Galloway Great War

William Marr served as a piper with the Royal Scots Fusiliers
William Marr served as a piper with the Royal Scots Fusiliers

Monday, August 4 sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War and through out or region communitys and indviduals will be soloumly remembering the dead by holding candlit vigils at 11pm on Monday night, to mark the moment great Britain declared war on Germany.

Ocver the past few motnhs the galloway gazette has brought long forgotten stories fron ‘the war to end all wars’ back to life on the page. The series is artices has also rekindled many families’ interest in local men who went off to war to serve King and Country 100 years ago.

Today we take a look at the story of:


Retired Newton Stewart plumber Wullie Marr contacted the Galloway Gazette about his father, William Marr, who served as a piper and stretcher-bearer with the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry.

William senior survived the war, as did his brother Tom, but although his 82-year-old son has his service medals and photographs of him in uniform, he knows very little about his father’s time in France, possibly because, like many who served in the Great War, he just didn’t want to talk about it. He remembers hs father as “a quiet man” who liked to go for a pint on a Saturday night and was a great gardener.

Wullie says his father was a gardener on Cairnsmore Estates working for the Earl of Galloway before he joined up and played the bagpipes in the Newton Stewart Pipe Band.

Scottish pipers were the bravest of the brave during the war, as they were often the first soldiers out of the trenches during an attack to pipe their comrades on into battle while they themselves were armed only with a set of bagpipes.

Wullie knows that his father was one of 165 pipers and drummers serving during the war with the HLI, and that one of the other pipers was Piper McLennan who won the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli in 1915, and was featured in the recent BBC programme ‘Pipers of the Trenches’.

At the end of the war, there were only five pipers left of the 165 that set off for war.

Piper Marr also undertook one of the most dangerous and traumatic jobs of the war, that of stretcher bearer, as they regularly went out into ‘no mans’ land’ often under fire, to recover the thousands who lay injured on the battlefield.

Having survived the war, William Marr senior returned to Newton Stewart to work at Penninghame Estates for Henry Oxley until he retired. He married after war and he and his wife Janet had a family of three. He did play the bagpipes for a short time on his return but gave it up, perhaps it reminded him too much of the pipers who didn’t make it home. He died in 1981 at the age of 89.

Great War researcher Ken Morrison from Dalbeattie came up with the following information about not only Piper William Marr, but his two brothers as well:

Ken writes: “William Marr was a Kirkcudbrightshire man so his details are in the Stewartry Roll of Honour as are his brothers Thomas and Robert who also survived the war.

“In November 1914, Piper William Marr of Craigton Cottage, Blackcraig enlisted as Private 15233 in the 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers as did his brother Thomas as Private 15234, a number apart. The 7th RSF, as part of 45 Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Division, went to France in July 1915 and took part in the Battle of Loos (25 September to 18 October) According to the Roll of Honour, Thomas was wounded at Loos.

“Like a number of battalions who suffered serious casualties at Loos, the 7th RSF was amalgamated with another battalion and ceased to exist; and it may be that at that time both William as Private 36455 and Thomas as Lance Corporal 36456 (again a number apart) were transferred to the 15th Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry which arrived in France in December 1915.

“The 15th, 16th and 17th HLI all served together in 97 Brigade of the 32nd Division, a Division made up of the so called “Pals” Battalions - men recruited from a local area or a works - and the Division was augmented by soldiers with some battle experience. The 15th (or 1st Glasgow) was drawn from the Glasgow Tramways Department of the Glasgow Corporation. The 16th (2nd Glasgow) recruits were from Boys Brigade units and the 17th (3rd Glasgow) were drawn from commercial businesses in the city. The 32nd Division took part in the Somme battle of 1916 and, after a quieter 1917, fought at the Somme again in 1918.

“The third brother was Robert who enlisted in the Royal Scots in October 1916. I’m less sure of his details but it seems he was wounded at Kemmel Hill which would have been during the German Offensive in Spring of 1918.”

Wullie did hear one story about his father, told to him by a man who walked in to his local one night.

Wullie recalls: “Many years ago I was having a drink in the Central Bar and this man I didn’t know kept looking across at me. Eventually he said: “You’re no Wullie Marr’s son, are you?”

