Thursday, 4 November 2010

Daniel Maciver, Coll

Daniel was a sergeant-major in the 5th battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment), the Fighting Fifth, when he was killed in action on 28 April 1917, aged 41. His link to the Isle of Lewis did not become clear to me until I was going through tributes in the Stornoway Gazette for 1917. The article, which sourced its information from a Canadian newspaper, the Yorkton Enterprise (Saskatchewan), gave quite a bit of information, but there was no reference to him from local files.

Let me quote the article first.

From the "Yorkton Enterpise" (Sask, Canada) to hand we cull the following:-
"Word was received by Mr Maciver, Saltcoats, on 19th May, that his son, Sergt Major Dan Maciver, D.C.M. of the Fighting Fifth battalion, had been killed in action. Dan, who was well known and a prime favourite throughout the district, was born at Coll, Lewis, Scotland, and came to Canada with his parents in 1889, settling in the Lothian Colony. Whilst still in his teens, Dan, along with Malcolm Docherty (now Major Docherty, DSO) journeyed to Winnipeg and joined the Canadian Dragoons. When the South African War broke out, he was one of the first to volunteer for active service, taking part in no less than twenty-three campaigns. At the outbreak of the present conflict Dan again showed his military spirit by enlisting and went overseas with the first contingent. After reaching France, he gave a splendid account of himself, and was promoted on the field to the rank of Sergt.-Major, being also frequently mentioned in despatches for bravery and coolness in action. Some time he was offered the chance to return to Canada for promotion, but preferred to stay with the game. His death is the fourth that has occurred in the family within the last five years, and he is survived by his parents and two brothers and two sisters out of a family of twelve."
A year last Christmas, Sergt.-Major Maciver paid a visit to the haunts of his youth at Coll, and needless to say had a very cordial welcome.
An on-line study group into the Canadian Expeditionary Force was most helpful in eliciting the information I was after.

Finding his birth certificate proved tricky, but thanks to the Registry at Stornoway Town Hall, I managed to find his as Donald Maciver, son of Kenneth and Mary, born on 4 February 1878. This ties in with the (partly erroneous) birth information from the attestation paper. This quotes him as born in 1888, but that is not possible if he enlisted in 1899 aged 21, or died in 1917 aged 41. The day and month of birth did check out. Daniel is likely to have been the name he was called by as he grew up. At the time of the 1881 census, the last Scottish census he appeared on, Daniel is mentioned as 3-year old Donald, son of Kenneth (a fisherman) and Mary, and brother of Alexander (aged 13), James (11), Murdo (9) and Margaret (1). His parents were married in Back Free Church on 13 December 1866 by the minister Donald Mcmaster.

Kenneth was the son of crofter Colin Maciver and Margaret Matheson.
Mary was the daughter of grieve Alexander Munro and Janet Macdairmid.

Donald's parents emigrated to Canada in 1889, as the article says, and he joined up for the Boer War of 1899-1901. He gained the Queen's Medal with four clasps (Paardeberg, Driefontein, Cape Colony and Transvaal) before being discharged on Christmas Day 1900.

Fourteen years later, the spectre of war once more descended over Europe and Daniel immediately responded. He enlisted at the Valcartier barracks in Quebec on 17 September 1914, 6 weeks after the outbreak of war. On his attestation paper he was quoted as a Real-Estate Agent, with his father Kenneth Mcivor (sic) living in Saltcoats, SK, although elsewhere Mciver senior is listed at Barvas. This hamlet is located a dozen miles north of Saltcoats. On enlistment, Daniel is described as 5 ft 10 (1.77 m) tall, of fair complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. A mole was seen at the centre of his back. He professes to be of the Presbyterian faith.

During the First World War, Daniel is mentioned in despatches twice; being mentioned in despatches is a distinction in itself. The reference to a DCM is not correct; Daniel was never awarded this medal. He was sadly lost in the aftermath of the battle for Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and is only mentioned on the Vimy Memorial; the location of his grave is unknown.

I have entered Daniel's details on Faces from the Lewis War Memorial under the heading of Coll.

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