Hugh Cairns was born in England, but raised in Saskatoon. He was an apprentice plumber and active football player. He joined up at age 19, in 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Late in 1918 his brother Albert, also in the 65th Battalion of the Canadian Expiditionary Force, was killed. Sergeant Hugh Cairns led three skirmishes during the advance at Valenciennes, he was wounded on a fourth skirmish and died the next day, 2 November. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and leadership.
In 1936 the town of Valenciennes renamed a street in his honour and he was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government. In 1960 the Saskatoon named a street and a school after him and his regiment renamed their armoury to honour him.
The earliest memorial to Hugh Cairns was erected in 1921 by the Saskatoon Football Association in City Park, near the University Bridge. The statue is of a footballer, Hugh Cairns, around the base are the names of the seventy five Saskatoon football players who did not return from the war. It serves to remind us that it was in many cases our youth who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.