Monday, 28 February 2011

Last US veteran of the Great War passes away

Although not strictly speaking related to local history, the heavy emphasis of this blog on the First World War warrants the below tribute. 

One of my American on-line contacts kindly alerted me to the fact that the last US veteran who had seen active service during the First World War, Frank Buckles, died yesterday (27 February 2011) at the age of 109. There are only one or two other veterans from the Allied side left alive today, who (I believe) live in Australia.

Frank, you are now back with your old mates from the trenches.
Rest in peace, you've done well.

No coincidence - Roeux British Cemetery

The story behind the Lewis burials at this cemetery is similar to that of the Brown's Copse Cemetery, which is situated about 3/4 mile to the north. The three men that this post refers to were all serving with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, and were all killed in action on 3 May 1917, during the battle to take Roeux, which lasted until the 16th of that month.

S/9220 Cpl Alex Macleod (aged 28), son of Kenneth and Mary, 56 North Tolsta, grave A. 16
3/7248 Pte Donald Smith (aged 22), son of Angus and Catherine, 23 South Bragar, grave C. 21.
514 Pte Angus Maciver (aged 27), 45 Lower Bayble, grave D. 38.

No coincidence - Brown's Copse Cemetery

Brown's Copse Cemetery is one of four graveyards in the area of Roeux and Fampoux, 4 miles east of  Arras in northern France. According to CWGC, there was severe fighting for the village in April 1917, when the 9th Scottish Division attempted to take Roeux from the Germans. Six of the nine Lewismen buried here died on 11 April 1917, a day before the atack failed. They managed to enter the village on 22 April, clearing it of the Germans on May 14th. William Macleod, who was killed on 16 May, fell in the battle to retake the chemical works, which had been recaptured by the Germans on that day.

With the exception of Archie Murray (Black Watch) and William Macleod (1st/6th Seaforths) all men were serving with the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders.

Here is a list of their names:

11 April 1917
S/13150 Pte Malcolm Macleod, 13 Lower Shader,  grave I. A. 10
3/7424 Cpl Duncan Anderson (aged 22), 5 Kershader, grave II. E. 33.
S/16112 Pte Duncan Macdonald (aged 19), son of Murdo and Helen, Gress, grave III. A. 4
S/6862 Pte Angus Macritchie (aged 37), son of Donald, husband of Annie, 1 Adabrock, grave III. D. 35.3/7153 Pte Malcolm Maciver (aged 20), 48 Borve, grave III. E. 12
3/7138 Pte Angus Macdonald (aged 21) 21 Ballantrushal, son of Angus, grave III. F. 25

14 April 1917
3/7344 Pte Finlay Maclean (aged 19), 21 Callanish, grave III. F. 15.

25 April 1917
292771 Pte Archie Murray (aged 28), 1st/7th Black Watch, son of John and Catherine, 25 Newton Street, Stornoway, grave II. C. 17

16 May 1917
267505 Pte William Macleod (aged 34), 1st/6th Seaforth Highlanders, son of William and Jane, 1 Matheson Road, Stornoway, grave III. G. 21

Remembering today - 28 February

Private JOHN NICOLSON, Gordon Highlanders, late of 9 North Tolsta, died today in 1915 at the age of 19

Seaman DONALD MACLEOD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 14 Borrowston, died today in 1917 at the age of 18

Private JOSEPH JAMES MAIR, Australians, late of 2 Shell Street, Stornoway, died today in 1919 at the age of 32

Sunday, 27 February 2011

No coincidence - Bard Cottage Cemetery

Bard Cottage Cemetery lies a few miles north of Ypres [Ieper] in western Belgium, along the IJzer Canal. According to the entry on the CWGC register, the cemetery faced the German lines for much of the war time period. It was in use from 1915 onwards.

We find six casualties from the isle of Lewis here, five of whom died within two weeks of each other in June 1915; a sixth was killed in 1916. They were all killed in action whilst serving in the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders. The second week of June came about 6-7 weeks after a heavy assault by German forces at Ypres, in which they used poison gas for the first time. The Seaforths had been deployed after that gas attack, but were reportedly a very 'green' unit, practically untrained and not terribly effective in repelling the sustained German onslaught.

The six from Lewis who lie buried in this cemetery are:
7934 L/Cpl Angus Macleod, 56 North Tolsta, son of Kenneth and Mary, lost 19 June 1915 aged 30.

7283 L/Cpl William Mackenzie, 23 Borve, son of Malcolm and Bella, lost 9 June 1915 aged 19

9106 Sgt William Sinclair Ross, School House Shawbost, son of William and Catherine, lost 9 June 1915 aged 33

7954 L/Cpl Alex Mackenzie, 3 Upper Bayble, son of Malcolm and Margret, lost 9 June 1915 aged 31

7443 Pte Duncan Mackay, 1 Park Carloway, son of Norman, lost 18 June 1915 aged 18.

7476 L/Cpl Murdo Macdonald, 12 Portnaguran, son of Malcolm, lost 12 August 1916 aged 20

Postscript: I have ordered the war diaries of the 2nd Seaforths and will post further findings as I go through that material. 

