MHKs have voted unanimously to support a move to secure the future of the island’s 170 war memorials.
Home Affairs Minister and Rushen MHK Juan Watterson, current chairman of the government’s War Memorials Preservation Committee, was given leave to introduce a private member’s Bill that would place an obligation on landowners and local authorities to maintain and repair the memorials. He said this was particularly fitting in a year that marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
And he said it would mean the island leading the way in the preservation of war memorials.
Mr Watterson said: ‘There are not that many war memorials around this island that are in a poor condition but this does, however, I believe secure their future for future generations so we do not forget the sacrifice made.’
He described the Great War as ‘tragic episode in the history of humanity’ that made a ‘massive impression across the globe including, even possibly especially, the Isle of Man’.
Mr Watterson told the House of Keys: ‘We are all aware and proud of the fact that more Manxmen put themselves forward for service than any county in England. The names of those who fell are recorded on our island’s war memorials and there are around 170 such memorials - not just parish obelisks but plaques, buildings, books and windows - all sacred to the memory of those who paid the highest price for freedom.’
He explained that almost all the memorials around the island were erected by public subscription. The Second World War brought further memorials.
‘Sadly due to the passage of time, the loss of interest, the shame perhaps of war that society went through, none of these war memorial committees exist any more. Indeed the committee has noted that some memorials are in desperate need of repair or maintenance and there has been no owner, per se, to care for them.’
He said his Bill would make provision ‘fit for the future’, to ensure the ‘memory of those who died continues to be preserved beyond the lifetimes of those who remember them’.
Mr Watterson said that is currently no compulsion for anyone to preserve the memorials we have. Most local authorities act in good faith and use the powers of a 1927 Act to preserve them but if one fell into disrepair there would be no compulsion to maintain or restore it.
‘This bill would seek to place an obligation on the landowner, local authority or church where the memorial is sited to maintain it,’ he told MHKs. He said the Bill would give the Council of Ministers powers, possibly delegated to War Memorials Preservation Committee, to erect a new memorial, or vest a memorial in a local authority where ownership is unknown.
Mr Watterson said he would consult with both the church and local authorities.
‘In allowing leave to introduce this Bill, the island will lead the way the preservation of war memorials,’ he told the Keys.