Tag Archives: Gordon Highlanders

On 9 May

Today: my grandfather’s birthday, and a Strachan ancestor who disappeared from the records for 35 years.

9 May 1807
Birth of Thomas Strachan at Riccarton, Ayrshire, son of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan and Jean Kelly. Nothing else can be found for him so the assumption is Thomas died when young.

9 May 1895
Happy birthday Grandad! My grandfather James (Jim) Fraser – who I knew well and remember with great fondness – was born at Aikenshill farm, parish of Foveran, Aberdeenshire, son of William Fraser and Helen Hay. His father William, from Cruden, was working there as a farm servant. In 1901 Jim was with his father, mother and 3 siblings at Mill of Brogan, parish of Slains, where his father was the head cattleman. Very sadly, his mother Helen died in 1903 when Jim was 8 years old, and shortly afterwards the family moved to Hatton village. Jim acquired a stepmother, Helen Ann Morgan, in 1907. I’m not sure what he did before the war – he mentioned caddying at Cruden Bay golf course – but in 1911 he’s not with his family but there is a James Fraser age 15 born Foveran at Turner Hall Farm, Ellon working as a farm servant horseman. His days as a farm servant were limited, though, as in September 1914 he joined the Gordon Highlanders and went to Bedford for training. His battalion landed at Boulogne in May 1915, and in 1916 they were on the frontline at the Battle of the Somme. Jim was shot in the left wrist in November 1916 at Beaumont Hamel and repatriated to an army hospital in Leeds, at Beckett’s Park next to Kirkstall. On his discharge in 1917 he stayed in Leeds and went on a training course, becoming a painter and decorator. He took lodgings in Kirkstall, round the corner from where Clara Green was living with her parents and siblings. Jim and Clara married in 1919, lived in Kirkstall and had 2 daughters, the youngest being my mother Dorothy. Jim never went back to Aberdeenshire to live but took his family for holidays on the Fraser croft while his father was alive, and relatives often came to stay in Leeds. Before his retirement Jim worked for Samuel Smith’s brewery, decorating pubs. He died in 1971 in Leeds.

9 May 1896
My ggg aunt Jean Strachan, widow of Hugh Jamieson, died at Irvine Poorhouse. She was the daughter of John Strachan and Agnes Neilson, born in Riccarton, and married muslin weaver Hugh Jamieson in Kilmarnock in 1837. They don’t appear to have had children, and Hugh Jamieson died in 1861. Jean then disappears as despite a thorough search I can’t find her in any further census. But she died in 1896: her death certificate has her as the widow of Hugh Jamison and daughter of John and Agnes Strachan. She died at Cunningham Combination Poorhouse at Irvine of cardiac disease. I wish I knew where she went to after her husband died.

On 3 May

This day 98 years ago, my grandfather’s Gordon Highlander regiment landed at Boulogne. Plus a childhood death, a coal miner’s death and a migration to Canada.

3 May 1843
Birth of David Findlay, son of David Findlay and Susanna Strachan and grandson of my gggg uncle and aunt Peter Strachan and Mary Munroe. David died in childhood, before the 1851 census, as did his mother. I’m not sure of the dates when either of them died, but by 1851 father David had remarried and another son named David Findlay had been born.

3 May 1882
Death of Robert Strachan – there are lots of Robert Strachans on my tree and this one was born in about 1834, son of Andrew Strachan and Elizabeth Howat, which makes him my 2nd cousin 3 times removed. His mother died when he was about 10 years old and his father married Margaret Todd. Robert became a coal miner, in 1855 married Ann Bain at Dreghorn, and had 9 children. Some time before 1871 the family moved to Saltcoats, where they lived in Auchenharvie Row, and it was there that Robert died. He was 49 years old and died of asthmatic bronchitis and general debility, which was no doubt a result of working down the coal pits.

3 May 1915
My grandfather James Fraser, who had enlisted with the Gordon Highlanders in September 1914, landed in Boulogne. He was in France until November 1916 when he was wounded at Beaumont Hamel during the battle of the Somme.

3 May 1921
Margaret Milne, from Hatton, Aberdeenshire, arrived in Quebec, destined for Vancouver where she had a job to go to as a domestic servant. There’s interesting detail in landing papers: she was 5ft 4ins with fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. The daughter of Alexander Milne and Elizabeth Thomson, she was the granddaughter of my ggg aunt Janet aka Jessie Fraser. According to a descendent of hers with a tree on Ancestry, Margaret married Alexander George Birnie at Vancouver in March 1922, and died in Vancouver in 1952.

On 11 April

Today includes the anniversary of a major turning point in my grandfather’s life.

11 April 1773
Baptism of Mary Green at Worsbrough, daughter of my ggggg grandparents Joseph Green and Alice Rock. Mary died in September 1774 age 17 months.

11 April 1804
Baptism of Agnes Hunter at Lesmahagow, Lanark daughter of Robert Hunter and Margaret Haddow, who were from Stevenston, Ayrshire and returned there shortly after the birth of Agnes. Robert was the brother of Margaret Hunter, who married Robert Haddow. I still need to sort out the Haddow/Hunter tangle as lots of the same/similar names are confusing to say the least!

