Remembering Private Stewart
A young gardener who was one of an extended family which lost men in both world wars
One Argyll family has a remarkable collection of artefacts for a member who died in action in France as a private in the Highland Light Infantry.
Mary Henderson and her son Iain shared their family’s collection of memorabilia relating to Lachlan Stewart’s death.
A gardener on the Fasnacloth estate, he had only been in France for two months when the family heard he had died of wounds received days before.
A photograph of the young soldier, who had proudly grown and waxed his moustache in a popular military style, smiled out from a photograph reproduced along with his obituary in The Oban Times.
They still have the printer’s proof from The Oban Times, on a sheet of newsprint, along with his memorial plaque; these were made from bronze and amongst the dark humour of the serving soldiers were known as the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ or ‘Widow’s Penny’. More than one million of these were made.
The immediate next of kin received this along with a scroll containing a message from King George V.
Sadly, these were awarded right up until 1921 as many service personnel continued to die from their injuries.
Lachlan was the great-uncle of Mary Henderson, great-greatuncle of Iain, and great-great-great-uncle of Jennifer.
Jennifer, Iain’s daughter, believes she is the only one of the family to have visited the grave of one of the McBean brothers, which she did when a pupil at Oban High School, during one of the annual trips to the war graves.
Lachlan was related to Mary McBean, after whom Mary is named. Mary McBean was the sister of the three McBean brothers who lived in and around Taynuilt and Inverawe who all died in the war. Their mother Christina was invited to unveil the Taynuilt war memorial which bore the name of her sons John, William and James.
‘We have all these things and they are not kept on show at all; the centenary has brought all this back again,’ said Mary.
Iain says he finds it hard to comprehend the lives of these young men and what they must have thought, as they were taken from the peace of the Highlands to the horrors of war.
‘Today, you just can’t get your head around it, can you? My mum’s father was Donald and his mother was Mary McBean the sister of the three Taynuilt men who were killed in the First World War and then she also lost a son in the Second World War at El Alamein.’