WORLD WAR I 1914 -1918

Researched by Findlay Pirie


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, August 12th. 1914: -


An incident took place in Portsoy on Thursday (6th. Aug 1914) in connection with the war which will be long remembered. On that day the members of the Gordon Highlanders responded to the country’s call to arms. The knowledge that the territorial force had been called out did not tend to lessen the excitement in town, and on it becoming known when the local members were to leave, it looked as if the public had spontaneously resolved to give them a most enthusiastic send off.

Members of the force in their khaki and kilts were early astir, and by ten o’clock were in attendance at the Drill Hall preparatory to leaving by the 11.10 train for Banff en route for their destination along with other members of the “A” Company of Gordon Highlanders. The party, thirty strong, was under the command of Sergeant James Milton, and much comment was made on their smart and serviceable appearance. About 10.30 am the command was given to fall in. This took place in front of the Drill Hall; and thereafter the men were marched inside and drawn up in line.

Provost Sutherland then stepped forward and addressed them. As members of the Portsoy Section of the Gordon Highlanders, he said he wished to congratulate them on their smartness and splendid serviceable appearance. (Cheers). They were leaving home that day for the defence of their King and Country, and their fellow-citizens were proud of them. He was sure that whatever duty they were called upon to perform they would do it to the best of their ability. By keeping a cool head, with a brave heart, they would find that whatever they attempted would end in success. They were now going among strange scenes and strange faces, but he hoped they would never forget their homes or neglect to write to their parents as often as possible. Remember, he said, that a letter will cheer them up, and that we will all be glad to hear how you are getting on. He trusted that this unrest would soon be over, and that in a short time they would return home in good health, and that the training they were now to receive would be of great benefit to them in after life. As British soldiers they would be expected to do their duty. Whatever they did, let them remember that they were Gordon Highlanders and that they belonged to Portsoy. The people at home would have their eyes turned towards them, and would not forget them. He hoped that they would all be spared to come back again. Meantime, in the name of the community, he wished them goodbye and God speed. (Loud applause).

Bailie Gray also addressed the men. Men of the Gordon Highlanders, he said, you are leaving your native town today in defence of your country for the first time, and we are all proud of the way you have responded to the call to arms. (Applause). Never forget, in the first place, that you have great and honourable traditions to uphold – the traditions of your distinguished regiment, the gay and gallant Gordon Highlanders, whose bugler never learned to play “the retreat” and in whose ranks the word “surrender” is not known. And, second, that you have the honour of your country and the honour of your flag to uphold. (Applause). If fate should decide that you are to go into the field of battle, you will there see men fighting under many proud and haughty standards. Every one of those standards have been humbled in the dust by their conquerors. But the flag you are fighting under – the Lion Rampart of Scotland – has never been conquered. It floats as pure and unsullied today as at its inception (applause) when our forefathers, the hardy Caledonians of the North, hurled back the Roman Legions, the conquerors of the World. (Renewed applause). Keep that flag pure men. We know you will. Better that every son of Scotland should die on the battlefield than dishonour should fall on our spotless banner. Men, we know we can leave it safe in your hands; we trust you; we are proud of what you have done. Now, men, I wish you good-bye, good luck, and God bless you. Trust in God and keep your powder dry.

The Rev. Wm Browne, as chaplain to the Company, then offered up prayer

The Town band, who were under the leadership of Bandmaster McDonald, then gave a stirring rendering of the “Battle of Stirling.” Packets of cigarettes were distributed to the men. This was the gift of Mr. Allan Fortune, who was cordially thanked for his generosity. On the call of Sergeant Milton, hearty cheers were also raised for Provost Sutherland, and thereafter the company marched off towards the station, through large crowds of spectators, headed by the band playing appropriate airs. The platform was thronged by people from end to end, while over the bridge which spans the line a living archway was formed. It was not a dismayed or downhearted gathering, though there were doubtless those who deep down felt what the farewell might mean. The train was considerably late, and during the time of waiting lively music was discoursed at intervals by the Band. When the Territorials were entraining the Band struck up “Auld Lang Syne,” which swung into the National Anthem as hands were being hurriedly shaken and farewells taken. The train then moved off amid loud and prolonged cheering and the waving of hats, caps, and handkerchiefs. Great enthusiasm prevailed, and the event is one that is not likely soon to be forgotten.


Troops leaving for WW1


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, July 25th. 1917: -


We learn that Mrs. Stott, North High Street, Portsoy, has been in receipt of a couple of letters from her husband, Mr. William Stott, who was a member of the crew of the “Avondale” sunk in the Adriatic on 15th. May, when an Austrian force, consisting of light cruisers, which was subsequently reinforced by destroyers, raided the Allied drifter line and sunk fourteen British drifters, most of them belonging to ports in Banffshire and Buchan.

