A year ago, when we started the project to find out more about the men who are commemorated on Fearnan’s War Memorial, the only information that we had was their names and regiments.
Slowly, Ian McGregor has been able to uncover information about these men, and recently we were delighted to receive a letter from Marilyn Ward, the granddaughter of Duncan Matheson, pictured here in his HLI uniform.
Marilyn had read about our research on the FVA website.
We now know that Duncan, whose family home was Rock Cottage, was the son of William Matheson and his first wife Christina. He 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 here with colleagues at training camp in Ayrshire, still wearing their Glasgow Corporation Transport uniforms. Duncan is third from left in the back row:
In November 1916, a letter from Duncan to his brother William was published in the local newspaper. The letter is remarkably upbeat, given the circumstances and Duncan’s recent experiences – presumably 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.
Very sadly for the family, his brother Peter also died in the war in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). 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.
Many thanks to Marilyn Ward for sharing her family photographs and memorabilia with us, copies of which will be put into the Fearnan Archive.