The Local War Memorials
Renton War Memorial
Renton is the only one of the four War Memorials which is not a Parish war memorial. This is because Renton was part of the Parish of Cardross as were the parts of Dumbarton west of the Leven such as Dalreoch and West Bridgend. In fact the Dumbarton War Memorial which stands in Levengrove Park is actually in the Parish of Cardross. After the contribution and sacrifices made by the people of Renton during WW1 there was never any chance that Renton would not have its own Memorial.
A War Memorial Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Mr Alexander Wylie of Cordale House. As well as being a former MP for Dunbartonshire he had also been the Chairman of the UTR and before that the Managing Director of William Stirling & Sons, who originally owned Cordale and Dalquhurn Works. Almost for longer than anyone could remember he was Renton’s leading citizen who had played a major role in recruitment in WW1 and in supporting soldiers and their families both during and after the War. He was therefore the natural choice to be Chairman of the Committee.
The Committee set themselves the target of raising £1,000 for a war memorial, which was a very ambitious target. With over 3 times the population of Renton, Bonhill Parish War memorial Committee aimed to raise £2,000, so in effect Renton aimed to raise more than 50% per head more than the rest of the Vale. The post-war economic slump put raising that money beyond the reach of the Renton Committee who eventually raised £700, which was in line with the rest of the Vale.
Alexander Wylie might have made up the difference had he lived, but his death on 13th February 1921 robbed the Committee not only of its chairman but also of a potential major benefactor. He was succeeded by Mr Walter Bisland who had been a Parish and County Councillor in Renton for many years and was its most prominent citizen after Mr Alexander Wylie. The Committee included as Secretary Mr A S Graham and as Treasurer Mr Alexander McColl.
The £700 might not have been as much as the Committee would have liked but in the end they put it to very good use. It commissioned a London Architects Firm Messrs Body and Dempster to design the Memorial. The partner who executed the design was Mr Jack Dempster ARIBA, who was a native of the Vale of Leven and he came up from London to attend the unveiling. The builders were Thaw & Campbell, Builders, of Glasgow and the bronze plaques on which the dedication and names were inscribed were made by Messrs Perata of Glasgow.
The structure is a simple 25ft obelisk made of Cullaloe stone from quarries in Fife between Cowdenbeath and Aberdour. The lettering on the bronze plaques were cut out and filled in with cream enamelling. (These plaques were stolen in the 1980’s and replaced by inscriptions in the stone, but in case anyone thinks that vandalism of the Memorial is just a modern problem, a letter in the Lennox Herald a week after the Unveiling Ceremony complains about chalk marks being scrawled on the Memorial.)
As well as raising the funds the other challenge facing the Committee was preparing a complete list of those who had been killed and in which units they served. From the evidence of the Memorial itself it seems that collecting the personal details of some of the Renton men was more difficult than it had been for the other Memorials, and some of the information has remained elusive ever since. For instance, the Committee was unable to identify the units in which 3 men served and their units were denoted simply by a “-“, while the units attributed to a few other men do not match the official records, but on that matter the Committee could well be correct and the official records wrong. In one instance it is hard to decipher exactly what the inscription is saying about a man’s first names and that also seemed to be a problem at the time as we shall see.
Two contemporary sources have survived from 1922 which list the names of the men on the Renton War Memorial. They are:
- What we have called the “Unveiling List” which appears in the programme for the unveiling of the Memorial on Sunday 3rd September 1922. This list has 158 names on it.
- What we have called the “Remembrance Day” List which appeared in the programme for the First Memorial Day Service For the Fallen held by the Renton Branch of the British Legion on Sunday 12th November 1922. This list has 160 names on it, which is the same number of names as are on the Memorial to-day.
There are thus some discrepancies between these two documents produced 7 weeks apart and also between them and what appears on the War Memorial. We shall highlight them below.
The Remembrance Day programme also provides a list of an additional 14 men who died at home after the Armistice, and these names are also provided.
In an egalitarian gesture which would characterise the Renton of a few years later and ever since, rank was excluded from the inscriptions on the Memorial and men are listed in simple alphabetical order; along with the unit in which each man served.
The site chosen for the War Memorial was at the Howgate at the south end of the town and in 1922 well beyond the last houses in Renton. The site was donated for nothing by Major Telfer Smollett and the Railway Company. No record survives of why the Committee chose that particular site rather than say at the School Green where it now stands. Perhaps it was felt that the School Green was already quite crowded with the Smollett Monument (which was then in the school playground) and the Wylie Fountain. People at the Unveiling Ceremony spoke of the open aspect of the site and the memorial dominating the village. Both of these sentiments were certainly the case in 1922. Perhaps another factor was that the Memorial stood right beside Tontine Park, the home ground of Renton Football Club, the 1888 Football World Champions. Indeed some of the photographs taken of the Memorial around the time of its unveiling might well be the only photos which still exist of the home of the World Champions.
