Amer­i­can war hero’s grave found

Dis­cov­ery while search­ing for sis­ter’s last rest­ing place

Stirling Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Marzella

A Stir­ling man has un­cov­ered the grave of an Amer­i­can war hero in a Scot­tish ceme­tery.

Lach­lan MacNeil (69), from Broom­ridge, dis­cov­ered the un­tended lair while search­ing at Sandy­mount Ceme­tery, Shet­tle­ston, for the grave of his sis­ter, Sarah, who died as an in­fant.

Lach­lan, orig­i­nally from the east end of Glas­gow, served with the Ar­gyll and Suther­land High­landers from 1976 un­til 1989, and in 1988 he re-lo­cated to Stir­ling.

Dur­ing his search to track down his sis­ter’s last rest­ing place he stum­bled across the grave of Fran­cis Kelly, a re­cip­i­ent of the Medal of Hon­our, the Amer­i­can equiv­a­lent of the Vic­to­ria Cross.

Mr Kelly, for­mally known as Archibald Hous­ton, was born on July 5, 1860, in Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts. He en­listed in the US Navy on April 21, 1898, at the out­break of hos­til­i­ties be­tween the United States and Spain.

He signed up for one year on board the USRS Franklin at the Nor­folk Naval Base in Vir­ginia, and within six weeks had earned the pres­ti­gious award.

Fran­cis en­listed as a fire­man, hav­ing amassed ten years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in en­gine and fire rooms in the mer­chant ser­vice, and was a crew­man on the US Navy steamship Mer­ri­mac.

He was one of six crew­men who vol­un­teered to take on a dar­ing mis­sion to sink the Mer­ri­mac at the mouth of San­ti­ago har­bour, Cuba, as part of a tac­tic to trap the Span­ish fleet.

As the ship sailed to­wards San­ti­ago har­bour on June 2, the crew were spot­ted by a Span­ish tor­pedo boat that opened fire as they en­tered the har­bour mouth and the ship’s steer­ing was dam­aged, pre­vent­ing it from be­ing po­si­tioned cor­rectly at the mouth of the har­bour.

Un­der fire, the crew aban­doned ship but the small boat sent to res­cue them was sunk by en­emy fire.

The sur­vivors clung to the wreck­age for an hour un­til they were picked up by the Span­ish fleet and held cap­tive for 33 days un­til they were ex­changed for Span­ish pris­on­ers of war.

Fran­cis, awarded the Medal of Hon­our, re­mained in the US Navy after the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War and rose to the rank of chief ma­chin­ist mate.

He moved to Scot­land, mar­ried Agnes Camp­bell and lived at Ni­chol­son Street, Town­head in the east end of Glas­gow and died aged 78 in May 1938.

Lach­lan said: “On my very first visit I was im­me­di­ately struck and awed at the num­ber of war graves I ob­served in the course of my search.

“This prompted me to carry out some in­ves­tiga­tive work into the his­tory of Sandy­mount Ceme­tery and, in par­tic­u­lar, its as­so­ci­a­tion with our war dead. It was dur­ing this search I dis­cov­ered the un­marked grave of Fran­cis Kelly in Lair 142.”

For years, the grave was marked with a tiny wooden stake un­til Lach­lan and a group of ex-paras from the Air­borne Forces As­so­ci­a­tion Scot­land found it, cleaned it up and held their own cer­e­mony mark­ing the un­veil­ing of the new grave.

Lach­lan added: “It’s my aim to get recog­ni­tion for Fran­cis with the sup­port of the Air­borne Forces As­so­ci­a­tion Scot­land No 1 Branch.

“It only seemed right that we ti­died up his grave and mark it in a way be­fit­ting such a man.”

It seemed right that we ti­died up his grave

US hero Fran­cis Kelly

Pay­ing their re­spects From left, Matt Mul­li­gan, Lach­lan MacNeil and Jim Colquhoun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.