Category Archives: General

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.

Alexander Jamieson Dean of Urquhart

Alexander Jamieson Dean of Urquhart

I’ve always thought that Scotland has a vast number of beautiful cemeteries. Beautiful not only in the memorials they contain and how they are laid out but what they look out on – a beautiful hillside, swathes of farmland or stunning hillsides.

Dean family headstone in Urquhart Cemetery © C Sklinar 2020

Cluny cemetery in Forres is one that I particularly feel drawn towards due to its setting. Another is Urquhart cemetery which is overlooked by fields and is where my grandparents, and aunt and uncle rest. Whenever I walk around both the old and new sections of Urquhart cemetery I see familiar names and places. The names include Douglas, Hay, Petrie and of course, Riach. The places, well Inchbroom, Innes Estate, Bogmoor and Nether Meft all bring back very fond memories of spending time with my grandfather at Rutherhill, Lhangbryde.

Alexander Jamieson Dean – could he be in some way related to a family friend who had the surname Jamieson? Anyway, Alexander Jamieson Dean was 3 months old when the census enumerator called on the family home in 1891. The enumerator that day recorded the names of nine people – Alexander (34) and Jessie Dean (24) Alexander’s parents. Then there was Robert Dean (22) Alexander’s (Snr) brother. Then there were servants ranging in ages from 35 down to John Young aged five.

Ten years later in 1901, Alexander had four siblings. As well as a domestic servant the farm had a cattleman, shepherd and horseman. Young John Young had gone – could he have been connected to one of the female servants who no longer worked on the Jointurelands farm?

During his school years, AJD attended Elgin Academy then returned to full-time work on the farm.

The peaceful time on the farm was soon to be interrupted as the summer of 1914 quickly came around.

AJM joined the Seaforth Highlands, the 1/6th (Morayshire) Battalion, raised in Elgin in August 1914 as part of the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade. The 1/5th (Sutherland and Caithness) and 1/6th both landed in France as part of the 152nd Brigade in the 561st Highland Division in May 1915 and served on the Western Front.

Alexander initially served as 4517, then after changing battalion, company or some other change to his service his number became 267076. He enlisted after 1914, as he was only eligible for the British and Victory Medals.

AJM and his fellow soldiers served in Belgium in the 3rd Battle of Ypres – The Battle of Passchendaele. Fought from July to November 1917, the bloody and muddy battle was to take control of the ridges south of Ypres.

Alexander’s death in the Army Register of Soldiers Effects is ‘on or since’ te 31st of July 1917 ‘Death Presumed’. His mother, Jessie was to receive £6 19s 6d in October 1918 followed by a War Gratuity payment of £3 in December 1919. Early in the morning of 31st July 1917, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge began. Could AJM have been killed in this battle? Pilckem is only a few miles north of where he rests in New Irish Cemetery. According to the information for New Irish Cemetery it appears that many graves were brought in to the newer cemetery, this included Pilckem Road Cemetery.

After the war Jessie (Taylor) Dean applied for a pension – I don’t think her claim was all that successful!

Section of Urquhart War Memorial

As well as being remembered on the Scottish National Roll of Honour, AJM is remembered locally in Urquhart, the village of his birth, Elgin Academy and the Morayshire Roll of Honour where his entry reads –

“DEAN, Alexander Jamieson. No. 267076, Pte., 6th Seaforth Highlanders; born at Jointure-land, 8th Dec, 1891; joined at Elgin, 22nd Sept., 1916; served in France; killed at Ypres, 31st July, 1917. Son of Alexander Dean (deceased), Jointureland, and Jessie Taylor or Dean. Occupation, farm manager”.

A Soldier Remembered in Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin

A Soldier Remembered in Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin

I sit down with all good intentions to write another section of my blog. Yes, good intentions, but it takes me longer to decide who to write about than it does to put the information into words. I have so many photographs of military-connected and interesting headstones choosing who should be next is extremely hard.

Once again it is a Scottish cemetery that is providing the headstone – Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin, Morayshire. Technically, the subjects memorial is not a headstone but a plaque. To be precise one of a set of four plaques for the MacPherson family.

It was one of these simple plaques that caught my eye and yes, you have probably guessed correctly that it has a military connection.

Elizabeth MacPherson died in July 1916; Catherine Duff MacPherson died in May 1895. Robert MacPherson died in 1926. But the MacPherson that interests me is John Cook MacPherson.

JCM was born on the 30th of January 1886. The son of Robert MacPherson and Catherine Duff. Robert was the Minister of Elgin.

JCM and his family were living at the Manse, Elgin in 1891. In 1901, he was living in The Manse, Monymusk with his aunt and uncle, William and Elizabeth MacPherson.

After attending local schools JCM attended Aberdeen University studying law. While at university he was a private in ‘U’ Company, Gordon Highlanders.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 JCM was working in the Solicitor’s Department of the North British Railway Company. According to some sources his health had not been the best he did still enlist in September 1914 to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Scots. Initially serving as Private 2383 he was soon to gain his commission and become a 2nd Lieutenant. In February 1915 he entered France. His medal card includes an address for his father on the reverse side – The Rev’d R MacPherson D.D., The Manse, Helensburgh. Very few medal cards include any information on the reverse.

