Monthly Archives: March 2021

Accident – Elgin to Lhangbryde Road

Accident – Elgin to Lhangbryde Road

There are a few cemeteries that evoke little or any emotions within me. While the headstones do or can tell wonderful tales. But the majority of cemeteries and kirkyards that I’ve visited in Scotland bring over me a sense of calmness – now is that because I’m in Scotland?

Another headstone within the strong walls of Urquhart cemetery is also telling a tale of tragedy. Possibly with some villagers remembering the terrible plight of Alexander Gillies in 1886 who left a wife and four children.

This is the story of Constance Leslie.

Constance was born on the 26th of April 1910 at Parkes of Innes, Urquhart. She was the daughter of James Leslie and his wife Isabelle Pirie.

Park of Innes via nls maps


Isabella had been a nurse then changed her occupation that of assistant art teacher working at Elgin Academy.

Eighty-five years ago in 1936 Elgin Academy was on a different site. The academy Constance would have been familiar with was on the current site of Moray College with a previous building been on the corners of Academy Street and Francis place. In 2012 the academy opened the doors of its new building on Morriston Road. Elgin Academy is the largest school in Moray and has historical links back to the Middle Ages.

After a full day at work, Constances headed for home on her pedal cycle, a journey of just over five miles and would probably have taken just over 30 minutes.

On the 14th of January 1935 what made this Constance’s last day at school?

Constance at the junction of the road to Tyockside Farm and the main road north, collided with a car driven by Mr Rose.

Tyocksiden junction with main Elgin to Lhangbryde road via nls maps

The Dundee Courier on the 15th of January ran the following:-
Scots Art Teacher Fatally Injured. Elgin Road Tragedy.
Miss Constance Leslie (24), an art teacher at Elgin Academy, was fatally injured in a motor accident near Elgin last night.
Miss Leslie who was cycling to her home at Urquhart, was involved in a collision with a car a the junction of the road to Tyockside Far with the main north road. The car was driven by Mr A J Rose, timber merchant, Woodview, Garmouth, who was accompanied by his wife and son. They escaped injury.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph of the same date informed:-
Scots Teacher Killed on Road.
Miss Constance Leslie (24), an art teacher on the staff of Elgin Academy, was killed instantly in an accident east of Elgin.
Miss Leslie who was cycling to her home at Urquhart, was struck by a car which emerged from a side road on to the main road near
Tyockside Farm. She fell heavily on her head.

The Scotsman of the 17th of January 1935, corrects a previous issue and contradicts one of the Dundee newspapers. It looks like one of the papers was syndicated and ended up with slightly wrong information. Well, what is new!

Elgin Woman Teacher’s Death in Accident.
Miss Constance Leslie, an art teacher on the staff of the Elgin Academy, who was killed in an accident east of Elgin on Monday night was cycling from a side road on to the main road when she was struck by a passing car. The car was not, as stated in the report which appeared on Tuesday, emerging from a side road; it was on the main road.

An Inquiry

The following month – The report of an inquiry in The Aberdeen Press and Journal of the 16th of February, 1935 gives a little more information. The main Elgin road seemed to have seen quite a bit of tragedy during January, as not only Constance lost her life but a young man aged 20 was also fatally injured. James Anderson, clerk of 20 Gordon Street, Huntley, was in early January riding his motorcycle from Elgin to Lhangbryde, and who at the junction of the road leading to Orton, overtook and crashed into a motor bus belonging to Elgin and District Motor Bus Company, about one mile out of Elgin. The bus was being driven by Alexander Fraser of 16 South College Street. James Anderson received instant fatal injuries. A witness to the event told that he thought James Anderson would have been travelling at about 45 – 50 mph. Which the witness thought was far to fast, in his opinion as it was a night with a drizzle of rain.

The report continues and says that Mr Fraser, the driver or 16 South Street, told that he could not remember what traffic passed him on that night, but he did always keep an eye on his driving mirrors. Another witness, Mrs Jeannie Henderson or Ross, Oldshiels, Lhangbryde remembered hearing the roar of a motorcycle just behind the bus near the Orton Road. She also said that there was a light below the bus window for a minute then sparks.

