Kilmarnock Academy held a special remembrance ceremony for the last time at the war memorial within the school’s old building on Friday.
School Chaplain, Rev Jim McNaughtan led the service for staff, pupils, former pupils, relatives and friends. Special guests on the day included Air Marshall Stuart Atha, former Moderators of the Church of Scotland, Revs Bill Hewitt, Lorna Hood and David Lacy; and Rev Scott Rae, former chaplain to the Navy. Pupils Jack Bolland and Aodhan McGarry piped the guests into the hall supported by their bagpipe instructor Graham Drummond. As the service began, the colour party of Lewis Givens, Ryan Dixon, Jack Park, Kyle Herbert and Keir Duncan paraded in the Queen’s colours. The choir sang two haunting songs including the hymn ‘I vow to Thee my Country’ and the evocative ‘No Man’s Land’ before senior prefects Abby Hopes and Grant Semple gave a brief history of the school’s war memorials. The moving ceremony continued with local four soldiers’ stories read by Rachel Britten, Morgan McCreadie, Leah Irving and Erin Mowat. Private William Johnston and Private Alexander Lyon served in WW1. William came from Hurlford and enlisted to “go and do his bit”. He joined the Ayrshire Yeomanry and in less than a month was in France. He came through some fierce fighting and with luck survived until September 1917 when he fell at the third battle of Ypres. Alexander Muir Lyon suffered poor health while a pupil at Kilmarnock Academy. In 1912, he emigrated to Canada where he tried to enlist when war broke out. He was rejected seven times on medical grounds. In August 1916 he was accepted. He became a Lewis gunner and was killed on 28 October 1917 at Passchendaele. Lieutenant Colonel John Douglas Bell and Squadron Leader Andrew Muir fought in WWII. John was a sergeant in the Academy cadets and joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. While arranging the evacuation of his unit from the beaches at Dunkirk in 1940, he was killed by an enemy dive bomber. He was awarded the Military Cross. Andrew Muir was a cadet, swimmer, and rugby player. He was a member of the first Pathfinder squadron. After the first Thousand Bomber raid over Cologne, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) by King George VI. Despite having completed 56 missions, he volunteered for an operation. He lost his life over Germany in 1944. He was 32. Keir Duncan recited In Flanders’ Fields before the Last Post was played by Nicola McKinlay. During the two minute silence poppy petals floated down on the congregation creating a sombre and thoughtful mood within the hall.
The reveille followed the silence and Erin Mowat read the first two verses of the 23rd Psalm before Krista Donnelly sang the final two unaccompanied. The Senior Prefects then laid the wreath in front of the War Memorial. The Rev Scott Rae gave a short address while Rev Lorna Hood said a prayer both linking the past to the present. Rev McNaughtan pronounced the benediction including the words of the Kilmarnock Academy – “Do justly, love Mercy, walk humbly.” He then returned the flags to the standard bearers who dipped them while the congregation sang the National Anthem. With military precision, the colour party marched out and the pipers piped the guests from the hall.