Now commissioned to the 11th Battalion Royal Scots and attached to the3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders. l He underwent further training and was now attached to the 1st Battalion. It was while serving with them that he was killed in action while leading the remnant of his Company for the third time to manoeuvre their way through a wire entanglement during the fighting at Loos, on September 25th 1915.

Aberdeen University – Roll of Service tell ‘His personality was one of unusual charm, and his kindly and genial manner had gained for him a wide circle of friends. In literature and art, he took a keen interest, and was Editor of “Alma Mater”. A slightly dilettante attitude concealed to some extent his more solid characteristics, but the war swept aside what was never more than an attractive pose and brought out the true nature of the man. By his friends, Macpherson will be remembered as an example of the best type which the Scottish Universities produce.

A wonderful source of information for WW1 research is De Ruvigney’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918. Now online, I am proud to say I own a set and have spent many an afternoon looking through its pages. Luckily enough JCM is included along with a picture so I can see what a handsome man he was. This entry also includes more information than his university entry.

Macpherson, John Cook extracted from Du Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour

MACPHERSON, JOHN COOK, 2nd Lieut., 3rd (Reserve) Battn. The Gordon Highlanders. 3rd s (son) of the Reb. Robert MacPherson, D.D., V.D., Minister of Elgin, by his wife, Catherine Duff, dau. of the Rev. George Cook D.D., of Kincardine; b (born) The Manse, Elgin, 30 Jan. 1886′ educ. Elgin Academy; Aberdeen, and Edinburgh Universities, where he graduated M.A. in 1910, and subsequently LL.B.; was Assistant to the Solicitor of the North British Railway Company; joined the 9th Battn. Royal Scots (T.F.) as a Private in Sept. 1914, after the outbreak of war; was gazetted 2nd Lieut. 3rd Gordon Highlanders, 6 March 1915; went to France in July, 1915, and was killed in action near Hulluch 25 Sept. following. The Chaplain Reb. Alex. M. Maclean, C.M.G., attached 1st Gordons, wrote: “When the order was given to advance, the Gordons sprang as one man from their trenches. They swept on to the German lines like a torrent. The right-wing found the barbed wire smashed to atoms by artillery and walked straight into the German trenches. The centre and left-wing found the barbed wire intact, possibly because of some depression in the ground which diverted the artillery fire. The night before this was noticed, and an engineer party detailed to deal with it; but unfortunately, they got knocked out before the work was done, and in the dark nothing could be seen. The wire was five feet high and about eight feet broad – a tangled mass only a few yards from the German loopholes. The Gordons charged right up to this formidable barrier. They tried to get over it, to get under it, to get through it, but not to go back. They died there on the wire, and your son and the foremost of them. His body was found by a gallant party which crawled out in the dark the night after and brought him in… Your son is buried with other officers just behind the line in what is called Sanctuary Wood. The exact spot is registered and marked by the Graves Registration Commission. His funeral was a soldier’s funeral, very reverent and solemn.”

Menin Gate CWGC image

In the extracted letter to JCM’s father, it tells that JM was buried at Sanctuary Wood. I now have been hit by the curiosity bug as the CWGC have JCM having no known grave and being remembered with thousands of others on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. The CWGC details for the memorial doesn’t mention anything about why this information differs. However, when I looked at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery information there was the answer.
There were three cemeteries at Sanctuary Wood before June 1916, all of which were made between May and August  During the Battle of Mount Sorrel, these cemeteries were all but destroyed. Hence, JCM being remembered in Ypres. There were traces of the second cemetery later found and this formed the start of the present-day cemetery.

After JCM’s death, his father went on to receive over £47 in 1916 followed by £5 War Gratuity in 1919.

The Scotsman of Wednesday 6th October 1915 includes the death notice for JCM, followed by the Aberdeen Press and Journal issue of Saturday 4th November 1916 tells that Aberdeen

J C MacPherson from the University Roll of Honour

University was compiling a Memorial Number of ‘Alma Mater’ worth of Aberdeen University and its glorious war record. No fewer, at the time, that 42 admirable portraits had been given of graduates and students who had made the supreme sacrifice. JCM was one of 2,852 University staff, students and alumni who served in the First World War, of which 341 lost their lives.

As well as being remembered in his University Roll of Honour, JCM has an entry in The Morayshire Roll of Honour, along with a page in the Libindex.

Does John Cook MacPherson have a place in your family tree?

Another Walk Around Sugar Lane – Camidge & Umpleby

Another Walk Around Sugar Lane – Camidge & Umpleby

I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoy a walk around a cemetery. Well, saying that it has to be a nice day. I have, however, been around Sugar Lane on rather wet and windy days. It is not a pleasant experience, especially when copying information and trying to photograph. The writing I can cope with… just – it’s the raindrops on the camera lens that are a tad annoying.

Who is the focus of this walk? It is hard to decide. After looking at over 1,000 photographs, I homed in on a headstone mentioning two unusual surnames – Camidge and Umpleby. Names that you would not find in the top 50 English surnames. Nevertheless, these are the names, but to whom do they belong?

The people named on the headstone would be an ancestor to home in on, whose lives any family historian would find interesting.

Firstly, Charles Joseph Camidge. Born York in 1901 to Matthew Camidge and his wife Mary Ann Shaw. Matthew Camidge (1758-1844) a musician is included in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Matthew, like his father John, was a musician and composer. Educated at Cambridge, he returned to York. Both Matthew and John originated the York musical festivals – on a small scale beginning with Handel’s Messiah at the Belfry Church. Just for interest, Matthews will is on Ancestry in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. It is quite hard to read but does cover a few pages.

