The eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918
On Monday 11 November 1918, just before noon, news arrived at the Town Clerk’s office in Lanark that all hostilities had ceased at 11am and that the war was over. A few minutes later the town’s bells were being rung for the first time in four years. Factories and businesses stopped work and headed for the Cross. The quiet appearance that had bathed the town for so long was transformed. The first flag to appear was from Coia’s in the High Street, an Italian tricolour. Mr Coia scattered silver coins from his window to the people below. The whole town was soon decorated with flags, bunting and streamers. Lanark folk had stored their bunting kept for town celebrations, and were ready to celebrate. The flagstaff at the County Buildings had met with an accident but the police soon solved the problem with a Union Jack being flown from an iron tower at the fire station.
The schools were given a half holiday. Children set off round the town in groups, waving flags As dusk fell the cheering increased, with pipes and drums joining the groups wandering around the street. All the well-worn processional routes brought back some of the happy sounds last heard in 1914. The local clergy quickly gathered together and the message was soon round Lanark that there would be a joint thanksgiving service in the evening in the Parish Church, involving the local ministers.
The Provost, William Lamb, conscious of the status of the Royal Burgh, cabled his Majesty King George V with the following message:
To His Majesty the King, Buckingham Palace, London,
The Provost, Magistrates and Town Council of the Royal Burgh of Lanark, on behalf of themselves and all the community of the Burgh, on the cessation of hostilities, humbly desire to again approach Your Majesty with a renewed extension of devotion and loyalty to your Majesty’s Throne and Person and to offer our heartfelt congratulations on the victorious result of the magnificent services of Your Majesty’s Forces, on land, on sea and in the air.
William Lamb, Provost of Lanark.
Over 100 men of the Burgh had fallen during the period of the war. Mr Cox, some weeks later, moved that the Town Council set up a war memorial worthy of their sacrifice; perhaps a public park, arch or monument. In time his suggestion would materialise as the Memorial Hall.
In all some 600 servicemen returned to the town over the following months, some quickly, some only after hospital treatment for wounds and rehabilitation. By 1920 all the town’s ‘boys’ had returned and the Town Council conferred on all of them the freedom of Lanark, close 500 attending the County Hall on 22 October 1920 to receive Burgess Tickets. Among them were men from two battalions of the HLI, and the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, who had fought side by side at Gallipoli before then being sent to another theatre of conflict in Palestine.
Their Tickets read:
At Lanark on the Eleventh Day of October 1920 – this certifies that in order to attest the appreciation entertained by the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council of the Royal Burgh of Lanark on the public services rendered by
---------------------------- ------------------------------ to his King and Country, in the Great European War 1914 – 1918. He is hereby admitted and received a Burgess of the Royal Burgh of Lanark, with all its privileges and immunities belonging at present to the said Royal Burgh of Lanark, and by his acceptance of this Ticket now delivered to him he becomes bound to perform all the civic duties and obligations by law attached thereto.
James A Annan, Town Clerk
The event took fully two hours but Lanarkians understood the significance of the honour bestowed on its returning heroes. Their fallen comrades would be remembered forever in the Roll of Honour which would later become the centrepiece of the Memorial Hall named in their memory, and the place where Lanark still commemorates its war dead on Remembrance Sunday.