Ghostly art installations of transparent military silhouettes will be placed on church pews across Scotland representing soldiers from congregation killed in the First World War to commemorate the last hundred days to the centenary of the Armistice in November 1918.
The silhouettes, designed by conceptual photographer and installation artist Martin Barraud, are part of There But Not There, a UK-wide fundraising campaign led by former Chief of the General Staff, General The Lord Dannatt and supported by Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulks.
The initiative, from the charity Remembered, aims to raise £15 million for a range of military charities helping former servicemen and women with physical and “hidden” conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
One of Scotland’s best known churches – the Canongate Kirk on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, where the Queen worships when in residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and which is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year – has placed five silhouettes in its pews, representing just five of the many local soldiers from the parish killed in the Great War.
One of the silhouettes represents Private John McConnell, who was born next door to the Kirk at 149 Canongate and who served with the 8th Battalion The Black Watch and was killed, age 35, near the Belgium border in May 1918.
The Rev Neil Gardner, the minister of Canongate Kirk, who has served as an Army chaplain, said: “There are so many names on our local war memorials that in the course of the last four years we have mainly focused on five local soldiers whose names are etched into family gravestones in Canongate Kirkyard – Captain Alick Herries, Private Robert MacQuarrie, Private McConnell and brothers George and David Simpson.
“None of them are buried here but on the Sunday nearest the centenary of each death we have reflected during the service on their story and sacrifice and then laid flowers by the family stone after-wards.
“Now the five poignant silhouettes inside the Kirk as part of the There But Not There project remind us not only of these men in particular, but of the many more local men they represent who were once part of our parish and community but did not return when the war was over.”
Mr Gardner added: “Remembrance Sunday is one of our biggest services in the year, and this year especially, as we prepare to commemorate the end of the First World War, the silhouettes will remind us of those who did not come home when it was finally all over and whose absence left a huge gap in families, homes and workplaces not just across this community but across the whole country.”
Rowley Gregg MC, director of Remembered, said: “We are delighted at the response from community groups in Scotland to our silhouettes, which will soon start appearing at churches and halls through the country.
“The Rolls of Honour marking the sacrifice made by so many young people pepper the walls of churches around Scotland and this installation will enable them and other community groups to take part in this very poignant national commemorative campaign.”