OF THE men of Britain who served in The Great War, one man in nine made the ultimate sacrifice. So when studying any pre-war photographs, scratch below the surface and forgotten stories of loss in war are once more brought to light.
The Waverley Union rugby team of 1906-07 was one of more than half-a-dozen semi-junior teams playing in Hawick at the time. Most of the names and faces are now obscured by the passing of a century but the golden thread that links the past to us, though dim, can still shine through.
In the back row, Gordon Telfer, the father of Cyd Telfer, the Vertish Hill legend, lost his brother Robert in battle in 1917. Standing beside him is Hector Hart, who is credited in former US President George Bush Senior’s autobiography as being the greatest influence on his life! Hart taught at a school in Connecticut before “retiring” to teach Latin at Hawick High School. He was very active in St Cuthbert’s Church and wrote a history of it. Next to him, Robert McNairn was wounded in 1918 but recovered and continued in journalism after the war.
In the middle row sits John Hutton, father of the late Billy, the Howegate butcher. John was invalided and he lost both his brothers and his two brothers-in-law, all killed. A combined loss which was in no way unique.
In the front row, Jake Robertson and Robert Elliot both chose to try their luck in the new lands of Canada prior to The Great War. And fate played its part when, in the middle of the vast Canadian prairie, they both enlisted into the same regiment within days of each other when war was declared. They fought together until Robert was killed in 1916.
This year I went to Belgium to the spot where Robert’s body was first buried. I wondered if he knew that a descendant of Jake Robertson was there – and that he was stilll remembered after nearly a century. Lest we forget.