“I said I was and he told me he had met my father in the war. He said he had been wandering about for three days after losing touch with his regiment. He had had no food, his boots were holed and his coat was torn to shreds. He was standing on a street corner wondering what to do next when he heard a pipe band coming down the street. As they went past he told me my father had gestured to him to follow them, which he did. Once they came to their billet, my father immediately got him something to eat and my uncle Tom got him a pair of boots and a coat to wear.

“He was a Rice man from Minnigaff and he had never forgotten what my father did for him that day.”.


Last week we featured former Ewart pupil Samuel Hodkinson in our Galloway’s Great War feature. There was no known information on Samuel during or after the war, but that has now been rectified.

His great niece Virginia Cassidy emailed to say her great uncle was a doctor who survived the war and had his own practice in Ryhill near Wakefield. He was married but had no family.

WW1 historians Ken Morrison and Mike Morley did some detailed research and discovered more about both Samuel and his brother John.

Ken writes: “Samuel Patterson Hodkinson was born in 1887 in Newton Stewart, a son of Daniel and Janet (Patterson) Hodkinson.

He was educated at the Ewart High School and Edinburgh University where he qualified as a doctor (M.B.) in 1908 and was in general practice at Holm Park in Newton Stewart at the outbreak of war.

In July 1915 he was gazetted as a Temp/Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was posted to the Mediterranean Forces (probably in Egypt). By 1918 he was a captain, serving on the Western Front, and was attached to the 9th Brigade of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery where he was cited for bravery.

Lt-Col.C.H.W. Owen, DSO. RGA wrote the following to Brigadier-General, R.A. Commanding Australian Corps Heavy Artillery:

“During the period Feb: 25th to Septr: 17th 1918, on the Oise and Somme Fronts. In the firing line, he has done most excellent work in attending to the wounded regardless of shell-fire or bombs. He has been most thorough in looking after wounded, sick or sanitation. He did especial good work on two occasions. Once when he was buried himself by a shell blowing in the Headquarters Mess, when he at once scrambled out, and though wounded himself, immediately dressed the wounds of others. Again when there were a large number of casualties from bombing, he went on attending to the wounded though other planes continued to drop bombs all around. His work in every way could not be bettered.”

From the end of the war Samuel set up in general practice in Ryhill near Wakefield in Yorkshire and in 1921 he married Marion Agnes Govan of Portobello in Edinburgh.

Marion, aged 67 and a widow, died in Edinburgh in 1955 and Samuel may have died in Leeds in 1951.

Sadly Samuel lost a younger brother in the war.

John Patterson Hodkinson was born in 1889 in Newton Stewart and also attended the Ewart High School. He became a well-known local footballer and worked in the Commercial Bank in Newton Stewart before emigrating to Canada in 1913. He was a bank clerk with the Royal Bank of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia when he enlisted in the 72nd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry; also known as the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.

John was killed on 9 April 1917, the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and is buried in the Givenchy-en-Gohelle Canadian Cemetery at Souchez in France.

He is named on the War Memorial in Newton Stewart, the Ewart High School and the Penninghame Parish Church Memorials and on the Royal Bank of Canada Memorial in Montreal.

World War 1 remembered in Whithorn

On the evening of 4th of August a gathering is being organized to commemorate the start of World War I. Everyone is invited to gather at the war memorial in George Street, Whithorn at 10.45pm, tea lights will be provided for everyone. These will be extinguished at 11pm, the moment which marks the commencement of the War. There is also, currently, an exhibition relating to the first World War displayed in the town community window.

Dumfries and Galloway Commemorates the Start of World War 1

Communities across Dumfries and Galloway will be commemorating the start of World War 1 on Monday 4 August by holding candlit vigils at their local war memorials or services. World War 1 was declared on 4 August 1914 and many women and men from this region were involved in the fighting or work to support the war.


Kirkcudbright War Memorial Candlelit vigil at the war memorial - bring a lantern, torch or candle 10.50pm


Ringford War Memorial Tongland and Ringford Community Council

Community gathering 10.45pm


Trinity Church Vigil - Declaration of the Great War 10.45pm


Whithorn War Memorial Vigil with poems and a piper. Tea lights will be provided. 10.45pm


Wigtown War Memorial Vigil

The Council’s Museum Service will be commemorating the centenary of World War 1 with a series of activities and exhibitions in museums across the region. These exhibits will highlight the many memories and amazing stories of bravery of men and women from our area who fought in the Great War and supported the war effort.

Your Country Needs You!

