The West Wemyss Memorial Sculpture
Just before 11 am on January 23rd 1941, an explosion rocked the Fife coastal village of West Wemyss. Five men were killed in the explosion, the youngest was just 15 and the oldest was a 69 year old miner.
Special Constable George Storrar, a 38 year old miner and Special Constable with Fife Constabulary, was alerted to a floating object in the sea. With the help of Colin Smart, a 36 year old Home Guard volunteer, they found a sea mine had been dislodged from its moorings.
They knew that it was highly likely that it was still armed and if left, it could drift towards the village with grave consequences. They decided to try and tether the mine, fully aware of the dangers to themselves.
They gathered ropes and with the help of 58 year old James Anderson, retired miner David Laing and 15 year old Peter Graham, tried to secure the semi-submerged sea mine. The explosion shook the village and 3 men died instantly and the other 2 soon succumbed to their injuries and died. The men are all buried in the graveyard of the village church of St. Adrian’s.
In September 2010, Jake Drummond approached Bruce with the idea of erecting a memorial to these 5 brave men on the 70th Anniversary of their deaths. Funding was difficult at first, but after Bruce produced drawings, Fife Council agreed to fund the project pound for pound. This left a very small community with a fair bit of money to raise, which they did very successfully!
A 4 ton block of granite was unearthed from Denfind Quarry land and used for the main part of the sculpture. Another 2 ton slab of Denfind stone was used for the base. These stones were donated by Denfind Quarry. Bruce started work immediately to carve and polish the sculpture. Some of Denfind Quarry’s workers helped Bruce in their spare time. David Sinclair in particular was a great help.
On completion the sculpture was successfully transported to West Wemyss by Norman Jamieson Ltd of Duntrune. The village had prepared the foundation and laid the landscaping, so all was ready for the unveiling.
After a Church service at St Adrian’s in West Wemyss, the sculpture was unveiled on Sunday 23rd January at 11am, 70 years to the day and hour of the fateful explosion. The sculpture was unveiled by Mr. Andrew Wemyss and representatives of the Home Guard and Fife Constabulary joined the villagers to honour these brave men of West Wemyss.
Some video’s showing the construction of The Wemyss Memorial;
Bruce’s thoughts on The West Wemyss Memorial
After a meeting with Jake Drummond, we agreed on the form of a sea mine. I wanted to make a thing of beauty from the thing that destroyed their lives. I designed a sea mine on waves in a sort of abstract flowing form. Intertwined gently around the five stainless steel detonators of the mine would be the names of the five victims.
I wanted to carve a poem along the waves and Jake did a lot of research and eventually found a very appropriate quotation by the Geek Historian, Thucydides (born 460BC and died around 395BC) . “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it” It is nice when the people organizing the sculpture have their input, as I was finding it difficult finding a verse which would sum up the true bravery of these men.
I was very fortunate in finding the granite boulder, which came from the last Ice Age. It had beautiful markings and there were no laminations, something that is common in glacial erratics.
I began carving the granite in September 2010. It was very hard and physical work to transform this rough granite boulder into a work of art. The granite had to be sculpted into the shape required , and then smoothed. The mine was shaped using a template to get the round shape. After the mine was shaped, it was then polished. This is done using a polishing machine with 12 graduated diamond-impregnated discs, ranging from rough to fine. This is a time-consuming process and also very physical. The waves were then carved and certain areas were polished.
The last part was to determine the placing of the five detonators and carve the names of the five men and then carve the quotation by Thucydides.
It was a very emotional piece to carve as I could picture these five men , the youngest 15 and the oldest 69. It was their quick thinking with no real thought for their own safety that saved the village. They knowingly went to meet the danger that lay before them and this is true heroism. As with many incidents in the Second World War this accident was not reported and there was no acknowledgement of their bravery.
I cannot put into words the enthusiasm, determination and commitment this small community of West Wemyss gave to this venture. The unveiling 70 years to the date and time, was very moving, and certainly made my work as a sculptor worthwhile.