The Unveiling of the Renton War Memorial
The Renton War Memorial at its Original Site at the Howgate
A service for the Unveiling and Dedication of the Renton War Memorial was conducted on Sunday 3rd September 1922 at 3pm under the chairmanship of Mr Walter Bisland JP, Chairman of the War Memorial Committee. As was to be expected it was attended by an exceptionally large crowd. The service was conducted by the local ministers and the praise was led by a joint choir from the churches conducted by Mr G McAdam. The local Boys Brigade and Girl Guides attended and a large turnout of ex-servicemen paraded under the command of Major William Andrew DSO. The 9th Argylls Pipe and Bugle Band played.
Major George Christie DSO conducted the unveiling ceremony and he was an appropriate choice. He had been Managing Director of Cordale Works immediately before going off to war with the 9th Argylls, the Dumbartonshire Territorial Battalion, where he served with many Renton men. Christie had been wounded in the fighting near Hooge in the Ypres Salient in 1915 in which the 9th Argylls had taken so many losses that it had to be stood down. In that fighting he had displayed courage of the highest order which earned him deserved decorations. On convalescent leave he had returned to Renton to visit the Works and meet relatives of many of those with whom he had served, so he was a popular figure in Renton at this time. In his speech he spoke of his pleasure that the first soldier in the 9th Argylls to be Mentioned in Despatches was a Renton man.
The Unveiling ceremony itself was followed by a Prayer of Dedication, the playing of a Lament on the pipes, The Last Post on the bugle and was completed by the placing of wreaths around the Memorial. The Memorial, which up until that point had been under the ownership of the Renton War Memorial Committee was then presented into the custody of Cardross Parish Council and has remained in local authority ownership ever since. The ceremony’s proceedings ended with a hymn – “Oh God our help in ages past”, followed by the Benediction and completed by the National Anthem.
The Names on Renton War Memorial
The names and units of the Renton men killed in WW1 and now listed on Renton War Memorial are shown as they appear on the Renton War Memorial, as follows:
|McDonald||Alexander||RH; LH says GH|
|McQuade||William J||Canadian Forces|
- William Bryan appears on the Memorial and on the List for the first Memorial Service as serving in the Royal Navy. However, on the List in the programme for the Unveiling ceremony he is shown as serving in the Royal Field Artillery.
- Roderick Chisholm of the Royal Scots is listed on the Memorial but does not appear on the List prepared for the Unveiling Ceremony. He does appear on the Memorial Service List which was produced only 7 weeks after the Unveiling of the War Memorial, but that List does not say in which Regiment he served.
- Patrick Connelly has no unit attributed to him on the Memorial
- James Greive is actually a mis-spelling on the War Memorial; the correct spelling of his name is Grieve.
- Samuel Houston Royal Naval Reserve does not appear on the Unveiling List and although his name is on the Memorial List which appeared 7 weeks after the Unveiling, on that second List he is recorded as serving in the Royal Army Service Corps and not the Royal Naval Reserve. His name does now appear on the Memorial as serving in the RNR which is what the CWGC records also show.
- Michael Leyden RSF did not have a unit attributed to him on the Unveiling List but by the time of the Memorial Service he had been identified as serving in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
- Dr Sam McLean, ES is what the inscription on the War Memorial says, although it is quite hard to decipher. The List for the Unveiling Programme says “Daniel McLean ES”. By the time of the Memorial Service Programme he is described as Dr Sam McLean East Surreys. CWGC records show no Dr Sam or Samuel McLean as having served in the East Surreys, but there is a tenuous possibility of an East Surrey Daniel McLean.
- Alisdair Watson RH is how he appears on the Memorial. However, Alistair Watson is how he is listed on both the Unveiling and Memorial Service programmes so that looks like a simple engraver’s error.
