New, detailed study of Faculty War Memorial

01 Jul


A new, in-depth study has been written about the Faculty’s War Memorial and the men whose names it carries.

The research was undertaken by Alastair Shepherd, a solicitor and historian, and he has donated the work to the Faculty, fittingly on the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

The War Memorial, in the main corridor of the Advocates’ Library, was unveiled by Lord Justice General Clyde on 26 May, 1921, with the laying of a laurel wreath and to the playing of the Last Post by a bugler.

Designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, the renowned Edinburgh-born architect, the oak panel lists the 26 members of Faculty and Intrants who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. They include John Bruce, who died at the Somme on the first day of the battle, 1 July, 1916.

Originally, the foot of the panel bore a carved wreath but it was removed when a 27th name was added after the Second World War.

Gordon Jackson, QC, Dean of Faculty, said: “We are indebted to Alastair Shepherd for the time and effort he has put into producing a remarkable piece of work. Our War Memorial is a fitting tribute to those we lost, and this work is another way of ensuring that their memory will continue to be cherished.”

Mr Shepherd, a partner in Coulters, is something of a war memorial veteran.

“The whole thing started a few years ago, as I attended the Remembrance Service at Yester Kirk in Gifford, near where I live, and listened to the Minister reading out the names from the War Memorial,” he said.

“I realised that the congregation didn’t really know who these people were…you knew nothing about the men who had died. I started to do a bit of research – where they lived, where they worked, what regiment they were in, and it was published in a pamphlet. I found I really enjoyed doing it. By knowing more details of the dead, we could ‘remember them’ rather than just hearing a list of names.”

His next project was much more ambitious. While the Yester memorial had around 30 names, there were 130 to be researched for a book about the Haddington War Memorial.

“It was a bit of a challenge, and it was quite hard to track down a few of them. There is information you can get if you know where to look, and you gradually piece it together from all kinds of sources and put it down in writing,” said Mr Shepherd.

After completing a booklet about the WS Society’s War Memorial, Mr Shepherd turned to the Faculty and offered his services. Several months later, after many a late night, he has produced a 63-page document with a wealth of detail.

“I have got to say that one thing which struck me about the advocates was that at least three of the men were fairly middle-aged, in their 50s, and they would have been perfectly entitled to take up a desk job on the outbreak of war. But you have someone like James Clark, who at 56, was charging out of the trenches with his men,” said Mr Shepherd.

“I hope people who read my work will appreciate the sacrifices made by these men. As a lawyer myself, I try to think what I would have done at that time and this only increases my deep respect for these men.”

His research discovered that Mr Clark died at the hands of Germans wearing kilts from fallen Cameron Highlanders.

And that according to an account in The Scotsman, Ivor Forsyth Grant “died quite peacefully and, typically of him, apologising to the doctors for all the trouble he was giving them.”

James Cook Gray had been awarded the Military Cross and been mentioned in Despatches three times, while James Henderson-Hamilton had married after a whirlwind romance less than three weeks before he died.

David Lyell had taken the opportunity in a brief lull to write a letter to his mother but he never finished it and it was found in his pocket after his death.

Walter Scott Stuart Lyon was the first Advocate to be killed in action in the War, reputedly the first Advocate killed in action since the Battle of Flodden. He had been a talented war poet and his book, “Easter at Ypres 1915, and other poems” was published posthumously.

To see Mr Shepherd’s complete work, click here