Thursday, 25 November 2010

Marking family's sacrifice

The following article appeared in the East Lothian Courier (text by Bryan Copland):

The Cranston family in 1908: (back row, from left) William, Mary, James, Agnes, Adam. Middle: John, Alexander (father), Angus, Elizabeth (mother), Alexander.Center: Robert. Front: Andrew and George

Haddington’s Cranston family was decimated by the First World War: four sons were killed and two others badly injured.

As reported in the Courier in 2009, seven of Alexander and Elizabeth Cranston’s nine sons fought in the Great War yet only one of the soldiers avoided death or terrible injury during the conflict.

The Imperial War Museum in London believes no other Scottish family suffered such unimaginable loss.

Now a campaign to commemorate the sacrifice of the Cranston family – who lived in various cottages in and arround Haddington, including at St Martin’s Gate – is due to step up a gear when a family descendant visits the county from Australia next year.

Sydney’s Stuart Pearson, who is the great-grandson of Alexander and Elizabeth Cranston, wants East Lothian Council to mark his forefathers’ loss and has enlisted the help of local groups and residents to push for a tribute to the family.

He said: “No-one knows for sure if the Cranston family made the ‘greatest sacrifice’ of any Scottish family. Nevertheless, I believe that the losses by the family for God, king and country in the First World War was not exceeded by any other family in Scotland.

“The loss and suffering of soldiers during war doesn’t just affect the individual – it affects the entire family. In the case of the Cranstons the losses were so devastating the family itself was almost destroyed.”

Haddington Community Council member John Hamilton, who has been researching the Cranstons, says the group is “willing to do something along the lines of commemorating” the loss – if it can be put into context with the sacrifices made by other families around that time.

Stuart has suggested that a stone cairn, or naming a street or local park after the family, would be a suitable tribute.

In 1916, Company Sergeant Major John Cranston, 34, of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, was killed by shellfire at the first Battle of the Somme; Royal Engineers Sapper James Cranston, 28, died from tuberculosis while in Army service; and Private Adam Cranston, 30, of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, died in action in France.

In 1918, Sergeant Alexander Cranston Jnr, 39, of the Royal Engineers was posted missing, presumed dead, in the second Battle of the Somme; William Cranston, a private in the 7th Seaforth Highlanders, lost an eye and three fingers in battle; while Lance Corporal George Cranston, of the 8th Royal Scots, was left incapacitated due to shellshock and severe gassing, living until 1963.

Father Alexander Cranston died aged 57 in 1911, and is buried in Haddington, while mother Elizabeth later emigrated to Australia.

The couple also had three other sons: Robert – who escaped the Great War intact but was later killed in the Korean War – Andrew and Angus, and two daughters in Agnes and Mary.

Anyone who can help in HCC’s research can contact Mr Hamilton on 01620 825946.

A further comment after the article states:

"This is Stuart Pearson. I need to correct one small error - Robert didn't die in the Korean War. It was his son, Ian. As well as contacting John Hamilton, please feel free to contact me also if you have any information to share. My email address is"

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