Letters have also been received from the skipper of the “Avondale”, Mr. William Lyall, by his wife at High Street, Macduff, who is a daughter of Mr. George Pirie, Schoolhendry Street, Portsoy. The crew of the “Avondale ” were among the 72 prisoners claimed to have been taken by the Austrians. Evidently they are so far in fairly comfortable quarters, but the food is not over-abundant.


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, May 29th. 1918 :-


The sad news was received by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Riddoch, 30 Church Street, Portsoy, that their son, Pte. Charles Riddoch, died in King George’s Hospital, London, on Wednesday, as a result of being wounded in the head during recent fighting in France. Pte. Riddoch was one of the first to respond on the occasion of the first appeal made for recruits at Portsoy in September 1914. He went to France with the 6th. Gordons in January 1915. Since then he has seen considerable service, and was wounded on two previous occasions, including the battle of Neuve Chapelle. Private Riddoch, who was 25 years of age, was in the employment of Messrs. Wordie, & Co., at Portsoy, before enlisting.

Richie funeral

Richie funeral

The remains of Pte. Riddoch were conveyed to Portsoy, arriving there by the 5.57 train on Saturday night, and were followed to the residence of his parents by a large number of mourners.

The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon (26th May), which was one of the brightest of days. Pte. Riddoch was honoured with a military funeral. The members of the local Platoon of the Banffshire Regiment of Volunteers turned out about eighty strong, under the command of Major Chinn, and the general public were present in large numbers. On being taken out, the coffin was covered by the Union Jack and taken charge of by a carrying party of Volunteers. The chief mourners having taken their places, the cortege moved off to the plaintive strains of the pipe band marching ahead with the firing party. In the rear came an escort of Volunteers, followed by a large number of the public, four deep.

Along the line of the route there were hundreds of spectators watching the procession as it passed by way of Institute Street and down the incline leading to the Cemetery. On reaching the graveside, and the remains had been lowered to their last resting place, prayers were offered up by the Rev. J.D. Carmichael. Three volleys were then fired over the grave, and the Last Post was sounded by the bugle band. The eminence along the sacred acre was crowded with people, and, with the large company surrounding the grave, the scene was picturesque, yet most pathetic, and brought home forcibly to all, the true meaning of the great world war now being waged.

This is the second son Mr. and Mrs. Riddoch have lost in the war, while they have still one serving in the Royal Naval Reserve. They have the deepest sympathy of the community in their great loss.


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday, August 14th. 1918: -


Private Herbert Findlay, Gordons, son of Mr. and Mrs. Findlay, North High Street, Portsoy, has been wounded in action. This is the fifth time that Pte. Findlay has been wounded. He was engaged in farm work previous to enlistment.


November 11th 1918



Banffshire Journal, Tuesday, June 1st. 1926: -


Portsoy, which although it perhaps cannot be reckoned as one of the large fishing centres, has a very fine record in the naval services of her sons during the war. From Portsoy four drifters were engaged in minesweeping, and two motor boats were engaged in boom-defence work. No fewer than 85 men belonging to the town served in the various branches of the Navy. A few of them were in the Navy proper, and a few more were in the Naval Reserve, but the major portion went to the drifter service, which played such a valuable part in the whole naval activities. They were for the most part engaged in the task of mine-sweeping, and in boom- defence work. Their activities covered a wide field. The waters round our own coast were the scene of most of their work, but several of them saw service in the White Sea and others were engaged in the Adriatic.

One gratifying circumstance is that out of the 85 men engaged in the Naval service there was only one casualty, namely, James Smith, Schoolhendry Street, a nephew of the widow of Provost Sutherland. He was engaged as an engineer on board a drifter, and lost his life through his vessel being torpedoed. One of Portsoy’s Naval men, Stuart Duncan, Schoolhendry Street, had the high distinction of serving at the Battle of Jutland. He was on board H.M.S. Falmouth, and he was on that vessel when it was blown up some time subsequently.


Banffshire Reporter, Wednesday May 15th. 1920: -


On Monday night, the German field gun gifted to the town was taken from the Gasworks, where it was stored for safety, by a number of young men, who, after parading along several of the streets, proceeded to the rocks lying to the west of the Old Harbour and dumped it into the sea over the high ground there, known as the Dounie. The water being deep at this point the gun quickly disappeared. (Note: – The spot where the gun was dumped is now known as the “Gun-hole”)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>