The 22 Boer War heroes

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A PICTURE has been found of all twenty two soldiers from Helensburgh and district who served in the Boer War between 1899 and 1901 and who received clocks from the Town Council to mark their service.

Because of poor logistics, disease, and clever and determined Boer fighters, the South African campaign was very demanding for the British soldiers, and this 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.

The Provost said that a carriage clock would be sent to each of them. In fact they were presented personally at a ceremony in the Municipal Buildings in November of that year.

One of the clocks — the one presented to Private William McKinley — was bought in May 2013 by Helensburgh Heritage Trust, assisted by an anonymous benefactor, for £5,000.

It will be displayed in the Heritage Centre at Helensburgh Library in West King Street when a suitable display case is found.

When the Trust appealed for a picture of Private McKinlay, a donor came forward with images of all twenty two.

They were published in a supplement to the Helensburgh and Gareloch Times weekly newspaper on July 3 1901, and a copy was donated by Mrs Mairi Gallagher of Rhu, whose great grandmother’s brother, John Westwood McCulloch, was another recipient.

Sadly, Trooper McCulloch died at home in 1906 at the age of 30, having never married. Mairi said: “The family story is that he was traumatised by the war and was never quite the same when he came home.”

She still has the clock, and while it is in working order it is not in as good condition or as valuable as the McKinlay clock. A copy of the supplement — entitled Transvaal War 1899-1901 — will be displayed with the clock.

Articles on this website include details of Private McKinlay, Trooper McCulloch, Lieutenant John Maxwell Gillatt, and Trooper James F.Neilson.

But what of the other eighteen? The Trust would welcome more details about them.

The NCOs who served in the campaign were Sergeant Farrier William Neilson, Sergeant Daniel L.Porter, Lance-Sergeant John McNicol, Corporal John Hamilton, Corporal A.A.Stuart Black, and Corporal George S.Maughan.

The other soldiers were Farrier Peter McDougall, Farrier John McBride, Trooper Robert B.McGregor, Trooper W.Young Cruickshank, Trooper Alex McMillan, Farrier R.Martin, Trooper John Blackwood, Trooper James Alexander, Private Robert Alexander, Private James Sweeney, Private Alfred Gilchrist, and Private William Stirling.