Thomas Dickson was born on 1 January 1891 in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. He was the third of eight children and the eldest son of Archibald Dickson and Elizabeth Stevenson. Archibald was the brother of Livingston Russell Dickson, my father’s paternal grandfather. I have previously posted about Thomas’ cousin, Archibald Dickson who was killed in France in 1918.
Thomas was educated in Wishaw and on finishing school he began work as a clerk at a local distillery. The family lived at 49 West Academy Street in Wishaw which is now long gone and was on the site where Wishaw General Hospital is now located. He would have had a short walk to the Distillery office on Glasgow Road. I had been unaware that there had been a distillery in Wishaw. The Clydesdale Distillery was established in 1825 and eventually closed in 1919. At its peak, the company employed 40 people.
Thomas came from a long line of miners and I believe it was almost expected for the boys to follow in their father’s footsteps. Perhaps Thomas had shown academic potential and the family hoped for better things for their eldest boy. The Great War put an end to his hopes of an office career.
In December 1915 Thomas joined the Royal Naval Reserve. I have been unable to locate a photograph but on his enlistment form he is described as 5’9” tall with black hair, dark brown eyes and a fresh complexion.
It may be that he wished to enlist earlier but his mother, Elizabeth had been ill for some years. She died in June 1915.
Thomas was with Drake Battalion and had recently been promoted to Able Seaman when he was killed at sea on 24 December 1917. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial in France.
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
Archie is also honoured at the Scottish National War Memorial and at the Hamilton War Memorial.