Remembering today - 27 February

Gunner JOHN A MACLEOD, Royal Garrison Artillery, late of 12 North Beach Street, Stornoway, died today in 1917 at the age of 23

Private JOHN MORRISON, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 4 Borve, died today in 1919 at the age of 25
Seaman MALCOLM MORRISON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 24 South Bragar, died today in 1919 at the age of 36

Saturday, 26 February 2011

No coincidence

612 of the 1282 WW1 casualties from Lewis have a known grave, of which 224 are buried in the island itself. When you look at the overseas cemeteries, the (Lewis) casualties buried there are sometimes quoted as having lost their lives around the same date. I am going to make a few postings about those cemeteries where this appears to be the case, and explain what happened around that time in the First World War.

Remembering today - 26 February

Seaman GEORGE MACAULAY, Merchant Navy, late of 3 Keith Street, Stornoway, died today in 1918 at the age of 24

Leading Seaman KENNETH MACIVER, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 23 Coll, died today in 1919 at the age of 30

Thursday, 24 February 2011


One of the entries in Faces from the Lewis War Memorial turned out to have erroneous information linked to it. When cross-referencing entries in the Roll of Honour against the CWGC files, it is quite easy to fall into the trap, laid by the fact that there are so few different first names and surnames in Lewis. This can result in a CWGC entry being linked to two people with the same name - and a bit of research to find the correct entry for one of them.

Last address in Lewis: 43 Ranish,
Son of Leod Macleod
Date of death: 25 April 1915 at the age of 25
Service unit: 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 9258
Killed in action
Interred: Seaforth Cemetery, Cheddar Villa, grave B. 1. (Headstone "A" 6).
Local memorial: North Lochs, Crossbost
Had served 5 years with the army in India

Angus had posed problems for other researchers as well, but it was concluded that he is the most likely candidate. I was quite confident of this as well, after searching on turned out an Angus Macleod, born in Lochs, with army reg 9258 and dying on 25 April 1915. But it does not help that his surname was spelt MacCleod in some files.

And there are more than 70 others that I have not been able to link to a CWGC entry. Some of those just aren't on there, as they do not qualify, or cannot be identified beyond doubt. Others may have incorrect information linked to them from the Roll of Honour (a document full of errors), making it very difficult to track them down.

WW1 statistics

The First World War is associated with some pretty shocking statistics, in terms of lives lost. The overall loss of life for British Imperial Forces stands at just over 1.1 million, with 111,000 civilians lost. This equates to the following percentages of the total population:

Australia: 1.38%
Canada 0.93%
New Zealand 1.64%
United Kingdom 2.19%

The losses from the Isle of Lewis, just below 1,300, equate to about 4% of the total population of approximately 30,000 in 1911. I have often quoted these figures as follows: rougly every second man joined up (their number stands at around 6,200) and of those, every fifth man did not survive the war.

It has now become clear to me that more than half of those (about 600) do not have a known grave. Of those, half again (300) are Royal Navy or Royal Naval Reserve personnel. And of those, more than sixty were lost in the Iolaire Disaster, their bodies never to be recovered. 

There are 123 references to WW1 casualties in the graveyards of Lewis, which are actually not interred there. Half of those have no known grave.

Just because an archduke got shot in Sarajevo?

Remembering today - 24 February

Seaman DONALD MACIVER, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 26C Leurbost, died today in 1917 at the age of 38

Leading Seaman DONALD MACDONALD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 34 Lower Shader, died today in 1919 at the age of 29

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Now remembered

This afternoon, I came across a new name for the list of casualties from the First World War, originating from the Isle of Lewis. This brings the total to 1,294. Murdo Morrison is listed as 'Morrion' in some files, and I have as yet been unable to trace his service record. I am currently round the Needle & Haystack, and am likely to be a while. Meanwhile, I am pleased to highlight his entry on Faces from the Lewis War Memorial. He does not feature on any of the island war memorials; I have not found any reference to him in any of the West Side graveyards and he is only remembered on the Arras Memorial in northern France. And now on my wee website.

 Last address in Lewis: 6 Borve
Son of Angus and Mary Morrison, of 6, Borve, Barvas, Stornoway.
Service unit: 6th Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: 267468
Date of death: 12 May 1917 at the age of 38
Killed in action
Memorial: Arras Memorial, bay 8

Remembering today - 23 February

Private GEORGE MACIVER, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 24 Vatisker, died today in 1917

Seaman DONALD MURRAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 21 North Tolsta, died today in 1919 at the age of 21

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Remembering today - 22 February

Private DONALD GUNN, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 5 Knockaird, died today in 1917 at the age of 23
Private JOHN M MACKINNON, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 8B Ranish, died today in 1917 at the age of 21
Lance-Corporal DONALD MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 8 Fivepenny, died today in 1917 at the age of 23
Lance-Corporal DONALD MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 12 Garenin, died today in 1917
Sergeant NEIL MORRISON, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 4 Dun Carloway, died today in 1917 at the age of 36
Leading Seaman JOHN THOMSON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 32 Aird Tong, died today in 1917 at the age of 36
Seaman JOHN THOMSON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 32 Tong, died today in 1917

Monday, 21 February 2011

Remembering today - 21 February

Private DONALD MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 20 Fivepenny, died today in 1915 at the age of 34

Seaman COLIN MACKINNON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 15 Ranish, died today in 1916 at the age of 23

Friday, 18 February 2011


This map shows all the cemeteries in the world where WW1-casualties, originally from the Isle of Lewis, lie buried. The greatest concentration is between western Belgium and the Somme. It is possible to zoom in and out on the map. This is an intermediate output.

