Commemoration of the Fearnan Aircrash – 6th May 2019
We are delighted to be able to let you know about an important event that will be happening in the village on 6th May 2019.
It is nearly 76 years since the air crash at Fearnan that killed 3 Russian airmen and a Czechoslovakian colleague in the Cow Park on 29th May 1943. The airmen had been based at Errol, training with the RAF. About 3 years ago, the Village Association website was contacted by Anna Belorusova, whose grandfather had served alongside the men who died. She was researching the history of the Russian unit – the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group – that was based at Errol, and has since published a book, which includes a significant section about the crash – and, indeed, about Fearnan.
Anna has become a friend of the village and has visited us on 2 occasions. She and other descendants of the Russian airmen from Errol are keen to commemorate the crash and those who died, and it is also an important piece of Fearnan’s history.
The date is the 6th May in the afternoon. A number of people will be travelling from Russia for the occasion and our guests will include the Russian Consul General, the Lord-Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, and others.
The plan is to lay a memorial stone and plant a tree (an Alder) near to the site of the crash. We hope that as many residents of Fearnan, past and present, as possible and others from the wider network of Fearnan’s friends, will be able to come to help mark a piece of joint history between ourselves and our guests from Russia.
Plans are at an early stage, and we will provide regular updates here on the Blog.
You can read the full story of the crash, published on the Fearnan Blog in 2016, here.)
Winter Pudding Nights first came to Fearnan in 2009 and, apart from 2010, there has been one every year since. Last week’s event was, as ever, friendly and relaxed with live music (from Doug, Hilary, Audrey and Keith), and quite a lot of puddings.
Many thanks to all the bakers who made puddings for the evening, and to all those who came to help eat them.
Social Events 2019
Dates for the Village Association’s social events for 2019 are now on the What’s On page of this blog and are:
FVA AGM: Saturday 30th March 2019, 4 – 5 pm. All members welcome.
Coffee Mornings – Join us for freshly brewed coffee and tea and some delicious home baking from 10.30 to 12.00 in the Hall.
In addition, there will be a number of seasonal events. These are:
Saturday 20th July at 3pm: Strawberry TeaZ: Cakes, tarts, scones, ice cream and more – all made or served with strawberries. Live music.
Sunday 10th November: Remembrance Sunday10.50 at the Memorial and after in the village hall for tea and coffee.
Saturday 7th December – Mulled Wine & Mince Pies 3-5pm: Enjoy seasonal goodies and good company.
This is a summary of some of the diary dates on the Blog’s What’s On page which has been updated. There is a link to the page, where there is more info and contact details, in the black bar immediately under the header picture at the top of this page.
All events are in the village hall, unless otherwise stated.
Our first event of the year is the world famous Fearnan Winter Pudding Night 2019 on Saturday 23rd February at 6pm. It’s the perfect antidote to wintry weather – convivial evening with the best choice of puddings you will find anywhere, EVER! Whether you prefer childhood favourites like treacle pudding, jam roly-poly or rice pudding, or more sophisticated tarts and sweets, there’s something here for everyone. Live music. Come hungry! It costs £7.50pp at the door. School age children £3.50, and under 5s are free, and BYOB.
Next up is the Coffee Morning on Tuesday 19th March. Join us for freshly brewed coffee and tea and some delicious home baking from 10.30am to 12.00.
The FVA’s AGM is on Saturday 30th March 2019, 4 – 5 pm. All members welcome.
Regular Classes and Clubs in Fearnan
If you have a creative hobby, or would like to develop your artistic skills, the FearnanArt Club meets every Monday – sometimes in the hall and sometimes at other venues to paint and sketch. Details of this year’s programme will go on the Blog’s What’s On page as soon as they are available.
If you enjoy a good read, the Fearnan Book Club gets together on the second Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm to discuss their latest good read and the Mobile Library visits Fearnan Hall car park on alternate Tuesdays between 4.00 and 4.30 pm. (See below for the Book Club’s latest update.)
On Monday evenings there’s an open invitation to everyone to come and play Carpet Bowls from 8 – 10pm. There’s also a chance to play competitively in the Leagues.
And it’s also open house at the hall to play Table Tennis on Friday mornings from 10.30am.
