Boer War soldier became Pipe Major

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Private William McKinlayHELENSBURGH Heritage Trust bought a carriage clock presented to a burgh soldier who served in the Boer War, Private William McKinlay, in 1901, and would like to find out more information about him.

The Trust bought the clock in May 2013 from an antique dealer in Kent for £5,000, with the help of an anonymous benefactor, and it is planned to display it in the Heritage Centre at Helensburgh Library.

Private McKinlay, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was one of 22 local soldiers who served in the Boer War between 1899 and 1901 who received these clocks.

Their courage in a very hard campaign was recognised at home, so when the Volunteers, Yeomanry and sharpshooters came back from the war they were given a reception in the Victoria Hall in June 1901 by the Provost, Colonel William Anderson, and the Magistrates.

Only one of the clocks, which cost the Town Council ten guineas each, was on display at the reception, and the clocks and carrying cases were presented personally to the men by the Provost in the Municipal Buildings five months later.

The Trust wants to find out more about William McKinlay. Several older town residents remember him, and some of his descendants may still live the area.

He was born on October 5 1880 at 32 John Street, Helensburgh, the eldest child of master plumber Thomas McKinlay and his wife Janet (nee Hogg), who were married earlier that year in Luss.

The couple had eight children, William, Catherine, Elizabeth, Marion, Janet (who was known as Jessie), Thomas, Williamina, and James.

The 1891 census shows the family living at 53 East Clyde Street, and the 1901 census at 13 East Clyde Street. This is probably the same property, as in the mid-1890s the Town Council changed the east-west split from Colquhoun Street to Sinclair Street to reflect the greater importance of Sinclair Street. It remained the family home for many years.

By the time of the 1911 census William’s father had died, and his mother, then aged 55, was the head of the family. William, Jessie, Williamina and James still lived there, with a five year-old grand-daughter Janet.

Nothing is known of William’s life until he enrolled in the 1st Dumbarton Rifle Volunteers, and then in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with whom he served in the Boer War.

When he returned he followed his father in becoming a plumber, and in 1908, at the age of 27, he enlisted in the 9th (Dumbarton) Territorial Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, taking the Oath of Allegiance at Helensburgh on April 23 1908.

On February 8 1916 at 19 Howard Street, Glasgow, William, still of 13 East Clyde Street and now aged 35, married domestic servant Alexina Cryle, aged 30, who worked at Hapland, 6 Alma Crescent, Helensburgh, by Declaration, from the Sheriff Substitute of Lanarkshire, in the presence of his brother, shipping clerk Thomas McKinlay, and Jeanie Maxwell.

Boer-war-clock sketchOn the marriage certificate his occupation was given as journeyman plumber and Piper, 1/9th Battalion of the Argylls. His bride was the daughter of deceased Aberdeen freestone quarrymaster and farmer William Cryle, and her mother was also dead.

They had a daughter, Alexina Cryle McKinlay, in 1918, but it is not known whether they had any more children.

William, who had become a Town Council gas surveyor and a Pipe Major, died of cerebral thrombosis at his then home at 68 West Princes Street on January 23 1955, aged 74.

The funeral service was at his home, and he was buried at Helensburgh Cemetery.

A brief obituary in the Helensburgh and Gareloch Times stated: “Mr McKinlay was of a quiet, unassuming disposition and highly esteemed by his many friends.

"He was a faithful attender at all the reunions of his old battalion, at which he frequently played selections on the pipes. Mr McKinlay had a long connection with Helensburgh Old Parish Church.”

His widow died in Insch, Aberdeen, in 1963 at the age of 77.

 Hapland, 6 Alma Crescent, is the house with its gate at the north-east corner of Charlotte Street and East Abercromby Street. Alma Crescent was the stretch of Charlotte Street from Victoria Road north.