Remembering today - 18 February

Private RODERICK MACLEOD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 4 Battery Park, Stornoway, died today in 1919 at the age of 34

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Arandora Star

The Arandora Star was a ship carrying refugees from Germany to America in 1940. She was torpedoed by U-47, captain Günther Prien, who had sunk HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow in October 1939, with the loss of 800 lives. The loss of life from the Arandora Star is of the same magnitude: 800. Bodies washed ashore in Ireland and the Hebrides over the days and weeks following the incident. Three Italian nationals washed up on shores in the Western Isles; two in Barra and one in South Uist. Oreste Fisanotti was buried in the old cemetery at Borve, Barra; Baldassare Plescia is interred in Hallan Cemetery, Daliburgh, South Uist and Enrico Muzio at the St Barr's Cemetery at Eoligarry, Barra.

Another ten bodies of Italian nationals are buried in marked graves on the shores of Western Scotland; the vast majority, more than 400, were never found or could not be identified. The latter are buried in unmarked graves on the Irish west coast.

In September 2010, the cemetery committee at Hallan opened a website showing all the burials in the graveyard. It gained a lot of interest, particularly after secretary Sandy Stephens highlighted her work with the graveyard and the website in the BBC TV series An Island Parish. As a result, she received a letter from Mrs Rosemary Wonham, which was passed on to me. I have permission from Mrs Wonham to publish it on this website. I am copying it here with only a few amendments to maintain the flow of the narrative.
In 1963 we were newly married, and moved from England to live in Glasgow where my husband was a research student at the university. There we met a Russian lady, who was a friend of our landlady. Her name was Vera Fisanotti (maiden name Maschova). Her husband Oreste and Vera are buried at Borve (St. Brendan's) Catholic buriel ground. [Barra].

Vera's life was extremely sad. She fled from Petrograd (St. Petersburg) during the 1917 Revolution where she was studying to be a doctor. Because of his contacts, her father, a sea captain, smuggled her onto a boat in Odessa bound for Constantinople (Istanbul). All she had was a little bag of precious gems given to her by her father.

Arriving in Turkey was very frightening for her, and she decided to try and make her way to the UK. Eventually she arrived in London, where she got work in an hotel as a chambermaid. It was there that she met and fell in love with Oreste Fisanotti, who was working at the hotel as a waiter, and they married. When the war broke out, her husband was made\an internee, and eventually put on the Arandora Star to be sent to Canada. I am sure you are aware that this ship was torpedoed with a huge loss of life, and Oreste's body was washed up on the Isle of Barra. When her only friend, her beloved husband, died, Vera went to live on Barra to be near his body, as she had nobody else in the world. She stayed there until, I think, the late 1950's. She was advised by the doctors to leave the island as it was not a suitable place for her to live due to respiratory and rheumatism problems. Reluctantly she left and moved to Glasgow. From the day she left Russia to the day she died she had no idea what had happened to her family in Russia. She tried to find information abput her family form the Red Cross, but she was very wary of giving away too much about herself as she still had a great fear of being discovered by the Russians. This was probably irrational, but in 1963, you will remember that Russia was still a closed society. Her story is very sad, and it made a lasting impression on both my husband and myself. We were in our early twenties and had never come across anyone with such an amazing story. When we moved into our landlady's house, Vera was very cold towards us when she visited. As time passed she opened up and became friendly. Later she told me that she was jealous and anxious that we would take our landlady's love away from her.
In addition, Mrs Wonham wrote to me:
Vera and Oreste were married at Holborn, London in September 1936.  Vera, strangely, called herself Vera Rossette.  I do not know whether she just changed her name or did so legally.  I am assuming that she wanted to make herself appear to be an Italian rather than Russian.  As I mentioned in my letter, she was very very nervous of anyone knowing about her Russian background, almost verging on paranoia.  She had a great fear that she would be kidnapped and taken back to her homeland.  However, you will see from the enclosed photo of their graves that, in death she was very happy to acknowledge her Russian origins.
Regarding Oreste, the only extra information I know about him is that he came from Northern Italy, in the town of Mathi, in the province of Turin and the Piedmont region.  I know that before the war a great deal of Italians (particularly Northern Italians) came to the UK to find work.
I am pleased that Oreste and Vera are now back together again, reunited in death.
May they Rest in Peace.

This is the gravestone at Borve, Barra
Picture courtesy Alan Davis (via Rosemary Wonham)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

From Lower Sandwick to Baku


Last address in Lewis: 3 Lower Sandwick,
Son of the late William and Isabella MacLeod, of 3, Lower Sandwick, Stornoway.
Service unit: 1st Seaforth Highlanders
Service number: S/15208
Date of death: 26 August 1918 at the age of 31
Killed in action in Baku
Memorial: Baku Memorial
Local memorial: Lewis War Memorial; Nicolson Institute WW1, middle panel
View tribute here

That is the entry from Faces from the Lewis War Memorial, the only one featuring the war memorial at Baku. William was one of more than 90 British soldiers who were killed in a brief summer offensive in Azerbaijan. The Christian cemetery where he was interred was destroyed for the establishment of an amusement park by the Azeri's first communist leader, Sergei Kirov, in the 1920s. William's name is remembered on the memorial. According to the records from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 47 names of Commonwealth soldiers are listed on the memorial. It has been in existence for not much more than a decade, and plans for it blew up a storm in the post-Soviet Azerbijan. This seems to have blown over by now, and the memorial stands in the same cemetery where the tomb of the unknown warrior lies. I can only link to the URL of an image of the memorial, due to copyright issues.