11 April 1823
Birth of John Bisset at Longside, illegitimate son of my ggg grandmother Christian Hutcheon. His mother married William Fraser when John was nearly 5. In 1851 John was with William and Christian at Mosside croft, described in the census as a pauper formerly agricultural labourer. From this I assume he was ill or disabled, and that he then disappears from the records could mean he died before 1855.

11 April 1915
Birth of Charles Welton Green, my mother’s cousin, at Kirkstall. He married and had children, one of whom reads this blog.

11 April 1917
My grandfather James Fraser, from Aberdeenshire, was discharged from the Gordon Highlanders after being wounded at Beaumont Hamel, France during the Battle of the Somme. He was sent to a hospital in Leeds, Yorkshire and on discharge decided to stay in Leeds and enrol on a painting and decorating course. He took lodgings in Kirkstall, just round the corner from where my grandmother was living with her parents, and the rest I’m sure you can imagine. Amazing to think that if it wasn’t for that bullet in his wrist I wouldn’t have been born.

Was my ancestor wounded at Waterloo?

There is no doubt that a William Fraser from Cruden was wounded at Waterloo. What I can’t prove is that he was my ancestor, although there’s good circumstantial evidence.

I have long suspected that my GGG Grandfather, William Fraser, is the one baptised in Cruden in 1805 – the OPR reads “27 May 1805 John Sangster in Burnthill presented a child to baptism begot in fornication by William Fraser (as the mother Janet Sangster affirms). The child was baptised and named William. Witnesses John Davidson and William Sangster.” William went on to marry in 1828 in the parish of Longside, which borders Cruden to the north-west, and by 1841 was settled at Mosside Croft, close to the parish border between Cruden and Longside, not far from Burnthill (also known as Brunthill). On his death certificate his father is given as William Fraser.

The question has been – who was the William Fraser reputed to be his father? When William born 1805 died in 1877, his son James was the informant for the registration and knew his grandfather was William Fraser but wasn’t able to name his grandmother. So he seems to have known something about the father William but nothing about the mother Janet. This summer I am going up to Aberdeenshire and intend to study the Kirk Session Minutes and Poor Law Records in case they provide any more clues.

However, I have long wondered if the father William was William Frazer baptised 3 January 1778 Cruden, father Donald Frazer. It’s the only one in the OPR that is at all close, though it’s quite possible that the one I’m after isn’t in the OPR. But a William born in Cruden in 1778 puts him in the right age group and the right place.

So yesterday, I revisited this and looked to see whether a William Fraser born in 1778 was still in the area in later years. And he was. He’s in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census living with relatives at Brick Works, Peterhead. The brickworks were at Invernettie, south of the town of Peterhead and up the main road from Cruden parish. In 1861 William Fraser age 79 is described as a Chelsea Pensioner, which means he was in the army and receiving a pension.

The Chelsea Pensioner records are online, and I found: “92nd Regiment of Highlands: William Fraser Private Soldier in Capn. Angus Fraser’s company, born in the Parish of Cruden, was enlisted at the age of 24 and has served in said regiment for 10 years … in consequence of gun shot wound received in the left hip joint, right thigh and left arm, while in action with the enemy at Waterloo on the 16th & 18th June 1815 is rendered unfit for further service, and is hereby discharged … said William Fraser is about 33 years of age, 5ft 8ins, fair hair, grey eyes and fresh complexion, and by trade is a labourer. Statement of service: 92nd Foot 25 July 1806 to 24 July 1816 and served at Waterloo 2 years.”

His age is a bit out, which wasn’t uncommon for someone who couldn’t read and didn’t have written evidence of birth. He was baptised in 1778, so if he joined up in 1806 he was actually 28 and not 24.That he joined up just a year after the birth of illegitimate William Fraser means he could well have been doing his labouring – as an agricultural labourer most likely – in the Cruden area at the time of William’s conception.

I then downloaded Chelsea Pensioner William’s 1864 death certificate and discovered his parents were Donald Fraser soldier and Margaret Sharp. So he is the William I’ve had my eye on from the OPR baptisms.

Donald Fraser was also in the 92nd Regiment and received a pension. His record reads “Donald Fraser age 51, labourer, born in Scotland, served with 92 Regiment as Sgt., was discharged 1795 after 24 years with ??th Foot and 2 years with 92nd. Discharged due to being old and long in the service, and the regiment being ordered to be reduced, and having been before a pensioner.”

Although Donald was in the army for 25 years up to 1795, it wasn’t continuous service as he’d previously received a pension. It looks as if he was in the army, then settled in Cruden where he married and had children, then enlisted again in the early 1790s when the 92nd Regiment (which became the Gordon Highlanders) was raised due to the war with France.

So although not proven, there’s a possibility that my Fraser ancestors were Gordon Highlanders at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There’s a nice link to later time, as my grandfather James Fraser fought with the Gordon Highlanders in WW1 and was discharged wounded after being shot at the Battle of the Somme.

When the illegitimate William Fraser born 1805 died in 1877, his son knew who his father was. Was there still a connection? Did army pensioner William Fraser know about his illegitimate son William? Did the family tell the story of his army exploits and wounding at Waterloo? These are unanswerable questions but it makes for a great story!