Sergeant John Montgomerie
- 50th Company (Hampshire),17th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry
- 28th March 1901, Age 33
IN MEMORY OF HIS WIFE
WHO DIED 14TH MARCH 1876 AGED 66
MARY MCBAIN MONTGOMERIE
DIED 24TH JUNE 1877 AGED 2 YEARS 3 MONTHS
THE ABOVE JAMES MONTGOMERIE
DIED 23RD DEC 1882 AGED 77 YEARS
HIS SON JOHN MONTGOMERIE FARMER
DIED 14TH NOV 1895 AGED 62 YEARS
SERGEANT JOHN MONTGOMERIE
SON OF THE ABOVE JOHN MONTGOMERIE
KILLED AT BOSHOF SOUTH AFRICA
28TH MARCH 1901 AGED 33 YEARS
WIFE OF THE ABOVE JOHN MONTGOMERIE SNR
DIED 11TH MARCH 1906 AGED 75 YEARS
Sergeant John Montgomerie
- 50th Company (Hampshire) 17th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry
- Baptised 23 July 1867, Muirkirk
- Killed 28 March 1901, Aged 33 , Boshof, South Africa
A. James Montgomerie and Marion Ferguson
This branch of the Montgomerie family first appear in New Cumnock in 1835 with the birth of John Montgomerie eldest child of shepherd James Montgomerie (born at Balmaclellan) and his wife Marion Ferguson (born at Sanquhar). Three years later the family moved to Bent, Ochiltree where six other children were born.
James and Marion returned to New Cumnock in their later years and in 1875 were living at Pathbrae where James was the tollkeeper at the Pathhead Check Bar, the house being leased by James Campbell, Road Surveyor, Ayr (born at Dalhanna). It was here that Marion died a year later and was buried in the Auld Kirkyard. Granddaughter Mary McBain Montgomerie died in infancy the year after that.
- Ayr Sheet XLII.6 (New Cumnock)
- Survey date: 1857 Publication date: 1860
James left New Cumnock to live with his son-in-law William McIndoe, Railway Surfaceman at Sykeside, Old Cumnock. He died at Lugar in 1882, aged 77 years and lies in the family lair with his wife in the Auld Kirkyard
B. John Montgomerie (Senior) and Wilhemina Mair
Eldest son John left the family home at Bent, Ochiltree and found work as a ploughman at Millerston farm in the neighbouring parish of Stair. In 1865, now as a ploughman in Dalmellington, he married dairymaid Wilhelmina Mair, daughter of the late Alexander Mair, tollkeeper at Ochiltree and Jane Anderson. The couple were married at Underwood in the parish of Auchinleck by the Reverend James Murray , minister of the parish Old Cumnock and were soon on the move to the village of Muirkirk where John worked at the lime works. It was at Muirkirk where their son John was born on 23rd July 1867. Three years later, by the time daughter Jane was born the family had returned to Ochiltree, living at Moat (Mote) Toll. John, like his father and his father-in-law worked as the toll-keeper; as well as an agricultural labourer.
John returned to his New Cumnock roots and in the 1881 Cenus we find him, his wife Wilhelmina and their children John (13) and Jane (10) at the Old Mill, where Thomas Goudie was the miller and farmer. John now worked as a road surface man as the network of roads in Ayrshire began to expand.
Ten years later John is the farmer at Meadow in Old Cumnock, just off the Cumnock road before returning again to his native New Cumnock as farmer at Nether Dalhanna or Little Dalhanna as it was also known, sitting next to the larger farm of Dalhanna in Glen Afton.
In the Valuation Rolls of 1895, John Montgomerie, senior and John Montgomerie, junior , are recorded as farmers at Little Dalhanna. It was here at Wee Dalhanna that John died in November 1895 and he was laid to rest in the family lair in the Auld Kirkyard.
- Ayrshire Sheet XLII.SW, Surveyed: 1908, Published: 1911
His wife Wilhelmina continued to lived at Wee Dalhanna (she was there in the 1901 Census) before moving to Dumfries where she died in 1906 and was buried alongside her husband in the Auld Kirkyard.