Azerbaijan lies in the general area of the Caucasus, and that is a hotbed of political strife. The names of Nagorno-Karabach, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey combine into an explosive mixture, going back to the years of the First World War. It is about as bad as the Balkans, and even reading up on the issue made my head hurt. But worse than hurt were the British soldiers who were left behind upon the evacuation of their contingent in September 1918, having made the supreme sacrifice. Their remains were granted no rest, and the crazy politics of the area nearly made it impossible for their names to be remembered. But I am happy that Willie John's name is listed on a memorial, however far from home. His nephew is even happier - he has told me himself.

Remembering today - 16 February

Private DONALD GRAHAM, Canadians, late of Outend Coll, died today in 1915 at the age of 28
Sergeant GEORGE MACDONALD, Royal Fusiliers, late of 52 Bayhead Street, Stornoway, died today in 1915 at the age of 20
Private ROBERT STEWART, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 4 Scotland Street, Stornoway, died today in 1915

Private DONALD MACDONALD, Canadians, late of 9 Gravir, died today in 1917 at the age of 24

Monday, 14 February 2011

Shot at dawn

Image: Wikipedia
In 2006, all soldiers from the First World War who had been executed for military offences were granted a universal pardon. This applied to 306 men. It is my certain knowledge that this figure lies higher, and I shall quote an example at the end of this post.

It would appear that between 1914 and 1918, 3,000 applications were made for soldiers to be executed for desertion, malingering, leaving of post and casting away of arms. Only 300 of these were approved by the courts. Some appear to have been repeat offenders. However, when you read through a few of the submissions by the soldiers themselves, it would appear that many suffered what could be termed post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition referred to as shell-shock in those days.

To our eyes, execution seems to be an incredibly harsh punishment to meet out to those, guilty of the offences listed above. However, when viewing history, it is important to do so (if possible) through the eyes of the time. The excellent "Shot at dawn" website gives a lot more information on the background to these executions.

I arrived at this subject when compiling a map, showing the locations of all the cemeteries where Lewis-born combatants from WW1 lie buried. No Lewisman is officially listed as having been shot at dawn. There should however have been at least one.

I cannot name the individuals concerned, as I was told this story in confidence.

Soldier A, a classmate of soldier B, had come down with dysentry in the trenches. Nonetheless, he was ordered to go "over the top". He was unable to do so, due to physical weakening and other effects of the dysentry. Soldier A was classified as a malingerer, and executed. A few days later, his relatives received the a telegram - stating that he had been killed in action.
Soldier B survived to the end of the war, and returned to his home village in Lewis. He went to see the relatives who, naturally, wanted to know how their son had met his end. Soldier B, having been advised that the family was told that their son had been killed in action, proceeded to tell a tale of valour and gallantry.

I cannot imagine the turmoil "B" must have experienced, when seeing his friend degraded by disease, then summarily shot for malingering. In spite of the fact that it was patently obvious that he was ill.

Remembering today - 14 February

Seaman JOHN MACDONALD, Merchant Navy, late of 34 South Shawbost, died today in 1915 at the age of 31

Private JOHN CAMPBELL, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 18B Gravir, died today in 1919 at the age of 20

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Remembering today - 13 February

MALCOLM MACDONALD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 34 South Shawbost, died today in 1915 at the age of 31

Private JOHN (Sen) MACKENZIE, Gordon Highlanders, late of 5 Upper Garrabost, died today in 1916 at the age of 19

Deckhand ANGUS MACLEOD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 5 Holm, died today in 1919 at the age of 19

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Remembering today - 12 February

Seaman KENNETH MACASKILL, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 6B Gravir, died today in 1918 at the age of 33
Seaman ANGUS THOMSON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 3 Habost, Ness, died today in 1918 at the age of 29

Friday, 11 February 2011

Remembering today - 11 February

Deckhand DUNCAN MACLEOD, Royal Navy, late of 41 Park Carloway, died today in 1919 at the age of 51

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Remembering today - 10 February

Private MALCOLM MACLEOD, Canadians, late of 17 Knock, Point, died today in 1919 at the age of 28

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Notable Lewisman Honoured

Tributes to Mr Roderick Macleod

Mr Roderick Macleod, ex-president of the Gaelic Society of London, with which he has been prominently identified for 40 years, and one of the most representative and prominent Highlanders in the Metropolis, was the guest of honour of one of the largest gatherings of Scots and Gaels held in London for many years. The dinner took place in the Hotel Russell on Wednesday evening; the company comprising fully 200 ladies and gentlemen, over which the Right Hon. Ian Macpherson, K.C., presided. The speeches embraced the progress of the Gaelic movement in London during the past two generations as well as the notable part Mr Macleod took in strengthening, maintaining and consolidating the Gaelic and Highland movement in the Metropolis. [omitting the list of guests]

