A young descendant of a hero of the great war looks back at his bravery
3 November 2008
A school visit to Edinburgh Castle in the run up to Remembrance Day will enable a 15-year old descendant of one of the heroes of the Great War to see his great-great uncle’s Victoria Cross - the British army’s highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
James Kellock of Trinity High in Rutherglen, Glasgow, will be attending a workshop at Edinburgh Castle on Tuesday 4th November as part of a week of special educational events to mark the forthcoming anniversary of the end of World War I. His class will be learning about Scotland’s role in the 1914 – 1918 conflict. However for James the trip will have a personal connection. His great-great uncle, Hugh McIver, who died during the fighting in France in 1918, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his incredible courage, and his medal is in the Royal Scots Museum at Edinburgh Castle.
Hugh McIver was a Private of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots (The Lothian Regiment). On 23rd August 1918, near Courcelles-le-Compte in France, he was employed as a company-runner, carrying messages under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, regardless of his own safely. Alone, Private McIver pursued an enemy scout into a machine-gun post, killed six of the garrison, and captured 20 prisoners and two machine-guns. Later he succeeded, at great personal risk, in stopping the firing of a British tank which was directed against British troops. Private McIver was tragically killed in action just ten days later. He was only 28.
The courageous acts of Private McIver are commemorated in a memorial to him in Courcelles-le-Compte, and last year, in Paisley, a service was held to honour him and four other VC holders from Renfrewshire, and a monument to the five men was unveiled in the town’s Hawkhead Cemetery.
James Kellock said: “The story of my great-great uncle’s heroism has always fascinated me, and in the summer I got to learn more about it as I travelled to France with my family for a special service for Hugh McIver at a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the events that won him Britain’s highest military honour for bravery. Being able to see his Victoria Cross means a lot to me.
“It’s really important for young people to learn about The First World War, and visiting Edinburgh Castle and the War Memorial helps us understand more about it and appreciate just how many Scottish men and women lost their lives in the fighting.”
Craig Fletcher, Historic Scotland Education Officer for Edinburgh Castle, said: “This week is a fantastic opportunity for high school pupils from all over Scotland to find out more about those who gave their lives for their country during the Great War. The fact that James has this special link allows the students to connect with a real person from the time and an inspiring story of outstanding personal bravery.”
James Kellock can be pictured with the Victoria Cross awarded to his great-great uncle, Private Hugh McIver, at The Royal Scots Museum, Edinburgh Castle, on Tuesday 4th November at 1.30pm.
Photographers should make themselves known at the main gate of Edinburgh Castle and report to Laura Varney outside the museum (mob: 07769 6300763).
Notes for Editors
- A week of special education events is taking place at Edinburgh Castle to coincide with the lead-up to the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I. Secondary school pupils from all over Scotland will have the opportunity to learn more about the role of Edinburgh Castle during the 1914-18 conflict. take part in an interactive workshop about the life of a front-line soldier, with a costumed interpreter using uniforms and artefacts from the time. During their visit to the castle, the pupils will also visit The Scottish National War Memorial
- Also at Edinburgh Castle, a special event looks back at Scotland’s role in The Great War, and the enormous contribution of families and communities throughout the country during World War I. The castle’s Great Hall is the setting on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November, for The Great War and Scotland. From 10.30am to 4pm, this will feature a series of performances by costumed historic re-enactors. They will highlight aspects of what life was like for services personnel involved in the conflict of 1914-18, as well as those left to ‘keep the home fires burning’. The Great War and Scotland is a free event, included in the price of admission to Edinburgh Castle. Tickets can be purchased in advance through the castle’s website: www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk
- Set in Crown Square, The Scottish National War Memorial is an impressive building which was erected to commemorate those who died in conflict in the Great War and now also commemorates those who died in World War II and in other conflicts since 1945. The architect of the Memorial was Sir Robert Lorimer and the building was formally opened on 14 July 1927 by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII). The building’s exterior features sculptures symbolising Courage, Peace, Justice and Mercy. Above the entrance, a figure rising from a phoenix denotes the survival of the Spirit. Inside the Memorial is the Hall of Honour where the enormous contribution of Scotland’s twelve regiments and the other corps and services are recorded. Beyond lies the Shrine and the steel casket containing a complete Roll of Honour of the Scottish dead. The stained-glass windows and bronze friezes give vivid impressions of the Great War.
- A chilling detail in the Memorial is the inclusion, in one of the stained glass windows of the Shrine, of a swastika. This adorns the cloak of the horseman, Faithful and True (from Revelations) who ‘will defeat the nations and rule over them with a rod of iron’. Hardly had the mortar set in the Memorial’s walls than this ancient symbol of good fortune began appearing in the skies over Europe as the insignia of a man who also sought to ‘defeat the nations and rule over them with a rod of iron’ – Adolf Hitler.
- 345 outstanding historic properties and sites throughout the country are in the care of Historic Scotland. These include some of Scotland’s leading tourism attractions and most important heritage sites, including Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places
- Historic Scotland’s Mission is: to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.
- Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year Of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with the other heritage organisations.