The Iron Man

On the beach front of Scarborough’s North Bay sits a Giant Iron Man.

What have you seen, old man?
What have you seen, old man?

He enjoys remarkable fame, both locally and nationally as a piece of landmark art. In reality, he’s there as a tribute to a particular young soldier from the North East who was part of the Allied liberating force, one of the first people to enter the Belsen concentration camp at the end of WW2. The plaque next to the sculpture, which is around ten feet high, tells the story of the inspirational figure that it is based upon and also the story of how the art work came to be donated to the people of Scarborough by a charitably minded citizen.

But I want to tell the story that grows in my head each time I meet Iron Man.Iron Man’s name is Arthur Gully. He wears a traditional Northerner’s cloth cap, albeit fashioned in intricate detail from iron. His face is lined, each deep wrinkle etched by the horrors, worries and fears he has been facing for all of his long and eventful life. His bravery knows no bounds and his physical presence, stoically seated staring out into the North Sea for evermore, is a startling metaphor for the indomitability he showed throughout all the trials and tribulations of the life of a man born in the early twentieth century.

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, Man was invincible. He had built marvellous structures and great wonderments for all the world to be in awe of and to proclaim him Master of the Universe. As the years flew by, he became  increasingly arrogant in his determination to be the conqueror of all he surveyed, and more that he could not even perceive at the time,  Man fought with his fellow Man repeatedly and with progressively more aggression until sometimes it seemed they would fight to the death of all around.

For the dawn of each new day, Man must look to the East, acknowledge the presence of the Sun and pick up his sword to continue the fight; victory is not only the single most important objective, it is the exclusive objective.

There is no time for softness or beauty. No time to recall kinder, happier times. The Sun will set whilst Man readies himself for tomorrow and the promise that soon, the time will come when he is, after all, Master of his Universe. When that fight is won, he can then allow himself to rest, to watch the sunrise with joy and love and most importantly, peace in his heart.

When you are made of iron, there are two important facts of life: your heart has been hardened by the fight so that the beauty you witness each morning is lost to your soul and the pummelling from the sea, the air, the sun and the earth around you will rot your very fibres, challenging your endurance endlessly until you redden with the memories and finally dissolve into rust – dust to dust and ashes to ashes – the Earth will reclaim you for her own.

It is no wonder that you frown so sadly, Arthur. Your giant courage reminds all who pass by each day that we may learn from your sacrifice – learn to live with each other harmoniously, spend time enjoying the beauty that surrounds us and keep being thankful for the opportunities to greet each sunrise with peace in our hearts. Thank you Arthur Gully.

Old soldiers never die, but plenty young ones did.
Old soldiers never die, but plenty young ones did.

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