C. John Montgomerie (Junior) and Margaret Knox
John left the family home at the Old Mill, New Cumnock to work as a gamekeeper at Hardhill, Lanfine , Galston. In 1888 he married local girl Maggie Knox, daughter of John Knox, farmer at Eastfield and Agnes Jamieson. Together they had four children John Knox Montgomerie (b.1888), Agnes Mair Montgomerie (b. 1890), Mina Mackie Montgomerie (b.1892) and James Baird Thorneycroft (b. 1894).
The family returned to farm at Wee Dalhanna with his father and on his departure he was presented with a valuable breech-loading gun from his numerous friends at Galston.
John was a member of the Cumnock Troop of the Ayrshire Yeomanry, which was one of eight troops and recruited from the parishes of New Cumnock, Old Cumnock, Auchinleck, Ochiltree, Dalmellington and Muirkirk.
‘He was a clever Yeoman, being tall, well-built, and of good appearance. He was also a good horseman and a first class shot. John was a special favourite among the members of the Troop. He was a clever comedian, and would not have disgraced any stage. He was a poet of no mean ability’ [Cumnock Express April, 1901]
The roots of the Ayrshire Yeomanry can be traced back to 1794 when it was formed as a Fencible Calvary of the Earl of Cassillis. In 1798 it was formally adopted into the Army List as the Ayrshire Regiment of Yeomanry Calvary formed as part of Britain’s defences to combat any threat of invasion from France during the Napoleonic wars. These ‘volunteers on shore’ as Robert Burns wrote would prevent invasion and that ‘The Nith shall run to Corsincon‘ before the French would be allowed to rally on British soil.
Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat?
Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir;
There’s wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir:
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
We’ll ne’er permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
Some 100 years later in 1897 the Regiment was designated as the Ayrshire Yeomanry Cavalry (Earl of Carrick’s Own) and very soon they would be part of greater force, not protecting Britain’s shores but in expanding the British Empire in South Africa.
The Ayrshire Yeomanry trained at Ayr Racecourse and their name regularly appeared in the list of winners in British Army shooting competitions at Bisley Camp in Surrey including at the Bisley meeting in late July 1897 –
‘The Loyd-Lindsay and the Royal Cambridge, which are respectively competitions for teams of four Mounted Volunteers and Regular Cavalry, riding a course of about three-quarters, taking several flights hurdles and firing five rounds per man at 500 yards and 600 yards, were won respectively by the Ayrshire Yeomanry and the 7th Dragoon Guards’. [ Reading Mercury – Saturday 31 July 1897]
John and his family left Dalhanna for the south of England and later he joined the police force at Portsmouth. Perhaps he served in the ‘mounted’ police at Portsmouth . Whatever the case John Montgomerie would soon be serving in army in the Boer War.
The Second Boer War ( better known as the Boer War) began on 11th October 1899 after the Boer states of South Africa Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State declared war on Great Britain. The origins of the war lay in a century of conflict between Britain and the Boers, descendants of Dutch farmers that had settled in Cape of Good Hope in the mid-17th century, which itself would become a British possession at the start of the 19th century and renamed as Cape Colony. The British war effort was supported by its colonies in Africa and volunteers from the British Empire including Southern Africa, Australia, Canada, India and New Zealand; however there was strong opposition against the war in Britain and its Empire.
The over-confident British suffered early set-backs after the well armed Boers besieged Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mafeking and during what became known as the ‘Black Week’ (10-17 December 1899) won vital battles at Colenso, Magersfontein and Stormberg.
In response a Royal Warrant was issued on 24 December 1899 to allow volunteer forces to serve in the war in the Imperial Yeomanry.
- Her Majesty’s Government have decided to raise for active service in South Africa a mounted infantry force, to be named ‘The Imperial Yeomanry’.
