2014 marks one hundred years since the start of World War One. In August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and so began their part in the Great War. It would affect the lives of everyone throughout the country as men signed up to fight and those left at home made their own contribution. As the War progressed, houses were opened up as hospitals for convalescing soldiers, charity events took place to raise funds for causes like The British Red Cross Society and local factories began producing supplies for the War effort.
'Sanquhar's Story - Words from the Great War' consists of a
collection of letters written by brothers James and David McMinn,
from Durisdeer near Sanquhar. They were the sons of William and
Janet McMinn. There are nine letters from each brother written to
'Tib' during their time posted at training barracks in England.
'Tib' was the nickname of their sister
Janet. Janet emigrated to New Zealand in around 1921 and encouraged the rest of the family to follow.
As a collection, the letters give an insight into the drills the men were put through, who was billeted with them, and the conditions they were living in. The letters of David McMinn also show what life was like for enlisted soldiers once peace had been declared.
James ('Jamie') was the eldest child of William and Janet, born c.1897. Before enlisting in the Scots Guards, James worked as a farm labourer at Kirkland Farm, Kirkconnel. He signed up to serve in 1914 and died during active service in 1915, about two weeks after being sent to the front.
David, born c.1901, enlisted once he was old enough and was amongst the first recruits to join the Royal Air Force when it was formed in April 1918. David survived the War and afterwards continued to train with the RAF. He worked his way up from a Private to an Air Mechanic. He emigrated with his family to New Zealand in 1922 and ran a car garage in Pahiatua. He married twice and had five daughters.
As well as the letters this collection includes photographs of the two brothers, their parents, William and Janet and other siblings including Tib (Janet).
The collection of letters was kindly donated to Sanquhar Tolbooth Museum by a niece of James and David. They were among her mother's belongings and were sent to the Museum from North America.
The photographs have been generously donated by the family in New Zealand. They contacted Dumfries and Galloway Council Museums Service in 2014 after seeing the letters of James and David online whilst researching their family history.