Missing Men – James McLean Love

Missing Men

James McLean Love, Private Seaforth Highlanders, aged 43.

James spent a year fighting for his country and the next 11 fighting for his life, after being caught in the first German chlorine gas attack of the war.
He died of chronic nephritis in February 1927, too late to appear on Strathblane War Memorial. One wonders how his widow and six children, aged five to 18, living in poverty barely a stone’s throw from this monument, felt as they passed it each day.
James’s parents, David Love from Ireland and Christina McLean from Strathaven, settled down to family life in Mugdock. David was a coachman working for one of the big houses there when their first two daughters Christina and Annie were born in the 1870s. By 1891 the family had moved to Springburn in Glasgow and there were six children, including James McLean Love, born on August 8 1884 at Wellfield St in Dennistoun.
So James spent his young life in Glasgow and, like his father, found employment as a coachman. That is the occupation recorded in the 1901 Census. By now he was 17.
When he married Janet Reid Macaulay a 22-year old muslin weaver in 1908, he was listed as a Fisherman’s Carter. The family lived at 76 Cowlairs Road in Springburn where their first two children Janet and David were born. In the 1911 Census, James is recorded as an “electric craneman” at the huge local locomotive works but employment as a carter took the family to 14 Wood Place in Blanefield shortly afterwards.
As a reservist, James was one of the first men to leave the village for France after the declaration of war on August 4 1914. He was in France as a Private in the Second Battalion Seaforth Highlanders by the following month. Janet, left behind in their tiny room and kitchen in Wood Place, was expecting their third child. James McLean Love was born four months later. And the new baby was given an extra middle name – “France” – suggesting the family was proud that James was doing his bit for King and Country.
James Senior’s battalion became part of the Fourth Division, which fought at the Second Battle of Ypres. Sir John French’s despatch from Ypres dated June 15 1915 describes the “mass of heavy and field artillery, which, not only in number, but also in weight and calibre, is superior to any concentration of guns which has previously assailed that part of the line.” However, he then writes an angry report about the enemy’s “flagrant defiance of the Hague Convention” in their use of “a gas so virulent and poisonous a nature that any human brought into contact with it is first paralysed and then meets with a lingering and agonising death”.
The Germans first used this gas on April 22 1915 at the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres. Aircraft reported seeing thick yellow smoke coming from the German trenches. Hundreds of French soldiers were rendered comatose and incapable of seeing through the thick smoke. No-one knew what was happening and the position had to be abandoned.
At the beginning of May the Second Seaforths were attempting to capture Hill 60 when the men were overcome by another bout of asphyxiating gas. Nearly all the men along a front of about 400 yards were affected but the leaders rallied their men and helped them subdue any panic attacks. It was during this month that James fell victim to a gas attack. On May 15 the Stirling Observer reported under the headline “Local soldier James Love suffering from German gas”, that “Private James Love ‘B’ co. Seaforth Highlanders is dangerously ill in hospital”. James was discharged from the army as unfit for duty in November 1915.
After he returned home, James and Janet had three more children: Christina McLean Love, in 1917, Robert Macaulay Love 1919 and Grace Reid Macaulay Love 1921, all born at 6 New City Row, Blanefield. (Like Wood Place, New City Row had been built in the 19th Century to house employees of the local printworks but was turned into cheap privately rented accommodation after the works closed in 1898.)
James continued to work as a vanman until he finally succumbed to the lingering effects of gas in February 1927. He was 43. Cause of death was given as “chronic nephritis 11 years” by the village doctor George McMillan. As this was long after August 31 1921, the cut-off date for inclusion in First World War commemorations designated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, James did not qualify for a CWGC tombstone (unlike Andrew Fitzpatrick who died in late 1920).
The family gravestone in Strathblane Churchyard makes no reference to his war service. Also, by 1927 all the space for names on Strathblane War Memorial had been filled. And though his name appears on the two local rolls of honour among those who served their country in the war, there is no little symbol beside his name, indicating that he died as a result.
For Janet and the children there would be some crumbs of comfort. James is said to have had a military funeral. And his name was squeezed on to the brass plaque in the United Free Church. It appears in smaller letters beneath the names of seven others from the congregation “who sacrificed their lives in the Great War 1914-18”. Finally, as one of the first men from the community to enter the war in 1914, he was one of the few to qualify for the prestigious “Mons Star” as well as the Victory Medal and British War Medal.

Great War Plaque from Strathblane United Free Church

Later the family moved to Old Mugdock Road, to the first council houses to be built in the community. Son Robert and daughter Grace both lived on in the village, both raising families there. Grace’s daughter Joan still lives in Edenkiln.
James may not have fallen on the battlefield, but he sacrificed his health and ultimately his life for his country and is now remembered again here on his home turf.


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