Back to Charles Joseph in 1861, he was living at the Vicarage, Wakefield with his wife Charlotte. His job, the Vicar of Wakefield. While the Vicar of Wakefield he consulted with Sir Gilbert Scott when in 1857, a report had been completed concerning the condition of the church. It was found that the tower and spire were decaying at an alarming rate and the work should be carried out first. Scott also suggested that if the church was to be re-seated it should be done in oak. Well, we all know what has happened to the seating! With the work completed at a cost of over £20,000, the church was formally re-opened in 1874. Newspapers of the time reported that the restoration included the re-casing of the tower in 1859, the erection of a magnificent spire in 1860. The removal of the galleries and substituting open stalls for large family pews. Several painted glass windows were also included as was a valuable reredos and new heating and lighting systems. Not bad value for £20,000. Can you imagine how much the work would cost now? And would it take longer than 17 years?

I wonder what CJ thought of the opening ceremony?

‘Charles Joseph Camidge, formerly Vicar of Wakefield and Honourary Canon of Ripon Cathedral but late of Leamington, died on the 10th of February 1878 at Leamington’. His Probate continues to tell that it was proven in Birmingham and that Charlotte, his relict was the sole Executrix.

So that’s CJ’s short story. Let me tell you about another name on the large stone darkened by age and industry – Rev. Matthew Camidge. Who is he? Matthew is CJ’s older brother.

St Andrew’s
Church, Moscow via Wikipedia

Matthew in 1861 was the incumbent at St John’s Church, Wakefield. Before this, he had been the British Chaplain in Russia to St Andrew’s Church (Moscow). The Chapel established in 1828 replaced a previous chapel burnt in 1812. Matthew had as his congregation both English and Scottish subjects with 200 people regularly attending services. At this time approximately 400 British Subjects were living and working in the City. The date of Matthew returning to the UK is sometime after 1851but before 1861. In the 1851 census, Matthew is in Kimbolton, Nottinghamshire, a visitor in the home of Thomas Charlewood, Vicar of the village. He gave his occupation as Chaplain to British Factory Cons******, Russia.

Matthew’s Probate reads ’16 November. The Will with a Codicil of the Reverend Matthew Camidge late of St John’s, Wakefield in the County of York Clerk deceased who died 2 November 1863 at Wakefield aforesaid was proved at Wakefield by the oath of the Reverend Charles Joseph Camidge of Wakefield aforesaid Clerk vicar of Wakefield aforesaid the Brother and sole Executor’. Effects under £1,500.

The next on my list is David Umpleby. Who is he? What connection does he have with the Camidge family to be included?

With a little bit of digging the connection was found. David married Charles Joseph and Matthews sister, Mary Ann or Marianne. The couple married in 1823 at St Michael le Belfry, York. Marianne died in September 1863 aged 71. Researcher beware there are some family trees on Ancestry that have her death year incorrectly recorded.

David Umpleby, only appears in the one census – 1841, as he dies in 1843. When the enumerator walked his round he called on the Umpleby household. Their home was Highfield, Lancaster. Where David like his brother’s in law, was a Clerk in Holy Order, a Vicar. Marianne had two female servants (F.S.) and one male servant (M.S.). also recorded on that night was one 19-year-old Elizabeth Maude and 11-year-old John R Pedder. What their relationship to the Umpleby’s I have not looked any further to find out.

Camidge / Umpleby Headstone © C Sklinar 2020

There are other’s named on the headstone which reads

‘In hope of the resurrection to Eternal Life through our Lord Jesus Christ Here rest the mortal remains of William Henry Camidge, younger son of Charles Joseph Camidge, M.A. and Charlotte his wife, who died 10 Sept. 1839 aged 17 years. Marianne Umpleby, widow of the rev. David Umpleby, M.A. who died September 29th 1863 aged 71 years. Rev Matthew Camidge, M.A. British Chaplain in Russia. who died November 1st 1863, aged 68 years. Rev Canon Camidge, M.A. Vicar of wakefield and Rural Dean who died February 10th 1878 aged 76 years. Charlotte Camidge, widow of the late Canon Camidge, M.A. who died September 7th 1887 aged 77 years.

A headstone can tell you a little or a lot. But there is always more to be found.

If you want to hear music from the Camidge family you could always search Youtube.

Alexander Riach Masson

Alexander Riach Masson

When researching a families history or researching a One-Name Study, there is always one or two people, maybe more, that calls out to you – some even shout…Find Me!

One such name that shouted out the other day sparked my curiosity not because of his name but of where he was when he died.

Who am I talking about? – His name is Alexander Riach Masson.

Masson although I’d come across the name on a couple of occasions with links to the RIACH family. It was his middle name that caught my attention.  Alexander’s middle name, Riach is his mother’s maiden name.  The Scottish Naming Tradition can be such a help when looking for the maiden name of a wife and mother.

I already knew Alexander’s mother’s name from the family headstone inscription.

So, what did Alexander do in life and who were his parents?

Alexander, born in 1889, was the son of James Masson (1845-1931) and Elizabeth Riach (1851-1926). The marriage of James and Elizabeth took place in Kinloss, Moray, in March 1874. Alexander was probably the youngest of their five boys born between 1875 and 1889.

