Flagstone tribute to tragic war poet

Harry Potter actor unveils Wilfred Owen memorial at University

Date posted

30 November 2015


A commemorative flagstone featuring the poignant words of Wilfred Owen has been gifted to the Edinburgh Napier University campus where he met fellow war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

Owen was killed in action, cut down by a German machine gun on November 4 1918 during an unsuccessful British attempt to bridge a canal in northern France.

He had been treated for shell shock at an Edinburgh hydropathic establishment, requisitioned to treat officers during the First World War on what is now the University’s Craiglockhart Campus. It was here that he met Sassoon in August 1917.

The University had already marked this historic link with its War Poets Collection, a permanent exhibition of books and other items relating to the fascinating history of the campus.

Today Edinburgh Napier proudly accepted the gift of a new memorial stone bearing text from Owen’s draft preface to Poems 1920 in which he writes: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

The Caithness flagstone - hand carved by Paul Jones from The Stone Workshop in Shropshire - was gifted by Glen-Art, a military charity supporting former members of the armed forces, and the Wilfred Owen Association.

It will sit on the front lawn, just outside the old main entrance to the building, as a permanent memorial to Owen and all those who were affected by the First World War and other conflicts.

The formal unveiling was carried out by actor Jason Isaacs, who is in Scotland with the Theatre of War company - which produces ancient Greek tragedies for service members, veterans and their families - for performances in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle last night and Mackintosh Queen’s Cross in Glasgow tonight (Monday).

Jason, who plays Lucius Malfoy in the blockbuster Harry Potter films, said: “This flagstone and its quotation will remind everyone who sees it that though the poets to emerge from the Great War have come to represent something culturally significant and revered, their inspiration was what all wars still provide; tragedy, terror and death. These were dispatches from the front line.”

Catherine Walker, Curator of the War Poets Collection, thanked the donors, adding: “It is a unique gift, which is a fitting tribute to all who have been affected by war, not only those officers treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital.”
Fiona MacDonald, Founder and Director of Glen-Art and a Trustee of the Wilfred Owen Association, said:  "We are delighted to be able to donate this beautiful stone as the first of many events and activities commemorating the centenary of the time Wilfred Owen spent at Craiglockhart, where he met Siegfried Sassoon.”

Yvonne McEwen, Project Director of Edinburgh University-based Scotland’s War, said: “This is a wonderful way to commemorate the work of Wilfred Owen, all the war poets and all of those unknown soldier, sailor and airmen poets whose minds and bodies the war had ravaged.”

During this four-year centenary commemorative period of the First World War, Edinburgh Napier has participated in many local events and initiatives. For more information about the Great War of 1914-1918 please see our War Poets Collection webpages and Scotland's War.

For further information contact Media & Communications Officer Jack Mathieson on 0131 455 6251