Women and World War Two

Last weekend I went for a delightful cycle around the firth.  I started in Dornoch and pedalled past the enchantingly named Cyderhall Farm – originally the land of a Viking named Sidera.  The name seems to have been gentrified to Cyderhall in the late eighteenth century.  After ten miles or so I stopped at the war memorial in Edderton, ostensibly to enlighten myself about local history and nothing at all to do with the state of my lungs and legs.  I ran my eyes over the usual depressing list of young men’s names.  Poignantly, attached to each one was the name of their farm or home.  Three of those young men were from one house: the manse.  I hopped on my bike and continued to Ardgay and stopped again at the memorial.

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This time two names caught my attention: Mary Urquhart and Mary MacAskill.  Women.  Young women.  Along with all those young men.  What on earth happened to them?  A little bit of online searching brought up the bare bones of a biography.

Name: MacASKILL, MARY
Initials: M
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Leading Aircraftwoman
Regiment/Service: Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Unit Text: 953 Balloon Sqdn.
Age: 22
Date of Death: 18/05/1943
Service No: 2045888
Additional information: Daughter of Norman and Joan MacAskill, of Culrain.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Grave 166.
Cemetery: KINCARDINE CEMETERY, Ross and Cromarty

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URQUHART, Mary Annie Ross
Rank: Sister
Number: 274611
Unit: Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
Died: 12.2.44 Lost at Sea
Age: 31
Parents: Mr and Mrs Donald Urquhart of Rhelonie
Buried: Brookwood Memorial, Pirbright, Surrey
Memorials: Listed on the Kincardine and Croick War Memorial, Ardgay

Sister Mary Urquhart QAIMNS was one of 76 female service personnel who drowned when the S.S. Khedive Ismail was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean on 12th February 1944. She is also commemorated on the Brookwood Memorial.

There are other women’s names scattered about on local war memorials: Lily Murray in Dornoch and Williamina Matheson in Brora.  There are doubtless more that I haven’t found yet.  Some letters carved in stone and some basic facts.  Not much left of the lives of four Sutherland women.  But something.

This information and photos were gleaned from: http://warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot-ftopic841.html

http://scottishwargraves.phpbbweb.com/scottishwargraves-ftopic54.html

Transcriptions of all the war memorials around the Kyle of Sutherland and photos can be found here: http://www.kyle-of-sutherland-heritage.org.uk/page10.html

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