The forgotten Fife hero of Waterloo

Remembering a war hero, Leslie historian Campbell Morris, right, with fellow resident Brian Coyle at the Douglas mausoleum. Pic: FPA
Remembering a war hero, Leslie historian Campbell Morris, right, with fellow resident Brian Coyle at the Douglas mausoleum. Pic: FPA

He was a hero, not only of the Napoleonic Wars but also to the people of Leslie, as the man who gave drinking water to the town.

Now, as the nation gets ready to commemorate the 200th anniversary tomorrow (Thursday) of the Battle of Waterloo, we reflect on a survivor who came to rest in Christ’s Kirk on the Green in Leslie, but not before becoming a darling of community.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Douglas commanded the 79th Cameron Highlanders in the battle at Quatre Bras, as opposing armies positioned themselves in what has since become one of the famous and history-defining conflicts.

He fought in both skirmishes, despite a knee wound, in a bloody but victorious clash which left 4800 allied soldiers dead or wounded.

Returning home a war hero, Colonel Douglas of Strathendry was a member of one of the two most important families in the area, alongside the Rothes family of Leslie House.

He was also the man who formed the Leslie Water Company, which granted the townsfolk free use of the spring on the Strathendry estate. He provided the community with clean running water for the first time on March 31, 1834.

Previously, anyone wanting water had to draw from the ‘Cambo’ and ‘Geordie’s Well’ on the outskirts of the community, a laborious task.

The family lived in the famous Strathendry House, which, years later, was sold to the Tullis family of Tullis Russell paper mill fame.

On his death in March 1840, Douglas was laid to rest in the often forgotten and little known family mausoleum at the church by the Greenside.

However, his importance to the town can not be overstated, according to Leslie historian Campbell Morris.

He said: “He was a member of one of the principal families connected to the town and used his wealth to benefit the community in so many ways. It’s sad he is largely unknown in the town today.”