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The Scottish American History Club Newsletter
July 2010

The National War Memorial

At the November History Club meeting Gregg Charles Gammie, gave me a book that belonged to his grandfather, George Gammie. I read the book as part of my Veterans Day remembrance on November 11, 2009.

The book is titled Their Name Liveth, The Book of the Scottish National War Memorial by John Hay and was first published in 1931. Since most visitors to Edinburgh find their way to the Castle Rock this location was chosen for the National War Memorial. It was chosen after months of thought and planning, looking for the “site of all sites.” Once the site was chosen, attention turned to the type of building. Many objected to a modern building, afraid it would change the character of the Rock. The Scots did not want their Edinburgh skyline changed.

Fortunately, a building already existed on the summit of the Rock. It was part of the Palace Yard on the very edge of the cliff which drops almost “sheer down” to the Grassmarket on the south side. Another part of the building contains the ancient Banqueting Hall, which was in existence in 1440. Along the west side was a building that is now the Military Museum and on the east side stands the Palace Block where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to King James.

In the center of this area is the stone-vaulted Crown Chamber where the royal jewels, know as the Honors of Scotland, are often displayed. In 1916, a German zeppelin dropped a bomb on the Rock, but the Jewels had been safely removed. On this spot, with so many traditions and memories, it was decided to build the Memorial. The actual building was once a barrack for troops and was often known as the Billings’ Building. From a lack of use the building had fallen into disrepair. And so the Memorial went up, “built by Scottish brains, Scottish hands, and Scottish money.” The idea was first suggested in 1917 and the opening ceremony was held July 14, 1927. There is some evidence that our Saint Andrew  Society sent a gift, but the record is somewhat hazy and the amount is not given.

In the book there was much written about the opening day, but we don’t have room in our Newsletter to write the full story. Thousands came and overflowed the Esplanade, down the Royal Mile, past St. Giles, the Parliament House, along High Street and the Canongate, as far as Holyrood palace. It was “a public festival with a Sabbath atmosphere” as they awaited the arrival of their King and Queen.

The Prince of Wales was to perform the Opening Ceremony, but first there were prayers and the singing of the One Hundred and Twenty-First Psalm. The Prince now approached the strong oak doors, inserted a golden key in the lock and the doors opened. It was all recorded on a “cunningly placed microphone to the ears of invisible thousands all over the Empire.” The central arch contains the words:

 “To the Glory of God, and In Memory of Scots Who Fell, 1914-1918”

Pictured:  The front entrance of the Scottish War Memorial.

More information on the Scottish National War Memorial can be found at their website.

Memory Trees Stand in Eulogy
“The Dead Are Silent-The Trees Have Tongues”

The date is November 12, 1921. The place is Niles, Illinois. Two hundred women, all dressed in black, have come to Niles on a very wet and cold winter day. They were Gold Star mothers and had made the journey to honor their sons killed in the Great War. There was a large bronze tablet which carried the names of 240 sons. Each of the mothers carried flowers and these were placed along the bronze tablet.

Waukegan Road, running north from Niles was just being constructed and along this route was to be planted 240 memorial trees. The holes were dug into the wet soil by Boy Scout Troops 869 and 870. They worked until dark in order to finish their work

Nearby in a hall, services were held. Captain G. M. Caward, read slowly and distinctly the names of every “boy whose name graced the first of the great Memory Road tablets. The sobs of the mothers were almost too much to bear.”

James Keeley who first had the idea of the Memory Road planted the first tree. Ranson Kennicott, Cook County’s forester, delivered thousands of trees to the 25 planting places.

In the afternoon, another group of Gold Star mothers assembled at the Edward Hines, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Maywood, IL. It was a terrible winter day, the kind of weather that many had fought in during their term of service in France. The mothers and sisters stood there till the last tree was standing upright. Col. Henry A. Allen of the 105 engineers said that planted trees would become companions to those wounded. “I fancy the spirit of my comrades lives in these trees and I am going to make frequent journeys to see them standing here.”

Along the state line, north of Zion, people from cities in Illinois and Wisconsin gathered along the “new Waukegan government road” and planted the first of thousands of trees to follow. Ex-Gov. Charles S. Deneen and Judge Fairchild of Milwaukee delivered addresses. (Governor Deneen had spoken at the dedication of the Burns Monument in Garfield Park.)