When looking at the 1881 census for Findhorn James gave his occupation as Seaman and Elizabeth gave hers as Seamans Wife. The time for the 1901 census came around, Elizabeth and Alexander were living at 4 Kirkwood Street, Govan, Lanarkshire with her sister. In 1911, Kinloss was home again to the family.

The Masson family from Findhorn seem to have a long connection with the sea. Many being holding either Master’s or Mate’s Certificates. James, Alexander’s father in later years, became a Master Mariner.

Elizabeth Riach was the daughter of James Riach (1804-1877) and Justina Nicholson. The united families – Riach’s and Masson’s were to be found around Bellie and Findhorn area.

The years past but the Great War was still a painful memory. Both James and Elizabeth had died.  Alexander had gone to sea, like his forebears and another war was on the horizon.

Somehow Alexander ended up in Calcutta, as he was on board the SS Calabria bound for Liverpool via Freetown and Belfast.

S.S. Calabria

The Calabria, a Steam Passenger Ship, built by A B Wesser completed in 1922. Originally, launched as the Wesser she was sold in 1935 to an Italian company and renamed Calabria.

In 1940 Italy declared war on France and Great Britain. At this time the Calabria was in dry dock in Calcutta. On the 11th of June, the Calabria was seized by British Authorities with plans to rename her Empire Inventor. In December of the same year, she set sail for Liverpool loaded with 4,000 tons of iron; 3,050 tons of tea and 1,870 tons of oil cake. Her Master was David Lonie who commanded 128 officers and crew plus 230 supernumeraries, who were travelling to crew other vessels – these were mainly Indian but did include four Hong Kong crewmen and one Danish merchant officer. Her Chief Engineer was Alexander Riach Masson.

The Calabria left Freetown, the capital of Sierre Leone, with convoy SLS-56 but fell behind. Although behind the rest of the convoy she continued her journey through perilous waters.

Slyne Head, Galway

On the evening of the 8th December 1940, some 295 miles west of Slyne Head, Galway, she was spotted by the German U-boat U-103 commanded by Viktor Schultze, a career sailor and highly decorated Commander. He was the recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves.

At 20:58, blacked out and under wartime regulations, she was torpedoed followed by a second six minutes later. The moon, between half and full moon, on a clear night, would have given off- enough light for U-130 to see her against the sky.

The Calabria sank with all hands. According to the crew and passenger list, the eldest on board was Santan Martins, aged 79. Some reports say he was the eldest merchant seaman to be killed at sea during the Second World War. The youngest on board the Calabria was 18 years old, Cadet Leslie Charles Norris.

Alexander was 50 years old when he was lost at sea. But like many others who lost their life at sea, he is remembered on the Tower Hil Memorial. Alexander also included in the Merchant Navy Roll of Honour 1914-1945 and the Roll of Honour Merchant and Fishing Fleet 1939-1945 and the Kinloss War Memorial.

Can you guess one thing that SS Calabria and U-boat U130 have in common?  They were both built by A G Wesser.

The family headstone in Kinloss tells that Alexander was not the only Masson son to die during this period in history:-

Masson / Riach headstone, Kinloss Burial Ground © C Sklinar 2020

In loving memory of ELIZABETH RIACH
beloved wife of JAMES MASSON Master Mariner who
died at Findhorn on the 13th November 1926, aged 75 years.
Also, the above JAMES MASSON who died at Findhorn 13th Aug. 1931, aged 86 years.
And their sons THOMAS Marine Engineer died at Cardiff 13th Jan. 1937, aged 57 years.
ALEXR. RIACH Marine Engineer lost at sea through enemy action 8th Dec. 1940, aged 51 years.
JAMES Seaman, A.M.M. died of wounds through enemy action at Darwin, N.A. (Northern Australia) 4th Jan. 1942, aged 61 years.

Alexander, of South View, Findhorn left over £2000 in his will.

James Masson also served

S.S. Zealander during the attack in 1940

Alexander’s brother James travelled to Australia in 1896 as an apprentice on an unassisted immigrant. Somehow during WW2 James ended up on SS Zealander.

On February the 19th 1942 the Japanese Airforce bombed Darwin. Quite a few bombs fell close to the Zealander – one eventually fell through a hatch and exploded, causing a serious fire. Later Japanese planes attacked with cannons and machine guns. The ammunition hold exploded, while the pumps were disabled by another bomb. The order to Abandon Ship was given.

The Zealander sank to the bottom of the harbour with only its masts visible above the water. Two members of the crew died from sounds but the remaining 142 survived.

Was James Masson one of the two seamen who died of wounds?  It sounds like he could have been.

A Scottish Soldier

A Scottish Soldier

And so it begins. I’ve found a soldier’s name. Don’t know where he will lead me, but let the story begin!

In Elgin’s Linkwood Cemetery is the polished granite headstone remembering the Barron family. On that headstone is a black highlighted name – William Alex Barron, my chosen soldier.

The headstone also includes William’s brother, Daniel Barron, Pte., 2629, who died at Rue Du Bacquerot, France on the 30th of June 1915, aged 30. He rests in the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, Laventie, France. The family had had the foresight to think about family or military historians – they added service numbers of the soldiers. Such a thoughtful family!

Barron family headstone © C Sklinar July 2020

You, the reader, may wonder why I chose William over his brother Daniel? The answer is simple. Daniel served in the Seaforth Highlanders, and his service record may or may not have survived the WW2 bombing by enemy action. William served in an army whose archives were not subject to the same enemy action.

