Sunday, 14 August 2011

Alexander Macrae, 21 Keith Street, Stornoway - follow-up

I received the following information from Trevor Bell, the webmaster of the Rangitane website, about Alex Macrae (see previous post). There appears to have been some confusion about Alex's fate after the sinking of the Rangitane. Mr Bell advises me that: "In ‘Ordeal by Sea’ by Sydney Walters, the definitive history of the New Zealand Shipping Company during WW2, it lists Alex Macrae as being killed on Rangitane. This was at variance with various other records and I was able to confirm that he survived Emirau but died not long after."

The below information was supplied to Mr Bell by Stornoway Historical Society in 2005, and I am happy to attribute source:

He was in Manila during the Philippines War, in Taku Forts during the Boxer Rising, troop carrying in the Boer War and at sea in the First World War. He was a Journeyman at Fairfields in Govan when he went to sea in January 1899 and by May 1900 had passed his Board of Trade examinations for 2nd Engineer. 

Alex was Chief Refrigeration Engineer with the New Zealand Shipping Company and was rescued from Emarau Island in the Pacific Ocean after the Rangitane, 16,712 tons, was sunk in the Pacific in 1940. Alex's experience of being marooned did not help his health and he retired from the sea after 40 years service. He died at sea as a passenger on the voyage back home to the United Kingdom and lived latterly at 79 Carr Lane, Acomb, York. 

He was the son of Malcolm and Margaret Macrae (Contractor) 16 New Street, Stornoway; husband
of Margaret Macrae (nee Murray). They married on 15 June 1904 in London and had one son Alistair who was a Superintendent Engineer with the Air Ministry. He became Wing Commander RAF (Admin) and Superintendent of Aerodromes in North Africa (Algiers to Cairo), Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Pantelaria and Italy in 1944/45. After the war he was involved in the construction of airports round London and by 1961 was awarded the OBE after six and a half years as Chief Engineer in charge of construction and maintenance. He was then promoted to Deputy Director Works for the Air Ministry.

Alex was a brother of John Macrae MA, FEIS, the Rector of the Nicolson Institute, Stornoway (1925-44) and of sister Jeanie. As Alex was a civilian and ex-Merchant Navy on his death, he is not in CWGC records. A bronze plaque stating he died as a result of enemy action is attached to an inside wall of the Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, opened by Prince Charles in 1993. It formerly was attached to the old Lewis Hospital in April 1943 and stated that his wife donated money from his will to that hospital. Three fine ship's clocks were hung in both medical wards and in the outpatients' waiting room.

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