Marching as to war... boots that speak of sacrifice
AT first glance they look like an unremarkable pair of well-worn leather boots.
Nothing about the tired black leather footwear hints at a role in a poignant story of remembrance that spanned most of the last century.
As November 11, 1918, dawned in France, 2nd Lieutenant William Macdonald, 21, pulled on these boots.
So began a ritual act of remembrance loyally adhered to by Dr Macdonald for most of the rest of his life. Each Armistice Day for almost 70 years, he donned those same boots to commemorate the war, and the lives it claimed.
Of the 63 boys in his sixth-year class of 1913-14 at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, 15 failed to make it home. The grim tally is recorded in meticulous notes kept by Dr Macdonald, which form part of an archive of his letters, photographs, army training lecture notes and mementoes.
Dr Macdonald, originally from Invergordon, Ross-shire, served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in France from May 1916. He was invalided back to the UK the following January with trench foot so severe it left him unable to stand.
He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917, and gassed near Passchendaele in 1918. After completing medical studies at Edinburgh, Dr Macdonald moved to Leeds in 1925 to lecture and work as a GP.
Leeds University spokesman Dr Jessica Meyer said: ‘The touching story of these boots and their owner’s lifelong annual act of remembrance is a poignant example of those who went on to lead fruitful lives, while never forgetting the experiences of war.’
Dr Macdonald died on December 21, 1989, aged 92, survived by a sister, a son, two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Rite: Lt Macdonald