William Alex Barron, who are you?

William was born on the 15th of June 1891, the son of James Barron and his wife, Abigail nee McConnachie.

Sometime between 1901 and 1915, William ventured across the Atlantic to live and work in Canada. On the 30th of June 1915, at Niagra, Ontario, William Attested to serve in Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. Four days earlier, William had undergone his physical examination and deemed to be fit. Would you have recognised him as he walked back to his parent’s house at 14 College Street, Elgin? You may do it I tell you that he was aged around 25 and was 5′ 8″ tall, with fair hair, blue eyes and brown hair. If he had his shirt sleeves rolled above his elbow, you might have seen that William had three tattoos – one on his left arm and two on his right. He also had two vaccination marks on his left arm from childhood.

William, now Private 451024 in the 8th CEF Battalion, sailed from Halifax (Nova Scotia?) on the 22nd of November 1916 onboard SS Safonica, probably bound for England. Later he embarked for France (from England) on the 20th of February 1916.

In May of 1916, William received a gunshot wound (GSW) to his left hand and shoulder. As a result, William had been taken to the 20th General Hospital, Camiers. He was later sent to No6 Convalescent Depot, Etaples, followed by a time in Boulogne. He must have recovered somewhat as in August 1916 he was sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment No. 1 (FP1) for Drunkenness.

On the 11th of November 1916, William attended the dentist with broken dentures. By now, we are building up a picture of William – his tattoos, vaccination scars along with his war scars to his hand and shoulder. Thanks to his Canadian Service Records we know he had some false teeth!

The 18th of January 1917 was a new start for William, he had recovered from the injuries to his hand and shoulder and subsequently transferred to the 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company.

In June 1917, the company began working on deep dugouts and mines in the Ypres Salient in preparations for the Battle of Messines. This battle was the beginning of the much larger Third Battle of Ypres (July – November 1917).

On the 30th of June 1917, in the Field, William had been appointed Lance Corporal – with pay.

The 30th of June 1917 was a day his family would remember, not only had William been promoted, but he was also wounded.

William received a gunshot wound – a spinal injury to the cord and noted as being severe. After undergoing immediate medical care at No 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. On the 7th of July, William, dangerously ill, was taken aboard HS (hospital ship) Princess Elizabeth bound for England.  The medical staff of HS Princess Elizabeth consisted of three British Officers.  One Warrant Officer, three nurses and sisters plus 27 RAMC and/or St Johns Ambulance members.  There was the capacity for 30 cots plus walking wounded.  Her capacity was quite small compared to other hospital ships.

William upon arrival in the UK was admitted to Dover Military Hospital. In Williams records, there is an assessment of his wounds and overall condition. His Medical Case Sheet is easier to read:

” General Hospital No #18. 3 July 1917. GSW. spine, lower dorsal region penetrating. Paraplegia & anaesthesia from above umbilicus down. Involuntaries of faeces. Bladder distended. General condition only fair. C W Robinson, Lieut. MORC USA.”

“5 July 1917. Condition somewhat improved. Temperature down. Unable to keep anything on stomach. Bladder overflowing. Bowels involuntary. C W Robinson, Lieut. MORC USA.”

On the 11th of July 1917, William Died of Wounds. One comment on his records says ‘exhaustion’.

William was later taken ‘home’ to Elgin and he rests with his parents and sister, in Linkwood Cemetery.

I’ve told you so far about William’s service and death but there are other wonderful documents within his service records. One is a general card that gives an address for his father – 10 Losse Wind, Elgin. Another card has another, earlier address – 10 Union Street, Elgin. Then there is William’s Will attached to a Form of Will document. Written on the 1st of March 1917. William bequeathed all his estate to his mother, Abigail, of 10 Lossie Wynd, Elgin (the correct spelling, this time!). The witness to William’s will was 503267 Private J W S Normington, 2nd Tunnelling Company of Saville Park, Halifax, England.

William wrote:

“451024. William A Barron, 58th Battn. Military Will. In event of my death I bequeath all my money to my mother Mrs Abigail Barron 10 Lossie Wynd, Elgin, Scotland. The amount which is £5 10s from the 1st day of January till the day of my death. After her death to my sister Mrs J Dunbar(?) 7 West Park Road, Elgin, Scotland. Signed William A Barron, Pte 58th Battn. February 19th 1916.”

William’s father, James died in 1920.  His only sister Jessieann died in 1922.  Followed by his mother, Abigail in 1931.

South African Campaign to World War 1 – Sgt A James

South African Campaign to World War 1 – Sgt A James.

The committee who decided what information should be on the Dallas, Morayshire, war memorial were considerate of the modern-day researcher. These thoughtful people included name, rank and regiment – such foresight to consider future researchers?

The man who caught my attention is Alexander James born on 10th February 1884. Alexander served as

Menin Gate
CWGC image

Sergeant 28590, in the battalion Canadian Infantry. He Alexander died on the 13th of June, 1916, aged 32 and remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. The CWGC website includes Alexander’s regiment and place of remembrance. Also included are his parent’s names and where they lived. There is one other piece of information, making Alexander’s story more interesting.

What could this information be?

It is that Alexander served in the South African Campaign. The Imperial Yeomanry Records 1899-1902 are available from the National Archives. They are also available on Ancestry – Alexander’s Short Service Attestation is there. 

