A horrified ex-Mayor has slammed teenagers as “disrespectful yobs” after she watched them using Preston’s war memorial as a skatepark.
Grandmother Christine Abram confessed she was “sick to the stomach” after witnessing youngsters doing stunts on the monument to more than 2,000 of the city’s war dead.
The former city councillor said she was “appalled” to see teenagers riding scooters, bikes and skateboards on the steps.
“It was utterly disrespectful and so upsetting,” said Christine, who stood down from the council this year after almost two decades of public service.
“And what makes it worse is I don’t even think they knew how offensive it would be to people of my generation. What sort of country are we living in?”
Christine and her husband Norman were walking across the Flag Market last weekend when they spotted the youths playing on the steps of the Grade 1 Listed memorial.
“I was heartbroken - and I wasn’t the only one,” she said.
“There were other people of a similar age just standing there looking at them in disbelief.
“We were brought up to show respect for the memory of those who died in two world wars and the war memorial which commemorates them.
“Those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen gave their lives so these young people could have a life. And this is how they treat them.
“What sort of mentality do these teenagers have? Do they not know what the monument is all about? Probably not.”
Preston’s war memorial was unveiled in 1926 to honour the fallen of the Great War.
And this is not the first time it has been a target for yobs.
In 2009 ornamental bronze railings were stolen from around the memorial and cost the city council £10,000 to replace.
In 2013 almost £1m - most of it from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant - was spent on renovating the memorial. Yet within months vandals left its expensive Portland stone walls badly marked.
After that additional stone bollards were added to protect the monument.
“I thought the idea was that people couldn’t get near it any more,” said Christine. “But, apart from putting fencing up around it, how on earth can the council stop this sort of thing? They can’t patrol it 24 hours a day.
“Norman and I have just come back from a holiday in Canada and they don’t get behaviour like this over there. The streets are clean, free from graffiti and there is no litter on the streets or groups of teenagers in hoodies standing around.
“When you come back to the UK it hits you what sort of place we live in.”
A Preston City Council spokesperson said: “It is very disappointing to hear of such actions taking place on any memorial, but especially one dedicated to those that gave their lives for others.
“Disrespecting the war memorial in this way is unacceptable and we expect everyone to discourage such behaviour.”
Remembering the fallen
The Preston war memorial was unveiled in 1926 by Admiral of the Fleet, the first Earl John Jellicoe.
Initially it was to pay homage to around 2,000 Prestonians who lost their lives in the First World War, but later it was amended to include the fallen from the 1939-45 conflict.
Since then a further inscription has been added to mark those killed in conflict since 1945.
The monument was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and Battersea Power Station.
At the opening ceremony on the Flag Market on Sunday June 13, 1926, Earl Jellico made a passionate speech in which he talked about the necessity “that there should be some memorial so that future generations shall know, realise and remember the price that has been paid for their freedom”.
He also said: “Another object is that it is a token of Preston’s gratitude, indeed of the Empire’s gratitude, to Preston men. Gratitude is, alas, too frequently short-lived.
“May the gratitude of Preston’s people in the future endure as long as this memorial stands.”