Laurie Kimmel’s Story of a Soldier: Pte. Beaton McGillivray
My Great Uncle, William ‘Beaton’ McGillivray was born and raised near Nashville in Vaughan Township. He was eldest of four, brother to my Grandfather Gordon and Great Aunts Margaret and Jenny. Along with his father and brother, he farmed a large acreage that had been settled by his Grandfather and was a member of a tight knit rural community. Although protected in the occupation of agriculture, Beaton chose to enlist on November 16, 1916, the day after his 26th birthday. Serving with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Beaton was killed in action in the early morning of September 28th, 1918 during the Battle of Canal du Nord (Tilloy). He is buried in Mill Switch British Cemetery, France.
I know little of his war experience, only of cards signed with meticulous script and of letters, one in particular requesting boots, and warmly grateful for all packages sent. I have read of the courage of the ranks during this attack in the last 100 days. “When the attack was launched, the Brigade was already tired after holding the line for several days….harassed by the enemy fire, gas and aeroplane bombing. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the spirit of all the ranks ensured success. But for this spirit the success which ultimately attended our efforts would have been impossible.” Major J.A.G. W hite.
Beaton’s siblings Gordon, Margaret, Jenny and my Grandmother Mina, travelled in the early 60s to France, honouring his journey. They toured villages, memorials and his grave site. I recollect their emotion and their gratitude for the experience upon returning. This began a connection for me, as a youngster, with the mysterious, distant, handsome young man, whose picture hung prominently in my Grandparents home, framed with medals aside a Death Penny.
The story goes that my Grandmother Mina (then Elliot) had become good friends with the McGillivray family. She and Beaton were courting, some say engaged, before he went off to war. When news of his death arrived, brother Gordon drove the buggy to Thornhill to break the news to Mina. Five years later they were married.
Memories from Fairlawn Families
Click the photos below to read more stories of relatives of people at Fairlawn who served in The Great War