So my last week shoot took place at the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) Association Castle and Museum in Perth. Thank you to all the accommodating staff who gave access to the archives and more particularly put up with me popping up with my camera all throughout my time there. Although the volunteers are not necessarily connected to the former regiment, their welcoming ways, and how they took time out to talk with me was outstanding.
There was a quiet, moving ceremony for the Black Watch soldiers that fell on that day 100 years earlier. Eight thousand crosses had already been laid and 1,000 more remained and for only three months of war. I represented my family and laid a simple wooden cross with a poppy in memory of Adam Cosh. The cross was laid alongside three others on that day. It was quite apt. Adam’s elder sister is my great grandmother Helen. As permitted under Scottish Law, as a child, I laid laid her body to rest in the cemetery on the hill between Gelston and Castle Douglas.
In the soldiers’ prayer is the line, “To fight and not to heed the wounds”. This was quite moving when read out as both Adam and his brother Richard were wounded, time and time again and continued to fight to the end. As perhaps the last of a group of true warriors, repeatedly returned to battle until finally the price was paid.
In the case of Adam, he perished in the last battle before the opposing army consolidated and retreated, abandoning their lines and the tide of the war began to turn towards its conclusion.
Others families I listened to during the visit, had impactful stories of their own to tell. In one case the family had only a few words, merely naming and identifying their family member. They reached out to help make links. Another with an interest in nursing, rightly represented the efforts of nurses and also recalled how women stood in the streets of Dundee, wailing at the loss of a whole generation of able-bodied young men. The current generations combine in being the last to retain the connection with people from this historical past.
Royal patronage continues — the castle and museum displays marker stones to this effect.