Boer War plaque is unveiled

Captain Joe Preece (Fife Forfar / Yeomanry / Scottish Horse), with Lady Gilmour, Bill Archibald and Major John Neill MBE
Captain Joe Preece (Fife Forfar / Yeomanry / Scottish Horse), with Lady Gilmour, Bill Archibald and Major John Neill MBE

A new memorial plaque listing the names of local soldiers killed in the Boer War has been unveiled at Cupar’s Adamson Hospital.

The original plaque - Cupar’s first war memorial - went missing when renovation work was carried out at the hospital a few years ago.

Dowager Lady Gilmour performed the unveiling last Friday, with the Gilmour family having provided funding towards the original memorial.

Invited guests included representatives from Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Association, Cupar branch of the Royal British Legion (Scotland), Cupar Community Council, Adamson Hospital League of Friends, Cupar Heritage, Edenvilla and Bank Street medical practices, NHS staff and the Rev Jan Steyn of St John’s Church.

The original plaque was situated near the old entrance to the hospital. When it was discovered by the League of Friends it had gone missing during the extensive modernisation project, the matter was pursued by community council secretary Douglas Provan.

Research by Mr Provan and Ian Copland of Cupar Heritage confirmed the 13 names of those listed on the plaque, which is now located in the reception area of the hospital.

Mr Provan said: “When it was discovered that the plaque had gone missing, we contacted the hospital and had a meeting. NHS Fife recognised that the plaque had been mislaid and organised for a new one to be made. They have been very helpful into what turned into a nice community project.”

Mr Copland, providing the background to the original plaque, said that the Government of the day, alarmed at the initial failings of British troops, sought to reinforce the army from the ranks of volunteer home defence units, one of which was the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.

Re-designated as the 20th Company, 6th Battalion the Imperial Yeomanry, Mr Copland explained a squadron of 127 officers and men sailed south in February 1900.

“Returning casualties were a reminder to people in Fife of the realities of war, these were not professional soldiers, they were boys from the next house, or farm, or village and for many people this was a shocking experience.”

Archibald Bowman, a mine owner from Buckhaven, proposed a memorial to the fallen and donated 100 guineas to start a fund.

His son, James, had gone to war as a trooper and came back a sergeant.

A campaign was under way to build a hospital and Colonel Sir John Gilmour added £500 to the memorial fund.

“The memorial fund was now large enough to pay for more than just a bed and so, when the hospital opened in December 1904, it comprised a female ward, a male ward, and the single bed Imperial Yeomanry Ward, “ added Mr Copland.