Elgin Woman Teacher’s End
The second inquiry related to the death of Miss Constance Leslie, assistant art teacher, Elgin Academy, and residing at Parks of Innes, Urquhart, who when emerging on a pedal cycle from Tyockside Road on to the main Elgin-Lhangbryde road, on the night of January 14, was in collision with a motor car being driven towards Elgin by Alexander James Rose, wood merchant, Woodview, Garmouth, receiving injuries from which she died instantaneously.
The driver of the car, Mr Rose, said the cyclist came right out on to the middle of the road. He swerved the car as fast as it was humanly possible for anyone to do in order to try and avoid her, but contact took place about the centre of the main road.
Mr Rose said he tried to right the car, which took the bank at the right-hand side and toppled over after it stopped. He came out through the wind-screen, which was smashed, and found the girl lying about a car length behind the car.
In further answer to Mr Shiach (procurator-fiscal, conducting for the Crown), a witness said that any person coming out of the side road should have seen the reflection of the car’s head-lights through the trees.
After hearing other witnesses the jury, as already indicated, returned a formal verdict.

The Scotsman 16th February 1935.
Elgin Fatalities: Drivers Exonerated.
Both drivers were exonerated from blame at a public inquiry at Elgin Sheriff Court yesterday into the death of Constance Leslie (24), an assistant art teacher at Elgin Academy, and James Anderson, (24), clerk of Gordon Street, Huntley, who were killed in collisions with a car and a bus respectively. Both accidents occurred on the main road east of Elgin at points a little over a mile apart. The jury returned formal verdicts in each case.

Constance’s headstone © C Sklinar 2020

And so the headstone in the shape of a simple scroll standi ng on a solid base bears only one name – In loving memory of Constance Leslie. D.A. who was accidentally killed 14th Jan. 1935 aged 24 years.   The single name and inscription has truly told an interesting tale.

Tragedy at Elgin

Tragedy at Elgin

Names fascinate me, well mainly surnames, but there are occasions when a first name sparks my curiosity. When I say first names – the modern scrabble orientated names…..No! I just wonder, Why?

But sometimes it is something else carved in stone that spurs me on to out more. This could be something that the family thought was important to the person resting beneath the slab of stone. Or, something the family thought meant a lot to them. Or the family thought everyone who passed should know who the deceased was or how they ‘met their maker’.

A headstone in the quiet and calm cemetery in Urquhart, Moray, tells of such a tale.

Alexander Gillies was born around 1862. There is a census entry for 1881 that seems to fit with Alexander being born in Duffus and at that time working in a local quarry. There is a wife, Mary, a few years older than him and a young child, Margaret.

If this is the correct young man by 1886 he working on the railway and has four children. And I suppose as with everyone else in the village life went on as normal, some may have a harder life than others but normal for them.

The Event

The morning of the 1st of March 1886 would see ‘normal life’ change forever.

Alexander would have left for work as usual then the unthinkable happened.

The First Elgin Railway Station via Wikipedia

The First Elgin Railway Station via Wikipedia

Glasgow Evening Post, Monday 1st March 1886:-

Sad Accident at Elgin.
This morning a sad accident occurred at Elgin Station, Great North of Scotland Railway, whereby Alexander Gillies, shunter, a native or Urquhart, was severely injured that no hope of his recovery is entertained. While endeavouring to leap on the buffer of a shunting engine in motion he lost his balance

Headstone for Alexander Gillies and his wife Mary. © Carol Sklinar 2020

and fell among the wheels, two of which passed over him and mutilated his body and legs fearfully. He is only 25 years of age, and has a wife and four of a family. Drs. Mackintosh and Duff are in attendance, but his end is momentarily expected.

Alexander was followed by his wife Mary a few short years later.

Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin

Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin

The other day I went through all the cemetery photographs taken while I was staying in Lossiemouth during July 2020 and there were quite a few! The purpose of this exercise was to make a note of the headstones I thought would make an interesting blog.

