The Barnbow Memorial 2012


ELHAS News December 2012

A Day to Remember

On the 4th December 2012, more than 200 people gathered in Manston Park, Cross Gates to witness the unveiling and dedication of the new memorial to the Barnbow Lasses.

This was the culmination of months of effort by Councillor Pauleen Grahame, the Parks and Countryside department of Leeds City Council and our society. You will be aware that we approached the council last year with a view to getting the existing memorial in Cross Gates road renovated. When this proved not to be a viable proposition the decision was made to erect a new memorial in the park. The main advantage to this proposal was that the design could include interpretation or information boards which would tell the stories behind the explosions, thus ensuring the courage and bravery of all involved at the factory could be honoured.

The unveiling ceremony was performed by Council Leader Keith Wakefield, assisted by family members of the casualties. Representatives from Churches Together in Leeds 15 provided some moving and meaningful prayers and children from four local primary schools, Austhorpe, Fieldhead Carr, Swarcliffe, and Manston read out the names of the victims. This was followed by a reading of a poem dedicated to workers by Richard Burgon.

Children from Grimes Dyke Primary school also attended along with local Brownie and Guide groups. The whole ceremony took place in brilliant sunshine and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone present.

The memorial itself, surrounded by a colourful flower bed, is an impressive piece of Yorkshire stone with a beautifully embossed plaque embedded into the stonework. The plaque and the accompanying information boards were designed by staff from the parks department with input from our society. The result is a memorial worthy of the 37 girls and three men who lost their lives working at the munitions factory during WW1.

Children who read out the names of the casualties were presented with a commemorative mug as a momento of the occasion and all the children who attended the event will receive a Certificate of Appreciation. The whole project, from the initial concept to the dedication service, is a credit to all who were involved.

Hot drinks were served in the park prior to the service and afterwards refreshments and hot drinks were available in the Barnbow public house courtesy of councillors Pauleen Grahame, Peter Gruen and Suzy Armitage.

ELHAS would like to thank Pauleen Grahame and the Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside department for their support and enthusiasm for this project.

Photos courtesy of Julia Wynne-Thorpe.

Since the ceremony there have been many inquiries about the poem read out by Richard Burgon so we have decided to add it to this report for all to read:

The Workers' Song
Ed Pickford as sung by Dick Gaughan

Come all of you workers who toil night and day
By hand and by brain to earn your pay
Who for centuries long past for no more than your bread
Have bled for your countries and counted your dead

In the factories and mills, in the shipyards and mines
We've often been told to keep up with the times
For our skills are not needed, they've streamlined the job
And with sliderule and stopwatch our pride they have robbed

But when the sky darkens and the prospect is war
Who's given a gun and then pushed to the fore
And expected to die for the land of our birth
When we've never owned one handful of earth?

We're the first ones to starve the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat's about

All of these things the worker has done
From tilling the fields to carrying the gun
We've been yoked to the plough since time first began
And always expected to carry the can.