William Henderson Walker
William Henderson Walker, born at Kirriemuir in 1891, was the son of David Walker, a Farm Servant, and Mary Walker, of Mearns Farm Cottage, Kirriemuir. He was the eldest of ten children. After leaving school at a young age he worked as a farmhand near Forfar.
He moved to Argyll in 1913 when he applied for a job with Argyll Constabulary. Although he did well at the interview there were a lot of applicants and only having a basic level of education he was unsuccessful. The police however did suggest he trained as a psychiatric nurse at the Argyll Asylum in Lochgilphead (now Argyll and Bute Hospital). One year after qualifying as a psychiatric nurse he was accepted into the Police Force and was stationed in Campbeltown.
When war broke out in 1914 William was a member of the Territorial Army. In 1915 he was recalled to Dunkeld to join up. Like many young men who had lived and worked on farms his ability to rise was seen as an asset, and he enlisted with the Scottish Horse Cavalry on 20th November 1915, being given the rank of driver (equivalent to corporal).
After his training William, his comrades and their horses were sent by train to Aldershot. By this point however it had become apparent that the war was going to be entirely different from any other fought before. With a heavy heart William had to say farewell to his beloved horse. He was transferred with his comrades into the new Machine Gun Corps.
With his new regiment William was deployed to Gallipoli, however en route word came through that the campaign had been a disaster and as a result they were diverted to Egypt. From there they were sent to Salonika in Greece, where they fought up and down the border between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria.
William’s experience with horses and other farm animals led him, along with a comrade being put in charge of the care and welfare of the mules who carried the Vickers machine guns. It was during this time that William was mentioned in dispatches when he and his comrade led the mules and guns away from the fighting, saving the lives of the animals and protecting the precious guns they carried. By the end of the war William had attained a specialist military qualification as a veterinary assistant, perhaps with the help of his previous nursing training.
Whilst he was away his parents decided to have a family photograph taken. One brother and a sister stood apart, leaving a wide gap in the shot. Afterwards the photographer superimposed William’s image in between his siblings. The whole family was then together, even though in reality William was miles away from home.
William contracted Malaria in 1916 and was seriously ill in hospital. Whilst lying in his hospital bed one night he overheard an orderly commenting on the severity of William’s condition to a doctor. The orderly said he didn’t think William would make it through the night. Luckily this proved not to be the case, although he suffered relapses of the disease throughout the remainder of his life.
After recovering he continued to fight in the Middle East until the end of the conflict. In fact it was a further three days after the war had ended when news of the Armistice came through to them. He travelled back to Britain with his regiment by ship, the whole journey taking three weeks.
He was de-mobbed on 16th February 1919, returning to his job as a Police Officer in Campbeltown, before being transferred to Tiree, Tobermory and Ballachulish. He met Isabella (Bella) Scoular Downie and they were married there on 1st September 1922 in Tobermory, Isle of Mull. He came to the Cowal area with his young family in 1935, where he spent the rest of his life. Some of his descendants still live in the area.