We will Remember Them


“They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided” 2 Samuel 1:23

King David’s beautiful lament for His best friend Jonathan and Jonathan’s father King Saul of Israel remains one of the most moving expressions of grief and remembrance ever written. It is recorded for us in the book of 2nd Samuel chapter 1 in the Old Testament. It is written in the aftermath of the calamitous defeat suffered by Saul’s army at the battle of Gilboa at the hands of the Philistines. This defeat effectively ended the reign of Saul’s house in Israel and opened the way for David to become the undisputed King. David’s reaction to the news is startling, he does not rejoice or crow over the king who had tried to kill him. Instead he mourns knowing that he has lost his best friend Jonathan. David did not, indeed could not forget Jonathan, his best friend and his ally. And this was most powerfully demonstrated in the way that David, when established as King, showed compassion and mercy to Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth. The kindness he showed to Mephibosheth was all for the sake of Jonathan. David did not forget because good friends always remember.

Today Saturday 12th November many people in our community gathered at the Harris war memorial in Tarbert to remember those who died in the cause of freedom, in all wars even up to the present day. It was indeed gratifying to see so many gathering there, and by all accounts todays gathering was the largest for some considerable time, with wreaths laid by over twenty organisations and schools throughout the length of Harris.

Unfortunately war is not a thing of the past but a horrible present day reality in many parts of the world. During the service the Rev Andrew Coghill reminded us in his prayer, that even since the end of World War 2 many British soldiers have died in conflicts as far apart as Malaya, Borneo, Aden, Suez, Korea, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, and these last few years have also seen British soldiers, sailors and airmen fight and die in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.

During the service the well known words from Lawrence Binyon’s poem ‘ For the fallen ‘ were recited and repeated .

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall
not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

We say we will remember, but will we? some will always remember, because they find it impossible to forget. What worries me though is that we will forget when we leave the memorial for another year.

What strikes anyone who looks at the names on the memorial in Tarbert and many others throughout the islands is that most were so young. Most of them were in their early teens or twenties. They lost their lives in the prime of life, young men (and women) who would nowadays be embarking on apprenticeships, college courses, courting and settling down to marriage, They lived, played, worked and worshipped in their island home which was so familiar to them They carved their names as teenagers in church pews, little knowing that their own names would be carved in stone memorials in later years. One cannot help but think how different our island and our communities would be if they had lived. I cannot help but think how different Harris and Lewis would have been if their collective energy and talent had been invested in the life of these islands over the past century.

David’s description of the fallen of his day is very relevant for those we seek to remember too  “They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided, they were swifter than eagles, they were faster than Lions” They were the pride of this island and the cream of their nation’s youth and at the going down of the sun and in the morning WE WILL remember them.