Family make the connection with WWI past

James Paul and Susan Whisker, grandchildren of WWI Sergeant Major John Mitchell. Pic: FPA
James Paul and Susan Whisker, grandchildren of WWI Sergeant Major John Mitchell. Pic: FPA

The descendents of a First World War hero have come face-to-face with their grandfather for the first time - thanks to the Glenrothes Heritage Centre.

Volunteers called upon the help of the Gazette to publicise an appeal to locate relatives of Sergeant Major John Mitchell, born in Newton of Falkland, and a former Tullis Russell paper mill employee who left his home in Markinch in 1914 to fight on the Western Front.

Heritage centre staff learned about the soldier whilst carrying out research for their WWI centenary commemorations exhibition.

It was unknown whether Mr Mitchell had survived the war but following some impressive detective work from local historian Ian Nimmo White and centre volunteer Elaine Foster, the grandchildren of the Sergeant Major were located living just a few miles away in Kirkcaldy.

“The call came completely out of the blue, I was flabbergasted and shocked to learn about my grandfather,” Susan Whisker said. “We never knew anything about his past because our mother never talked about the war.”

“We are so proud to see a photograph of him for the first time, it’s been a very moving experience, and helped fill in a few gaps in our family history,” added Susan’s brother James Paul.

“He cuts a very commanding figure, he looks the sort you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of.”

However the success of the search nearly didn’t happen at all, as heritage centre chairman Linda Ballingall said: “Had we not spotted Mr Mitchell’s photograph in the Tullis Russell archive his story might never have been known, it’s wonderful to have the family be able to see him for the first time.”

Grandfather’s rich life story is told for first time

John Mitchell was born on March 5, 1867 in Newton of Falkland, he followed his mother Isabella into Tullis Russell papermill gaining employment in the finishing house.

He married fellow millworker Lucy Tomson in October 1899.

Mitchell joined the Gordon Highlanders and saw action in the Boer war of 1899-1902.

Aged 47 yrs, 7 months he enlisted on October 1, 1914 in the Seaforth Highlanders.