Fife tele­phon­ist to be hon­oured 100 years af­ter mys­te­ri­ous death

HIS­TORY: Church to mark cen­te­nary of death of woman whose fall from tower in Rouen is dis­cussed to this day

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG SMITH [email protected]­courier.co.uk

A se­ries of events are to be held to com­mem­o­rate 100 years since the mys­te­ri­ous death of a Fife woman in France.

Elizabeth John­ston, a for­mer pupil of Waid Acad­emy and the daugh­ter of an An­struther sail­maker, was a tele­graphist in Queen Mary’s Army Aux­il­iary Corps un­til her tragic death on Christ­mas Day 1918, when she fell from a church tower in Rouen.

She had been seen at the tower with a young Cana­dian sol­dier, Don­ald Cameron, with whom she be­came ro­man­ti­cally in­volved af­ter meet­ing on Ar­mistice Day. He played a prom­i­nent part at her fu­neral.

His­to­ri­ans have long ques­tioned the cir­cum­stances be­hind Elizabeth’s demise and it even made the front page of the Jour­nal de Rouen, query­ing how she could have fallen to her death.

To mark the cen­te­nary, the Kil­renny and An­struther Burgh Col­lec­tion’s lo­cal ar­chive has planned ac­tiv­i­ties, most no­tably the mount­ing of a blue plaque on the house in which Elizabeth grew up in East Green.

It will be un­veiled by Don­ald’s daugh­ter Mary Mar­tel-Can­telon and Elizabeth’s great niece Ann McK­elvie on De­cem­ber 13.

A per­for­mance event en­ti­tled ‘Af­ter the Ar­mistice: Love and Loss’, which

“She has left a legacy of di­ary en­tries, let­ters and ar­ti­cles which de­scribe front­line life. KEVIN DUNION

tells Elizabeth and Don­ald’s story through their let­ters ac­com­pa­nied by live mu­sic com­posed for the oc­ca­sion, will take place in Cel­lardyke on De­cem­ber 12 and Ed­in­burgh on De­cem­ber 14.

A book­let look­ing at her life will de­tail re­search which led to the young Cana­dian sol­dier be­ing iden­ti­fied.

Pro­fes­sor Kevin Dunion, who is chair­man of the Kil­renny and An­struther Burgh Col­lec­tion, said Elizabeth’s story was one that res­onates to this day.

He said: “Elizabeth is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the work­ing class women who joined up in their thou­sands as clerks, cooks and clean­ers once the army paid them to do so.

“Al­most uniquely, how­ever, she has left a legacy of di­ary en­tries, let­ters and ar­ti­cles which de­scribe front­line life in khaki and al­most ev­ery his­tory of women in the First World War now quotes from them.

“In last year’s na­tional com­mem­o­ra­tion of 100 years of Women in Uni­form from 1917 to 2017, it was Elizabeth’s words which were se­lected to be read out to hon­our the women of World War I. So I do think that mark­ing her cen­te­nary is im­por­tant.”

Elizabeth John­ston and an im­age of her grave­stone. Be­low, she is pic­tured out­side a Nis­sen hut in Rouen with other women.

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