The War in Fairlie

Fairlie Cigarette & Tobacco Fund

In July 1915, thanks to the efforts of Tom Barclay (who later served in France), a small committee was formed to raise money to provide tobacco to local men “serving abroad or lying wounded in hospital”.  By the end of the month, the first consignment of cigarettes had been sent to the Dardanelles.

Parcels were sent on a regular basis, and included not just tobacco, but other treats like Oxo cubes, tea, sweets, etc.  In December 1915, the local lads at the front received an extra titbit – Fairlie shortbread donated by baker John Kirkwood of Kirklee.

The local newspaper regularly printed lists of servicemen from whom thank you letters had been received, and it’s clear that these parcels from home were a real treat.  One soldier wrote from         France that “It cheers a chap up to know that he is not forgotten in his native village”.


Messrs. C.H. McNair & Sons

The window of Messrs. C.H. McNair & Sons, post office and merchants at Laurelbank, often displayed war trophies brought home by soldiers on leave.  Shortly before he died, 2nd Lieutenant Charles Tennant sent home the noses of four German shells picked up on the battlefield of Neuve Chapelle.  In November 1915, Captain George Forman brought direct from the field of battle a German officer’s silver helmet complete with linen cover, a German rifle, and an “oyster” bomb.  A smaller souvenir on display that same month was the Bible which, according to the Largs & Millport Weekly News, “undoubtedly saved Private George Burden’s life.  He was carrying it in the left hand pocket of his tunic when he was struck with a bullet which passed right through him, being fortunately however diverted from the heart by the Bible.”


Women’s Work

In July 1916, the Largs & Millport Weekly News reported, “Steadily the feminist movement continues.  Five lady porters took up duty at Fairlie Pier, and now three foresters of the gentler sex have taken up duty at the Kelburn Estate.  All honour to the women who are doing their bit.”  

The following year, in October 1917, the Fairlie ladies “who so kindly assisted with agricultural work during the season” were presented with armlets and a letter of thanks from the County Committee in recognition of their services.

More traditionally, the ladies of the War Work Party knitted and sewed for the war effort, with 70 workers attending their final meetings of the winter in March 1918.  In the period from September 1917 to March 1918, a total of 956 garments was made, including socks, operation stockings and hospital bags.


The Armistice

On 16th November, 1918 the Largs & Millport Weekly News reported:-

“Special news of the signing of the armistice was received in the village about eleven o’clock.  On receipt of the good news the churches and public school bells were set apealing, and the yard horn blew furiously.  At the noon service in St. Margaret’s Church there was an
unusual large attendance.  At the yard the men were granted a holiday for the remainder of the day with full pay.  All day the village had quite an animated appearance.  People were not content to stay indoor, but moved about, shaking hands with everyone they met, while the youngsters paraded the streets with a variety of musical (!) instruments, and every house in the village displayed bunting of some kind.  In the evening there was a further display of bell ringing, and a bonfire was lit on the Craig Hill.”

Pictures © Frank Donnachie

Fairlie Community Association SCIO
Scottish Charity No. SC028785