- The force will be recruited from the Yeomanry, but Volunteers and civilians who possess the requisite qualifications will be specially enlisted in the Yeomanry for this purpose.
- The force will be organized in companies of 115 rank and file, 1 one captain and four subalterns to each company, preferably Yeomanry officers.
- The term of enlistment for officers and men will be for one year, or not less than the period of the war.
- Officers and men will bring their own horses, clothing, saddlery and accoutrements. Arms, ammunition, camp equipment and transport will be provided by the government.
- The men to be dressed in Norfolk jackets, of woollen material of neutral colour, breeches and gaiters, lace boots, and felt hats. Strict uniformity of pattern will not be insisted on.
- Pay to be at Cavalry rates, with a capitation grant for horses, clothing, etc.
- Applications for enrolment should be addressed to Colonels commanding Yeomanry regiments, or to general officers commanding districts, to whom instructions will be issued.
- Qualifications are: Candidates to be from 20 to 35 years of age, and of good character. Volunteers or civilian candidates must satisfy the Colonel of the regiment through which they enlist that they are good riders and marksmen, according to the Yeomanry standard.
John Montgomerie volunteered and having satisfied the warrant’s criteria for selection was enrolled in the 50th Hampshire Yeomanry where he was quickly promoted to rank of sergeant. The 50th Hampshire was of four squadrons that made up the 17th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry.
The story of the 17th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry has been told by a serving soldier Sharrad H. Gilbert in his book “Rhodesia & After. Being the Story of the 17th & 18th Battalions of the I.Y.” The following timeline and accompanying notes are
January – April 06 1900
The 50th Hampshire were quartered in the Artillery Barracks at Christchurch, Dorset for 13 weeks where they “received as thorough training as any squadron that left these shores”.
April 06 – May 11 1900
The squadron was transported to Southampton to board the S.S. Galeka. “Southampton being a Hampshire port, the men received a most enthusiastic send-off from the docks; bands discoursed sweet music, while crowds of friends patiently waited to see the last of their ‘boys in khaki’ as the vessel cast off from the dock-side.”
Joining the 50th Hampshire squadron were the three other squadrons of the 17th Battalion – the 60th North Irish, 61st South Irish and 65th Leicestershire. Also boarding was the 18th Battalion comprising four squadrons of Sharpshooters (‘thoroughly good rifle shots’) namely the 67th, 71st and 75th all raised in London) and the 70th raised in Edinburgh and ‘composed exclusively of Scotchmen‘. Newspapers of the day reported that 63 officers and 1019 men set sail from Southampton.
On April 11 the Galeka anchored off Santa Cruz, Tenerife for an 8 hour stay before continuing on its way. Table Mountain overlooking Capetown was sighted on April 27 “and on May 3 after a twenty-eight days run of nearly eight thousand miles, the Galeka entered the mouth of the Pungwe, and casting anchor off Beira, her long journey was over.”
Beira was a port on the Portuguese held Mozambique on the east coast of southern Africa with a railway connection to Salisbury the capital of Rhodesia. The Galeka was not the only ship anchoring at Beira with other troops arriving from Australia and New Zealand along cargo boats carrying thousands of horses from Europe, North America and Australia. Together they formed part of the Rhodesian Field Force.
It would be Friday 11th May before the squadrons of the Imperial Yeomanry disembarked and set foot on African soil.
May 12 – August 03 1900
Troops were transported in a torturous journey by train from Beira to the Rhodesian Field Force base camp at Marandellas (now Marondera, Zimbabwe) some 300 miles to the west by way of Bamboo Creek (now Nhamatanda, Mozambique) and Umtali (now Mutare, Zimbabwe). The Imperial Yeomanry had already lost two men at Bamboo Creek (now Nhamatanda, Mozambique) to disease at the end of May before they reached Umtali (now Mutare, Zimbabwe) the eastern gateway to Rhodesia. It was here at the Goldfields Hospital that eleven other soldiers of the Imperial Yeomanry including three of Sergeant John Montgomerie’s comrades in the 50th Hampshires succumbed to the brutal conditions on the African continent – dysentery, malaria, fever and sunstroke the causes of death. On to the Marandellas here two more troopers were struck down, one with blood-poisoning the other with meningitis.
