By Euan Loarridge, Blog Editor, University of Glasgow Great War Project.
Next week, on Wednesday the 15th of November, the University of Glasgow World War One Commemoration Group will host an evening of music and poetry in honour of Lieutenant Alistair Ebenezer Buchan who was killed in action in one hundred years ago in 1917. For more information about Alastair and this event read below:
Alastair was the younger brother of John Buchan, although nearly 20 years his junior. He followed the same academic path paved by his brother, attending both Hutchesons Grammer School and the University of Glasgow. While at the University, Alastair studied for an Arts degree but, like many of his generation, his studies were cut short by the outbreak of war in 1914. In February 1915 he followed his elder brother John into the army and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He served on the Western Front and was wounded in March 1916. Later he would take part in the Battle of Arrras (April 9th to May 16th 1917).
On the first day of that battle, Alastair went into action with his battalion near a position known as Railway Triangle. It was somewhere in this area that he was killed, along-with a number of other University of Glasgow graduates and students, including Captain Thomas Ernest Reid of the 9th Black Watch. He is now buried in Duisans British Cemetary in Etrun, a small village north-west of the town of Arras. Upon his gravestone is inscribed the words ‘Length of Days For Ever’, an allusion to Psalm 21:4:
He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.
After the War, the Alastair Buchan Prize was established in his memory at the University of Glasgow. The prize is awarded annually for the best poem written by a student at the University on a prescribed subject. Previous winners have included famous poets such as Edwin Morgan, whose private papers are held in the University of Glasgow Archives.
Professor of Scottish Literature at the university of Glasgow, Alan Riach discusses the impetus behind the upcoming event.
The title for the event is taken from the 1932 novel Sunset Song, by Lewis Grassic Gibbon which was voted Scotland’s favourite novel in August 2016. They are spoken by Minister Robert Colquhoun at the dedication of the war memorial:
“So, lest we shame them, let us believe that the new oppressions and foolish greeds are no more than mists that pass. They died for a world that is past, these men, but they did not die for this that we seem to inherit.”
The readings and recitals will be performed from 6:30pm onward on Wednesday 15th of November in the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel, which was built in 1929 to commemorate the fallen from the Great War. Readers will include Professor Alan Riach, Zoe Strachan, of the University of Glasgow; Dr. David Goldie and Professor David Kinloch of the University of Strathclyde; as well as Lady Deborah Stewartby, grand-daughter of John Buchan.
Tickets to this free event are available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/this-world-that-we-seem-to-inherit-readings-and-music-for-remembrance-tickets-39221045202