Thai Chi Classes take place in the hall at 10 – 11am on Wednesdays. The cost is £3.00pp.
The Glen Lyon and Loch Tay Community Council meets every 2 months. The meeting dates and locations for the next 2 meetings are:
March 14th – Molteno Hall, Fortingall
May 9th – Bridge of Balgie
There is a full list of CC meetings for 2019 on the What’s On page.
What’s On Nearby
We’ve added a new section to the What’s On page, to highlight other events and regular classes that take place in the area.
If you’re looking for your inner sylph, there’s a Fitness Class every Tuesday morning 10.15 – 11.15 intheMolteno Hall, Fortingall. Sessions cost £4.50 and include cardio, muscle strengthening and mat work. For further information, call 01887 830575 or just come along.
The Heart of Scotland Herb Society (aka The Herbies) meets on the 3rd Wednesday of the month in Aberfeldy Town Hall. Their forward programme is:
Wednesday 20th February 2019: “Foot Care at Home” with Joanne Taylor at The Town Hall Aberfeldy 10.00am – 12 noon
Wednesday 20th March 2019: “Heart Warming Soups” with a Polish Twist. A cookery demo by Mariuz of The Tay Café; 7.30pm at The Town Hall Aberfeldy
The rest of the programme is on the What’s On page.
Book Club Update
There was a full turnout at our January meeting and a lively discussion around the book Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, and its related themes.
Written in 1952, it is a comedy of manners that studies the social activities of, and characters related to, the Anglican Church. During our discussion, we had to remind ourselves of the context of the post war period in which it was set – a period when few women had careers.
We felt the characters were well portrayed and the atmosphere of the time was beautifully drawn. Some found that Mildred, the main character and a “do gooder”, was indeed “too good to be true” – even “nauseating” for some! Others felt that it was light and airy, humorous and a comforting book, nostalgic of a way of life long gone. Mildred was a great observer of the human race and presented unrequited feelings of women for men.
Comparisons were made between the roles and expectations of women then and now, and we discussed our personal experiences of how life has changed for women in our own lifetimes.
The book for February which was carried forward is The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
The next Book Club meeting is on the 13th February.
It will not have escaped your notice that most of the mainstream media are marking the end of the year with Reviews of 2018. ‘Well, why not?’, thought the Fearnan Blog, so here is a selection of our highlights from the last year:
In January, the Fearnan Poppy Project was launched with a simple knitting pattern and the thought that we might perhaps get 100, or possibly even 200.
In February, the annual Pudding Night nearly didn’t take place on account of a power cut two hours before the start of the event i.e. just about the time a lot of puddings were being popped into the oven to cook! Happily, the power came back in time for us to welcome our guests with an excellent selection of (fully cooked) puddings.
By March, we were all a bit fed up with the miserable weather and disruption caused by the snow. There may have been bare supermarket shelves at one point, but there was plenty on offer at the first coffee morning of the year. And we had a total of 200 poppies.
In April, we featured the story of an old Fearnan family, the Brydones, who lived in Fearnan in the first half of the 20th century, James Brydone being one of the WW1 servicemen who survived the war.
Outside Tom Darroch: James, Jessie, Hamish and Detta Brydone taken late 1930s
Snow made one final appearance in time for the April (Easter) Coffee morning; the lambs arrived at Ewetopia; there was a well-attended Fearnan Quiz Night; and the Bowls Club met for one last match of the season and to present the Cup to the winner of the Singles Final (Alastair).
Meanwhile, Peter (a.k.a. Spiderman McKenzie) was abseiling down the front of the Birks Cinema to help raise funds for the refurbishment of the auditorium and cafe bar.
The weather took a definite turn for the better in May, and the Art Club were out and about sketching. In June they held an Art Club Open Day, and a Coffee Morning rounded off the month.
Where shall we go next?
It was Friends Reunited in July, when the Blog gave a name-check to one of our poppy knitters in British Columbia and, through the wonders of the Internet, her name was spotted by a long lost friend (also in BC) who asked to be put in touch.
Back in the village, we bade a fond farewell to local lads Archie and Crannog, but we hear through Facebook that they are both well-settled and thriving in their new homes.
Archie and Crannog
In the same month, there was a splendid Strawberry Tea on offer from the FVA….
