Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion


Before 1909 Detailed information
Compiled and copyright Roy Mackenzie 2016

Overlooking Wick Bay, on Proudfoot Road, there is a large two story monument built in 1909 to remember those Caithness people who fought and died for their country in many campaigns from the French revolutionary war circa 1797 to the Boer War in 1902. The tower is Baronial in style tower with a small turret at one corner; stone is drydashed with the dication inlaid into tower walls and is currently being taken into care by the Wick RBLS. Inside this tower, sealed in the floor, is a casket containing the names of 400 soldiers and sailors from the county. The windows of the Tower have the names of the campaigns engraved in the flagstone Windows. It was unveiled Saturday, 25 September 1909 by Lady Sinclair being sponsored by the Sinclair family. The local library has a book titled the Caithness Roll of Honour, written by Pastor John Horne, recording their names.

Photographs from old postcards

"Their names are here:
their deeds are in the histories
of the world."


Extract from the Northern Ensign 28 September 1909 entitled “Memorial Tower


THE ceremony in connection with the completion of this tower, which has just been erected on a prominent part of the braes on the north side of Wick Bay, was performed on Saturday afternoon, when a large number of ladies and gentlemen turned out to witness the proceeding. If it was somewhat appropriate that an element of sadness should accompany such a function, it is true that it was not entirely a wanting in this case. If it was not to be found in any marked degree amongst the people who paid their respects to the memory of their martial kinsmen—the heroes of a hundred fights—it was conspicuously observable in the frowning and unsympathetic elements. The sun had hid his head, the sky was overcast and the clouds could not refrain, though they did it in the gentlest manner imaginable, from shedding their gentled tears. Umbrellas there were in numbers amongst the company, but they were requisitioned only to an inappreciable extent.

Provost Ross who presided, said:—We have met here to-day for the purpose of holding memorial service. This tower has been erected, and it is hoped yet to have all the names of soldiers and sailors who have served their country, and who were connected with town or county, kept on record in this structure. He called upon the Rev. Mr Dickie to open the proceedings by a religious service. The reverend gentleman thereupon read some passages of scripture and engaged in prayer.

The town band thereafter played "The Dead March," which was followed by two buglers ascending to the battlements and sounding "The Last Post."

The Provost said it was intended that Sergt. Coull, the only living veteran in the county today, should perform the ceremony of unveiling the inscription, but he had been unable to attend. As it was a rather disagreeable day, the committee of management had decided to go on with the programme without further delay, and he called upon Col. Buik to do the unveiling duty.

Col. E. G. Buik said he was sorry that Sergt. Coull had been detained. As the representative of the local Territorials, he had, in the circumstances, consented to take his place. It was the nearest that could be done at that moment, and he would try to do it.

The gallant colonel thereupon polled the cord and relieved the Union Jack, which up till then had hid the following inscription :—

Perpetuate the Patriotism
of those
Natives of Caithness
Served their Country
Land and Sea.

Many of their names, rescued from forgetfulness, are preserved for prosterity in thin Memorial Tower.

“There names are here:
Their deeds are in the histories of the world:"

The Provost that Sergeant Miller, one of the volunteers who had gone to South Africa during the war, would place the casket containing the names of the soldiers and the subscribers in the receptacle prepared for it in the floor of the building. (Cheers.)

This was accordingly done by Sergt. Miller, amid further applause.

The Provost called on Pastor Horne to offer a few remarks as to the history of the tower. He had been the mainstay and principal moving power in getting it up. (Applause.)

