BackThe Lives of my Grandfathers

The Lives of my Grandfathers

Peter McNeil

“Peter McNeil was born on 6th September 1881 in Perth to John and Ferguson McNeil. John was the son of Peter McNeil, a well-known poacher called the Otter of Perth in the family. He was a weaver by trade, and his father seems to have been a farmer in Crief.

Peter McNeil married Catherine Scott on 29th July 1902 and lived at 80, then 71, Constable Street, Dundee.  They had four sons, three of whom died in infancy. The fourth, Alexander Crichton McNeil, was my father. Peter’s occupation was a sailor, originally with the whaling ships out of Dundee, and latterly with the coastal trade, when he seems to have been based at Tyneside. He was a sail-maker.

Records suggest that Peter was called up in 1916 and he was enlisted  in the 10/11 batt. of The Highland Light Infantry.


My father had few kind words to say about him. He seems to have been an alcoholic; certainly as a result my father had very little to drink in the way of alcohol at any time in his life. Clearly Peter was pig-headed (a family trait) as the ‘Redcap’ letter suggests – absent without leave. This carried over into the trenches. He had requested a transfer and, although it was never stated, he thought that the air-force could use his services. The aircraft of the day were basically canvas. My father recalled that he did ask his wife to send him his needles.


He was ‘killed in action’ at Arras on 21st December 1917. Someone who was present at the time reported to my grandmother that he stuck his head above the parapet of the trench he was in, and was shot by a sniper.”


Charles King

“I think Charles King was born in Putney on 13th March 1873,  grandson of a coast guard from Cornwall (This was a branch of the Royal Navy in those days). He, in turn, came from Hampshire and was the descendant of a miller. At some time they moved to Battersea; the family story refers to a ‘lame cobbler’ at this time, and I assume that the coast guard had been attacked, though I have not been able to prove this.

Charles King married  Lilian Maud Gibbens on 2nd August 1908. They had a son and two daughters, one of which was my mother, Elsie Lilian Brenda King. He was a cobbler by trade and may have had a shop in Battersea. A photograph shows him in uniform with my mother, who would be about 2 when the photograph was taken. As she was born in early 1913 this suggests that he volunteered about the time of the outbreak of the war.

His position in the army was a boot repairer. My mother kept a badge to this effect, which is now at the East Surrey Regimental museum near Guildford.

Charles King died of a stomach condition and possibly also gas poisoning, on 27th April 1918.”


– These stories were written and researched by Dr McNeil, Grandson of both Peter McNeil and Charles King

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