Mr Ian Macpherson, in proposing Our Guest, said:
-It is my proud privilege to be in the chair tonight presiding over what I regard as one of the largest gatherings that I have ever seen of the Highland community in London. I am peculiarly pleased to be here tonight because I see so many familiar faces, and I am proud to think that a Highlander like myself should be asked to preside at a dinner to one of the best - if not the best known - Highlander in this great Metropolis of ours. I am glad to be associated in this toast with another Islander from further south, Mr Angus Robertson, who comes from the no less delightful and no less wonderful island of Skye. When you find an islander of the south helping to propose the toast of the health of an islander of the north, you may be sure there is nothing wrong with the islander of the north. Our guest comes from the Island of Lewis - a wonderful island which it was my privilege to represent in Parliament for some years. It is an island in many respects unique. Always listening to the surge and roll of the Atlantic, whose billows beat against its shores and rocks eternally, an island without hills and without trees, it is full of spirit , full of manhood and full of everything that has made Highland character and Highland traditions a thing to be proud of. I sometimes think if all the industries of the Highlands were abolished - and alas,  there are only too few of them - there is one which in the Highlands is remarkable, and that is the industry of the Public or Board School. They are factories of the greatest instrument in the development of mankind, and the local school in Lewis is as responsible as anything in the British Empire for the sterling qualities that have made the Empire the finest the world has ever seen. Mr Macleod has had the supreme advantage of a Highland upbringing. What that means to those who have been so brought up is a thing that we all too well know and appreciate; but the world does not. Mr Macleod's father was one of the most respected and religious, and yet the most witty and humorous, son of Lewis. He was for many years Gaelic teacher and catechist in the remote village of Ness. I was particularly struck, when reading, as it is my duty and pleasure to read the descriptions which at times appear of Highland life and vicissitudes, to find the Rev Norman Macfarlane describe Mr Macleod's father as "a gentleman of Nature - rare and spiritual". Those of us who knew the earliest Highlands - my own recollections go back now to nearly 40 years - know what a strong man in the locality was the catechist, what a respected man he was, and how far his word went. When you find combined with profound religious belief, the saving grace of humour, I think you will appreciate the qualities which adorn the life of our guest this evening. They come from his father.

"An Institution and a Personality"

Mr Macleod came to London about 40 years ago, and if I were to describe him, I would describe rather as an institution than a person, and living in the city as he does, I would venture to describe him as part of the Corporation. [Applause.] But he is a personality, a personality that is always interesting, vivid, forceful, eminently responsive to the calls of kindness, with a robust and disarming patriotism and an implacable and sombre foe to any traducer of what he regards as the ideals and traditions  of the race to which he belongs. In a letter I had this morning from Mr W. C. Mackenzie, the well-known historian, he wrote:
-"Roderick is a Lewisman and a Highlander first, last, and all the time".
That is true, but if I know him aright, he has an affection for the Sassenach tempered with a tender pity for the land of his birth and his language. [Laughter.] Forty years in London! What changes have taken place in the Highland community in that time. Notwithstanding the flow of pleasure, the advances of riches, and the desire for the night club, there has been a remarkable revival in the traditions and customs of our people. I have in my hand the programme of a Gaelic and Scottish concert 38 years ago, organised by the Gaelic Society of London. At that time, Jessie Maclachlan was not heard of, but she ultimately came to London, and the first society to give her a chance as a great exponent of genuine Scottish sentiment was the Gaelic Society of London. Two years before she came, Mr Macleod was one of the sterling, stalwart and patriotic committee which started these Gaelic and Scottish concerts. In this programme was a great and powerful committee, and I see that Mr Macleod that comparatively unknown Gaelic singer of Gaelic songs, Mr Roderick Macleod, came to sing at the Albert Hall, he always put after his name "Inverness". [Laughter.] The reason I refer to this first Gaelic concert tonight is that it was unique. From it began the movement that has given us now all other Gaelic concerts, and at no concert held nowadays are we without Gaelic singers, one of the most renowned of whom you have heard this evening in Miss Mairi Matheson. We have now at our Gaelic meetings a real and genuine desire to hear a Gaelic song sun in the way we used to hear it without accompaniment. That concert was the beginning of things, and now we have a Gaelic choir, which goes to Scotland and competes at the Mod. Long may that spirit flourish.

Our guest has been forty years not only connected with the Gaelic movement in London, but during the 23 years I have been in London, I remember him as an ardent and devoted shinty player on Wimbledon Common. Whatever they may say across the Border, it was we in London who got the privilege of the teaching of Gaelic in the schools in the Highlands. I claim for the Gaelic Society of London - and may I put in a little claim for myself? - the right to say that no Society did more to secure the right of Gaelic teaching on the Statute Book than we did in London. I am glad to say that the religious side of the Gaelic movement in London has also advanced, and more than most people, Mr Lachlan Campbell is responsible for the fact that the congregations are now so large that instead of the collection being 17s 1½d, the collection on a Sunday afternoon is now nearly £17. [Applause.] All those things are due to men of the type of Mr Macleod, who has seen all these movements rise, grow, and flourish. Those of us who have been associated with Highland life in London have been many times disappointed, and have many times felt tired of the task, but I think I can speak for our guest this evening, when he sees around him a large gathering of loyal friends like this, when I say that life at its very worst has got its enormous compensation. I make bold to say that I can point to the two things that have most delighted Mr Macleod's heart.

