Private James Scott of McCrae's Battalion
James Scott was born May 2nd, 1895 at 7.30 in the morning. He was born at home in Airdrie. He was born the second child of Annabella Scott (nee, Bennett) and James Scott, a wire rope work labourer. James was followed by Georgina Scott in 1898, Annabella B. Scott in 1900, George B. Scott in 1904, Janet B. Scott in 1906 and Jessie B Scott in 1911. James was named after his father, and grandfather, both of whom were also James Scott. This tradition spanned across 4 generations, before ending with the birth of James’ grandson in the 1940s. James name is now carried on by his great-great-grandson, whose middle name is James.
As he grew, James attended Airdrie Academy and worked as an apprentice wire rope maker for the Caledonian Wire Rope Company. James’ real passion was football. James had played for the Craigton Thistles and Petershill Football Club, before signing as a forward with Kirkcaldy’s Raith Rovers in 1913, when he was only 18 years old. James promptly moved from Airdrie to Kirkcaldy. James, or Jimmy as he is remembered by Raith Rovers, made a great impression on those who watched him play. He was called ‘Raith’s opportunist’, ‘one of Raith’s most finished players’ and ‘a brilliant forward with great possibilities’. He scored 25 goals in 59 league games. He had, by all accounts, every chance of becoming an even greater footballer with an incredibly bright future.
At the onset of the First World War, James, along with many other sportsmen enlisted in the Sportsmen’s Battalion of the Royal Scots which became known as McCrae’s Battalion. James had been living in St Monans, after moving out of Kirkcaldy, which is where he presumably met Catherine Reekie, the daughter of William Reekie, a fisherman, and Mary Ann Reekie (formerly Baird). They were married in Olive Hall on April 2nd, 1915 when they were both aged 20. James had to get leave from his training in Edinburgh to marry Catherine. James’ big sister Margaret was his signed witness on the marriage certificate. At the time of the marriage, Catherine was four months pregnant, giving birth to a son on September 21st at 10 pm, whom she named James Scott.
James’ Battalion was sent to France in January 1916. On July 1st, 1916, the day that became memorialised as the first day of the Battle of the Somme, James Scott was gunned down. McCrae’s partook in the 34th Divisions offensive. McCrae’s Battalion allegedly managed to get further into German territory than any other battalion on July 1st. The 21-year-old James was one of the first to die. Contemporary newspapers reported that he had been shot through the neck or head. However, it was confirmed by the discovery of a contemporary letter, written by James’ friend, that he was shot in the stomach, then in the neck, as he went ‘over the top’. The first day of the Somme is remembered as the bloodiest day in Britain’s military history. Britain lost 19,240 men, with 57,470 casualties on that day alone.
James seated second from the right (credit: raithrovers.net)
His death was reported in newspapers at the time, likely in Kirkcaldy and Airdrie, where he lived and was well known.
“Word has been received from his officer that Private James Scott, Royal Scots, has been killed in action. Scott, who was a member of the Sportsman's (McCrae's) Battalion, enlisted while with Raith Rovers. He was one of Raith's most finished players, and certainly no-one's services were missed more than his. He was an all-round forward, and had become known as 'Raith's opportunist'. As a matter of fact, he was the most consistent goal-scorer Raith have ever had. He leaves a young widow. He was the first to mount a German trench in the advance, and was killed by machine gun fire."
James, like many others, was buried in ‘Gordon Dump’ in France, though the exact location of his grave is unknown. He is memorialised in St Monans and in France on the Thiepval Memorial. James’ name can also be found in the books of Remembrance in Edinburgh Castle and ‘McCrae’s Battalion’ by Jack Alexander. In 2014 Raith Rovers brought out a green ‘Remember’ Strip in honour of James, and the other 2 men who died in the war. His memory is now maintained by his old football club, the work of the McCrae’s Battalion Trust, his great-grandson, and great-great-grandchildren.
Catherine Scott, James’ wife raised their son with the help of her parents and only remarried in 1934, aged 39. Their son, also called James fought in the Second World War, before returning home to his wife, Annie and their son.
‘At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM’
McRae's Battalion, October 1915. James Scott is sitting in the middle row on the far right. (credit: Fife Today)
Further Online Resources on James Scott
Scotland’s War: Airdrie’s Somme Casualties: James Scott https://www.edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk/Lanarkshire/Casualties-Airdries-Somme-casualties/James-Scott
Scotland’s War: Raith Rovers http://www.scotlandswar.co.uk/raith_rovers.html
The McCrae’s Battalion Trust Website http://www.mccraesbattaliontrust.org.uk/education/
James Scott’s Wikipedia Page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Scott_(footballer,_born_1895)
Raith Rovers: We Will Remember Them https://www.raithrovers.net/25459/we-will-remember-them.htm
 http://www.scotlandswar.co.uk/raith_rovers.html  https://www.raithrovers.net/25459/we-will-remember-them.htm