The Stewartry Museum, Saturday 26th July - Saturday 15th November

We know now of the horrors, mistakes and misjudgements of World War 1, but in 1914 many Britons at home considered going to war as an expression of the power and pride of the British Empire. Young men, and boys, viewed the war as a chance to travel and experience true adventure. Propaganda, in the form of posters and magazine articles, played a huge role in fuelling this excitement. The Stewartry Museum’s collection of World War 1 posters, with their powerful imagery and pointed demands, offers us a glimpse into the mood of society at the time.

Living History Day

The Stewartry Museum, Monday 28th July

A WW1 Recruiting Officer will put visitors through their paces between 11.00am and 3.00pm.

Tommy’s Lot - find out what life was like for a new recruit in 1914 with a public talk at 2.30pm.

Councillor Archie Dryburgh, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Armed Forces Champion said: “I am delighted that the people of Dumfries and Galloway are taking time to mark the centenary of the start of World War 1. Further events will take place over the next four years to commemorate particular battles and campaigns that people in Scotland were involved in. Many brave people gave up their lives or were badly injured in the First World War and they should never be forgotten.”

Please see webpages for further information:

World War One Exhibition in Gatehouse

The exhibition was opened last Saturday 26th July by Rear Admiral Paddy O’Riordan. Also involved were Ken Smythe, Chairman of the Mill on the Fleet and designer of the exhibition, Margaret Wright who has done all the major research about the Gatehouse folk who went to the war and Michael Ashmore

Chairman RBLS Gatehouse and District branch RBLS and Russell Brown MP.

Mike Asmore said: “Since the exhibition opened they have had nearly 300 visitors. The comments in the visiors book have all been favourable so far! The exhibition is dignified as befits its subject, as well as being informative and colourful. A number of the descendants of those featuring in the exhibition have visited the exhibition and have added to our knowledge of their forebears.

“A short film about life for children in Gatehouse in 1914 has been made bythe pupils of Gatehouse Primary School and is showing in the gallery.

We hope as many people as possible will visit the exhibition and if any have local connections we ask that they get in touch. Details of how to do so are in the gallery.”

The exhibition will remain open until the end of October - Opening times 10.00am - 5.00pm daily.


Veterans’ charity Poppyscotland is calling for Scots to support an ambitious campaign to honour over one million men and women who died during the First World War.

Every Man Remembered – – is a UK-wide commemoration which will take place over the next four years with the aim of keeping alive the memory of each and every one of the 1,117,077 Servicemen and women from across the Commonwealth who died between 1914 and 1918.

The campaign is being run in collaboration with The Royal British Legion, which operates In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). A special website has been developed, linking to the official CWGC database, which contains records of those who died during the war.

Members of the public are invited to visit to commemorate someone they have a connection to or find someone who has no-one to commemorate them. People can remember an individual who fell, either by looking up a specific person such as a family member, or by using the search facility to be connected to a person based on name or location. Information on the person they have chosen to remember can be viewed and they can make a personal dedication on the site. People in Scotland taking part in the tribute will have the opportunity to make a donation to support the important work of Poppyscotland.

Poppyscotland’s Head of Fundraising Colin Flinn commented: “Poppyscotland was there in the aftermath of the First World War to help those injured and left destitute and we must be here now to help those still affected by war. Every Man Remembered is a unique tribute that will help the living as well as remember the fallen and it reinforces our commitment to supporting members of the Armed Forces community in Scotland today. We hope that over the next four years every single man and woman who died will be individually commemorated.”

Over 70,000 Poppyscotland supporters have been sent an invitation to commemorate a fallen Serviceman. Catherine Paxton from Eyemouth is one of the first to take part. She is remembering Major John O’Hara Moore, who served in the Royal Engineers and was killed in December 1914, aged 37. He is buried in Wimereux Cemetery in France. After finding out more about him on the website, Catherine was fascinated and is planning to visit his grave. She said: “I was so moved by finding out about this soldier that I decided to pay tribute to him. I will remember him by placing a Remembrance Cross on his grave. It will be emotional but it’s important to remember all those who lost their lives.”

The inspiration for Every Man Remembered came from a 14-year-old school pupil. Following a war graves visit to Belgium she said: “I know that not everyone can be remembered as an individual but I felt it was a shame for some people to have dozens of poppies and crosses while others had no one left to remember them.”

The campaign also incorporates Every Woman Remembered, dedicated to the 800 women in the records of the CWGC who died in the First World War.

The campaign website is