Two Distinctive Honours
One is this dinner gathering tonight. In one's life's work and progress towards an ideal, the compensation is not in gold or bank notes, but if you get the compensation which comes from the kindly flow of affection from your friends' minds and hearts, if you receive their gratitude in however small a degree, you are amply repaid. Mr Macleod is receiving all that from this representative gathering tonight. [Applause]. Speaking as a Highlander whose attachment to the old land is as sincere as that of any Highlander, an attachment to the place of one's birth, however humble that spot may be, I say the fact that some call has been made to you to answer an appeal from there is a thing that inspires you with a soul uplifting gratitude. I remember when the Lewis and Harris Association asked our guest to preside at their great annual concert in Glasgow, the tears rolled down his cheeks. What was that? It was the call of the land, the call of youth. It was the fulfilment of spirit recapturing earlier days. It was the thankful thought that your struggles had not been in vain, that you had worked with some interest and object in life that the people of the old home have not forgotten even in the depths of the Metropolis. His heart would indeed be of iron if it did not soften to those old memories and to the appreciation of the people from whom he had sprung. No man could succeed greatly in life without such a helpmeet as Mrs Macleod. She has come in and out among us quiet unassuming and loving - a genuine type of Highlander. Long may they walk together in the valley of life, happy in the thought that they have done their duty in life, and have always been welcome and have welcomed hosts of friends. [Applause].
Mr Macpherson mentioned, in conclusion, that the Rev. Duncan Macleod, brother of their guest, had been for many years in Formosa, where he was a great power. He was visiting this country next year as a representative of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, and they hoped they would have an opportunity of hearing him in the Scottish National Church in Crown Court. [Applause].

Mr Macleod's Individuality
Mr Angus Robertson, associating himself with the toast, said it was appropriate that doing honour to an individual Highlander that the characteristics which demanded the homage should be emphasised with such eloquence by Mr Ian Macpherson. Mr Macleod was a man of unbounded sympathy and generous sentiments. He was a loyal Lewisman and patriotic Highlander. There were many ways to which they could approach this child of their own people. If he did not bring the message, if he did not bring the atmosphere, if he did not bring the tale of his own race, if he had not given back to the race had given him, then he would have failed in his mission and in his loyalty to his people. Mr Macleod typified in a certain and very pronounced way the characteristics which belonged to and dominated our race. He was a spiritual man, and the spiritual message of the Highlander was unique. There could not be too many men of the type of Mr Roderick Macleod, but there were far too few of his kind. Mr Macleod was not a tenderloin when Highland or social ethics were disturbed, and those who knew Mr Macleod's home life intimately knew that he barred the door even to his friends on Sunday, and held Sunday sacred to God and his family. It was such men as he who deserved well of his race. His joy of living could in the future be the joy of remembering things well done. [Applause].

Emotional Highlanders
Mr John Macmillan said he wished first of all to thank the company for their wonderful response to his letter proposing that they should thus honour Mr Macleod. He had known him during all his forty years in London, and on the countless occasions they were together they had never parted without a good friendly shake of the hand. Highlanders were emotional, and some were very impulsive, but Mr Macleod was not impulsive. He was emotional. During their progress in this wonderful city of London, it was very difficult for the best of them to get along and maintain their respectability and be true to themselves. Mr Macleod had done that, because no matter in what society he might be placed, and wherever he was, he always remembered that there was "a wee wifie" waiting him, and that fact kept him steady and steadfast throughout his career. When Mr Macleod became president of the Gaelic Society there were not much more than two dozen members attending the meetings, but during his six years' presidency he had brought the membership and attendance up to its present high position, and that was to his everlasting credit. He was very proud to give testimony to his candid and sincere affection and admiration for Roderick Macleod. He had been one of the most conspicuous figures in Highland circles in London for nearly forty years, and he hoped that he would be long spared to be the head of his house, and that his beautiful wife and daughter would be long spared to be a comfort to him and he to them [Applause].

Sir Murdoch Macdonald MP said they were not only honouring Mr Macleod and paying their respects to him, but they were also showing their respect for a race - the race of the Western Isles. He believed that the Western Isles were the remains of a vast continent which had a civilisation when their ancestors in the Central Highlands were deep in the sea. [Laughter and applause]. That old civilisation produced the flower of manhood which persisted to the present day [Applause] of which Mr Macleod was a very fine example. The late Dr Robertson had asserted that the famous school at Stornoway had produced five times more scholars than any school of its population in any part of this country. He [Sir Murdoch] honoured Mr Macleod because he was one of that race which exhibited such great ability. The Western Isles may be disappearing but they would never cease to produce men of the type of Mr Macleod and in drinking his health they were drinking it as well to the race from which he had sprung [Applause].

A Promising Son
Dr Fowlie said that, like Sir Murdoch, he regarded this gathering too as a back-handed compliment to the race of the Western Isles, and when these speeches appeared in print many a man in the Island of Lewis would walk with a firmer step and higher head when he knew that the greatest islander among them in London had been thus honoured tonight, and they would hear with joy that Mr Macleod was the guest of so large a gathering. These was another island in the Far East to which this occasion would bring joy to the hearts of many. There Donald Macleod, son of their guest, was nobly bearing his share of the white man's burden. He was fortunate to be born of ancestors of vitality, strength, and character, and was now living in an environment that was permeated with the spirit of the greatest of Empire builders, Sir Stamford Raffles. He was living in a part of the Empire where this great Empire builder had taught that the mission of the British was not to subdue the native but to act as trustee for him [sic, ADB]. If Donald's education was not finished in this country, it was finished in Singapore. It was needless to say that Donald Macleod was doing well in the business he had taken up in Singapore. He was one of the founders and now the head of the Scottish Highlanders which were armed for the defence of their adopted country. That was to be expected from him. There was a stranger thing still, and one that appealed perhaps more to him. He had absorbed to an extraordinary extent the spirit of Sir Stamford Raffles. No one had got the confidence and, indeed, the affection of the natives as much as Donald Macleod. It might sound absurd that this young man was trusted so much by the natives, but the fact remained. If there was a feud between any septs, if there was a domestic quarrel, Donald Macleod was called in as arbiter, and the Parsees down from Bombay would not give their daughter away in marriage without consulting Donald Macleod first. [Laughter and applause]. He thought Donald Macleod would become a great man, and he could foresee that they might yet be honouring him as they were honouring that very remarkable man, his father.