Alexander was 20 years and one month old when he signed to serve. Alexander was born in the parish of Speymouth near Fochabers, Morayshire, at the time of his enlistment he was working as a farm servant. Alexander had left home three years earlier – probably now living on or near the farm where he worked. He signed the papers in Inverness o the 4th of December 1901, before Colonel Shaw. 

If you walked down a street in Inverness or strode down Fochabers High Street, would you have recognised Alexander? Perhaps you would have done if I tell you that he was 5′ 8″ tall. He was quite well built, with an expanded chest of 39½”. Alexander had a fresh complexion, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. On his right forearm, he had the tattoed figure of a female plus a visible scar. 

Alexander was now part of the 1st Battalion Scottish Horse, Imperial Yeomanry, serving as Private (Trooper) 37478. Discharged the following September after serving in South Africa. After initially serving 37 days ‘At Home’. From the 11th of January 1902, 230 days in South Africa followed by a final seven days ‘At Home’ before discharge. His service ended with him awarded the Queens’ Medal and Claps and South African Medal plus claps. His next of kin was his father James James, who lived at Blackhills, Rafford by Forres. I wonder when I research a soldier from Morayshire if their paths cross of my Riach and Hay families, especially when there is a connection to a place – did they know each other? 

Alexander’s conduct while with the Colours had been ‘very good’. He signed his name – he was no longer in the army. His time in the Yeomanry came to an end. After this time in his life, he intended to live at Graus (sic), Burnside, Dipple, Fochabers.

How did Alexander end up serving with a Canadian Regiment?  

Sometime between his discharge from the army in 1902 and when he re-enlisted in 1914, he ventured abroad. I haven’t done in-depth research for his travel details, hence the broad spectrum. But he did end up there!

Alexander’s service records are available to research, unlike many British documents destroyed or damaged in WW2. The first page of his records confirms his two years service with the Scottish Horse. Also of three years with the Cameron Highlanders and eight years with the Royal Horse. It makes you wonder when he had time to work and then venture to Canada.

Alexander’s WW1 records duplicate the more general information or expand those details. One such example is that of Alexander’s tattoo. In his 1901 documents, the description is of a generic lady. Yet, in his WW1 documentation, the information is more detailed – an American or Mexican woman. Alexander had the tattoo in 1901 when he signed up for the South African Campaign. Why would a 17-year-old who, by then had not left his native Scotland, want to have this on his arm? One other descriptive snippet was that he had a mole on his right clavicle.  

On the 10th of August 1914, he attended the recruiting office in Victoria. On the 23rd of September, 1914, he was fit. Alexander was once again with the Colours. On enlistment, he was with the 19th Canadians, service number 28590, later with the 43rd Battalion, C.E.F. (Canadian Expeditionary Force).  

Alexander’s Will, extracted from his Pay Book, left all his property and effects to his mother, Jessie of Blackhills, Rafford.

In March 1916, Alexander received a G.S.W. (gunshot wound) to his left leg while on active service. After his time in hospital in the ‘at home’. He underwent a medical examination at Sandygate. After four weeks of physical training, he was to be fit.

There are so many pages to Alexander’s records, so many details and snippets of information I could continue to write for a long time. So I will highlight a few of the memorable times in his service.  

  • 8 February 1915 Promoted to Corporal while at sea.
  • 15 March 1915 Promoted to Sergent while in France.
  • 3 May 1915. Admitted to Military Hospital Colchester.
  • 15 July 1915. Discharged to furlough, Shorncliffe.
  • 28 July 1915. Reported from sick furlough, Shorncliffe.
  • 6 December 1915. Taken back on Strength, Shorncliffe.
  • 1 March 1916. Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom. 
  • 24 March 1916. Taken back on Strength,
  • 24 May 1916. Reports to Folkstone from Epsom.
  • 6 Jun 1916. Transferred to 16th Battalion – Overseas.
  • 31 May 1916. Promoted to Sergent – in the Field.
  • 27 June 1916. Killed in Action.
  • 4 July 1916. The correct date of death amended to 13 June 1916
  • Alexander spent a total of 61 days in the hospital.

Alexander’s three medals and Memorial Cross went to his mother, Jessie. While James, his father, received the Plaque and Scroll.

Alexander’s papers, like nearly all other service records, are not in chronological order. Close to the end of the records is a ‘Statement of Case’ – a description of the events on the day Alexander received his G.S.W.

Completed by the Medical Officer.  

Alick James, formerly an Engineer. Disability – Shrapnel to Left Leg.

Date – 22 April 1915. Place – Ypres.

Statement – States he was charging with the 16th Batt. on night of 22nd Apl. When he was wounded in the left leg by shrapnel. Was in hospital until 14 July. The wounds having bee infected. Two pieces were said to have been removed, seven pieces to have been left in leg. State that leg swells badly whenever he does any walking, that he suffers considerable pain.  

Reasons for disability – Shrapnel fragments in leg.

What is his present condition? There are eight wounds on left leg (punctured(?)). The increased movements of knee normal, those of ankle slightly limited. The largest scar is adherent to underlying muscle and construction of soleus muscle causes pain.  

Change to England – Light Duty & operation.

Alexander, according to the Canadian War Graves Register, was attacking or being attacked near Zillebeke, Belgium – some 7 minutes drive from Ypres. Hence, him being remembered on Menin Gate Memorial.

