'˜Peace tree' memorial to honour those opposed to war to be erected

Thousands of Scottish voices who opposed the two World Wars will be remembered with a peace tree sculpture in Princes Street Gardens.

Brian Larkin and Kate Ive with a model of the sculpture. Picture: Contributed
Brian Larkin and Kate Ive with a model of the sculpture. Picture: Contributed

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Committee approved permission for a bronze and granite sculpture to be put up near the Ross Fountain in the city centre green space in memory of conscientious objectors.

The project will be funded by the Conscientious Objectors Memorial Partners and it is hoped it will be constructed by August 2019.

Brian Larkin, co-ordinator of the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, said conscientious objectors were “scarcely recognised in public spaces”.

He added: “There are conscientious objector memorials in London and other cities, but not yet in Scotland’s capital city. Conscientious objection and opposition to war is a significant part of Scotland’s history. A conscientious objectors memorial in Princes Street Gardens will ensure that this significant history is recognised in a site that’s visited by millions of people.”

Around 80,000 people marched to oppose the First World War at Glasgow Green in 1914. A total of 1,434 men appeared before tribunals in Scotland, including 237 in Edinburgh.

Mr Larkin added: “Princes Street Gardens is a haven for local people who seek peace and quiet during hectic days.

“The conscientious objector memorial will celebrate the fact that Britain was the first country to recognise a right to contentious objection – a right that is now recognised by most European countries. It will not criticise those who fought and died in wars but will invite reflection on the roles of those who followed their consciences, even against dominant norms.”

The bronze handkerchief tree sculpture was designed by Edinburgh artist Kate Ive, who was inspired by a rally by conscientious objectors during the First World War.


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Ms Ive said: “The conscientious objectors fluttered their handkerchiefs in support of the speakers, which I found particularly poignant and moving.

“The two metre peace tree will have up to 30 bronze handkerchiefs which will each feature a unique design.”

The sculpture will also feature a granite curved seating area, inspired after conscientious objectors were sent to work in a quarry in Aberdeen during the First World War.

Councillors unanimously supported the proposals with the exact location to be decided by officers.


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Green Cllr Chas Booth said: “I think it’s fantastic. It’s clearly beautiful and it encourages thought, it encourages respect for those who showed the bravery to stand up in the past to war.”

Conservative Cllr Nick Cook praised “the consideration and the thought that has gone into this”.

SNP Cllr Eleanor Bird added: “I think the sentiment behind it is incredibly important.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, formerly worked for a landmine and cluster munition non-governmental organisation.


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She said: “I was tasked with dealing with those weapons and the impact of those weapons both during conflict and post-conflict.

“I’ve witnessed and understood very clearly the impact of war on human lives – the practical, the social, the very human cost attached to war.

“I think it’s very important that the voices that represent opposition to that can be heard in every situation.

“I think it’s very important that it’s heard in Scotland’s capital city.”