…. and Keith photographed two young ospreys that he had been monitoring, shortly before they fledged from their lochside nest.
By the beginning of September, we had some 500 poppies, and there were archaeologists at Boreland investigating possible links between land-based and crannog-based communities during the Iron Age. This is part of a larger project that is looking at whether or not the crannogs around Loch Tay were occupied simultaneously (which would suggest quite a busy landscape) or sporadically over a 400-year period (which would suggest small groups living in isolation).
Thanks to Aberfeldy museum there was a rare chance to see some early film footage of Fearnan in the 1930s (http://movingimage.nls.uk/film/9416). And by the end of the month, our fantastic team of knitters had produced 650 poppies.
In October, work started on transforming the (by now) +800 poppies into panels for the war memorial.
The McMillan Coffee Morning raised a very respectable £250 and there was another, rather spooky, coffee morning at Halloween.
The November highlight was the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1, and of the 8 war casualties from Fearnan, at our Remembrance Day Service. The war memorial looked amazing on the day, thanks to the Poppy Project. The final total was 935 poppies – knitted by local people as well as many from the Fearnan diaspora in Canada, America, France and various locations throughout the UK.
The stories of the 8 Fearnan men who died in the war were further researched and updated in time for the anniversary, and can be read here.
December saw the last FVA event of the year – Mulled Wine and Mince Pies – which gave the attendees a chance to parade their Christmaswear.
And the final visitors of the year were flocks of Waxwings arriving in Fearnan, photographed by Keith.
The Book Club has met once a month over the last year, reading and discussing some 12 books. There was no unanimous winner of the Book of the Year award this year, but The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson received the most votes.
Those who voted for it felt that it was a well-paced story set within the historical background of colonial Africa and life between the wars in Berlin, when socialism was on the rise.
And as one year comes to an end, there is a chance to celebrate the start of 2019 in the Hall on New Year’s Eve:
Happy New Year to everyone!
Please note that, unless otherwise stated, the copyright of all text on this website is held by the writer of the article, and the copyright of all photos is in the ownership of the person that took them.
The recommended dress code for our recent Mulled Wine and Mince Pies event was Christmas jumpers. We certainly got Christmas jumpers – and Christmas socks, Christmas aprons, Christmas braces, Christmas headgear, a Christmas onesie and a green elf (or an elf in green, to be more exact). Clearly, dressing up boxes had been well and truly raided!
The hall was full of pre-Christmas cheer, and all in all, it was a warm and happy event. The mulled wine slipped down a treat and, along with the mince pies, there were lots of Christmas-themed sweet treats to eat. No pics of the food this time – the people were definitely the star attraction!
Something from the Fearnan Archive ……
Holiday brochures provide a pleasant distraction at this time of year. What better way to counter the cold wind and snow and ice outside than to plan your summer vacation?
Some 50 or 60 years ago, would be holiday makers might have been considering a week in Fearnan, staying at the Tigh-an-Loan Hotel –
For those too young to know the decimal equivalent, dinner cost from 75p, breakfast was 35p, and lunch was 58p. Bed and Breakfast? £1.75. Those were the days!
First Event in 2019
The FVA’s first social event of 2019 will be our world-famous Winter Pudding Night. Yes, it’s nearly that time of year again! Choc-aholics, pudding fanciers, and all those born with a sweet tooth will be making their way to Fearnan Village Hall on the23rd February at 6pm for this celebration of deliciousness. There are usually round about 30 puddings on offer. You don’t have to try them all (although some do!) but why not join us and come and taste a few?
And Finally ……..
It’s Happy Christmas from all of us, and from these 2 seasonal garden visitors.
There have been some unusual avian visitors to Fearnan during November. Firstly, a single magpie was present in the village for a week in early November – quite a rarity away from urban centres as it is heavily persecuted by game estates in the countryside.
Secondly, on the 26th November, two waxwings were feeding on the ornamental rowan berries on the tree at the Hall entrance. There were eight present the next day along with blackbirds and a mistle thrush gorging on the berries. Waxwings breed in the taiga forests of Scandinavia and Russia and in some winters, when the berry crop fails in Scandinavia, large numbers migrate to the British Isles. During these ‘irruption’ years, flocks of up to a few hundred can be encountered feasting on berries during the winter months.