Pastor Horne said :- Mr Provost, ladies and gentlemen, we do not gather here today to glorify war or extol the solemnities of the battlefield. Our object is one much worthier—warmly. to du homage to the memory of thorn fellow¬-countymen, of ours who were called to that sacrifice. For the last four years I have been endeavouring to collect their names—from old records and histories, by correspondence and personal enquiry, by visiting the graveyards in the county, and in endless other ways—and the result is that we have now rescued from oblivion over four hundred names which would otherwise have been forgotten. (Applause.) I confess that in reading over the list I am touched, deeply touched, by an emotion which has no little pride in it. Among others are the names of men who stood with Nelson on the famous "Victory” and fought by his side at Trafalgar, who were with Sir John Moore at the historic retreat of Corunna and saw him fall, who helped Wellington to shackle that blood-drinker Napoleon at Waterloo, who cheered and wept with the relieved garrison at Lucknow, who stood in the immortal "Thin Red Line” at the Crimea. And those brave spirits were men belonging to ourselves; they were cradled in our homes and nurtured on our native soil. (Applause.) The monument we dedicate to their honour here to-day is meant to embody our appreciation of their patriotism; but their real monument is an imperishable one, and which they helped to build themselves—namely, the greatness and supremacy of the British Empire. (Applause.) I think I ought to explain that our arrangements for to-day's ceremony are somewhat hasty, and necessarily incomplete. We had planned everything for Wednesday next, but we then discovered that the School Board had also arranged for laying the foundation stone of the new school on the same day and hour. The present School Board has a reputation for upsetting things, anyhow. (Laughter.) I might indicate, therefore, what is contemplated further. We shall have an ornamental weather-vane on the turret. This is a gift from our public-spirited townsman, Bailie Simpson. (Applause.) When I suggested to him that he might mike this offering, he agreed with so much readiness and grace that I was mad with myself became I hadn't asked him for the railing. (Laughter.) You see we require a railing to protect the Tower, and I should have hooked the bigger fish when I was at it, but I expect that some other kind angel will now give us the railing. (Laughter and applause.) The flagstone window, are built wide as we intend to cover them with inscriptions. On the outside we shall carve the names of the battles represented by our list—TrafaIgar, Waterloo, and so on ; and, some future day, when cash warrants it, we hope that the names of all the more than four hundred heroes may be engraved in the interior. (Applause ) Meantime, we put these names, with regiments and services, in a memorial urn. If we do not get all the names engraved in our own day, our children will, I am sure, see it done; but, being a young fellow myself, I hope to see it accomplished before I need a staff. (Laughter and applause.) I think it likely, too, that a floor may yet he inserted in the second storey, with a stair thither, and that a museum of relics may someday be established there (Applause.) After that, all you have to do is to put a tea-room on the roof. (Laughter) Well, now, I wish to tell you how deeply indebted I am to others for the assistance which has enabled me to accomplish thin design. When I first mooted the suggestion to the Riverside Committee they took it up readily. There were many points to discuss, and not a few obstacles to surmount ; but in course of time we got out into clear water, cod the Committee celebrated the event by opening the subscription Iist with a handsome donation of £25. (Applause ) In fact, they have been so generous, and indulgent with me, I wouldn't be surprised if they erected that much needed railing in the bargain. (Laughter.) Among the committee I am chiefly indebted to Messrs. Buik, Simpson, and Fletcher, with the secretary, Mr Ware. Indeed, I may say frankly, that but for exertions of those gentlemen (especially Mr Buik) it is doubtful if the Tower would have reached its accomplishment so soon. (Applause) There is another gentleman also whom I am obliged to for the successful issue of my suggestion. He has never been in Caithness, but is as public-spirited as if he had been born among ourselves. I refer to my friend, Mr John Shanks, architect, Kirkietilloch, who worked out the plan for us without fee or reward. (Applause) Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Tower is completed—at any rate, so far as the building is concerned. I understand that it was the subject of much comment and remark by those famous tribes, the wits and critics—(laughter)—but it is an old Scotch saying (one frequently forgotten or overlooked, however) that "fools an' bairns shoudna' see half finished things." (Laughter and applause) Now that it has taken shape, however, I am sure you will all agree that it is a handsome ornament to the bay, and no unworthy expression of our admiration of our fellow-countymen who gave themselves to the service of our country (Loud applause.)

