Me­mories of the fallen

Cen­te­nary ex­hi­bi­tion

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - NEWS -

Jackie Grant

As James Scott Irv­ing started to sing The Old Rus­tic Bridge, the crowds that packed the plat­form at Dum­fries rail­way sta­tion all stopped to lis­ten.

There were few dry eyes as mums, daugh­ters, sis­ters, wives and sweet­hearts, clung on to the men they were see­ing off to war.

Many of them didn’t re­ally un­der­stand what was go­ing on when they pledged to do their bit for their coun­try.

They thought they’d be home by Christ­mas and nor­mal life would re­sume.

But mil­lions of them didn’t make it back. They paid the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for our free­dom.

Wee Ina Irv­ing was one of hun­dreds of thou­sands of chil­dren who lost their dad.

In a let­ter dated Au­gust 5, 1917, Ina wrote to her fa­ther on the front line: “My dear Daddy. Just a few lines to let you know that I am quite well and happy. I am hav­ing my sum­mer hol­i­days just now and en­joy­ing them very much. I have been to the Quay nearly ev­ery Sun­day with my Granny McQueen. I hope that you will be able to come home safe again to your wee girlie. Your lov­ing girlie, Ina”.

But Ina’s daddy didn’t come home. James died at Ypres in Bel­gium just two months later, on Oc­to­ber 12, aged only 34.

He had been a hand­some man, James, and was said to have been quite a lad with the lassies. He also had a kind heart. Walk­ing up the Ven­nel with a friend one day, the pair came across an old vi­o­lin­ist who was try­ing, un­suc­cess­fully, to make a cop­per or two.

James, whose nick­name was Kelly, told the fel­low: “You play, I’ll sing and my friend will col­lect the money”.

At the end of the day, the old man was ready to split the tak­ings three ways, but James told him to keep it all and have a good meal.

James’ story is just one of many that will be re­layed at a World War I cen­te­nary event tak­ing place in Dum­fries next Satur­day.

Or­gan­ised by High­tae woman Margo McClumpha, the free ser­vice and ex­hi­bi­tion at The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints on Ed­in­burgh Road will in­clude pho­to­graphs, mil­i­tary records, let­ters and sto­ries as well as hon­our rolls and death no­tices from the Dum­fries and Gal­loway Stan­dard from 1914-18.

Dur­ing the event be­tween 10am and 12pm, any­one with an in­ter­est in fam­ily his­tory will also be given tips on how to re­search their mil­i­tary an­ces­tors.

Margo, 73, said: “This started out as a per­sonal trib­ute to my own grand­fa­ther, Wil­liam Paterson Wells, a Pri­vate in the Kings Own Scot­tish Border­ers who served be­tween 1914 and 1920.

“I then de­cided to get the com­mu­nity in­volved and many peo­ple have con­trib­uted their own fam­ily sto­ries, in­clud­ing James Scott Irv­ing’s grand­daugh­ter, Mrs Janet Creighton.

“We’ll also be telling the story of nurses Elsie Knocker and Marie Chisholm, the most dec­o­rated women in World War I.

“They worked just be­hind the Bel­gian front line and came to be known as the ‘Madonna’s of Pervyse’. They were gassed in 1918 but sur­vived.

“The war was a liv­ing hell from which men never re­ally re­cov­ered, and didn’t want to talk about.

“How­ever, it’s part of our blood­line, and al­though it was 100 years ago that the guns stopped fir­ing, it’s good to ac­knowl­edge the sac­ri­fice that was made.

“That’s what we’ll be do­ing next Satur­day.”

Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mhairi Chisholm

Song James Scott Irv­ing

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