Bridge of Weir

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24155 Piper Neil Watson Macdonald

"A" Company, 13th Battalion, 5th Regiment
(Royal Highlanders), Canadian Infantry

missing presumed dead 24th April 1915

aged 34

Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
St Machar's Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir

The Wheatsheaf, Bridge of Weir
Son of John Macdonald and Louisa Hicks

His Life

Neil Watson Macdonald was born on 9h April 1881 at Leeds, Yorkshire, the fourth of a family of 11 (7 surviving by 1911) born to John Macdonald, originally from Bowmore, Islay, and Louisa Emily Hicks, from Leeds, Yorkshire, who had married in St George, Leeds, Yorkshire on 19th April 1876.

In 1881 John (31), Louisa E (26), and their first three children Ronald, John and Catherine, were living in The Clarendon Hotel, Victoria Road, Leeds where John was the innkeeper employing three men. The family employed a domestic Servant, Eliza Watkin (16).

In 1891 the Macdonald family of seven was at 5 Glossop Street, Leeds. John was now a traveller. Neil W (9) was at school. Marion Livingston, a 20 year old dressmaker from Scotland was boarding with them.

By 1901 John Macdonald was a wine and spirit merchant and traveller at the Wheat Sheaf, Bridge of Weir. Ronald was a clerk with a foreign merchant, John and Colin were distiller's clerks, Catherine helped her mother keep house. Neil was not in the family home but his details fit the Neil McDonald (sic) (19), born in England and boarding with Marion Burns in Shore Street, Bowmore, Islay working as a plumber's apprentice.

By 1911, the family had moved to 50 McCulloch Street, Pollokshields and John, now 61, had retired. Ronald and John were still clerks. The family later moved to 12 Melville Street. Neil emigrated to Canada in 1912.

In the years before he went to Canada, Neil had served with the Territorial Argyll & Bute Artillery and the 4th Lowland Howitzer Brigade in Glasgow. He signed his attestation papers in Canada on 23rd September 1914 as a plumber but also quoting 7 years' experience in the Royal Field Artillery. He was enlisted into the 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders) and at the time of his death his army records place him in 13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders). The battalion had set sail as part of the First Contingent from Canada, arriving in Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, on 15th October 1914. The 13th Battalion was to form part of 3rd Brigade, 1st Division Canadian Expeditionary Force. After 4 months' training, the division arrived in St. Nazaire, France on 16th February 1915 and was immediately assigned to the Ypres Salient in Belgium. On 22nd April they witnessed the first use by the Germans of poison gas, causing the rapid retreat of the French Algerian troops (called "Turcos" in the Unit War Diaries) on the left flank of the Canadians. On 24th April 1915, the Canadians were holding part of the front line trenches north-east of St Julien, and came under heavy shelling and bombardment in both the front line trenches and later in the Reserve Trenches. Neil was reported missing presumed killed following that day's action. In these 48 hours, 6,035 Canadians - one man in every three - was lost from Canada's force of hastily trained volunteers.

Neil's name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, one of 55,000 men lost without trace defending the Ypres Salient.


1881 Census 1891 Census 1901 Census 1911 Census Birthplace
Name Age Name Age Name Age Name Age
Ronald S3 Ronald S13Ronald S25Ronald S33Leeds, Yorkshire
John A2 John A12John A22John A32Leeds, Yorkshire
Catherine E M1 Catherine E M21Islay, Argyllshire
Neil W9Neil*19Leeds, Yorkshire
Colin D8Colin H18Leeds, Yorkshire
Grace H W2Grace W H12 Leeds, Yorkshire
Margaret Mc C8Margaret Mc C18Glasgow, Lanark
Glay H4

* = not in John and Louisa Macdonald's family home - see text for details


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