Committees “Go to War” Over Proposed War Memorial!

Hornsey Journal, 10 January 1919

The War Memorial

A fortnight before Christmas a town’s meeting was called by the Mayor of Hornsey to receive proposals for a memorial “to commemorate the brave men of the borough who have given their lives for their country in the great War”.

At the instance of the Mayor a Committee, consisting of members of the Town Council and representative of the chief local organisations, had been formed to consider the subject, and it was the conclusion to which they had come that the meeting was invited to adopt. Independent suggestions were not invited.

The scheme laid before the gathering comprised the erection of a monument, the extension of the Cottage Hospital and the purchase of the Crouch End Playing Fields. Alderman West (chairman) proposed an amendment which, while ostensibly agreeing with the three projects, made the acquisition of the Playing Fields impossible by imposing the condition that immediate possession must be obtained, and everybody interested in this sports ground knows that its “immediate possession” is not to be had.

Having thus eliminated this part of the scheme, he proposed that scholarships for the elementary schools should be founded with the money that would be released. One or two other suggestions were made, such as pensions for the widows and dwellings for the dependents. After a long discussion the meeting approved of the erection of a memorial to cost “no less” than £5,000, recognised the Committee, and authorised them to obtain further information in regard to the other two schemes.

The Town Council have now appeared on the scene. A special meeting was held on Thursday evening in last week “to consider the question of the proposed war memorial”, and a brief though verbatim report of it appeared in our columns on the following day. We say “brief” advisedly, for at the beginning of the proceedings Councillor Moritz moved that the representatives of the Press should be excluded, on the ground that this was “a purely domestic matter”.

How a subject that intimately concerns everyone who has suffered loss in the war, and less intimately everyone who wishes to honour the dead, could possibly be considered “domestic” – by which we suppose was meant that it concerned the Council’s own household, and that alone – it is difficult to imagine.

Even if it had been so, the fact would be no justification for secret discussion.  A meeting of the Town Council can only be held in private when “the public interest” of the inhabitants of the borough would be jeopardised by publication of the discussion. We have to suppose that this was not the only occasion on which the law has been vitiated of late by the Council, and more may be heard on the subject.

However, the Mayor took the opportunity to make a statement, in which he said that it appeared impossible to bring the conflicting parties to any agreement, and that under the circumstances he thought the best thing to do was “to go for the monument and the monument only”.

At the close of the private meeting the Press was informed that the Council had passed a resolution inviting subscriptions for a memorial which should cost no more than £5,000, any amount raised in excess of that sum to be divided between the Hornsey Cottage Hospital and scholarships for children.

The position is extraordinary. A Committee, approved by a town’s meeting, are regarded as the body appointed to promote and carry out the work of establishing a war memorial in and for the borough. The Town Council now come forward and invite subscriptions to a scheme which they have arranged at a meeting held behind closed doors, only their conclusions having been allowed to transpire. This was an inexcusable fashion of dealing with a subject of intense local interest, especially as the scheme they have devised to be carried out by the contributions of the inhabitants.

The action they have taken shows that the discussion was anything but a “domestic” character, and it further suggests that they wish to oust the War Memorial Committee approved at the town’s meeting from their duties and establish themselves as the local authority for the work.

Had they contented themselves with sending a recommendation to the Committee, their intervention might perhaps be forgiven, but they ignore that body and apparently seek to usurp its functions. They would resent such conduct themselves, and properly so, had any attempt been made by an authorised body to interfere with their municipal functions. We cannot imagine that the inhabitants of Hornsey will submit in silence to such cavalier attitude.

In view of the various difficulties that have arisen – some of which ought never to have appeared – it may be expected that the Hornsey memorial will be a monument of some kind with the names of the fallen inscribed on the base. It may be an architectural fabric, or it may be statutory – Hornsey might indeed be proud if it were able to point to such a work as Thorvaldsen’s Lion at Lucerne, to which one of our correspondents has alluded.

The public seem more nearly united on this suggestion than any other. With the accomplishment of it as the first aim, the advocates of the various other projects could push them undisturbed, whether they described them as war memorials or by any other name.

Website editor’s note

This is an abridged version of the original article. The original article can be consulted at the Old Schoolhouse.

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