“At Marandellas the Hampshires received their horses and after a stay of nearly four weeks at the Base Camp, on August 3 they entered upon the long march to Buluwayo, which they reached a month later, on September 3”
Aug 03 – November 25 1900
The long march to Buluwayo was some 300 miles to the south-west.
“Three weeks at the Matabele capital soon came to an end and the Squadron received the ‘route’ for Tuli, 160 miles away near the Transvaal northern boundary; water was scarce during the latter part of the march, and on many occasions could only be procured by digging in the sand of the river-beds.”
The 50th Hampshire returned to Buluwayo and after 14 days on the march were soon heading south again, this by train og 1000 miles
“Next day – November 25 – they entrained for the south and passing through Mafeking and Kimberley (where a four days’ halt was made) reached Orange River Station upon December 2 – and their fighting days commenced”
Dec 02 1900 – March 30 1901
The 50th Hampshires
- Dec 15 1900 Corporal T. Grace severely wounded at Viljoen’s Kloof
- Jan 29 1901 Trooper D. J. Ponsford slightly wounded near Jacobsdal
- Feb 23 1901 Trooper G.G. Allen severely wounded at Nantesfontein
“Upon March 26, the Squadron marched upon their last – and what was destined to be their most fatal – journey to Boshof”
Boshof in the Orange Free State had been held by a British garrison since the early encounters of the war. It relied on supplies coming from Kimberley some 30 miles to the south-west the provision of which could prove hazardous ‘for the whole district was infested with lurking bodies of the enemy’.
The 50th Hampshires at this time were attached to the Kimberley Flying Column which also included the Denison’s Scouts, New Zealand Roughriders and Diamond Field Horses. One of the objectives of the column was ‘to clear the neighbourhood of the enemy, who had late rendered themselves most troublesome to supply columns and bodies of troops passing through that part of the country’.
Sergeant John Montgomerie falls
The column set out under the cover of darkness hoping to surprise the enemy. As dawn broke (Mar 28) it became apparent the Hampshires had become detached from the main body and the road by the order of four miles or so.
“All around as far as the eye could see stretched the level veldt, the only elevation being a long low-lying ridge on the left flank of the Squadron. And at the far end of the ridge several horsemen driving a number of horses could be seen.
“C” troop – eleven men in all , including the officer Lieut. Lamb were at once sent in pursuit, and rode swiftly over the veldt after the Boer raiders. Passing along the foot of the ridge, they were fast overhauling the chase, when a far-stretching wire fence barred the way. The cutting of this delayed them a few seconds and again they were forward at a rapid pace. But before they were many yards past the wire, suddenly, from a silent ridge not seventy yards away, broke, a heavy fusilade of rifle fire. The whole of the crest was with the ambushed enemy, and wheeling on the instant, the little troop rode at top speed away from the hill . At the first fire Sergt. Montgomerie had fallen mortally wounded, and a number of horses were hit.
But they found that those few horsemen had decoyed them into a trap, for after galloping less than a hundred yards another wire fence confronted them. They were in a large wired-in enclosure and practically at the mercy of the pitiless marksmen on the hill, not two hundred yards away. For some 15 minutes did the unequal fight continue, and one by one the devoted little band were being silenced. Trooper W. Frye, and then two others were dangerously wounded. But sudden to their amazement, the firing ceased and the Boers ran helter-skelter down the far side of the ridge – attracted by the firing the column was coming to their aid.
The column encamped at Kameelfontein farm but the enemy had not yet been broken. Yet again at 1 a.m. (Mar 29) the tired troops were aroused by several volleys fired into the camp by a body of the enemy who had crept up within close range. A number of horses were hit by the chance bullets, and another of the Hampshires – Trooper A.R. Allen – was dangerously wounded.
