Friday, 13 January 2017

John McDonald, a postscript

Back in December, John Sheen wrote about the story of John McDonald of the Durham Light Infantry who he had received an enquiry about, and the response to his assistance. John McDonald was one of the men ‘shot at dawn’, and his daughter, Florence, 102 years old and living in Australia, didn’t know what had happened. You can read that story here first:
Margaret and Jenny, John McDonald's granddaughters, at his grave in France, photo from Joan and Vincent Procter
Margaret and Jenny, John McDonald's granddaughters, at his grave in France, photo from Joan and Vincent Procter
John has been in touch with a postscript. The previous post had anonymised the rest of the family’s names, but they are happy for us to use them. The UK cousins, Joan and Vincent Procter, have sent a bit more background information and family reaction to the manner of John McDonald’s death. 

John McDonald’s widow, Hannah, would not have been entitled to a military pension, making life very difficult trying to raise three children. Florence stayed living in Sunderland with her grandmother, after her mother, Hannah, moved to Oldham with her other two children and her new husband, Frank Diggle, at the end of the war. Frank had also served in the First World War, initially in France with the Sherwood Foresters, then in Sunderland with the Royal Engineers. Florence rejoined the family in 1924, before leaving for Australia in 1928.

After learning of how her father died, Florence said she ‘now understands why she may have been left alone in Sunderland and was very sad to hear that her father was one of the poor souls shot at dawn. She also said she was glad to know at last there was nothing untoward that happened within her family as they never spoke about John MacDonald in their early days in Australia or indeed in the following years. This also made her feel quite resentful towards her mother but now we know the reason it is maybe understandable and she feel more at peace - such a pity it has taken so long.’
Florence McDonald, daughter of John McDonald, sat centre,  photo from Joan and Vincent Procter
Florence McDonald, daughter of John McDonald, sat centre,  photo from Joan and Vincent Procter
Margaret, John’s granddaughter who visited the UK and France with Joan and Vincent, said ‘after a very interesting and informative trip around England and particularly Sunderland having now learned the truth it made her feel very, very, sad but also very angry with the British Army.’

Other family members expressed feelings of shock and sadness, some anger, but also understanding as to why no one spoke of John. 

Whilst there was never going to be a happy ending to this story, it is wonderful that Florence has finally had an answer to what happened to her father.

We’d like to thank John Sheen, Joan and Vincent Procter, and of course Florence McDonald, for sharing their story with us, and allowing us to share it with you.

No comments:

Post a Comment