What made the headstone of interest? Well, it could be the names carved in the memorial; the regiment; place of death (if included) or just a little something that sparked my interest.

One person today ticked one box twice – first with one of his first name and secondly his surname.

Who is he? William Alaister Drage Riach.

But, before I tell you about William Alaister Drage Riach I must tell you a little about his father, William.

William Snr had married Isabella nee Yeats, and at one time the couple had lived at Braco Place, 40 Hawthorn Road, Elgin.

On the 13th of June 1918, William Snr, a tailor, born in 1874, enlisted at Kinross into the RAMC. His time in the military was a short one as on the 25th of February the following year he was Demobbed.

In the previous months, William Snr served as Private 153351 and had spent time in K Company, Blackpool.

Service Records, if they have survived the damage caused during WW2, can contain so much information. Also, the Pension Records preserved by The Western Front Association and available on Fold3 – contain much more information. And can contain more personal details.

Returning to William Snr, when he enlisted he was 44 years and 1 month old. He was 5′ 4½” tall with a 38″ fully expanded chest (with a 3″ range of expansion, so a normal 35″ chest). He had married Isabella on the 17th of June 1916 at Elgin. The following year William Alaister Drage Riach was born (7th May 1917).

William Snr died at Glen View, Moray Street, Elgin on the 11th of May 1933 aged 57 and his wife Isabella Yeats followed him on the 10th of July 1937 aged 53 years.

And so back to William Jnr. In September 1951, William Jnr and his wife Dorothy Wordsworth, Gardiner whom he had married in 1942, returned to Britain from Nyasaland. Nyasaland was from 1907 a British protectorate. Between 1953 and 1963 it became part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. After the Federation dissolved in 1964 the area was renamed Malawi.

Where did his life in the ministry start? William had attended Aberdeen University to study theology. According to the Aberdeen Press and Journal of the 2nd of April 1935, he passed and his graduation was to take place the following day in the Mitchell Hall, Marischal College.

The Scotsman 18 March 1947 via British Newspaper Archives

William served time as a probationary minister in Elgin, before moving to parishes in and around central Scotland before venturing further afield. While at New St Bride’s Church, Douglas, Lanarkshire William organised a Youth Conference which was attended by over 60 delegates. Speakers included those from Scotland and Amsterdam with messages being read out from messages of greetings from various bodies in England, Germany, Austria and Geneva.

Church of Scotland, 121 George St., Edinburgh, via Google maps

William during his life was a minister in the Church of Scotland and spent some of his life in Africa. Upon his return to Britain with his wife they gave their onward address as 121 George Street, Edinburgh which is the Church of Scotland building.

The couple, William and Dorothy were on the move again in July 1952, this time their children were with them – Miss R E; Miss H M; Mstr N D and Miss A W. They again gave their UK address as 121 George Street, Edinburgh. All were to disembark the ‘Rhodesia Castle‘ at Mombasa.

By 1956 William Jnr and Dorothy are back in Africa as according to the Kenya Gazette the couple are living in Kiambu north of Nairobi.

William and Dorothy moved to Newfoundland, Canada and after a full live William died in 1999. His obituary reads:-

Riach, William Alastair Drage, died on Saturday, September 4th, at the Agnes Pratt Nursing Home. Predeceased by his beloved wife Dorothy on June 3rd, 1999. Father of Rosalind Gray, Hilary Vavasour, Neil Riach and Alison Decker, father in law of George Gray, Andy Vavasour, and Carolyn Currren; grandfather of Sarah and Stuart, Claire and Peter, Tristan, Rachel and Kathryn, friend and teacher to many. The funeral service will be held at St. James United Church, Elizabeth Avenue, St John’s on Friday, September 10th at 2 pm followed by the burial of his ashes as his Country hoe in Avondale. No flowers please, cards and notes appreciated. Donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice.

September 08, 1999.

William A D Riach headstone © C Sklinar 2020

William is remembered on the family headstone in Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin but there is no mention of his wife or where he died or his missionary work.