Renton War Memorial side panel
The First Memorial Service for the Fallen of Renton
On Sunday evening at 6pm on 12th November 1922 the Renton Branch of the British Legion held its first Memorial Service for the fallen in Renton Parish Church. This was just seven weeks after the Unveiling of the Renton War Memorial. The programme for this Service included a Roll of the Fallen which not only provided some additional information about those already listed on the War Memorial, it added 2 names of men who had died during the War and of no less than 14 Renton men who had died at home and whose names were not on the Memorial. The additional information and the names have been discussed above. The names of the men up until 12th November 1922 who had died at home from war wounds were as follows:
- Robert Black, ASH
- Robert Cameron, ASH
- Charles Coll, ASH
- Frances Delargy, ASH
- Thomas Drain, ASH
- John Feenie, ASH
- Thomas Gallacher, Seaforths
- James Gorman, RH (The Black Watch)
- Thomas Innes, KOSB
- Fred Lammond, ASH
- Samuel McKim, Seaforths
- George O’Neill, RGA
- William Ward, Dublin Fusiliers
- John Graham, RSF
Units in which the Renton Fallen served
|No||Regiment / Unit||No||Regiment / Unit|
|1||Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 46||16||“-“ or Unit Not Known, 3|
|2||Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 15||17||Royal Engineers, 2|
|3||Royal Scots Fusiliers, 10||18||Dragoon Guards (Royal Scots Greys)2|
|4||Royal Field Artillery, 8||19||Royal Scots, 2|
|5||Kings Own Scottish Borderers, 8||20||Northumberland Fusiliers, 1|
|6||Seaforth Highlanders, 8||21||Army Service Corps, 1|
|7||Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, 7||22||Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 1|
|8||Highland Light Infantry, 7||23||Royal Army Medical Corps, 1|
|9||Canadian Forces, 6||24||Merchant Marine, 1|
|10||Royal Navy, 6||25||Connaught Rangers, 1|
|11||Gordon Highlanders, 5||26||Royal Fusiliers, 1|
|12||Royal Garrison Artillery, 5||27||London Regiment or Rifles, 1|
|13||Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 3||28||East Surreys, 1|
|14||Scots Guards, 3||29||Welsh Regiment, 1|
|15||Dublin or Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 3||30||Highland Cyclists Battalion, 1|
Grounds of Renton Public School c 1915
German Guns at Renton
A short time after the Unveiling of the Memorial, Renton was “rewarded” for its outstanding efforts in the war by the provision of two captured German guns as war trophies, to be put on permanent display. Room was found for them in the school grounds at School Green and they stood there for a number of years. They were not viewed as being part of the War Memorial, which had become the responsibility of Cardross Parish Council at the Unveiling Ceremony, but were looked after by Dunbarton Education Authority. This was well outside the usual remit of the Authority and it is no surprise that the Lennox Herald of December 1928 carries a report of the guns being in urgent need of upkeep. The Authority received an offer from Major Smollett to undertake the refurbishment at his own expense or even move the guns to Cameron House if the Education Authority wanted them taken off their hands. Perhaps fearing the wrath of the people of Renton if they lost their guns, the Authority asked Major Smollett to refurbish them.
Luss Parish War Memorial
In the Parish of Luss £300 was raised to pay for the Parish War Memorial, which is located in the centre of the village. It consists of a simple cross with a sword carved on it. The Memorial was unveiled on the morning of Sunday 4th June 1922 by Sir Iain Colquhoun Bart, DSO, of Luss, in his capacity of Lord Lieutenant of Dumbartonshire. Prior to the unveiling ceremony a joint service was held in Luss Parish Church conducted by Rev Alexander S Dunlop and Rev T E Jubb who were the ministers of the two local churches at the time.
There are 14 names on it of the men from Luss Parish who died on active service during WW1 and the people of Luss took egalitarianism furthest on their War memorial because not only is the rank of each man not shown, neither is the unit in which he served. This makes the task of uniquely identifying each person on the Memorial the most difficult of all 4 local memorials. On the other hand, the inscriptions of the 14 names are the crystal clear.
Names on Luss War Memorial (Click images to enlarge)
From the various records we have been able to add the rank and units in which the men served to 9 of the names, the other 5 we have so far been unable to identify beyond doubt. The 14 names are as follows:
- James Colquhoun, Private 15th Battalion Highland Light Infantry
- Ludovic Colquhoun, 12th Battalion Highland Light Infantry
- Ronald Johnson, Private 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers
- Archibald McBeth, Private 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders
- Peter McDiarmid, Don’t know
- Walter McFarlane McDiarmid, Private 2nd Battalion 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers
- John MacGibbon, Don’t know
- Walter McF McInnes, Don’t know
- Duncan McKellar, Squadron Quarter Master Sergeant, North Somerset Yeomanry
- James Houston McKellar, Pioneer 38th Division Signal Company Royal Engineers
- Hugh Cameron Macrae, Private 9th Battalion Gordon Highlanders
- William Miller, Gunner Royal Garrison Artillery
- Archibald MacG Park, Don’t know
- Duncan Cairns, Don’t know
Dumbarton & Balloch Joint Railway Company War Memorial
This plaque is still to be found in Dumbarton Central Railway station. It commemorates the men killed in WW1 who worked on the Railway between Balloch and Dumbarton and was unveiled by Major Findlay of Boturich on 11th November 1919, the first anniversary of the Armistice. This makes it the first War Memorial to be unveiled in a public place in the area that we have been able to identify. The names of these 9 men are as follows:
- John Brownlee, ASH
- *William Campbell, 8 ASH
- John Chapman, 42nd TRB
- *John Dunion, 8 ASH
- Hugh McDougall, Lancashire Fusiliers
- *Thomas McEwan, ASH
- Reginald Orsman, 9 Devons
- *Joseph Robertson, ASH
- *James Rankine, 53 Div Cycle Corp.
The names of the men marked with an * are to be found on one of the other 4 local War Memorials.