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By Professor Hugh Murphy, Honorary Professor in Economic and Social History, University of Glasgow
Looking today at the River Kelvin at its confluence with the Clyde, the onlooker may be unaware of the distinguished shipbuilding history of this area. As the University Archives Service works towards its interpretation of the centenary of the founding of the Royal Air Force in 2018, one of its instrumental founders was Lt General David Henderson, who served as General Officer Commanding the Royal Flying Corps in France, during the first year of the Great War, and who served briefly as Vice President of the Air Council early in 1918.
Henderson came from a ship-owning family. His father, David Henderson, was part-owner of the D & W Henderson shipyard at Meadowside on the Upper Clyde. Here follows a potted history of this establishment, which may interest those researching Lt General Henderson’s varied life and career.
The 15th World Championships in Athletics begin tomorrow (22nd-30th August) so we thought we’d share the fruits of a sporting themed student placement! Look out on our twitter @GUArchives and @GlasgowUniWW1 where we will be featuring some Great War students who won Sporting Blues awards while at the University of Glasgow.
Posted on behalf of Anton Ward, Club 21 placement with Archive Services, Summer 2015
Hello, my name is Anton Ward and I am student who has spent some time over the summer working on a Club 21 Sporting Blues placement. The placement involved researching biographical information on sporting men and women who obtained their Sporting Blues between 1910 and 1914 and writing University of Glasgow Roll of Honour profiles for them.
The research was especially interesting because it was like completing a jigsaw puzzle in tying up pieces of information. I would start off with a few key details, such as their graduation date, and try and use these as the foundations for the picture I was building of them. For example, I might see someone’s name mentioned in an edition of Glasgow University Magazine and because I know that this person won a Sporting Blue award in Rugby, I can then connect the two and realise that the magazine’s description of the excellent rugby of a particular person was actually talking about the same person I was researching. This also occurred when connecting military information. For example, several individuals served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and this ties up when you scan the records and see that their degree was in medicine.
Although I sometimes felt slightly overwhelmed by all the reference numbers for the archival material, the archive staff were extremely helpful and there were plenty of guides to walk me through everything. It felt a bit like learning a language; at first it all sounds completely unknown but after a while you start to recognise what each code is and what looked incomprehensible to start with now makes sense.
Another interesting aspect of the project was seeing how the Glasgow University Magazine (G.U.M) reflected the times. For example there were reports on debates on Women’s suffrage, a cause which was increasing in prominence in the pre-war years. It was strange seeing the contrast between the relative civility displayed in the magazine and the knowledge that these young students would very soon be embroiled in a world war. Looking through the 1911 to 1914 editions of Glasgow University Magazine I could see the pervasiveness of the Officers’ Training Corps. There were multiple reports on their activities and these often contained photographs of the men performing various tasks in preparation for military action. This is quite striking when compared with the relative security I live in today. There is no huge threat of war looming overhead and whilst there were notices in the G.U.M at the time reminding everyone that it was their duty to serve, reading something like that in today’s student magazines would seem very odd. This and the project in general gave me a chance to reflect on my own time at university. Whilst I may be stressing about potential jobs in the future after university, these men would not have known if they would even make it back home at all.
A particularly rewarding aspect of the research was reading the newspaper articles describing how a subject of mine, Irvine Theodore Parker, had earned his medals and it was very pleasant to read that he was later awarded an M.B.E. These particular items were so fascinating because they said so much about the individual and brought his records to life. The M.B.E. shows how he obviously contributed to the community whilst the newspaper clipping of how he earned his medals portrayed him as being very brave in the line of fire and gave a richer glimpse into a sometimes dry world of dates and numbers. Another favourite document is simply a picture of the Rugby Club for the season 1912-1913 which features two of my subjects. Given how hard it can be find to a single picture of any of my subjects, finding two subjects in the same source felt like stumbling upon a goldmine. Seeing these individuals in the same picture also reminds me that these students did actually interact with each other.
I would like to say a big thank you to everyone down at the Archive Services for their help, especially those who helped me find such useful sources.
You can view the Roll of Honour profiles researched and written by Anton here:
Today at 2.15pm is the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania: the largest, fastest and most luxurious ship of her generation.
Blog posted on behalf of Club 21 placement volunteer Karen Oakley:
During the War, the running of the Pìobaireachd Society carried on as in times of peace and matters including the payment of membership fees continued to be flagged up in letters. Annual subscription to the Society cost £1.1s (or a Guinea) and this was used to help towards the publishing of pìobaireachd books and the provision of lessons.
Yet, with the possibility of war being over by Christmas looking less likely, the Society was encouraged to suspend membership and refund those who were serving in the forces. Over time, this must have put the Society in greater financial difficulty.
A more pressing matter, however, was the training of army pipers, as had always been a priority for the Society. Letters of correspondence suggest that the Highlands and Islands were where the bulk of activity took place, with classes in Inverness and Uist amongst those mentioned. A high standard of playing was expected of the pupils, as this next letter shows.
You may be wondering why it was felt so important to train pipers for the army.
As highlighted in my introductory post, pipers have a long tradition of leading the rest of the army into battle. Off the battlefield, they are also known to have provided entertainment to other soldiers. Indeed, some of today’s most well known tunes such as The Battle of the Somme and The Bloody Fields of Flanders were written in the trenches. A solo piper would also play when laying the fallen to rest and this symbolic role continues to this day. The next letter highlights how pressing it was felt that the Society continued to supply pipers to the army.
In a previous post we talked about the University Chapel organ that was kindly donated by Lord Maclay. Today’s blog will offer some more information on Lord Maclay and his sons who perished during the Great War.
In 1921, Lord and Lady Maclay donated their home at 17 Park Terrace to the University in memory of their two sons who fell during the Great War. A plaque was erected to commemorate the gift, it reads:
Gifted to Glasgow University by
Sir Joseph and Lady Maclay
In memory of their sons
Lieut. Ebenezer Maclay Scots Guards
killed in action before Arras 1918
Lieut . William S. Maclay Scottish Rifles
Killed in action in Gallipoli 1915