Daniel S. Wentworth, had obtained the trowel used by Mrs. Warren G. Harding as she planted the first tree along the Lincoln Memorial drive in Washington. It was used in planting the first tree just north of Zion.

In Evanston, the American Legion planted trees to “blue stars turned to gold.” One tree was planted in honor of Miss Fannie Poole, a Red Cross nurse who had died in service. In Lake Forest, “a long and beautiful memory row” on Green Bay road extended for two miles. In Winnetka, in addition to their gold star trees, one was planted in honor of the Unknown Soldier. Harold W. Snell was in charge of the service.

The headline of the Chicago Daily Tribune, October 30, 1921, read “Wheaton Plants Elms for Its Heroes.” People were planting memory trees along Roosevelt Rd at the intersection of Naperville Road. The entire village was involved including school and civic organizations as 500 trees were planted along these two streets. We once lived in Wheaton, so I know that location well. In fact, I remember residents fighting to save their trees along Naperville Road as it was being widened. Each tree was adorned with a yellow ribbon. They lost and the memorial trees are now gone.

A Great Parade down Michigan Avenue

The date is Monday, April 12, 1919, and there is a great parade down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The newspaper picture shows thousands of people standing along the street. A company of troops, marching in formation, is also shown and American flags are flying everywhere. Why a giant parade on May 12? Troops are marching in honor of the Gold Star Mothers.

The day before had been Mother’s Day. The churches were filled - “almost like Easter Sunday. ”Pastors commented on the words spoken by Christ on the cross concerning the care of His mother. Six returning soldiers were welcomed at the Calvary Presbyterian Church. The Rev. R. D. Kearns said “When you find a mother who gives herself to poodle dogs, cards, and society to the neglect of the church and the home, there you will find a boy not right.” Dr.Kearns continued, “The glory of motherhood is seen in her sons, who have come under discipline and the home influence.” The Rev. Will F. Shaw, pastor of the Sheffleld Avenue Church of Christ, said, “The test of a nation’s morality is the degree of its respect for mothers and the home.”

Gold Star mothers occupied the reviewing stand as the “procession of floats, Marines, crippled soldiers, men fresh from the front, members of the Salvation Army, and the young women of the Y.W.C.A. passed by led by bands and viewed by throngs which lined the sidewalks.”

American Gold Star Mothers

American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. is an organization of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the service of our country. If you've lost your child and would like the community of others in your situation, you are invited to join their organization. No one knows how you feel like another mother who has lost a child. Contact them at here.


In reading through old copies of the Chicago Daily Tribune, I came across this story which was new to me. The 70th Congress approved an act called the “Pilgrimage Act”, which appropriated funds to allow mothers and widows to travel to European cemeteries where their sons and husbands are buried. The total number of women approved to make the trip came to 18,256 and of this number 6,674 actually made the pilgrimages. I do not know who made the trip from Chicago and Illinois. The average age was sixty-seven. At the time the article was written, it was believed that 30,800 soldiers were buried in military cemeteries in Europe.

Most of the ships left from New York. In fact, there is a picture of hundreds of Gold Star mothers and widows standing on the steps of the city hall in New York (above). They were the first to make the trip on the liner America. Thirteen years earlier, the troop ship S.S. Orduna had left on the same day in 1917, when the first contingent of American troops had sailed for France. Now their mothers and widows land at Cherbourg, France and have ten days to tour Paris and the various cemeteries. Four days were allowed at the ceme-teries. They were often met by General Pershing, and the entire trip would cover 27 days.  

Each person was issued a badge created by Bailey, Banks and Biddle. It was in three parts with a top bar of bronze, inside  was engraved the name of each mother or widow.  The ribbon was red, white and blue with a pendant of irregular shape.  The steamship lines also issued a bronze medal created by Tiffany and Company of New York.  On the back was the legend: “Gold Star Pilgrimage to the Battlefields of The World War.”

 The motto at each cemetery is “Time will not dim the Glory of Their Deeds.”

* One Gold Star mother's story of her trip to Europe, as told by her great granddaughter, can be found on the internet.
   Part I
   Part II

More information can be found here.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546