WWI soldier’s grave will not be forgotten

Soldier James McDermid died on November 30, 1915
Soldier James McDermid died on November 30, 1915

A former teacher is making sure the tragic death of a World War One soldier from a famous battalion is not forgotten.

The grave of Private James McDermid lies in Stenhousemuir’s cemetery but sadly it may not be one that is visited regularly or flowers laid beside it.

It is situated on its own against the cemetery wall bordering the golf course on the left pathway and is on unconsecrated (common) ground.

It is also in danger of being obscured by the hedging that surrounds it, but it is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone.

James was originally from Armadale, West Lothian and died on November 30, 1915 – 100 years to the day on Monday – but his name is not on his town’s war memorial.

He was a miner and was 39 when he joined the 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots – McCrae’s Battalion – probably Scotland’s most famous due to the professional footballers who signed up for it.

However, just three weeks after joining the battalion, and two days before it set out for Gosport in the south of England, James was admitted to Stirling District Asylum, now Bellsdyke Hospital.

According to the Asylum records, he was a male pauper – there is no mention of him being a soldier. His “bodily condition” was now recorded as “indifferent.” He was diagnosed as suffering from “acute melancholia” of “uncertain cause” with episodes which lasted “a few days”.

James was married and had two sons but died in the asylum five months later from “injuries sustained through falling from a window 24 feet high”.

Russell MacGillivray, who researched the story, said: “The inference is that James committed suicide. James had been taken into the army when he was not fit to do so and then because the army didn’t think ‘the disease from which the soldier had died commenced or was contracted whilst on active service’, so the army denied his widow a pension.

“He qualified for a CWGC gravestone because he did die on active service, but his grave is isolated. The stigma of his psychological ill-health is thus with him forever. It’s virtually certain that no one will remember him. He came from the West Lothian town of Armadale and his death is not even recorded on the town’s memorial.

“The doctor who carried out his army medical examination noted his physique was ‘good’, and under the heading Slight Defects that James ‘can eat anything without teeth’.”