Skerray War Memorial was unveiled by the
Duke of Sutherland and was the third memorial to be erected in the Parish of
Tongue. The service was led by the Reverend H G Maclellan from the Free Church
who sang Psalm 46 to the tune of “Shroudwater”, prayers were then said by
Reverend Macdonald from the United Free Church.
The names of the twenty-five fallen were
read out as the Duke unveiled the memorial and then gave a short speech. Before he left the Duke of Sutherland shook
hands with and spoke to the relatives of those named on the memorial; he also
spoke to many of the ex-servicemen who were present. The families then laid
floral tributes around the memorial alongside a large wreath given by the
comrades of the fallen.
On the 23rd of July 1915, the total
population of Skerray was five hundred and sixty men women and children; sixty-
one men or 11% of the population had volunteered for the Forces. Men from
Island Roan were called up from the herring fishing fleet, a total of twelve
were at sea with the Royal Navy. (The total list of men serving from Skerray in
July 1915 is reproduced at the end of of this section of the website).
Men from Skerray served in the British Army
on the battlefield in France and at sea with the Royal Navy, others served with
the Commonwealth Forces. The community was decimated by losses during the
Battle of the Somme and the fighting around Arras, the loss of two brothers and
a brother in law by one family can only be imagined (See John George Mackay
from Clashnastruag, Eric Mackay and Hugh Mackay from Modsary).
The stories from this memorial may be unique
because many of those named are not natives of the village, but have a strong
family connection that has allowed their names to be remembered here. The story
of Mrs Fairlie Mackay and her four nephews, two of who are named on this
memorial alongside her husband must be unusual, in respect to other memorials
in villages across Scotland. One of those named on the memorial (Daniel Mackay,
Tubeg) did not die as a result of the war, but from disease in Canada
There are many stories that were untold by
those who returned home after the war, the story of William Gunn from Lamigo is
only one. He served on HMS ‘Tara’, an armed ex London and Northwestern steamer
of 1800 tons, torpedoed by the German submarine U35 off the Egyptian coast. The
surviving crew were towed to the coast of Libya and handed over to a desert
tribe called the Senussi, waging war on Britain’s ally Italy.
The Senussi held the crew of the Tara
prisoner at an oasis in the desert, until the 17 of March 1916. A
daring rescue mission was launched by an armoured car squadron led by the Duke
of Hamilton, who found the crew and led them back to the British lines.
On the 19 of September 1917
the Reverend Maclellan wrote to the Northern Times about the amount of men
being called up from Skerray, saying to date eighty men were serving,
twenty-two had been killed, one had lost a leg and one a hand. He said in his
letter that Skerray was so drained by the call up, soon there would no more men
left to tend the land
At the end of World War One a total of one
hundred and eight men from Skerray had served in the Armed Forces. The Roll
Honour for the village is inside Tongue Church and has been reproduced at the
end of this section.
At the end of World War Two eight names were
added to the war memorial, again some of them are not natives of the district
but had strong family links here. The story of the eighteen Lovat Scouts from
Skerray who served in the regiment through out the war is also unique, only one (Corporal Jimmy Gunn) failing to return home.
Skerray lost so many of its young men to the
wars; it can only be imagined what sort of place it would be today if they had
all survived and returned home. Many houses in the community now lie empty as a
silent memory to the losses of the war years, I hope their memories can be
recalled in these pages.
William Mackay (left) and Alick Mackay brothers from Tubeg
William served in the Army Service Corps and Alick in the Seaforth Highlanders
Hector Mackay Clashaidy
Unknown Skerray Sailor