The Morayshire Roll of Honour – JAMES, Alexander. No. 28590, 

Sgt., 16th Canadian Scottish ; born at Trochill, Speymouth, Morayshire, 10th Feb., 1884 ; joined in British Colombia, Canada ; served i n France ; wounded, April 14th 1915, and killed between 12th and 14th June, 1917 (should be 1916), presumed at Ypres ; awarded South African Medal with four clasps. Son of J. and Jessie Ann James, Blackhillock, Burgie, Forres, Morayshire. Occupation, engine driver.

Two Men Named Christmas

Two Men Named Christmas

Christmas is usually a time for celebration and family gatherings. This year has been something out of the ordinary. The year 2020 will no doubt be written in the annals of history.

Today is the 25th of December 2020, Christmas Day and this started me wondering if there were any WW1 casualties with Christmas as their first names? A few years ago I wrote about unusual first name, you know, things like drinks, places, special occasions etc., Christmas. Was there any waiting to be researched?

As it happens in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission online website, there are 61 entries with Christmas in their first names. Of which 45 are from the First World War. Which of these 45 young men should be part of my ramblings?

West Yorkshire Regiment CWGC

A Yorkshire man? – George Thomas Christmas Stimpson. George served in the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) H Company, 1st Battalion. No, he wasn’t a Yorkshire man, he was a native of Cromer. George started his time in the army when after enlisting in Norwich. He served as Private 9204 in the 1st Battalion.

George seems to have been in France and Belgium from around November 1914 – this is confirmed by him being eligible for the 1914 Star, long with the British and Victory Medals.

Thiepval Memorial

George, aged 21, died on or since the 19th of August 1916. He has no known grave but remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. George, included in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects names his uncles Samuel and John as beneficiaries. His uncles were to divide approximately £28 paid in two instalments, the last in September 1919.

Another young man named Christmas was Christmas Newbery. Christmas was the son of George and Susan Newbery and elder brother to Ethel and Dora. You may have guessed why Christmas got his name? He was born on Boxing Day 1891 in Lambeth, London. On the 23rd of March 1892, the family left their home, 88 Dover Buildings to take Christmas to St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Southwark for his baptism.

In 1911 the family and Helen Turner, a niece, were all living at 126 Totterdown Street, Tooting, London. Christmas was an Assistant Postman working for the G.P.O. (General Post Office).

Seaforth Highlanders CWGC

The Great War began in 1914. it must have been shortly after this Christmas Enlisted as he was eligible for the 1914-1915 Star, the British and Victory Medals. He joined the Seaforth Highlanders and served as Private, 911, and on the 1st of March 1915, he was in France. After being killed in action on the 15th of June, 1915 he is remembered on Le Touet Memorial, France.

His mother, Susan Newbery of 114 Gasscot Road, Tooting, submitted a claim for her son’s pension. There are multiple index cards for this pension claim, each of which has a different address for the family. The small amount of 10/- was granted to Susan for a few years then reduced to 5/-for life.

James Bochel – Nairn to Canada

James Bochel – Nairn to Canada


It was on the 2nd of March, 1916 that James went to his recruiting depot and signed to “hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should the war last longer than one year, and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my services, or until legally discharged.” Signed by James and witnessed by A F Ancy (sic).

I’ll come back to the paperwork relating to James’ service.

But who was James before he enlisted?

James, born in April 1886, was one of the four children of Isaac and Margaret of 28 Society Street, Nairn.  Isaac was one of the many local fishermen, who earned their living from the sea.

James left the country of his birth before 1916.  There is an entry in the Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935 for the 1st of April 1911, for a Jas. Bochel aged 24, sailing from Glasgow on the SS Saturnia along with over 1250 passengers (1107 adults and 145 children under 14 years of age), bound for St John, New Brunswick. The Master of the Saturnia was David Taylor.  The Saturna had 252 passengers in Second Class and 1000 in Steerage.  The heath of all the passengers was good and none were in quarantine.  On the ships manifest James’ occupation is that of a blacksmith but that obviously changed when he arrived in Vancouver.  Could this have been due to meeting a plumber on the voyage or on the long journey to Vancouver?

Fron Nairn to Vancouver via Google Maps

James met and married a young lady named Margaret on the 8th of March 1916, a few days after he had visited the recruitment office.

Back to the paperwork I mentioned earlier, his Attestation Papers.

The first page of James’ Attestation Papers on the Canadian Archives website, is information that we more than likely know – his name; current address; date and place of birth and occupation. If the soldier is married or next of kin are included. Other information needing only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are – have you been vaccinated? Have you ever served in the Militia or any Military Force? And quite importantly ‘Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement’?

The two pages give limited knowledge about his initial entry into the Canadian Army. However, the Ancestry website holds his full-service record – a great boon for anyone with James in their tree.
Sometime after James enlisted Margaret, his wife moved, back to Scotland, where she made 53 Forteath Street, Burghead her home. The next page is a description of James, this page, however, does tell that he weighed 140lb (10 stone) and that his vaccinations given when a child.