Col. Buik proposed a vote of thanks to the subscribers, who, he said, were from every part of the globe, except perhaps the North Pole. There were none there when they were collecting, but they had been there since, and he hoped some more money would yet be got for the tower. They would like to pick up what was required for a railing to protect it, and especially for the names. It would not take very much. Two shillings would put on a name. The committee would be glad to receive the smallest contributions and devote them to this purpose. He had much pleasure in asking for a hearty vote of thanks to the subscribers. (Hearty cheer. )

Ex-Bailie Simpson said —I need not say that feel greatly pleased in supporting my friend Pastor Horne, in connection with the unveiling of the "Soldier Memorial " today, which forms an additional ornament to our bay. It not the first time that Pastor Horne has figured in this capacity. He was the prime mover in erection of the Calder Monument and the cross on the battlefield of Altimarlach. Ladies and gentlemen, it may interest you to know, that our first public seat was erected on this spot sixteen years ago, and from that small beginning all the improvement about the town followed. I will not detain you longer, but would ask you one and all, to accord a hearty vote of thanks to Pastor Horne; the Provost ; Col Buik; Sergt. Miller, and the Town Band for their attendance here to-day. (Loud cheers.)

The band playing "God save the King” brought the programme to a conclusion.

Extract from the John O'Groat Journal 16 August 2013:

Plans to restore historic memorial

Written byGordon Calder

The way it was – how the memorial used to look.

A BID is being made to restore a Caithness war memorial which commemorates the sacrifices made by local men at historic battles such as Waterloo, Trafalgar and Balaclava.

Highland Council wants to return the Soldiers’ Tower on the North Head path in Wick as near as possible to its original state as it has fallen into "a shabby condition".

Caithness ward manager David Sutherland told the John O’Groat Journal this week the council plans to lease the ground the memorial is built on so it can carry out the work.

The land is owned by Hempriggs Estate but it has agreed to lease it to the local authority.

Mr Sutherland said the project is expected to cost between £30,000 and £40,000 and should get under way later this year or early next year. The main source of funding is likely to be the War Memorials Trust and the council’s discretionary fund. The work is expected to be completed within a six-week period.

"We want to do a proper restoration of the tower, which was built by public subscription in 1909. The structure is in pretty good shape but in the 1980s it was covered with cement render which is now falling off. It is in a shabby condition and a barrier has been put around it as a temporary measure," said Mr Sutherland.

"We hope to do up the monument and install an interpretation panel which will provide information about the battles and the history of the tower itself. It could become an interesting visitor attraction. It is quite unique as not too many memorials were built before the First World War."

Mr Sutherland said the project may have to be carried out in two phases – the first to remove the cement render and then to assess the extent of the restoration required.

Once the work on the tower is finished, Mr Sutherland hopes it could become a listed building.

"I am keen to find any photos people may have of the tower between when it was built in 1909 and 1980. This will be very useful in ensuring any restoration work carried out returns the tower as near as possible to its original condition," added Mr Sutherland.

The tower was officially opened on Saturday, September 25, 1909. The ceremony was presided over by Provost Ross along with the Rev J McAusland Dickie who gave a reading and a prayer. The town band performed The Dead March, which was followed by The Last Post, played by two buglers who climbed on to the battlements of the tower.

Sergeant John Coull, who had seen service in the Crimea and in India and was the only surviving veteran of that period, was to have unveiled the plaque but was unable to attend.

His place was taken by Col EG Buick while a casket with the names of 400 veterans was laid under the floor by Sgt Miller who had served in South Africa in the Boer War.

Local historian Harry Gray said the catalyst and driving force behind the tower project was Pastor John Horne who had long wished to see a memorial raised to the Caithness men who had served their country on land and sea.

"The intention was to have a room of remembrance on the ground floor and to erect a middle floor which would have served as a mini museum. The tower was to have a fence around it and a weather vane on top but this never came to fruition," said Mr Gray.

"Today, the battle names can still be read on the various panels, names which still ring down the centuries – Trafalgar (1805), Waterloo (1815) and Balaclava (1854) – but the memorial is neglected. The entrance was bricked up shortly after the Second World War and the memorial now looks rather sad and in need of some tender loving care."

Extract from the John O'Groat Journal 9 November 2016:

Battle on to save Wick Tower

The Soldiers’ Tower at North Head was built in 1909

A MILITARY tower which has stood over Wick for more than 100 years could be torn down as public officials consider its future.

Highland Council is looking for feedback from the public on whether to carry out repairs or level the Soldiers’ Tower at North Head on the outskirts of the town.

But people have reacted angrily to any suggestion of knocking the historic monument down, branding such a move scandalous.

Read more in Wednesday's Caithness Courier.

Last updated: 24 December, 2016

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