

SV102574Before we jointly hand over and entrust the safe keeping of this monument to the Arbory Parish Commissioners it is perhaps appropriate to spend a few minutes reflecting on some aspects of the history which has brought us to this point.

Henry Stuart Cooil is one of those listed amongst the fallen of this parish in World War One. Stuart, as he was known, was in his mid twenties and originally served as a private in the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He was drafted to France in November 1915 and dangerously wounded in August 1916. He spent a whole year recovering in hospital. In December 1917 he received his commission as second lieutenant in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and returned to fight at the front in August 1918. The war was almost over, but in early September, very soon after his return, Stuart was killed, just two short months before the armistice was signed. His body lies in the war cemetery near Cambrai in France.

No doubt there are equally sad and poignant stories behind all of the names listed on this monument. And we must not forget those who were left behind either.

Stuart’s father, Robert, was a merchant living in Cheshire. But he was born here on the Island and owned Parville, the large house here in Ballabeg. Robert died shortly after the war but in his will he left £3000 in “trust for the erection of a suitable monument or monuments to his sons, Henry Stuart Cooil and Anthony Cooil, in the Isle of Man and preferably in the village of Ballabeg”.

And so we have our Parish Hall, the two houses next door and of course the land on which this monument has been erected.

In the early 1970’s the Parish Commissioners arranged for the trust to combine with those of two other benefactors, Doctor John Clague and Miss Lucy Briscoe.

Income generated from the properties provided by Robert Cooil’s bequest have enabled your current trustees to join with MNH and the John Donald Collister Legacy to provide this monument which we witness being dedicated today.

As we live through the centenary years after the First World War here in Arbory, we felt this was a suitable time to remember and to reinforce our gratitude for the lives we are able to lead, because others from this parish endured sacrifice and suffering. We felt it needed to be done in a prominent, tangible and permanent way. We very much hope that Mr Robert Cooil would have approved and we hope that it might still be here in another one hundred years and beyond, reminding those who pass by of the sacrifices, grief and hardship mentioned on the stone.

It is wonderful to see Arbory School Class 6 here today, thank you and your teachers for coming. It might seem unlikely now, but perhaps you will have children and even grandchildren one day, so please remember to tell them how important it was that these people fought and struggled so that we can enjoy living and playing in our parish.