William Marshall SMITH

Regiment:               Royal Garrison Artillery, 4th Highland Mountain

Rank & Number:    
Gunner 300719  

29 July 1887; Fairlie  

                       1972; Inverclyde Royal Infirmary, Greenock  

Brother of James Smith

was born 29 Jul 1887 in Fairlie, to parents James, a shoemaker, and Mary Ann Marshall (who were married in Largs on 02 Jun 1882).  He died in Inverclyde Royal Infirmary, Greenock in 1972, aged 85.  

On 26 Nov 1915 at Bath Hotel, Glasgow, William (aged 28, ships draughtsman, of 317 Onslow Drive, Glasgow) married Catherine Mary Lawrie, and they had three children.  Catherine died in 1947, and William married Margaret Boyd McCreadie at Largs in 1954.  

His grandfather was William Marshall, Largs Bellman from 1860 to 1896; in 2013 the family presented his town crier’s bell to Largs Museum.  He is also descended from Billy Marshall, King of the Gypsies (b. 1672), whose gravestone in Kirkcudbright states he died, “aged 127”.  

After the war William lived in Old Kilpatrick, before returning to Largs – briefly to his parents’ home in Gogo Street, and then in 1926 to 20 Allanpark Street, Largs.  After his marriage to Margaret (Gretta) in 1954, he moved to The Tower, 38 Montgomerie Drive, Fairlie, the home of her parents, where he lived for the rest of his life.   

A draughtsman at Fife’s yard before the war, after he opened a draper's shop in Main Street, Largs with his first wife, Catherine.  He later returned to Fife’s, where he worked until he retired.  He was well known for his daily routine, in suit, bowler hat and watch and chain, of walking the length of Fairlie, talking to everyone he met, once before lunch and again after lunch.  

In the 1901 Census, William, aged 13, is living Govan Bank, Fairlie with parents James (50, shoemaker, b St. Andrews, Elgin) and Mary (38, b Largs) and siblings James (17, app. gardener) and Johanna J (13, b. Fairlie)  

In the 1911 Census, aged 23 and a yacht draughtsman, he is living Springbank, Fairlie with parents James (60, shoemaker & repairs) and Mary Ann (48, m 28 years, 3 children) and brother James (27, gardener)   1935 North Ayrshire Directory has William Smith, Draper, 2 Crawford Street, Largs.    


His Silver War Badge record shows he enlisted on 17 Nov 1915, and his recruitment was reported in the Largs and Millport Weekly News on 27 Nov 1915.  According to his family he served in the Dardanelles, and was invalided from the army because of malaria.  He was discharged on 14 Dec 1918 (sickness, Silver War Badge list).  His medal index card shows he received the British War and Victory medals.     

His grandson remembers William saying that he enlisted (from a reserved occupation as a ship draughtsman) when the Clyde-build Cunard liner Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat on 7 May 1915 (his actual enlistment is recorded as 17 Nov 1915, but perhaps he made the decision to enlist after the sinking?).  He also recalls William producing a small bottle of blackish liquid from his pocket – his quinine to ward off malarial attacks, half a century later.

Extracts from the Largs & Millport Weekly News:-    

27 November 1915     
Another recruit for immediate service has been obtained in the person of Mr. William Smith, presently employed as a draughtsman with Messrs. William Fife & Sons.  

11 May 1918  

Another of our service lads, Gunner William Smith again invalided home is with us also.

Images Courtesy Lawrie Short

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Fairlie Community Association SCIO
Scottish Charity No. SC028785