History Mystery – Part Two.

So much for my three scheduled posts a week! There are times I get a wee bit carried away with myself… and today has been one of those days. I just couldn’t get the mystery of the Native Soldier who died in Scotland out of my head, so instead of editing the manuscript I’m currently working on, I spent most of the day surfing. I still don’t have the answers I’m looking for, but I’ve e-mailed several institutions which I hope can help me. If they respond with information, I will let you know.

What I have learned is that the Govan Military Hospital was the old Govan Workhouse, built in the 1850s. The building is still in use as The Southern General Hospital and its speciality is neurology. If you’ve ever had a head injury and been tested on the Glasgow Coma Scale, this is where that scale was invented.

I also managed to rustle up an account from the archives of The Glasgow Herald which reported the unit’s visit to Glasgow, and I’ve contacted Glasgow City Council in the hope they have some photos of the visit.


I’ve typed the article below, but in your reading please be aware that these were different times with different attitudes.

Glasgow Herald, December 9th 1916,  Page 8


 Visit of Military Contingent to Glasgow

 A party of 156 Red Indians attached to a battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, who are in camp in the South of England, are at present on a visit to Scotland prior to leaving for service at the front. They arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday night and will leave today. During their stay they have been the guests of the Corporation.

 The men were recruited about a year ago, largely in the Six Nations Reserve, Southern Ontario and others in districts near Montreal. They are the first company of Canadian Indians to join the Expeditionary Force from the Dominion. The men are dressed in regulation khaki, with the exception of four, who wore the picturesque garb of their race, from moccasins to the headdress of feather plumes.

 On Thursday the contingent was inspected by the Lord Provost, Sir Thomas Dunlop Bart, in George Square, and two of the officers in command were present for some time at a meeting of the Corporation and were welcomed by the Lord Provost. One of the officers, in replying, said that the contingent fully appreciated the honour conferred upon them. They could never forget the wave of hospitality which struck the contingent immediately they arrived in Glasgow. In Canada they had heard a great deal about the hospitality of the Scottish people, and now they had a full realisation of it. He was aware of the old saying that when the Scots extended a welcome their hearts were in it.

 The Contingent consisted of four different tribes, including the Iroquois. The Iroquois had always been heart and soul with the British Empire. Many Red Indians had enlisted to fight, and they were only too glad to do what they could for the Empire that had done so much for them. (Applause.)

 The Lord Provost remarked that it was refreshing to hear what the Indians from Canada were doing. (Hear, hear.)


History Mystery

Although I’ve chosen to make Canada my home, I still love my country of birth. So when I find a historical story that connects the two I get really excited!  But sometimes that excitement can lead to ‘historical’ frustration.

The book,  TEA AT MISS CRANSTON’S, (not related – at least, I don’t think so) recounts the memories of Glaswegians growing up in the city in the first half of the 20th Century. Inside its pages I found this fascinating nugget.

Chapter 15 – Their Weans Would Never Be. P127

Another fleeting recollection of 1915 was the swift passage through wartime Glasgow in a bleak week of smirring drizzle and gloom, of an exotic party of Canadian Indian troops commanded by Chief Clear Sky.  They were on their way to the war and sampled Glasgow hospitality enjoying a first, and no doubt last, taste of black pudding.

But they left one young Indian behind.  His name was Gay Flier.  He was very very ill with flu and died in Govan Military Hospital.  My grandpa had been seeing to Chief Clear Sky’s men when they were in Glasgow and so’s not to let the boy get buried in an unmarked grave he claimed the body and saw to it that there was a right funeral in Glasgow with magistrates there, a gun carriage and a party to fire a salute at the grave.  It wasnae among his own open-air folk, but it was better than being not heeded at all.

Absolutely incredible! I had to find out more, so the last time I was in Glasgow I headed to The Mitchell Library to undertake some research on this young native Canadian soldier. Although I came up with plenty of newspaper coverage of the regiment landing in Glasgow and going through to Edinburgh (click on this link) there was nothing about the soldier himself.

I’m determined to solve this mystery. If anyone out there has any ideas how to go about this, I would love to hear from you!

Nurse Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell, the daughter of an English minister, was born in 1865. After spending 5 years in Brussels working as a nanny, she returned to London in 1895 to train as a nurse.

In 1907, she set up her own training school for nurses in Brussels.  She was home visiting her mother in England in 1914 when war was declared but decided to return to Belgium. When that country fell to the Germans, her clinic and training school were taken over by the Red Cross.  Some of her nurses chose to leave for Britain, but Edith Cavell remained, treating Allied and German soldiers alike.

As a member of the Red Cross, she should have remained neutral, but she actively helped over 175  British and Allied soldiers – or men of military age – to escape to neutral territory. This was to be her downfall.

Arrested by the Germans in August 1915, she confessed to helping the Allies. A military trial followed. Although the Germans had the law on their side by sentencing her to death, their decision outraged the world.  Despite appeals from the American and Spanish embassies, she was executed by firing squad on the morning of October 12th, 1915.

Just before she was taken out to be shot, Edith Cavell made this statement.  Standing as I do, in view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.

After the war, Edith Cavell’s body was returned to England and she is buried in her hometown of Norwich. Memorials to her memory were created around the world, including a statue erected close to Trafalgar Square in London, and a mountain in Jasper National Park being named in her honour.

Released in 1939, the year the Second World War began, the film Nurse Edith Cavell recalled her actions for a new generation.

Please link to this website for more information on Edith Cavell’s remarkable life and upcoming celebrations scheduled for the First World War remembrances in 2014.