A Village Remembers
is a book that was created by the Strathblane First World War Project. It was sold locally to raise money for Erskine - the charity that has been rebuilding the shattered lives of Scotland's veterans since 1916.
The book is no longer available locally but copies may be available from Erskine, second-hand booksellers or ebay.
There were 16 men from the parish who fell in the First World War but are not commemorated on the war memorial and only have a brief mention in the book. Their stories have been researched and can be found on the Missing Men web page.
The idea for the book came from a brief conversation between Pat Davy and journalist Anne Johnstone, who both lost great uncles in the First World War. As it says on the plinth of our local memorial: "Their name liveth for evermore". But beyond that list of names, with their ranks and regiments, who were these men? What did they look like? How did they speak? What were their lives like? The two women gathered a small group that set to work on this piece of historical detective work.
Grants were secured from Stirling Council's Community Pride Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund and businessman John M Watson OBE made a generous donation. The project was underwritten by Strathblanefield Community Development Trust.
Firstly, we spoke to as many living relatives of the men as we could find. Some are well-known names in the area: Edmonstone and Yarrow, for instance. Tracking down the descendants of rank and file soldiers was harder, especially as some had lived only briefly in the parish, usually as workers on the big estates and country houses in the area. Some contacts came through the Genes Reunited website.
Secondly, local genealogist Charlie Kerr and his team did a remarkable job, combing through census returns, birth records, local newspaper archives and valuation rolls. By May 2014 we had managed to find photographs of 13 of the men and piece together stories for every single one of the 27.
Thirdly, an appeal went out for writers. So much material was pouring in that it soon became clear that Anne Johnstone could not write all the stories herself. So she took on 11 of the life stories and edited the work of a team of more than a dozen volunteers, who tackled the remainder. What had started as a booklet, soon turned into a full length book, designed and produced by artist Roy Petrie. Locally-based photographer Martin Shields and son Mark took the modern photographs. (The same team produced the very successful Strathblane and Blanefield Now & Then
"Every story is touching in its own way," said Anne. "Take Fergie Thomson, the youngest of 12 children, who still looks like a boy in his 1918 portrait, sporting the ribbon flash of the Military Medal he won for securing an enemy post at night, shortly before his death on the Hindenburg Line. Or Eric Yarrow, who goes out into no-man's land to retrieve the body of his friend Jack Barr, only to die himself less than a fortnight later. Or Sir Archibald Edmonstone (the present Sir Archie's grandfather), who goes to Milndavie House to commiserate with the parents of 19-year-old Private James Macintyre, killed on the Somme in September 1916. (The laird returned to Duntreath soon to discover that his own 19-year-old son had been killed in the same battle.) But the book isn't just about their deaths. It charts their lives and loves as well. Several of them are surprisingly humorous.
"Because the men are drawn from 12 different regiments and ten other bodies, such as the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Lovat Scouts, and their dates of death stretch from 1914 right through to late 1919, the book effectively tells the story of the war but from the point of view of the men themselves and their families. And because they were drawn from every stratum of society, it provides a fascinating portrait of our community at the beginning of the 20th century."
The Foreword to the book has been contributed by the family of the 22-year old Royal Marines Commando Gary Wright from Blanefield who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006.
Book cover: (left to right) Private Fergie Thomson of the Scots Guards, Private James Macintyre of the Seaforth Highlanders, Lt William Ker of the Royal Naval Division, Lt Eric Yarrow of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Lt Willie Edmonstone of the Coldstream Guards and 2nd Lt Philip Binnie of the Scottish Rifles.
Book launch in September 2014 at Strathblane Village Club.
Project leader, writer Anne Johnstone, launches the book, which raised £5,000 for the Scottish veterans' charity in three months. Murray O'Donnell reads the AP Herbert poem Beaucourt Revisited, which features William Ker, one of the local men on the memorial. Young piper James Forrest pipes in the books, which are carried by his sister Kathryn, along with Poppy Graham, Jessica Collie and Karen Wright, who all have links to the memorial. The film was produced by Callum Farquhar, a sixth form pupil at Balfron High School. www.5one2pro.com