725: Macleod Memorial in Nottingham

The following appeared in an edition of Tional, the Comunn Eachdriadh na Pairc publication.

A chance encounter with a newly erected gravestone in a Nottingham cemetery aroused the curiosity of Mrs. Mary Ann Chambers (formerly Campbell, 11 Glenside, Gravir) to such an extent that she decided to try and contact the person who put the stone in place and secondly, to inform the Pairc Historical Society so that they could enquire into the family association with Garyvard.

Her initial searches eventually took her to 30 Ebers Road, Nottingham, the home of Neil MacLeod who had recently erected the gravestone in memory of his parents and sister. By so doing, she had also added another dimension to the story of the Catapult Aircraft Merchant Ship (CAM) "Michael E", which has featured in the pages of Tional several times since the publication of the Roll of Honour in 1991, including contributions from "Seoladair" and Allan Angus MacLeod, Glen House, Carloway.

To trace the origins of the Garyvard connection, we asked our committee member for that area, Murdo MacLeod, 7 Garyvard, to carry out an investigation among the older members of the population to see if it could trigger off any responses that might assist in establishing the roots of Neil MacLeod’s mother’s family. It was not easy! Even Murdo’s most usually reliable source, the amiable and knowledgeable Roderick MacKinnon (Ruaraidh Rob), was temporarily stumped, although he had faint recall of hearing of members of a family who had moved to Stornoway when they were very young. This, together with additional information gathered from other people in the village, enabled Murdo to build up enough factual material on the family to contact Bill and Chrissie Lawson at the Geneology Centre, Northton, Harris. Ever helpful, they supplied a lot of missing detail to help Murdo establish a more comprehensive picture of the family, as he writes.

"The paternal side of Catherine MacLeod’s family does not appear to belong to Garyvard and there is a suggestion that her father, Murdo MacLeod, came from Achmore. On the maternal side, the information available indicates that Catherine’s mother was Isabella, the daughter of Alexander MacLeod, (Alasdair Choinnich) of 11 Garyvard. Alasdair would have been the tenant of croft number 11 when Catherine was born in 1888. However, there is no record of Murdo and Isabella MacLeod living at Garyvard as a married couple and it is likely that they took up residence in Stornoway. As it was a common occurence at the time for daughters to return to the family home for a confinement, particularly if the husband was away at the fishing, it seems certain that Catherine Macleod was indeed born in Garyvard in 1888 under such circumstances."

"Catherine’s uncle, John (Iain Alasdair Choinnich), was the next tenant of the croft and on his death the croft passed to his daughter, Marjory. Marjory’s son Donald Angus Montgomery is the present tenant and he built a new house on the croft some twenty years ago. Neil MacLeod’s relationship with the present occupants of 11 Garyvard would appear to be like this:

Isabella MacLeod her brother John MacLeod

Catherine MacLeod first cousin Marjory Montgomery

Neil MacLeod second cousin Donald A. Montgomery "

Murdo goes on to say that Neil MacLeod is also related to him as Neil’s great grandmother, also called Marjory, was a sister of John MacLeod, 1 Garyvard, Murdo’s great grandfather.

Neil MacLeod’s father, also called Neil, was the son of John MacLeod, 1 Upper Barvas, and his wife Catherine (Graham). Neil Snr. emigrated to Australia before the Great War and served with the Australian forces at Gallipoli as part of the expeditionary collective of New Zealand and Australian personnel which became known as ANZAC, sent to the doomed Dardanelles campaign in March 1915 in a vain attempt to overcome the Turkish fortifications at Suvla Bay, in the Aegean Sea. He was wounded in action during that campaign, which saw casualties amounting to 42,000 dead, wounded or sick before the end of June.

