One of Scotland’s most remarkable First World War heroes has been commemorated with the unveiling of a memorial paving stone in St Andrews.
The inscripted stone is dedicated to Sergeant John Ripley, a St Andrews resident who won a Victoria Cross in World War One, and is located outside his former home at 9 Crail’s Lane, in the centre of the town. It was unveiled yesterday (Friday 24 June) by Jim McArthur, Chairman of St Andrews Partnership, local historian Councillor Keith McCartney, and Major Ronnie Proctor of the Black Watch Association.
At the ceremony, Jim McArthur said “John Ripley must surely be one of St Andrews’ most illustrious citizens, and yet until now has been almost unknown in the town which he made his home. When Keith McCartney told us about Ripley’s remarkable life story, we instantly agreed we should fund a memorial for him.”
When World War I began in 1914, “Jock” (as he was universally known) had already gained his long service medal from the Black Watch Regiment and at the age of 47, was officially too old to become a fighting soldier – but such was his patriotism that he persuaded the Regiment to allow him to enter active service as a corporal.
On 9th May 1915, during the battle of Aubers Ridge in NE France, he led his section on an assault at Rue du Bois and was the first man to ascend the enemy parapet. Despite being badly wounded, he arranged firing positions inside the enemy trenches, which he continued to defend until all his men had fallen.
Promoted to Sergeant, John Ripley was invalided home, and for his gallantry was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V, but later – quite remarkably – he again returned to active duty. After the War ended, he returned to St Andrews and became a prominent member of the local community, being made a freeman of the burgh and serving in the town’s fire brigade.
He subsequently worked as a chimney sweep and slater and it was whilst at work in 1933, at the age of 66, that he fell from a ladder and died from his injuries. He was buried with honours in Upper Largo cemetery.
Yesterday’s ceremony in Crail’s Lane was attended by representatives from a number of organisations associated with John Ripley’s life story, including the Black Watch Association, Legion Scotland, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
To the poignant sound of the pipes, the memorial to one of the oldest men ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross was unveiled.
Why not visit the memorial stone in Crail’s Lane (outside house number 9)?