Their name derives from the red waxy tips on the wing feathers shown on this nice adult male in the hand which I caught by the hall on the 22nd November 2010. They have a distinct trilling call, distinct crest and usually allow a close approach.
Many thanks, Keith!
Meanwhile, The Blog has been taking a look at Boreland Forest and its Design Plan.
Boreland Forest Design Plan
Boreland Forest (sometimes known locally as Boreland Wood) lies on the northern shore of Loch Tay, just to the west of Fearnan, and covers an area of 343 ha. It was purchased by the Forestry Commission in 1938 as part of a larger estate, but the hill ground and lower agricultural land were disposed of subsequently. Planting began soon after purchase, with Norway spruce being the main crop species for the first rotation, and the early 1940s war effort saw much of the forest planted by Canadian workers.
The forest is not only home to both capercaillies and red squirrels, but is also an important site for projects that are working to conserve and boost the numbers of these endangered species.
The capercaillie is a native species that became extinct in Britain in the mid-18th century, and main cause for the extinction was thought to have been a catastrophic loss of its woodland habitat. Birds from Sweden were reintroduced into Perthshire in 1837, and by the 1970s numbers of capercaillie had grown to about 20,000. Since then, however, the species has been in long-term decline.
Boreland Forest lies within the local ‘core capercaillie area’ making it an important factor in the efforts to reduce the decline in their numbers and you can read more about this project here.
We are fortunate to live in an area where red squirrels are seen regularly, but their future in Scotland remains under threat. There are estimated to be only 160,000 red squirrels remaining in the UK, 75% of which are in Scotland. Without concerted and effective action to protect them, the red squirrels that remain in Scotland could disappear within our lifetime.
But the forest also holds significance for Fearnan. Early records show that the original Barony of Fearnan was made up of a number of croft units situated along the loch-side – several of them in the area now covered by Boreland Forest. A copy of an old map showing the location of these crofts is included in the permanent exhibition in the village hall and the ruins of some of these crofts are still visible.
About 5 years ago, Ian McGregor’s grandsons unearthed the remains of a traditional cast iron cooking pot at the site of the Tominlyvoir croft (below) in Boreland Forest.
The pot, which was found in the ruins of what would have been the last occupied house in Tominlyvoir, is on display in the Hall.
In 1755, there were 47 people living in seven dwellings in this croft unit, but the population of the whole area was in decline and, by the 1841 census, there were only 3 people left.
The forest is also the location of a number of Unscheduled Ancient Monuments including Fearnan’s Market Cross (or the Fair Stone of Fearnan).
It appears on early maps of Fearnan making it possible to date it as pre-1769.
The stone carries a curse, inscribed on the back, and is a warning to anyone who might think about meddling with the stone:
“Tradition says this stone is at the fair or market cross of Fearnan and cursed be he who remove it. Breadalbane.”
The Forestry Commission has aDesign Plan for Boreland Forest for the period 2010 – 2020 and those who walk in the forest, or live close to it, may be interested to click on the link and have a look at the Plan which sets out the Forestry Commission’s aims for the forest not just in terms of the woodland areas but also for its wildlife.
The Forestry Commission have written to our local Community Council proposing some changes to the current Plan – mainly aimed at achieving a more ‘natural’ treeline in some areas and adjusting the species mix for re-stocking. Unfortunately, there is no digital link to the relevant papers, but anyone interested in finding out more about the proposed changes, and possibly commenting on them, should contact Sue Dolan-Betney (click here,) who can email the relevant documents. Comments need to be with Sue before the 20th December.
Fearnan War Memorial – Duncan McPhail
In recent postings on this site, we have told the story of 7 of the 8 local men who are commemorated on the Fearnan War Memorial. One, however, remained a mystery until now. Thanks to research by Mike Haig and Mark Duffy (both members of the Great War Forum), we now know that Duncan McPhail signed up with the Scots Guards early in 1915. He is listed in the Parish of Kenmore Roll of Honour (“A List of men, natives of the Parish and others residing therein, who have gone forth to serve their King and Country in the War”).
Duncan was 32 years of age and is described as a farm servant. The medical inspection that he underwent after signing up shows that he was in poor health and he was subsequently discharged on account of his health. His Death Certificate shows that he died, not long afterwards, of meningitis.