Sergeant Montgomerie and Trooper Fryer succumbed to their wounds, and on March 30 the Squadron fired the last sad volleys over the graves of their comrades. And upon the same day, though they knew it not, died (of enteric fever) one of their officers, Lieut. Douglas Marriott, at Deelfontein two hundred miles away.
The encounter at Boshof or more specifically at Rondal near Boshof took a great toll on the Hampshires with the loss of Sergeant John Montgomerie and Trooper W. Fryer and three other troopers dangerously wounded.
The 50th Hampshire Yeomanry returned to Britain in July 1901 and was awarded the battle honour “South Africa 1900-1901”.
The Boer War ends
The Boers surrendered in May 1902 and the Transvaal and Orange Free State were absorbed into the British Empire with the promise of self-government delivered eight years later through the creation of the Union of South Africa.
While Sergeant John Montgomerie lies in foreign fields his name was inscribed on the family headstone in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock. The Cumnock News reported his death on April 19, 1901 as follows –
DEATH OF A NEW CUMNOCK MAN IN SOUTH AFRICA
“4750 Sergt. J. Montgomerie 50th Imperial Yeomanry (Hampshire Compamy) dangerously wounded (since dead) on 28th MArch at Rondal near Boshof” appeared in the casualty list a few days ago. Mr Montgomerie was a son of the late John Montgomerie, Wee Dalhanna, New Cumnock. He was well know in Galston district, where he was a gamekeeper on the Lanfine estate for a number of years, and when he left it to go back to New Cumnock he was presented with a valuable breech-loading gun from his numerous friends in the district. When in Ayrshire he was for a few years member of the Cumnock Troop of the Ayrshire Yeomanry. He was a clever Yeoman, being tall, well built, and of good appearance. He was also a good horseman and a first class shot. John was a favourite among the members of the Troop. He was a clever comedian, and would not have disgraced any stage. He was a poet of no mean ability. He left Dalhanna for a place in the South of England, and later on joined the police force at Portsmouth. At the outbreak of the war in South Africa, when Volunteers were called for, he volunteered for the Yeomanry, and was accepted. He was promoted sergeant before he left, which said a great deal for his ability . He left this country about the middle of April last year. His many friends will be sorry to hear of his untimely death. He was only slightly over 30 years of age. The sympathy of a large circle of friends will go out to his wife and family, and also his aged mother in their sore and trying bereavements.
In “New Cumnock Far and Away”, George Sanderson picks up on the observation that Montgomerie ‘was a poet of no mean ability‘and remarks ‘previously a bit of poet, the farmer at Ashmark, David Wilson had a book of John’s verse published to his memory‘. He quotes from one John’s works which tells of a walk from Wee Dalhanna by way of Ashmark and Monquhill over the Carcow Rig to Hillend on the Deugh Water and then across the burn to Moor on the Deugh. This was the home of another local poet Thomas ‘Tammas’ Murray and it is easy to imagine of the hearty welcome he would receive. (Sanderson notes that Tamma’s ‘sailed on the coal-burning troop ships to Capetown and the Boer War‘).
- Ayrshire Sheet XLII.SW, Surveyed: 1908, Published: 1911
Margaret Montgomerie (nee Knox)
Unfortunately thus far I have been unable to find the Montgomerie in the 1901 UK Census Records. However by the 1911 Census widow Margaret Montgomerie, 48 years old is living at Hastings Square, Darvel along with her eldest daughter Agnes (21), an overlock machinist in the local lace industry and youngest son James (16), grocer’s assistant. Meanwhile eldest son John (22), a travelling salesman, is in lodgings at Manchester. There is no record of youngster daughter Mina and presumably she had passed away before the 1911 Census.
Margaret Knox passed away at Hastings Square, Darvel in 1925, aged 63 years old. There is no inscription on the family headstone in the Auld Kirkyard, New Cumnock and perhaps she was laid to rest in Darvel.
