Sunday, 7 October 2012

Wrong Island

From the book "The Journal of Private Fraser", edited by Reginald H. Roy (ISBN 1-896979-28-9), published by CEF Books, PO Box 29123, Nepean, Ont. K2J4A9.

Page 179
Sunday 23 July 1916

We spent a very quiet time in the trenches. Cpl Matthews of the Scouts was wounded. Donald Mcleod, who transferred to the Stokes Gun, was severely wounded and I heard died later in Blighty. It was reported that a curious mix-up resulted in his burial. We had two Donald Macleods in the Company, the other Macleod being a native of one of the islands of Uist in the Outer Hebrides. His body was forwarded to this out-of-the-way island for interment in the local churchyard and advice sent to his supposed relatives. The body arrived, but apparently, the relations had recent word from Donald Macleod No 2 and so refused to take charge of the remains. The lid was unscrewed and the mistake found out. After lying around for about a week, "Big Don" was lulled to sleep in the island within roar of the mighty Atlantic. Though he spent practically all his life time in Canada, his birth place was the island of Lewis, so his final resting place was a fitting for a scion of the race of Torquil.


Of course, Benbecula is not exactly near Lewis (in fact 60 miles away). Big Don was not a misnomer by any means; his attestation papers put his height at 5 ft 11 in, larger than average in those years. I am trying to find out whereabouts he was from in Lewis, but the usual problem has reared its head: there are so many men named Donald Macleod in that island.

Donald Mcleod
Date of birth: 9 June 1888
Place of birth: Isle of Lewis
Height: 5 ft 11 in
Complexion: Dark
Eyes: Grey
Hair: Brown
Religion: Presbyterian
Trade / occupation: Miner
Last address in Lewis: Stornoway

Not married

Military unit: Canadians
Service number: 79110
Volunteered at Calgary on 16 November 1914

Date of death: 4 August 1916
Interred: Nunton Cemetery, Benbecula. 

WW1 casualty from Valamus

Valamus is an abandoned settlement in the Eishken area of Lewis, cleared of permanent residents in the 1820s. The farmhouse has been in intermittent use since then, and was in fact the site of a birth back in 1891. Young James Mackenzie came into the world at 3 am on the morning of 6 December 1891. His birth was not registered at Keose until 2 January 1892. His father, John, was a gamekeeper, married to Henrietta nee Munro.

The ruins of Valamus by Chris Murray2
Image courtesy Flickr user Chrismurray2

View Valamus in a larger map

By the time James enlisted with the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, his parents had moved to Lairg in Sutherland. He himself signed up from Herbertville, Dannevirke in New Zealand and embarked on 16 October 1914 on either the Limerick or the Arawa for Suez in Egypt. At the time he was with the main body of the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He died of wounds on 25 June 1917 and lies buried at the Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck in French Flanders.

Friday, 5 October 2012

HMS Curacao

HMS Curacao was sunk on 2 October 1942 with the loss of several hundred naval personnel. She was sliced into by the troop carrier and former liner the Queen Mary off the coast of Ireland. Several casualties from this disaster were washed up on shores in the islands off the Scottish west coast. Some of them at Elgol, according to the West Highland Free Press of 5 October 2012, and a service of commemoration was held at Ashaig cemetery in Skye on the 70th anniversary of the sinking.

One of the casualties was from Lewis, AB Donald Maciver of 2 Newvalley, Stornoway. He was the son of Malcolm and Catherine Maciver, aged 26 at the time of his death. He was serving in the Royal Navy, registration C/JX259465. He is remembered on the Lewis War Memorial as well as on a CWGC gravestone in Sandwick Cemetery near Stornoway.

The Stornoway Gazette for 27 November 1942 writes:

In October, Donald Maciver, son of Mr and Mrs Maciver, 2 New Valley, Laxdale, was reported missing. His death has since been confirmed. The body was found at Kilmory Bay, Isle of Rhum, and buried there by the civil authorities.

Only 20 years of age, Donald was a student in Arts at Glasgow University. He joined the Navy for the duration and served for some time on a well-known cruiser. He was a fine, cheerful and upright young man of good promise, exceedingly well liked, and is much missed in the district. Much sympathy is felt for the sorrowing parents and family.

It should be noted that Donald's age at death was 26, not 20 as quoted by the Gazette; how he was transferred from the Isle of Rum is not recorded.

Not far from Rhum, in the neighbouring island of Eigg, we find two graves in Kildonan Cemetery, also casualties from HMS Curacao. The identity of these casualties is Known Unto God.

Image courtesy Maggie Fyffe, Isle of Eigg