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The Boer War memorial is a fine sculpture

03 July, 2020

The Boer War statue at Highbury Corner

• CONCERNING Islington Council’s review into the continued presence of the Boer War memorial in Highbury Fields (Heritage review begins into borough’s street names to make sure none honour slave trade, June 12):

Ever since moving to Islington from Northern Ireland, several decades ago, a constant pleasure in my life has been to pause and admire Bertram Mackennal’s “Victory” statue; to my mind one of the finest public sculptures in London (worthy of comparison with Alfred Gilbert’s near-contemporaneous Eros).

Perhaps in consequence of having grown up during The Troubles, I have always seen her not as in any way glorifying war – in a triumphalist sense – but as a personification of peace; a noble, dignified witness honouring the memory of all those who died in the Boer conflict, particularly the many local men who lost their lives.

The council declares itself keen to promote awareness of difficult historical issues.

Instead of removing this statue (to where, exactly?), would not the most constructive option be to install a plaque alongside the memorial, explaining to passers-by the context of this war and giving account of its more unwholesome aspects?

I realise that aesthetic criteria may enjoy little currency in the present highly-charged debate.

But surely the artistic worth – the artistic “voice” of inherited cultural artefacts deserves being accorded some degree of recognition and respect, rather than being simply ignored, “silenced”, in the interests of political correctness.



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