Dr Cumming Grant said he was proud to have this opportunity of bearing his personal testimony to the great esteem and kindly regard he had for his old friend. This remarkable demonstration was a slight recognition of the services of a wonderful personality. On one occasion, his brothers James and William were discussing Mr Macleod, and the latter, who had been president of the Gaelic society, described Mr Macleod as the most unique and outstanding Highlander in London. That was his estimate of him too, and he endorsed it. He was proud to think that a good deal of his success and happiness in life was due to his wife, because Mrs Macleod belonged to the same Glen as he [Dr Grant]. Mr and Mrs Macleod were well worthy of the honour being done them that evening. No man had done more for the welfare of Highlanders in London and the cause of Gaelic than Mr Macleod.

The toast was drunk with Highland honours.

Mr Macleod's Reply
Mr Macleod, who was received with loud and prolonged cheers, said:-
I have to thank you for that friendly cheer. I understand that the time has now arrived when I must make some remarks. Without any desire to encroach upon the privilege of the gentleman who is to propose the health of the chairman, I would like to say in the first place what a very great pleasure it has given me that Mr Macpherson is presiding on this occasion. With his ever youthful Highland simplicity and geniality, he never fails to create that desired happy atmosphere on occasions of this kind. [Applause]. I desire you to accept my deep gratitude for the kind and friendly manner with which you have submitted this toast, and to all my friends who have so kindly spoken in support of the toast. I desire to thank you all for the very cheerful and enthusiastic manner you have received the toast of the health of my dear wife, my daughter, my son and my brother. If I were to stand here until all hours in the morning - and even the next morning [Laughter] it would be impossible for me to give expression to all the thoughts that are running backwards and forwards in my overburdened brain at the present time. To be thus surrounded by friends is, I think, the greatest joy and pleasure in life. Until the day I follow those dear friends who have gone before - whose presence we so much miss on these occasions - I shall always remember with a grateful heart this great honour you have conferred upon me tonight. There has been perhaps a good deal of extravagance and exaggeration. I am not going to say who is the most guilty, but I can boast of what I knew before - that my friends are masters of choice language and eloquence, and surely it is not at all surprising that they should go a little beyond the mark in their desire to say something kindly about a friend whom they have known intimately for many years. I forgive them. [Laughter]. I thank you for the kind reference to my wife. I can assure you that she has inspired me ever since I had the good fortune to meet her in connection with everything I have attempted to do [Applause]. You will notice I have said nothing about her patience [Laughter]. You have referred to my father. I thank you for that. I was very much impressed when I was first leaving home. My father placed his hand on my shoulder and said: "There is one thing that I wish you to remember, and it is this - if you can do without another person's friendship, you can always do much better with it." Ever since I have tried to do the best I could to carry out my father's philosophy, and surrounded by so many friends tonight, I am grateful to my father for having giving me such splendid advice. [Applause].

Speeches copied from an article in the Stornoway Gazette of 2 December 1927, kindly supplied by Mrs J. Seymour-Chalk of the Gaelic Society of London. 

Remembering today - 9 February

Private LOUIS MACKENZIE, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 1 Callanish, died today in 1915 at the age of 31

Leading Deckhand JOHN MACLEOD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 27 Lower Bayble, died today in 1917 at the age of 45

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Lewis connection

Roderick Mcleod and the Gaelic Society of London (An Comunn Gaidhlig Lunnainn or CGL)

I came across Roderick and the Society on account of my research into WW1 casualties from the Isle of Lewis. One of my sources mentioned an Ian R. Mcleod (logged as J. R. Mcleod on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website) as having Lewis roots. According to the information from CGL, his father, Roderick, had lived in London from at least 1889 onwards. His son Ian lost his life on 9 April 1917, and the army death record states his place of birth as London.

CGL works for the promotion and encouragement of Gaelic Education in the Highland Schools. Roderick Mcleod was a hard-working and enthusiastic fundraiser for the CGL’s Education Fund, which financed the Capitation Grants give to Gaelic teachers and Headmasters. During the 1914-1918 war, the Society’s efforts were geared more towards supporting the troops, and prisoners of war, particularly those from Gaelic speaking areas. What was left of the POW fund after war ended, £50, was sent to Stornoway in the wake of the Iolaire disaster.

Roderick joined the Society in 1889, becoming a life member eight years later. In January 1917, he was elected president, an office he held until 1922, when he was made honorary president. Roderick continued to attend CGL meetings on a regular basis until 1928. He was mentioned as deceased at the end of 1930; a little research has put his date of death in the first quarter of that year.