In 1934 Agnes or Nancy married widower William McKean, a railway goods guard and together they lived in Galston Street, Pollok , Glasgow. Agnes, now a widow, passed away in 1951 her death witnessed by her brother Lieutenant Colonel J.B.T. Montgomerie then resident at Vinnybank Farm, near Forfar.
Jonathan MArk Montgomerie the great grandson of Sergeant John Montgomerie and grandson od John Knox Montgomerie (I)
John Knox Montgomerie (I)
Private John Knox Montgomerie, fought the Turks in WW1 and was wounded but survived and lived until 1978, dying at the age of 90.
- John (I) had three sons John Knox (II) David Bell, William Arthur and a daughter Marjorie.
- William Arthur had two sons Jonathan Mark and Andrew Simon
- John Knox (II) had three sons John Knox (III), Robert and Ian
- Neither David or Marjorie had any children
Lieutenant Colonel James Baird Thorneycroft Montgomerie, M.C., M.M.
James or Jimmie as he was known left the family home at Darvel and emigrated to Canada where he made a name for himself playing at centre-half for Montreal Highlanders. During World War I he served with the 42nd Battalion Canada Infantry (Quebec) and won military honours. As Sergeant Montgomerie he was awarded the Military Medal and later as Lieutenant Montgomerie he won the Military Cross. In between times, during leave presumably, in August 1918 he returned to his mother’s house at Hastings Square and married Janet Semple, the daughter of Robert Semple, a muslin warehouseman in the neighbouring village of Newmilns. After the war the couple moved to Canada where Jimmie resumed his football career with Montreal Grenadier Guards, New Bedford Whalers of the American Soccer League and a brief spell with Fall River Marksman.
Jonathan Mark Montgomerie explains
“John Baird Thorneycroft (JBT) starte WW2 as a 2nd Lt., but was gradually promoted and ended up as a Lt. Col. In the first instance he was considered too old for front-line duties and was posted to some kind of administrative role. However, the younger of his two sons (another John!), who was serving with 2 Bn. Black Watch, was killed during the German airborne invasion of Crete in 1941, and after that JBT began petitioning for a combat command, in the hope of exacting some revenge.JBT was eventually posted as Lt. Col. to command one of the three battalions of the Jewish Brigade, newly formed in September 1944 after a long and much-criticised period of government procrastination. The brigade was first sent to the front line in September ’44 as part of the 8th Army conducting the Italian campaign, and then after the war (sometime in July ’45) they were moved to the low countries.I’m not sure when JBT was demobbed but the Jewish Brigade was disbanded in 1946. He gets a brief mention in “The Jewish Brigade: An Army with Two Masters 1944-45” by Morris Beckman (ISBN-10: 1862274231 / ISBN-13: 978-1862274235).”
Footnote: It is presumed that James is named after James Baird Thorneycroft some time Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, living at Mauchline. An ironmaster to trade he was also a gunsmith. The Imperial Yeomanry had recognised during the Boer War that their rifles were too long to use practically on horseback and in response Thorneycroft designed a rifle shorter in length to the Lee-Enfield in use. He patented the design in 1901 and submitted it to the War Office the following year by which time unfortunately a shorter Lee-Enfield was already in trial phase. Perhaps John Montgomerie ‘a first class shot’ during his time as a gamekeeper at Galston had become acquainted with James Baird Thorneycroft?
Robert Guthrie, October 2017
Jonathan Mark Montgomerie
Many thanks to Jonathan the great-grandson of Sergeant John Montgomerie for providing some additional family information (see Responses below)
Sharrad . H. Gilbert
“Rhodesia & After . Being the Story of the 17th & 18th Battalions of Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa”, Simpkin Marshall., Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd. (1901)
- The Naval and Military Press Ltd. ( http://www.naval-military-press.com)
“New Cumnock Far and Away” (1992)
National Library of Scotland
Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
- Old Parish Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Census Records, Valuations Rolls, Wills & Testaments
- Cumnock Express April, 1901
- Reading Mercury – Saturday 31 July 1897]
Horse and Musket Blog