Fearnan Book Club reports:
At the November meeting of the Club, the book discussed was Slow Horses by Mick Herron.
There was, as always, a mixed reaction to book. Most felt the pace was too slow and that the book only became interesting towards the end. The huge cast of characters was confusing, making it more difficult to engage with any of the characters and to sustain interest.
The group were satisfied with the ending, unlike some other books we’ve read this year, but it was obvious the ground was being prepared for follow-up books. We thought it would make a good TV series featuring Robbie Coltrane as Jackson Lamb! The description of a politician (after Sid got shot) fitted Boris to a T! We liked the fact that females headed MI5.
We have chosen two books to read over the next couple of months and to be discussed at the first meeting of 2019 on Wed 9th January – Excellent Woman by Barbara Pym, and The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
The next meeting will be the Book Club Christmas dinner, which has been confirmed for Thursday 13th Dec.
Our annual Mulled Wine and Mince Pies will be held this Saturday, 8th December, in the Hall, from 3 – 5pm. Join us for a pre-Christmas glass or two, some mince pies and good company.
It’s £6 per person and after expenses, a donation will be made from the takings to the McLean Hall fund.
Just think! What a fabulous opportunity to wear that Christmas jumper that is lurking at the back of the cupboard!
Many thanks to everyone who responded so quickly to the email about the Staying Connected project. We won’t be sending out any reminders on this one, so if you had intended to reply but haven’t got around to it yet, why not do so now?
News of the Armistice Reaches Fearnan, November 1918
Thanks to the Fearnan School Log Book, we have a first hand account of the reaction to the news of the Armistice in 1918 in the village.
On 15th November 1918, the Head Teacher, Miss L M Roberts wrote:
“The glad tidings that the Armistice was signed and that peace once more reigned reached us on Monday about three o’clock in the afternoon. Captain Thistle and Mr Peter Dewar called and made known the welcome news. The children cheered and all at once hastened to hoist the “Union Jack”. The children then sang the National Anthem and were dismissed. The village received the news quietly, the bereavements being too recent to admit of any demonstration of joy. The lumber camp of Newfoundland soldiers ceased work until Wednesday but there was no disturbance in this village.”
(The wonderfully named Captain Thistle is most likely Captain David Thistle of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps mentioned above. Thanks, Mike Haig, for tracing him.)
Armistice Sunday in Fearnan 100 Years On
The full impact of our Poppy Project became clear this weekend, as the Fearnan War Memorial was “dressed” for its big day. This small village has managed to produce 935 knitted poppies in the last few months, with a little help from Fearnan-connected people in Canada, the USA, France, and various parts of the UK.
The war memorial looks fantastic and has been attracting admiring glances from passing motorists. Many thanks to Tom Taylor, who was passing as we were setting up, and took the above photo.
It also inspired a reader of the Perthshire Advertiser to send a contribution of 2 poppies in an envelope simply addressed to Cath McGregor, Poppy Project, Fearnan. The package was delivered safely to Cath’s house by the Royal Mail and the poppies were included in the display.
We had a very well attended service at the memorial on Sunday, led by Shirley Shearer. Alistair Grier and Lisle Pattison laid wreaths on behalf of the community and the parish. This year we had a third wreath, provided by the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh, laid by Fiona Ballantyne, in memory of the Russian Airmen who died in an air crash just outside the village in WW2 ( see The Fearnan Air Crash 1943).
After the service, the Village Association served tea and coffee in the Hall, which gave us all a chance to socialise and talk to some of the guests who had come from further afield to be at our service. The Hall had also been decked out with poppies, and an exhibition of WW1 memorabilia, curated by Alistair and Linda, attracted much interest in this special anniversary year.
A collection for Help for Heroes raised an impressive £145.22. Many thanks to all who donated so generously.
Thank you to everyone who made a contribution to the Poppy Project, and a particularly big thank you to Cath McGregor for being the inspiration and designer behind this special project. A very small number of our knitters, with Cath in the middle looking bashful, are pictured at the set up of poppies on the memorial on Saturday.
There will be a Service of Remembrance at the Fearnan War Memorial on Sunday 11th November. Please note that the service will start at 10.50, not 11.00 as previously stated on the Blog.
