Below - An old postcard of Oban war memorial from the author's collection showing it as it appeared in the 1920's with the neighbouring glacial boulder providing a perfect foil for the monument.
The composition of the group itself is arguably Carrick’s finest, wonderfully tight and superbly well conceived with the overall shape of the group not only echoing the neighbouring ancient stone but outlining the shape of a primitive spearhead or a corner notched arrowhead. The wounded soldier has his arms draped over his comrades' shoulders while his knees are bent as he is lifted creating a posture reminiscent of a crucifixion ( see Home Page) creating a contemporary image imbued with powerful religious connotations of sacrifice, salvation and deliverance (see Workington 2) . Furthermore the heads and arms of the three soldiers form a circle or ring at the centre of the composition while the wounded soldier's raised legs create a hollowed out space like a cup within this central ring. Perhaps this compositional cup and ring is a direct reference to the bronze age markings of the ancient stone and if so then Carrick has again combined the language of Christian and Pagan symbolism within a single image, a tradition which dates back to the carvers of the Class II Pictish symbol stones.
Carrick's genius for bringing to his composition such a rich blend of meaning and symbolism, distilling all into a single powerful image, is reminiscent of poetry. It has been said that of all the arts it was poetry alone, with its concentrated use of language and imagery, which succeeded in expressing the futility and horror of the First World War. In terms of monumental art it was arguably only Lutyen's design for the cenotaph which came close to matching the work of the war poets, expressing the feelings of the time. Yet in sculpture such as the Oban group Alexander Carrick created poetic works in the truest sense, an achievement seldom found in monumental sculpure.