Who do you think you are


I have been interested in Genealogy for many years and started in earnest about twelve years ago.   Then we moved to Ardersier and I became fascinated by the history of the place!   When you look at the wealth of information that our local history group have come up with, I think you will agree that this is a very special village.

Given that the Hall is a War Memorial Hall and this is the centenary of the start of the Great War, I’d like to kick off with a couple of biographies of some of the young men who gave their lives for our freedom.

As you walk along High Street or Station Road, just think – a hundred years ago, young men walked there without a care in the world.   Then a few months later WW1 broke out and sadly, some of those young men did not come back.

They are commemorated on the War Memorial, situated beside the Old School Hall.

One such young man was Thomas Bentley.   He wasn’t actually born in Ardersier – he was born in Belfast and went to school in Dublin.   Following the death of his father, his mother moved to Scotland and eventually came to Ardersier.   She worked at the Vine Hotel, just at the bottom of the brae below the School.   Thomas, and his siblings, then attended Ardersier School.   His mother married George Wemyss, the owner of the Vine Hotel, and they had other children whose descendents still stay in the village.

However, Thomas had a wanderlust!   He enlisted in the Royal Navy and served for over four years before purchasing his discharge and emigrating to Australia.   Then war broke out and emigrants were notified of the requirements of their Mother Country.   Thomas enlisted in the Australian Army as a Private in 23rd Batt. C Company.   He left Melbourne on 8th May 1915 and served at Gallipoli from 30th August 1915.   He was wounded just three weeks later, and admitted firstly to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Gallipoli, on 20th September 1915; then to the Hospital Ship HS Dunluce Castle on 26th September 1915, transferred to St Andrews, Malta, on 27th September 1915, then to England on 8th October 1915 where on 15th October he was admitted to 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham.   Following treatment and rehabilitation he rejoined 23rd Batt. on 21st April 1916.   Sadly, just three months later on 19th June, he was severely wounded and despite beng treated by the Field Ambulance and also the Casualty Clearing Station he died from his wounds.

His rank on death was Sergeant and he was awarded the 1915 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal – often affectionately referred to as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.


Alexander Main Sutherland was born on 6th January 1887 at Elmbank, 110 High Street, Ardersier.

His parents were James Sutherland, from Duffus, and Helen Main from Ardersier, who were married 14th Sept 1894 at 114 High Street, Ardersier.   James was aged 30, his address was Hopeman, and son of William Sutherland and Mary Main.
Helen was 25, from Ardersier, and daughter of Alexander Main and Janet Smith.

Their children were Alexander b. 6/1/1887 in Elmbank; Mary b. 22/1/1899 in Elmbank; Janet b. 7/2/1901 at 114 High St; James b in 1903 in America; David in 1906 in England and Helen Ann b. 8/7/1908 at 114 High St.

The family emigrated to America in 1902, son James was born there in 1903, then they returned to Britain and their son David was born in England in 1906.   They very soon returned to Ardersier where daughter Helen was born in 1908.

His father James Sutherland was drowned on 15th February 1909, aged just 45. The boat foundered at White Ness End, RCE states it was 1 mile east of Fort George.
Another three fishermen were drowned in the same tragic incident – all four were related.
William Main, aged 48, brother of Helen Sutherland nee Main.
William Ralph who was married to Christina Main. The informant of his death was John Davidson, his nephew.
William Davidson, son of John Davidson and Margaret Ralph.


His mother Helen Sutherland nee Main died at 114 High Street, Ardersier on 1st Feb 1939 aged 69.  Son David was the informant of her death.

Alexander’s sister Helen Ann married Albert Fraser who, as a Lance Bombadier, was killed at Dunkirk on 27/5/1940 but he’s not recorded on the Memorial for 1939 – 1945.  However, both are recorded on the gravestone in Ardersier Cemetery.

Another sister, Janet, married Donald Davidson (brother of William who was also killed 31/12/1919. He died in 1964 and she died in 1975. Both are buried in Ardersier Cemetery and there is a stone which also shows sister Helen Ann and her husband.

