Earlier this year, Low Parks Museum in Hamilton was host to the First World War partnership exhibition, Next of Kin, coordinated by National Museums Scotland. As part of this exhibition, a commemorative scarf was made by two volunteers from Hillhouse Parish Church. The hand-knitted scarf is a reference to the wartime effort by volunteers at home who would knit hats, scarfs, gloves and socks for the comfort of soldiers at the front.
The volunteers, Marion and Margaret, decided to create this scarf in the regimental colours of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), green, blue, and black, and used a thick, ribbed pleating to echo the pleats of a piper’s kilt. They also added the name ‘James Lusk’ to the scarf; Captain James Lusk featured in our display as part of the Next of Kin exhibition. James was a native of Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, and a manager in the famous iron and steel company David Colville & Sons. Tragically, James died on 28th December 1915 of serious wounds he had received on Christmas Day while handing out cigarettes to the men in his battalion.
While visiting The Cameronians displays at Low Parks Museum, Margaret had also seen the objects on display that tell the story of Alexander Harris and William Wilson, who were the subject of a previous Cameronians blog post. William and Alexander enlisted into the British Army in November 1914 and were both posted to the 10th Battalion Scottish Rifles. The 10th Battalion was a Service Battalion of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), raised as part of Lord Kitchener’s ‘New Army’. On enlistment Alexander was given the regimental number 17097 and William given 17098, suggesting they enlisted together.
In the photograph above William and Alexander are wearing ill-fitting scarlet jackets; uniform that was largely out of fashion by the time of the First World War. This suggests the image dates to late 1914 or early 1915, when the rapidly expanding army was faced with severe shortages of uniform and equipment resulting in new recruits being issued with old, obsolete uniform from stores. Alexander was killed on 27th January 1916 during a heavy German bombardment of British trenches to celebrate the anniversary of the Kaiser’s birthday. William survived the war following service in Salonika and a transfer to the Army Reserve after becoming seriously ill with malaria.
Touched by the story of the two young pals, Margaret and Marion decided to add their names to the scarf. Margaret said that she had been struck by “how these young pals had enlisted together for Kitchener’s New Army, just like so many friends from every town, village and city throughout the country. The story of two ordinary boys who would become soldiers, signing up together with consecutive service numbers, just like so many others whose stories have been forgotten, and how they would have trained and fought together and for one of them to ultimately die and just how devastating this must have been to the other.”
You can see the scarf on display at Low Parks Museum alongside the photograph of Alexander and William. We would like to thank Margaret and Marion for all their hard work.
People are continuing to be inspired by the Next of Kin exhibition as it tours. Information about the exhibition and its associated learning programme at the current venue Grampian Transport Museum can be found on the project website.