Roderick served in the Metropolitan Police after first arriving in London. He was married and had three children: Iain, Anne (who became a doctor in Tasmania) and Donald (prisoner of war of the Japanese during WW2). I have not been able to ascertain Roderick's parentage, but investigations are on-going.

Any further on Roderick and / or his son Ian is greatly welcomed. 

Below are the abridged minutes of Society meetings between 1917 and 1928, with translations kindly provided by Kirsty M. Stewart. 

Minutes of meetings
21 January 1917 [translated]
The President R[oderick] MacLeod gave a short speech giving thanks to the Society for the honour they gave him on electing him president for a year.

The Society’s respects and condolences are to be sent to the people of the Isle of Lewis on account of the disaster that has come upon them, as expressed by the Chief Executive and the President supported him. John Farquhar, L. Campbell, Finlay Shaw, William Martin, James Watson [and] John Forbes gave a few words and the Society agreed [the motion]. Tunes on the pipes were heard from George Taylor, songs from M[r] Aithison, and the piano from Mrs MacMurray.

24 May 1917 [translated]
As it was not possible for the President, Roderick Macleod to be present, the Vice President, William Grant was called upon to be Chairman. He informed the Society of the great loss which has befallen the President with the death of his son in the war and he proposed and Sighich [Sheehy?] Matheson seconded that the Society’s respects and condolences would be with him at this time.

The Chief Executive gave a speech in Gaelic and in English on the topic that today’s Gaels were making their way in strife in the same way as their ancestors had. After this the cèilidh got underway with the Misses Kennedy Fraser, E Cameron and Mary Matheson and it was a hearty, musical evening. Allan Riach and James Garrie gave tunes on the pipes .
Thanks were given to the Chief Executive by Stuart Bogle and Ewen Cattanach and the Secretary gave thanks on behalf of the Society to those who helped make a joyful, musical evening.

14 October 1919
A dinner to be held for Society members who had served in the recent war.
Any funds remaining of the POW fund be put into general funds.
HM the King wishes to present to the Society a volume in Gaelic of Queen Victoria’s life in the Highlands.
£ 1/1 be subscribed for the improvement of conditions in the Highlands

25 October 1920
Roderick Mcleod said it was time to leave the post of President to a younger man, but he was reelected and he agreed to stay on for another year

19 January 1922
A Resolution was rejected which called upon kindred societies and Scots at large to agitate for more provision towards Gaelic education – as evidence was presented which prompted to the Society to disallow that Resolution.

27 April 1922
Roderick Mcleod resigns the presidency of the Society due to the pressure of business. He stresses he continues to support the objects of the Society. He was hailed has having served the Society “loyally, enthusiastically and faithfully”; and it had prospered under his presidency. Mr Mcleod could not be prevailed upon to withdraw his resignation.

15 October 1928 (translated)
A big cèilidh was held, supported by the London Gaelic Choir.
The President and John MacMhairich [Currie?] who was with the Society at the Mòd in Inverness gave an account of what had taken place at that great gathering. The Society was very pleased to hear about the success of London Gaelic Choir and some of its members especially the great honour James C M Campbell got, taking first prize in the Gold Medal for the first time for London.
Angus Duncanson was welcomed as a new member.

Information supplied by Comunn Gaidhlig Lunnainn, courtesy Mrs J. Seymour-Chalk.

Remembering today - 8 February

Piper JOHN MACLEOD, Canadians, late of 39A Balallan, died today in 1919 at the age of 37

Monday, 7 February 2011

Remembering today - 7 February

Seaman ALEX MACKAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 15 Valtos, died today in 1917 at the age of 48

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Remembering today - 6 February

Seaman NORMAN MACIVER, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 25 Valtos, died today in 1915 at the age of 28

Friday, 4 February 2011

Remembering today - 4 February

Private MALCOLM MACDONALD, Seaforth Highlanders, late of 2 Stag Road, Stornoway, died today in 1919 at the age of 34

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Remembering today - 3 February

Lost in the Clan Macnaughton

Seaman DONALD CAMPBELL, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 26 North Bragar, died today in 1915 at the age of 40
Seaman DONALD FINLAYSON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 19 Aird Tong, died today in 1915 at the age of 29
Seaman DUGALD KENNEDY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 2 Calbost, died today in 1915 at the age of 17
Seaman KENNETH MACAULAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 3 Breasclete, died today in 1915 at the age of 30
Leading Seaman JOHN MACLEOD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 25 Aird Tong, died today in 1915 at the age of 23
Seaman DONALD MARTIN, Royal Naval Reserve, late of Portvoller, died today in 1915 at the age of 21
Seaman DONALD MORRISON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 41 Borve, died today in 1915 at the age of 46
Seaman NEIL MORRISON, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 9 Calbost, died today in 1915 at the age of 22
Seaman DONALD MURRAY, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 33 South Dell, died today in 1915 at the age of 37

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Remembering today - 2 February

Gunner JOHN MACLEOD, Royal Naval Reserve, late of 19 Knock, Point, died today in 1919 at the age of 28
Private KENNETH MATHESON, Cameron Highlanders, late of 1 Brue, died today in 1919 at the age of 23

Able Seaman WILLIAM MURRAY, Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve, late of 16 Knock, Point, died today in 1920 at the age of 22

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Remembering today - 1 February

Lieutenant JOHN MACKENZIE, Royal Naval Reserve, late of Keith Street, Stornoway, died today in 1920 at the age of 58