Crieff Remembers by Gary Knight
This month I have been researching stories in the newspapers to tie in with the Crieff Remembers event, as this Strathearn town pays tribute to its fallen heroes of World War One.
On Saturday 4th of July 1914, the Perthshire Advertiser reported a story about the murder of the heir to the Austrian Throne by Serbian Nationalist’s in Sarajevo. I wonder how many people reading the PA that day would have any idea this act of terrorism would result in the most horrific war the world has ever seen.
War was declared on 14th July and the next day the Perthshire Advertiser declared it to be a “War Special” and as you might expect was full of articles about the approaching conflict.
By the end of 1914, 370 men from the Crieff area had joined up to fight. On 31st August 1915, the Courier reports that five brothers from Bridgend in Crieff had enlisted. They were named as Privates John, James, Duncan, and Robert Jack, all Black Watch and Charles Jack Army Service Corps.
Four years later at the wars end 252 of the areas finest were lost and their names would be placed on the War Memorial of Crieff when it was erected in 1921 listing those lost as a result of the fighting.
The fact that the men from Crieff fought bravely can best be demonstrated in an article in the Courier on the 1st of December 1917, which states that eight men from Crieff High Street win war honours. The paper lists the men as Sergeant A Jamieson and Private A Thomson – Black Watch, Sergeant T Cuthbert – Royal Engineers, Corporal Thomas Thomson – Canadians, Lance Corporal W Steadman – Seaforth Highlanders, Sergeant F Gilbert Machine – Gun Corps and Corporal John M’Kay – Scottish Rifles who was killed in action on the 28th of July 1917. All these men were awarded the Military Medal and Sergeant J Drummond of Black Watch won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The paper states, “This is probably a unique record for Perthshire, if not the kingdom”.
The Scotsman on the 24th of December 1918 tells of a Crieff man who had moved to Paisley called Lieutenant Bisset. He served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and won the highest military honour the Victoria Cross.
It was not just men who placed themselves in extreme danger. The Courier on the 17th October 1914 printed a letter from an unnamed Crieff Nurse in a field hospital near the front. She tells of hearing the guns firing but not being able to see anything. She states “Oh! What a terrible war, it is; simply murder” and tells how grateful the wounded men were to be washed and put to bed to get some sleep. After printing the letter, the paper tells of the hospital being shelled and two British nurses being killed.
A story printed in the Dundee Courier on the 31st of December 1914 about Sapper John Ferguson of the Royal Engineers from Crieff, goes like this; “ The last night I was in the trenches we were lying talking cover at the back of a low hedge, when a private in one of our regiments came over to me and asked me if I would give him a hand to lift a wounded German out the trenches. I went over with a few more men and lifted him out on to a stretcher, and poor fellow, he was shot through both legs. After I came back I felt something rubbing against my leg. When I put down my hand in the dark to find what it was, I was surprised to find a cat purring beside me”. A diversion from the horrors of war. Information on the Crieff event (30th July – 12th Aug) can be found at www.crieffremembers.org.