War family reunited to honour brothers’ sacrifice

The Cranston family from Haddington pictured together in 1908
The Cranston family from Haddington pictured together in 1908
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descendants of a family blighted by the horrors of the First World War are set to stage their first reunion.

Later this month, members of Haddington’s Cranston family will arrive in the town from Canada, Australia and New Zealand to pay a poignant tribute to seven brothers who went to war.

One returned uninjured, while four were killed and two wounded.

The loss is said to have driven the boys’ mother to an early grave and has earned the town an uneasy place in the annals of Scottish history.

The three-day remembrance will culminate in a large bronze memorial plaque to their memory being unveiled at the town’s John Gray Centre.

It will coincide with the launch of a research package about the family on an Edinburgh University website.

One of the family members who is helping organise the event believes it will be heart warming to see the many descendants who owe their existence to Cranston 

He said: “The Cranston story is heartbreaking. A most poignant aspect was the effect on the mother, Lizzie Cranston.

“Once a proud, capable and strong woman, the loss and wounding of so many of her sons caused her to suffer mentally. In 1920, she was taken to Australia for a better life, but her condition continued to deteriorate so badly that she was institutionalised in a
psychiatric hospital where she died in 1929.

“Until the day she died, she kept waiting for her boys to come home.”

He added: “Now descendants of the family, scattered across the globe, are returning to East Lothian for a weekend of activities to mark the centenary of the war which broke us apart.”

The family sacrifice has been recognised by the Imperial War Museum and the Scottish National War Memorial as one of the most significant made by a Scottish family during the Great War.

Australia-based writer Stuart Pearson stumbled across the story a number of years ago and spent a month in 2011 in Scotland researching it
with Lothians historian Bob Mitchell.

Mr Pearson’s book about the brothers, Blood on the Thistle, will be released at the same time as the three-day event.

Activities planned include a heritage walk around Haddington, coach tour of the Scottish Borders and a ceilidh to allow the assembled Cranstons to mingle and connect.

The book tells how Sergeant Major John Cranston was killed at the first Battle of the Somme; Sapper James Cranston died from tuberculosis and Private Adam Cranston died in action in France.

Sergeant Alexander Cranston Jr was posted missing in the second Battle of the Somme; William Cranston lost an eye and three fingers in battle, while Lance Corporal George Cranston suffered shellshock and gassing.