A Young Soldier – Archibald Dickson 1898-1918

Archibald Dickson was my first cousin twice removed. His father and my father’s maternal grandfather, Livingston Russell Dickson, were brothers.

Archie, as he was known, was born in the family home at 216 Caledonian Road, Wishaw on 7 August 1898, the third son of coal miner, Robert Russell Dickson and Isabella Paterson.

By 1901 the family had moved to Hamilton and the 1911 census shows Archie, his parents and six siblings living at 98 Beckford Street in the town.

July 1914 saw the start of the First World War. Archie was only 15 years old but by December of that year he had enlisted in the army. On 3 December 1914 he signed the forms to serve with the 6th Battalion Scottish Rifles. At 16 he was underage but as we can read here it was not uncommon for boys who wished to fight for their country to lie about their age. His enlistment form shows he added a year to his real age.

His army records show that until 1916 he served at home. His disciplinary record shows that he was not always the model soldier as on a number of dates he had his pay docked for sleeping on duty, insubordination and, on one occasion, gambling. The report is from Ardeer which was a munitions factory in Ayrshire. Perhaps he was anxious to see real action.

His time was to come and he fought in France and Belgium. It was in France that he was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of shell gas. His parents in Scotland were advised that he was dangerously ill in hospital. The following week they received the telegram from the War Office that they had been dreading.

Private 38069 Archibald Dickson of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) died on 12 June 1918. He was just 19 years old. He is buried at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery in Northern France. The inscription on his headstone, chosen by his family, reads

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Archie is also honoured at the Scottish National War Memorial and at the Hamilton War Memorial.

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David Russell Dickson 1864-1941

David Russell Dickson was my 2nd great uncle. His brother, Livingston was my paternal grandmother’s father.

I am writing about him today having stumbled over his obituary which gives me way more information about the man than I would find in the usual birth, death and marriage records.

Starting from the beginning though, David was born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire on 28 March 1864. He was the fourth of six sons born to Thomas Adams Dickson and Ann Shaw Russell.

A coal mining family, the Dicksons lived for a number of years in the Old Monkland area where boys started their time in the mines as young as 11. By the time of the 1881 census the family had moved to Wishaw and David was working as a pit labourer.

On 31 October 1885 David married Janet Naismith Reid and the couple went on to have 9 children between 1886 and 1899.

The 1891 census shows the family living at 33 Scotts Row, Berryhill, Wishaw and David is recorded as an Engineman (Stationary).

By 1901 he is an engineer living at Muir House, Moore’s Land. Eldest son Thomas is also bringing in a wage as a crane driver despite being only 15 years old.

Janet died in 1906. David went on to remarry in 1915. His second wife, Wilhelmina Ritchie died in 1934.

That is as much as I could find from the records. There are some war records showing that his sons (or at least some) went to war.

On his death record we can see that he died in Motherwell of a tumour and that his occupation is recorded as electrician.

Finding his obituary tells me about how he lived his life.

He was heavily involved in football and was a respected referee. Refereeing at Hibs and Hearts games would’ve been a pretty big deal.

He was an electrician for the local authority for 26 years and his obituary speaks to his “faithful service “.

I like too that it speaks to his character as a kind and decent man and to his service at the Old Mens Club where he held the office of secretary.

I’m particular interested in his involvement with Freemasonry which is something I know very little about. I wonder if this was a family thing and if my great grandfather might also have been involved. I have passed the Lodge St Mary many times without really having noticed it but I now wonder if it was a significant place in my family history.

Archibald Smith Rae 1903-1952

Archibald and Margaret

My paternal grandfather, Archibald Smith Rae, was born on 4 September 1903 in Craigneuk, Lanarkshire, Scotland.  He was the third child of Robert Armstrong Rae, a coal minerand Margaret McGarrity. Robert and Margaret had six children between 1899 and 1925.

  • Sarah Born 1899
  • John born 1901
  • Archibald Smith Born 1903
  • Robert Armstrong Born 1907
  • James Born 1910
  • Andrew Born 1925

After leaving school, Archibald followed in his father’s footsteps and became a coal miner.  He met Margaret Dalziel Dickson, a confectionery worker and the couple were married on 25 June 1926 at Wishaw Manse.  Margaret would have been noticeably pregnant at the time as their son, Robert Armstrong Rae, was born on 2 September 1926.  Robert was my father.

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For a short period of time, presumably for work reasons, the family moved to Partick in Glasgow and lived in a flat in Sandy Road.  It was in Partick that daughter, Mary Calderhead Rae was born in 1931.  She was always known as ‘May’.

Archibald Smith Rae died on January 26 1952.  He collapsed and died at his workplace, Lanakshire Steelworks in Motherwell.  The cause of death was coronary thrombosis.  He was just 48 years old. He is buried in Cambusnethan Cemetery.

Archibald and Margaret headstone

That is all I know of my grandfather.  I don’t know how he spent his free time.  I don’t even know what people called him.  I am assuming he was ‘Archie’.  He died long before I was born and I don’t recall my father ever talking about him.  If he did, it was at a time when I wasn’t interested in family history and with my father and Aunt May also dead for many years there is no one left to ask.  I have so many questions.

It is important for anyone making a start on their family tree to ask grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles about their family memories. Find out what documents and photographs still exist within the family.  Knowing the relevant facts and dates is important but it would be nice to know the stories in order to really know the person.