The Memorial will be decorated with the hundreds of poppies knitted by people in the village as well as by Fearnan-connected people around the world. Some of those knitters can be seen here putting the final touches to the design scheme.
After the service on Sunday, the Village Association will be serving tea and coffee in the village hall and all are welcome to join us.
Fearnan War Memorial
Over 16 million people died in WW1 – the sheer scale of which is difficult to comprehend. Fearnan itself suffered a heavy toll in the war. When the village’s memorial was unveiled in August 1920, the Perthshire Advertiser reported that Mr Campbell of Borland made reference to the great number of village boys who enlisted, and how a third of them had made the supreme sacrifice. Fearnan lost 8 men, more than any of the other villages in the Kenmore parish, including Kenmore itself.
For two families, the Frasers and the Mathesons, the cost was exceptionally high, as both lost not one but 2 sons in the conflict.
Fearnan War Memorial 1920s
Over the last 4 years, we have been able to uncover information about all but one of the men named on the Memorial, thanks to the excellent research done by Ian McGregor, Mike Haig and others.
To honour those who died, we have drawn together as much as we know about these 8 men so that at the service on Sunday, they will be remembered not simply as names written on a memorial stone, but as men who lived and worked here some 100 years ago.
Duncan & Peter Matheson
Our research was greatly helped by a letter and photographs sent from Marilyn Ward, who is the granddaughter of Duncan Matheson, pictured here in his HLI uniform. Marilyn had read about our research on the FVA website and shared family documents and photographs.
We now know that Duncan was the son of William Matheson and his first wife, Christina. Duncan was a tram driver and enlisted in the army, together with many of his fellow workers, in the 15th Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Tramways Battalion).
He is pictured below with colleagues at training camp in Ayrshire. The shortage of army uniforms explains the fact that they are still wearing their Glasgow Corporation Transport uniforms. Duncan is third from left in the back row:
Glasgow Tram Drivers Battalion
In November 1916, a letter from Duncan to his brother William was published in a local newspaper. The letter is remarkably upbeat, given the circumstances and Duncan’s recent experiences. Presumably this was to reassure the folks at home. It describes both the lead-up to a battle – waiting in the trenches “up to the arm pits in mud” – and then the attack, signalled by an exploding mine.
Duncan was wounded in the fierce battle that followed: “A piece of shell entered my left thigh, and passed clean through it without touching the bone. A regular beauty!”
Due to heavy shelling, it was several hours before he could crawl back to his own front line trench and from there make his way, along with other wounded men, back to the collecting station some two miles away, where his wounds were attended to and “the inner man fortified”.
As we now know, Corporal Duncan Matheson died the following year on the 14th July 1917, of wounds received in further action.
As he was in the Tram Drivers Battalion, Duncan is also named on the war memorial in the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
Very sadly for the family, his brother PeterMatheson, 2nd battalion The Black Watch, was killed in action at the Battle of Hanna, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 21/1/1916.
In addition to being commemorated on the Fearnan War Memorial, Peter is remembered on the memorials in Basra, and in Aberfeldy where he lived with his wife and daughters.
He is pictured on the left.
Duncan and Malcolm Fraser
Duncan and Malcolm Fraser were the sons of James and Jessie Fraser of Rosebank, and tragically both died in the last few days of the war.
Private 13011 Duncan Fraser, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards enlisted in January 1915.
He died of gas poisoning (age 39) on Sunday 13/10/1918, at Number 46 Casualty Clearing Station.
The following entry appears in the Fearnan School Log Book on the 25th October 1918:
“Sad news reached the village this week – the death through gas poisoning of another of our brave soldiers at the front. Duncan Fraser, an old pupil of this school, was among the first to join up and has been in the thick of it for a considerable time.”
13011 Duncan Fraser was in same battalion as 13009 James Dewar (see below). Their numbers are almost consecutive, and it is highly likely that they enlisted together.
Private D/13435 Malcolm Fraser, 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys). Malcolm died on 30th October 1918, shortly before the Armistice, from pneumonia (possibly influenza). His death was also recorded in the Fearnan School Log Book:
“Again, sad tidings! The brother of the brave soldier referred to a fortnight ago has succumbed at the Western Front to pneumonia whilst another who has been in the transport service for some time has been killed. Both of these lads had seen four years service in the army and both deserve the high encomiums passed upon them by the villagers. Both were much beloved and are much mourned.”
