Bute woman who died on active service

Margaret's name featured on the plaque in St Pauls Church in Rothesay (left). And (right) her family gravestone in Rothesay.
Margaret's name featured on the plaque in St Pauls Church in Rothesay (left). And (right) her family gravestone in Rothesay.

Following our recent appeal for your family tales about WW1 the story of a local woman who died while serving her country has been told.

Leslie Hills, who has a home in Kilchattan Bay, told the Buteman about Margaret Davidson, who had lived in Ardencraid Cottage, Rothesay, and died while serving in the Voluntary Aid Detachments.

She said: The last edition of the Buteman spoke of the men who fought and died in the Great War and referred to the many from Bute who took part. It is unfortunate that there was no mention of the women - wives, daughters and mothers - who died during and as a result of that war.

“There are 663 women’s deaths recorded on the official rolls of war dead - but the total is widely acknowledged to be far larger.

“A member of the Women’s Services, Margaret’s unit name is given as Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross Society. She is also memorialised in York Minster on a beautiful window and screen dedicated to the women of the Empire who fell in the Great War. The inscriptions, which were carefully investigated and not approved until the mid 1920s, list her among the members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments who lost their lives on active service.

“And in Rothesay she is remembered on a plaque in St Paul’s Episcopal Church. ‘In grateful remembrance of the men of St Paul’s who fell during the Great War’.

“The church, on the corner of Dean Hood Place, is often open and the plaque can be seen on the wall towards the altar on the left side. You find her name given last, out of alphabetical order.”

Margaret died aged 21 on August 19, 1917 of a cerebral embolism, valvular heart disease and rheumatism.

On her gravestone in the graveyard of the High Kirk is written “Sacred to the memory of Margaret Wood Davidson 16655 Red+. Below, her two younger brothers are listed . John James had emigrated to Canada, joined the 96th Canadians and died in an epidemic of spinal meningitis in Camp Hughes, Manitoba, in July 1916. He was 18 and four months into his initial training. Unlike Margaret, John, not having died on active service, is not listed on the Scottish National War Memorial. He is, however, listed on the Rothesay Memorial and the commemorative book held in Bute Museum.

George, six years younger than Margaret, also emigrated, and joined a Latin American country’s Navy which operated in the north Atlantic. He died in 1941 and is honoured on the Rothesay WW2 memorial. Leslie added: “Of the three who gave their lives, only Margaret, who is honoured on British national memorials is not remembered, officially, on Bute. Perhaps, in this centenary year, it is time to remedy this.”

To share your stories, send an email – entitled World War One – to news@buteman.com.