Remembrance Day is tomorrow, and I would like to remember this soldier who fought in the First World War. He is my dad’s paternal grandfather. I hardly know anything about him. But maybe someone out there in internet-land can help find out.
Here’s what I know to be true.
– He was born and raised in Scotland, probably Glasgow.
– He was a soldier.
– He married a woman named Margaret McCullough (though her sirname may be spelled McCulla, or somesuch).
And that’s about it.
Here’s what I suspect may be true, but I may be wrong.
– As a soldier he was assigned to that part of the world we now call Israeal-Palestine (let’s call it that in this blog post, in the hope of offending the fewest people) during the British Mandate, around 1920.
– His sirname may not have been ‘Myers’ It may have been spelled differently, or it may have been a completely different name. In fact his entire name may have been completely different. There are two theories about why he may have had a different name. One is that the name was changed in order to protect the identity of an illegitimate child. Another is that he was a Scottish Presbyterian who married an Irish Catholic, which would have moved both their families to disown them; the name might have been changed so that they could start a new life afresh somewhere.
– He may have had two families, each unbeknownst to the other: one back in the UK, another in Israel-Palestine.
– Margaret McCulla is buried in or near Acton, Ontario.
My dad, my aunt, and other members of my family have already done a lot of research here, including all the usual registries and all the usual paid services. Over forty years, my aunt has written letters to people and to organisations, often finding nothing, or finding a stone wall. What I’ve described in this blog here is nearly everything we’ve learned so far. I believe that someone out there knows more. If I were more conspiracy-minded I’d wonder if this man’s story is being kept secret for some deliberate reason. But I think it more likely that someone out there knows something but doesn’t know the significance of what he or she knows.
I don’t care which of the two theories about the name-change is the truth, or if there’s a third explanation. I don’t care if it turns out this man was a completely terrible person. Every family has a few of those. I simply want to know who he was. If there’s another branch of my family out there, maybe they might like to know what became of us.
Here’s how you can help. If you are a military history fan, maybe you recognize his cap badge?
Or his service medals?
I’m asking this for two reasons. One, is that although I am committed to peace and am against war in principle, I also think that the dead deserve to be remembered, and that those who wager their own lives in the service of protecting their land and people deserve special respect. I’m also asking because I would like to know where I came from. Our ancestors are obviously an important part of who we are.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
– Robert Lawrence Binyon, “For the Fallen”.
UPDATE a few hours later!
Thanks to my friend Graeme Barber, a member of the British Columbia Dragoons, I now know that my mystery ancestor was a member of the Transjordan Frontier Force. That’s the uniform and cap badge he’s wearing in the photo above. He also found that the medal on the left is a campaign star, and the one second from the left is the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
I had been told all my life that he was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Highland Black Watch. A few years back I got a kilt with the regimental tartan, to honour him. (It doesn’t fit me anymore). Well, its definitely the TJFF uniform and badge in the photo above, and not the BlackWatch uniform. But we found that the Blackwatch 2nd Battalion served in Mesopotamia and was then moved to Palestine, right around the correct time period. It’s possible that Mystery Ancestor here was transferred from the Blackwatch to the TJFF some time before this photo was taken.
That narrows the search quite a lot!