When I see a description of a soldier, it is as though I could walk down a street in recognise him. But when there is a typewritten will included in the records, it brings back the harsh reality that some men will never return to their loved ones. James had one such letter included in his paperwork. ‘No. 505100 James Bochel, Canadian Engineers. Military Will. In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife Margaret Bochel, 53 Forteath Street, Burghead, Morayshire, Scotland. J. Bochel. Sapper Can. Engineers. October 28, 1916,’

James embarked Canada as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on the 20th of June 1916, onboard S.S. Missanabie, arriving in England nine days later. (The Missanabie, was torpedoed in September 1918 and sank just off the Irish coast.) James’ record show that he was at Shireclife, and Crowborough before entering France from the reinforcement pool.

Margaret was granted £180 War Gratuity less an amount of £80 Special Pension Bonus which had already been paid (£20 in May, June, July and August). This was sent on cheque number G1897944 on the 30th of July 1920. Prior to this money, Margaret had been getting £20 per month as a Separation Allowance.

James, during operations at Neuville Vitesse (south of Arras), was sitting in a dugout, with three of his comrades, when an enemy 5.9 shell made a direct hit on the dugout. Killing the four soldiers instantly. (source Circumstances of Death Registers First World War, Canadian Archives).

So James was Killed in Action in The Field on April 1st 1917 and rests in Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St- Eloi which lies between Bethune and Arras and is the final resting place of over 1720 other casualties, many of whom died on or around the 1st of April.

‘UNTIL THE DAY DAWN AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY’ are the words at the base of James’ CWGC headstone in France.

James Main Bochel is remembered locally on the Burghead War Memorial.

James Bochel, Burghead War Memorial ©

Canadian Roll of Honour

If you are related to James it would be nice to hear from you.

St Paul’s Churchyard, Hanging Heaton

St Paul’s Churchyard, Hanging Heaton

St Paul’s church and burial ground lie at one corner of a housing estate just off the A653. Built as one of the ‘million churches’, to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo. Parliament gave a grant of ONE MILLION pounds so that a grateful nation could build churches as a way of saying thank you to God for safe deliverance. Built-in the Gothic style of stone taken from local quarries. Mr Thomas Taylor of Leeds designed the grand building which could seat around 600 worshippers.

The first burial to take place in the reasonably sized churchyard was that of Benjamin Whitaker, whose headstone is still visible today. Also resting in the churchyard are members of the Asquith family, namely Elizabeth Ann, William, May, and Edith. One other member of the family, although not buried with the rest of his family does have a mention on their headstone, Harry.

Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery, Montay via Google Maps

Harry, died on the 12th of October 1918 aged 38. Probably, his date of death may give you a clue as to why he is not resting with the rest of his family. The Commonwealth War Grave Commission Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery, Montay, bordered by a main road and countryside is where he rests. The cemetery is some 15 miles from Cambrai which was the site of many conflicts. The cemetery was made by the 23rd Brigade RGA (Royal Garrison Artillery, on the 26th and 27th of October 1918, containing at the time 111 graves – one of which would have been Harry’s. The Armistice, following month, saw many more burials taking places as those with a temporary burial were brought to more central cemeteries.

Back to Harry. He was the son of William and Elizabeth Ann. Born in Dewsbury Harry was 21 years old when the 1901 census was taken. The family lived at Wood End Terrace, Hanging Eaton. William was employed as a Bankers Clerk, the only other source of income was from Harry, an outfitters assistant (clothing). Elizabeth Ann and three daughters aged between 26 and 30 did not have any occupations. The other families living along the terrace were like the Asquith’s, not manual workers, except a farmer.

Elizabeth Ann died in 1905 aged 59 years of age; May, a daughter followed in 1919 aged 43; William died in 1920 aged 74 and Edith, another daughter died in 1951 aged 79.

In the summer of 1907, Harry married Emma Alice Unwin. In 1908 their only child, Arthur was born. 1911 the census for Harry and his family shows that Harry was still working in a clothing shop. Home for the family was 29 Bellbrooke Place, (Harehills) Leeds.

Harry enlisted into the army in Pontefract, more than likely after 1915 as his medal card shows he was only eligible for the Victory and British medals. So he becomes Private 241993 in the 9th HLI (Highland Light Infantry). The 9th Btn. was a territorial division raised in Glasgow in August 1914. By November they were mobilised and had arrived in France. During the following years, the battalion saw conflict on the Western Front. And from 1916 – Albert, Bazentin, High Wood, Polygon Wood, along with action on the Flanders coast and the Hindenburg Line. In 1918 The battles of Hazebrouck, Kemmel, St Quentin Canal, Cambrai and Selle. It was probably around the Selle area of France, only some five miles from Montay that Harry’s life ended.

Back home Emma would have received The Telegram that all families dreaded being delivered by the local postie. Emma would later receive The British and Victory Medals and the sum of £18 5s 3d from the War Office which included £9 War Gratuity. She was also eligible for a small pension that would cease in 1924 when Arthur was 16 years old.

Emma never re-married and in 1939 can be found at 70 Pontefract Road, Hemsworth with her son Arthur and his wife Phyllis. Emma was the local sub-postmistress and had been since the early war years. While Arthur worked as a rant and rate collector Hence, Harry enlisting in Pontefract. On the 24th of November 1957, Emma died. Her probate confirms the address of 70 Pontefract Road with the addition of a house name – ‘Justholme’. The sum of £1461 19s 9d was left to Austin now classed as a local government officer. Austin died in the early 1980s. Austin had been living at number 70 up to his death. His probate effects were not exceeding £25,000, as were quite a few other people on that page.