Strathard Heritage Digital Archive

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The Spanish Influenza in Aberfoyle and its neighbours by James Kennedy.

    This short item is best read as a companion piece to the article called Spanish Influenza and Scotland which also appears on this web site.

    Aberfoyle was in 1918 a rural parish which included Aberfoyle and Kinlochard. (At that point Inversnaid was part of the parish of Buchanan near Loch Lomond and Drymen).

     Of the 8 parishioners who died during 1918, influenza was a factor in the deaths of 4 of them. Thomasina Hamilton aged 48 was the first to die on 19th November. Her death was followed in early December by 21 year old Albert Woods, 6 year old Isabella McLaren and finally Andrew Lambert aged 55. Andrew’s death from cerebral meningitis and influenza.

    Whilst a relatively small number of people, the age pattern and death by additional complications was consistent with the picture elsewhere in Scotland.

    Towards the end of November 1918 Aberfoyle Primary School closed for 2 weeks as “influenza is rampant.”

    In 1919 there were 13 deaths in the parish, none associated with influenza.

    However during 1919 a former resident of Aberfoyle was to die of influenza elsewhere. 21 year old Jessie McAlpine was a hospital nurse at Colinton Mains Fever Hospital in Edinburgh. She died on 15th February 1919 following influenza and pneumonia. Her parents were still living in the village at the time of Jessie’s death.

    In a similar way to Stirling, the villages of Aberfoyle and its near neighbour Brig of Turk were first made very aware of the Spanish Influenza when on 7th November 1918 the untimely deaths of 2 young men were reported. Donald Paul McColl originally from Aberfoyle and James McGregor from Brig of Turk both died far apart in different areas of Scotland on 31st October 1918. Their stories are outlined below.

    Stirling Observer 7th November 1918:

    Influenza victims: During last week two well-known local young men, but residing out with the district, fell victims of the influenza epidemic. One of these, Mr. James McGregor was on the railway staff here for some eight years. About 33 years of age, the deceased at the time of his demise was employed as a signalman at Kilsyth Old Station. He was a young man of upright character and was much respected in the parish. The other victim was a son of Mr. Donald McColl who was for many years manager of the slate quarries here. He died at Edinburgh, the internment taking place here on Monday.

    Donald Paul McColl was born and brought up near Aberfoyle. His father, also Donald was the manager of the Aberfoyle Slate Quarries. Donald was born on 25th May 1888 and was one of 9 children of Donald and Catherine McKenzie. He attended the Slate Quarry School. This was a fairly rudimentary wooden building. There is no reference to him in the school log book but his father was mentioned regularly as a visiting member of the school board.

     The slate quarry was about 1 mile from Aberfoyle and the McCall family lived in Hill House (which being the manager’s house) was located at the entrance to the village.

    On 30th April 1910 he immigrated to Canada on a ship called Cassandra which was bound for Quebec and Montreal. He had accompanied his uncle David McKenzie who was a brother of his mother Kate. He acquired a ranch in Canada and at the outbreak of the war in 1914 enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces as a blacksmith/farrier and came to England with them. He was in England undergoing training prior to returning to France when he died of influenza.

    He died in Edinburgh on 31st October at 5pm at the age of 30. According to his death certificate he had influenza for 10 days complicated by pneumonia and had been treated by Dr John W. Steven. He died at 5 pm on 31st October at 2 Lochrin Buildings in Edinburgh and his usual address was given as Windsor Road, Vancouver, Canada. The certificate states that he was a blacksmith and a discharged soldier late of the 8th Canadians. His sister, Mary reported his death to the registrar. He was buried in Aberfoyle Cemetery on Monday 4th November 1918. His death is also recorded on the Aberfoyle War Memorial as are the deaths of 2 of his younger brothers Duncan and David both of whom were killed in action.

    Hill House birthplace of Donald McColl
    Donald Paul McColl

    James McGregor lived in Brig of Turk for much of his life. He had been born in Glen Lyon as was his older brother. His parents were James McGregor and Christina Carmichael. He was one of a family of 6 boys and 3 girls. His family were a longstanding local family living in a property called Strathgartney. His father was the local blacksmith and also worked as a boatman on the crew of the Loch Katrine steam boats. James worked at Aberfoyle Railway station from 1907 as a porter and by 1911 he was still working in Aberfoyle but living at home with his parents and several of his siblings. He was promoted to the job of relief signalman. In March 1917 he was promoted to the role of signalman at Old Kilsyth station and moved there.  He was working and living in Kilsyth when he died at the age of 32 on 31st October 1918. Given his significant contact with the passing public it perhaps is not a surprise that a railway worker would feature as a victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic although my inspection of the staff records suggests that James was a rare example of this. He was buried at the Trossachs Church graveyard near Callander on Monday 4th November 1918.

    McGregor Family at Brig O’Turk
    James McGregor death notice

    In the nearby parish of Buchanan the school closed on 8th November owing to influenza and re-opened on 18th November. During 1918 one death caused by influenza was recorded in Buchanan Parish which was that of 35 year old Bessie Mabel Beck who died on 21st December 1918. She was single, the daughter of an auctioneer and living at Buchanan Stables. She died of influenza and pneumonia of 8 days duration.

    Another school in the vicinity but somewhat isolated Inversnaid did not record any closures.

    Gartmore: late November and early December 1918 saw the closure of rural schools including Gartmore where the influenza was described as “raging “ (1).

    References:

    1. Bridge of Allan Gazette December 7 1918 p.5.