To live peaceably with all – Quarry Road’s band of brothers

I suspect that most shoppers at ESK in Cambridge Road are unaware that this was once the site of the ABC Cinema. 

Older Hastings residents will also remember the Orion Cinema, also in Cambridge Road, and the Gaiety, now the Odeon in Queens Road and the Curzon in Norman Road, St Leonards, now happily resurrected as the Kino. 

Residents older than me will doubtless be able to recall other cinemas now lost to developers and time.  

No war is lovely but true remembrance would make it just a little less ugly.

It was at the ABC in 1969 that I saw Oh! What a Lovely War, the famous Joan Littlewood satire about the futility of the Great War.  I particularly recall one scene in which a scoreboard depicted the small number of yards of territory gained and the enormous number of lives lost in gaining it.

Some of those lives belonged to Hastingers. Had a second lockdown not been imposed, I would have read the list of our war dead during our Old Town Remembrance Service: 76 from All Saints and 47 from St Clements in the Great War alone.

Three of them were from the same family: Claude, Hugh and James McCormick of Quarry Road. High Street resident Gareth Bendon has researched these William Parker schoolboys and I am indebted to him for their story. 

The McCormicks were a large family containing four sisters and nine brothers.  Five of the brothers were old enough to fight after war broke out.  Hugh was killed at the Somme in 1916 aged 18, James died from meningitis in 1915 aged 22 and Claude died in Palestine in 1918, also aged 22. The two other brothers who fought, George and Lesley, survived and the latter lived until he was 90.  

As Gareth has observed, Lesley’s long life brings the shortened lives of his brothers into sharp focus. 

In Oh! What a lovely War the young soldiers are depicted marching cheerily to war while incompetent generals treat them as no more than numbers on a scoreboard. Recent historiography has challenged this view and, indeed, our namesake historian, Max Hastings, has argued that fighting the Great War against German expansionism was just as necessary as fighting Hitler.  Whatever our view might be, those who died must be remembered if their sacrifice is to mean anything.

The Greek word for ‘remembrance’ in the New Testament means more than simply remembering something from the past.  It is about bringing that past event into the present by allowing it to affect our actions in the present. 

The best remembrance of young men like the McCormicks is to ensure that their sacrifice encourages us to ‘live peaceably with all’ to quote St Paul.

We will not be able to observe Remembrance Sunday as a public event this year. Perhaps this might cause us to reflect that remembrance is not simply about attending a ceremony but also about how we live our lives.

No war is lovely but true remembrance would make it just a little less ugly.

The Rev Paul Hunt is priest-in-charge at All Saints and St Clement’s in the old town. Paul was formerly Senior Chaplain of Emanuel School in London and a Priest-in-Ordinary to the Queen. A long time Hastings resident he enjoys opera, following Arsenal and has run the Hastings Half Marathon several times.

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