We have received the following moving letter.

In memory of Donald Buchanan

Son of Lismore


I have just returned from visiting the WW1 battlefields where my great uncle died on the Somme with the Royal Scots.

At Tyne Cott Cemetery i took this moving tribute to Donald Buchanan, a native of your island.
It was so sad to think of one of your islanders travelling all the way to Flanders to fight in that dreadful war - so sad to see the name of someone from such a small community recorded amongst those thousands who have no grave - and wonderful to know that someone still remembers Donald and has visited his recorded resting place.
If there are any family members you are in touch with please send them my photo and if you know anything of Donald's history you can share with me i would be grateful.
Ian Stuart Gray
ex 44 Parachute Brigade, HQ Coy.

27 April 2008

Ailsa Clarke (Templeton) has sent us the following:

My name is Ailsa Clarke and I’m a native of the Isle of Lismore, although I now live in Edinburgh.  I was home at the weekend and was accosted (in a good way) by someone who wondered if I’d visited the battlefields recently: before I trained to become a teacher, I used to be a WW1 battlefield guide.  I was told that there was something on the community website about a WW1 casualty.  I left the thistle and cross at Tyne Cot that you photographed on my last visit to the Salient.  I am not a relative of Donald’s, although his nephew and niece still come to the island regularly and I know them both.  Sadly, Donald died before either of them was born.  They may well get in touch with you – the Liosach grapevine is very quick! – but I’d love to tell you what I know.

Donald was a tailor on Lismore – by all accounts a handsome and generally lovely bloke: my stepfather’s father knew him and says he had ‘that little bit extra about him’.  It seems that the girls liked him and this irked some of the young men on the island!  He tried to join up when war was declared but was found to be unfit because he’d recently undergone an appendectomy.  A newspaper article reporting on his death says that he was called up in January 1917, although I am not certain if this is the case.  He certainly went into the 2nd btn Argylls.  The battalion war diary records that this unit was in the line in the Ypres Salient on the evening of 25 / 26 September 1917, during Third Ypres.  This was the start of the Battle of Polygon Wood, where the Australians went on to lose a lot of men in some extremely bitter fighting.  The Argylls started off from the wood known as Stirling Castle and crossed the Menin Road towards the NE corner of Polygon Wood, known as ‘Black Watch Corner’.  Around this time, ‘A’ and ‘C’ coys came under very heavy shellfire and communications were cut.  The war diary records that the OC ‘sent several runners [to HQ], but only one got through.’  Unfortunately, Donald was one of those who volunteered for the task and was killed in the attempt.  His friend, Charles Cameron – also from Lismore – was with him when he died.  He records that Donald was ‘struck by a piece of shrapnel,R17; although his family were told that he was shot by a sniper.  His body would have been lost in the fighting that followed, so he is commemorated at Tyne Cot.  It seems that Donald’s sister was devastated by the loss of her much loved big brother.  She kept everything that he sent and his niece still has these keepsakes, including his field Bible which was sent home after his death.  The inside covers are stained with blood – it was a very strange moment when I held that! 

I first encountered Donald through a yellowing newspaper article and a poem that he had written before he went off to fight.  It was about the croft house where he grew up and the last lines seemed especially touching and prophetic:

R16;Fare thee well my home of yore

I may not see thee any more

And though I lie on foreign shore

I love thee still…’


Some years ago with my stepdad’s help, I located the croft house that he wrote about.  It’s now in ruins.  I took some earth from inside it and scattered it at Tyne Cot, next to the memorial.  I try to return to Ypres and the Somme each year and always go to pay my respects to Donald, and another Lismore lad, Sandy, who are remembered there.

from Bill Sutton....

I am Ailsa Clarke's husbands uncle and I also share an interest in the Great War. I have undertaken some research into Donald Buchanan and I would like to share it with you. Donald came from Achnacroish he was five feet seven and a quarter inches tall, twenty six years old and employed as a tailor. He first enlisted on 10/12/15 at Oban for the Argylls with the service number 4551.He was re-examined on the 20/9/16 and found to have an appendix problem. He was re-mustered into the Argylls on 17/1/17 at Stirling castle with the number 202417 for the 5th reserve battalion. He embarked at Folkestone on 24/4/17,disembarked at Boulogne 24/4/17,and proceeded to the base depot at Etaples on 25/4/17.On 9/6/17 he was transferred to the 2nd battalion and he moved up to the front. He was killed in action on 25/9/17 during the third battle of Ypres. He nominated his sister Margaret to have his effects ,these were as follows disc, wallet, railway ticket, photographs, registration card, pay book, and three coins. His sister also received his medals, scroll, and memorial plaque. Donald Buchanan was awarded the British war medal, and the Victory medal he has no known grave and he is remembered on the memorial wall at Tyne Cot .I hope this information will help anyone interested about Donald Buchanan.  Bill Dutton .  



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