Alexander’s brother, David, married Ethal Gornal.   He also fought in WW2, his Service No was S/94275 and he was in the Royal Army Service Corps. His stone is beside that of his sisters.
At the time of his death, David John Sutherland was an Officer’s Servant. He died at Raigmore on 2nd Sept 1946, his usual residence was 114 High Street, Ardersier. The informant of his death was his cousin David Main of 131 High Street, Ardersier. Cause of death was Chronic Bronchitis and Bronchial Asthma, both for 20 years; Myocarditis 2 months.

That’s his family, now for Alexander himself.   As I said he was born in Ardersier and all census records show him living at 114 High Street, Ardersier.

When the family returned from their travels in 1907, they quickly settled back into 114 High Street and Alexander, like his siblings, attended Ardersier Primary School.   Sadly, in 1909, his father was drowned just off Fort George.

Alexander continued in school until he was 15 and he then went to sea, like his ancestors had done, joining the Royal Naval Reserves when war broke out.   By the time of his death in 1915 he was a Trimmer Cook on board the drifter Great Heart which struck a mine just two miles out of port.

On 24th September 1915 Hired Drifter, Adm No 1395, Net tender, Great Heart, 78 tons, hit mine and sank, laid by SMU UC 6, E from South Goodwin Lightship, E from South Goodwin Lightship, Strait of Dover, causing 8 crew deaths.

Casualties from Great Heart – .

ALLEN, William 2nd Engr RNR
BRODIE, Hector Davidson Trimmer RNR
RAYMAN, Frederick 2ndHand RNR
STORM, James Deckhand RNR
SUTHERLAND, Alexander Main Trimmer Cook RNR
DAVIDSON, William Temp/Skipper RNR

My thanks to Great War Forum for this information – http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=73448

From Adm Bacon’s Dover Patrol;

On September 23rd 1916 when H.M. the King inspected the Dover Patrol, the drifters of the Patrol were anchored in three long lines off the dockyard wall, the crews being paraded ashore for His Majesty’s inspection. The drifter Clover Bank, with her nets and all gear complete for shooting, was moored alongside the wall for the King’s inspection. The King went on board her and inspected the gear, and went down to the after-cabin with the skipper, making himself thoroughly acquainted with the life and work on board.
The next operation in which the Drifter Patrol was engaged was a double one, the Patrol leaving Dover on September 24th, 1916, in two sections : one to accompany the monitors, Prince Eugene and General Craufurd, to bombard Zeebrugge, and the other to accompany the remaining monitors to bombard Ostend. The first section consisting of the first division under Lieutenant Godfrey, R.N., in the Ma Freen, and the second division under Lieutenant Crafter, R.N.R., in the Herring Searcher, with the yacht Sanda, Lieutenant-Commander Gartside Tipping, R.N. The whole force was under Commander Venn, R.N.R., in the drifter Cosmos. When about two miles off the eastern entrance of Dover harbour, the drifter Great Heart struck a mine and sank with the loss of Skipper William Davidson and seven hands killed, two also being injured. The drifters Shipmates and Begonia returned to harbour with the survivors, reducing Commander Venn’s mine-net boats from twenty-two to nineteen.

As well as being commemorated on teh Ardersier War Memorial, Alexander’s name also appears on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Initials: A M
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Trimmer Cook
Regiment/Service: Royal Naval Reserve
Unit Text: H.M. Drifter “Great Heart.”
Date of Death: 24/09/1915
Service No: 421TC
Additional information: Son of Ellen Main Sutherland, of 114, High St., Ardersier, Inverness-shire, and the late James Sutherland.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: 10.

Just as a matter of interest, the mine was laid by German Submarine UC-6.   Quite a lot of information here – http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?1671

Of possibly more local interest though, is the story of the Great Heart itself.   Both boat and engine were built in Inverness in 1911 at the Rose Street Foundry in Academy Street.   She was a Steam Powered Drifter Number –INS-238

HMD Great Heart, built by Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Co., Inverness in 1911 and operated at the time of her loss by Royal Navy, was a British navy drifter of 78 tons.

On September 24th, 1915, HMD Great Heart was sunk by a mine from the German submarine UC-6 (Matthias Graf von Schmettow), east of the South Goodwin lightvessel. 8 persons were lost.