Private S/15683 Hugh Cowan of the Black Watch was the son of Donald and Ann Cowan of Balnearn, Fearnan.
Private Hugh Cowan
Hugh Cowan was called up on Wednesday 7th June 1916, at Comrie, where he had been working as a ploughman, and was posted to the 11th Battalion The Black Watch. From this date up to the end of November, he was training at Dunfermline, before embarking at Folkestone, on Friday 1st December 1916 and landing at Boulogne on the same day.
After further training at Étaples, he was soon transferred as Private 33495 to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, joining them in the field on the evening of Wednesday 13th of December 1916, when the Battalion relieved the 7th Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in the trenches at Serre, on the Somme. The relief was completed by 9.00 p.m., with Hugh Cowan being one of 140 men who had joined that day as reinforcements. Luckily, although enemy artillery was heavy, (as was the rain), they had no casualties and they were in turn relieved by a battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment on the 16th December.
Hugh probably was in action on the 9th and 10th of April 1917 in the Arras Offensive during the First Battle of the Scarpe, but it was on Thursday the 3rd of May, 1917, that he was killed in action on the first day of the Third Battle of the Scarpe, aged 19.
His battalion was part of the 8th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division, VI Corps, of the Third Army. The Official History states: ” The enemy obviously had foreknowledge of the attack; for, prior to its launch he deluged the front with chemical and high-explosive shell. At Zero, in fact, the field batteries were enveloped in thick clouds of gas. The detachments, wearing respirators, stuck manfully to their task. The infantry, however, was much disorganized. Most of the battalions also wore respirators during the assembly, and numbers of men who did not put them on, were overcome by vomiting. The 8th Brigade (Hugh Cowan’s brigade) fell into confusion, largely owing to the fire of parties of the enemy who had been pushed forward into shell-holes and had thus avoided the British barrage. The waves of the 2nd Royal Scots and 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers becoming prematurely merged, the barrage was lost, and the attack broke down.”
He was buried in Vis en Artois British Cemetery (Ref VII.D.2).
On May 25th 1917 the Head Teacher, Miss L M Roberts, referred to Hugh’s death in the School Log Book, and its impact on her pupils:
“The scholars were much grieved today to learn of the death of Hugh Cowan who fell ill in action on 3rd May. He was well known having been brought up in the village and until he joined up had been a shepherd with his father at Balnearn.”
This picture of Hugh Cowan’s Memorial Plaque (also known as the ‘Death Penny’) comes from Hazel Bellman, a descendant of Hugh Cowan.
The Plaques were cast in bronze and issued to the next of kin, in this case, Donald Cowan, of Balnearn, Fearnan.
John was the son of Donald and Kate Fraser of Upper Fearnan. Wounded by shell-fire on the 7th of September, 1918, succumbing to those wounds the next day, the 8th, aged 25.
John Lauchlan Fraser, Driver 96764, Headquarters 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery.
James Dewar, Scots Guards
Guardsman 13009 James Dewar, 2nd Battalion The Scots Guards was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Peter Dewar, Tomdarroch, Fearnan.
Formerly a member of Govan Police Force, he enlisted on 7/1/1915 and went to France on 6/10/1915. He was wounded in April 1916 and killed in action on 28/3/1918, three days before his 30th birthday.
His father, Peter, was a Gamekeeper but appears to have died during the war years. His mother subsequently moved to Drummond Cottage, Keltneyburn.
Thanks to research by Mike Haig and Mark Duffy (both members of the Great War Forum), we now know that Duncan McPhail signed up with the Scots Guards early in 1915. He is listed in the Parish of Kenmore Roll of Honour (“List of men, natives of the Parish and others residing therein, who have gone forth to serve their King and Country in the War”).
Duncan was 32 years of age and is described as a farm servant. The medical inspection that he underwent after signing up shows that he was in poor health and he was subsequently discharged on account of his health. His Death Certificate shows that he died, not long afterwards, of meningitis.
If anybody can add to the information that we have on these men who are commemorated on the Fearnan War Memorial, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can use the Comments section of the Blog to get in touch.