It is midday; the deep trench glares

A buzz and blaze of flies

The hot wind puffs the giddy airs

The great sun rakes the sky

No sound in all the stagnant trench

Where forty standing men

Endure the sweat and grit and stench

Like cattle in a pen (Robert Nichols, Slogging On: The Salient to Suvla) Following the War, Neil Snr. resumed his peacetime occupation as a seaman and served on board ships trading between Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He married Catherine MacLeod in Glasgow in 1919 and a son, Neil, was born there in 1923, before the family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. Their daughter Isobel Graham was born in 1927. When his wife Catherine died in 1928 at the age of 39 he was left with a son aged five and a little girl only one year old. He decided to take the children back home to Lewis and settled them with his relatives, John and Chirsty MacLeod, at Battery Park Road, Stornoway. Neil returned to sea and continued his career on the UK/Australia run until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 when he returned to the United Kingdom to offer his services to his country.CAM ships were cargo vessels modified to accommodate a fighter aircraft, which was catapulted from a purpose designed contraption in the forward part of the ship in times of danger. In May 1941, Neil MacLeod Snr. joined the ship with his son Neil Jnr. who was now eighteen years of age. The "Michael E" was under the command of a first cousin of Neil Snr., Captain Murdo MacLeod, the fourth son of Murdo and Chirsty MacLeod of 1 Upper Barvas. There were eight Lewismen among the crew and one of them, John Angus MacKay, 7 Calbost, who died last summer, told the story of the tragedy of the "Michael E" in that excellent book, Lewis and Harris Seamen, 1939 – ’45 by John Morrison, O.B.E., Q.P.M., and Annie Morrison in 1993. "We sailed from Glasgow on a voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia to load grain. At Bangor Bay in Ireland we carried out a successful launching of the aircraft and then joined the convoy around the Belfast area. At that time it was assumed that the German submarines had a range limit of one thousand miles across the Atlantic and once we had passed beyond that point the convoy dispersed and the two fighter pilots removed the rockets and secured the aircraft. The ship was struck by a torpedo attack on 2nd. June, 1941 and sank before the aircraft could be mobilised. The plane went down with the ship. "There were a few naval gunners aboard and some Fleet Air Arm personnel and I think three of them were lost. Neil MacLeod Snr. had been blown into the hold when the explosion occurred and despite having had both his legs broken he managed to haul himself up on a rope to the deck of the sinking ship and was carried into one of the lifeboats. Two lifeboats got away safely and the submarine surfaced and asked us the name of our ship and our destination. It was twenty-two hours later that we were picked up by a Belgian ship and as she was fairly fast we landed in Halifax within a week. Neil MacLeod Snr. died of his injuries the day before we landed and was buried at sea eighty miles east of Halifax. Young Neil and I made our way back to the United Kingdom." Neil MacLeod Snr. was awarded the Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at sea and the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct in recognition of his leadership and guidance while suffering from mortal wounds. His cousin, Captain Murdo MacLeod, D.S.C., 1 Upper Barvas, survived the sinking of the "Michael E", but lost his life later in the War when the "SS Fort Buckingham", while under his command, was torpedoed on a voyage from Bombay to Buenos Aires in February, 1944.Neil MacLeod Jnr. married and settled in Nottingham after the War. He has two sons, Michael, named after the "Michael E" and Ian Graham. Michael and his wife Stephanie paid a visit to Lewis in 1989 and sought out their relatives, especially on the Barvas side. Neil says that all the family records and photographs were lost with the "Michael E" and he would be grateful if anyone could supply him with pictures of his father mother or sister. He also stated that when he lived in Stornoway he was too young to take notice of relationships and regrets that he has lost track of many of the relatives and friends who helped rear himself and his sister when their mother died. The Historical Society is indebted to Mary Ann Chambers for not passing by when she spotted a memorial erected to a Lewis family in a Nottingham graveyard. She took the trouble to seek out the story behind the engraved lettering and so renewed and refreshed the link between our community and one of its wandering sons. Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc

Record Type:
Story, Report or Tradition
Type Of Story Report Tradition:
Record Maintained by:

Related Media

Neil Macleod, Garyvard

Neil Macleod, Garyvard