THE pipe-major who famously played McCrae’s Battalion into battle has finally received a memorial gravestone – almost a century after his death.
The memorial, dedicated yesterday, marks the grave of Sergeant William Duguid, whose family were said to have been unable to afford such a tribute at his final resting place in the Capital’s Piershill Cemetery.
Sgt Duguid was a heroic member of the 16th Royal Scots who braved German machine guns during the Battle of the Somme to rescue wounded friends from No Man’s Land.
He survived the First World War but never recovered from the loss of his comrades, dying a broken man at the age of 53 in 1928.
The formal dedication by Major Gary Tait MBE on the centenary of the troops’ departure saw more than 50 people gather at Sgt Duguid’s graveside to pay their respects.
Members of the McCrae’s Battalion Trust, which has been raising money for the memorial since the end of 2014, gathered in the rain to remember the piper.
McCrae’s Battalion has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father was at the Somme. He was one of the ones who came back alive.Sarah Innes
Sarah Innes, from Fife, was given the honour of laying a wreath.
She said: “Today is an important and a very emotional day for me.
“McCrae’s Battalion has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father was at the Somme. He was one of the ones who came back alive.”
McCrae’s was the pride of Scotland – a sporting elite which boasted among its ranks some of the finest footballers in the country, including 11 Heart of Midlothian players.
Towards the end of 2014, McCrae’s Battalion Trust started raising funds to right an old wrong.
Businessmen and relatives of the battalion contributed towards the stone tablet erected on a previously anonymous grave.
Designed by historian Jack Alexander, the memorial commemorates the pipe-major and McCrae’s Great Dane mascot, Jock, who was said to have died of a broken heart when so many of his friends were killed at the Somme.
Standing by the grave, Mr Alexander said: “This is another piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
“We need to keep the spirit alive among young people.
“McCrae’s Battalion were idealistic, optimistic young men and it all ended in tragedy.
“This commemorates the gravestone of the man who led them to France. He was an older man who suffered watching his younger comrades wiped out.
“Taking into account the weather, the turnout has been excellent.”
The sergeant piped the battalion out of Edinburgh and off to France but his great sorrow was that he was unable to pipe them all safely home.
Ivor Ramsay, 65, from Penicuik, was among the crowd. His uncle, John Cleghorn, served in the battalion and was a gamekeeper.
He said: “Today means so much for all of us here.”
The dedication was completed yesterday with a series of songs and a minute’s silence.