An Angus man’s quest to trace the story of the namesake soldier he honours each Armistice Day has unearthed the Sergeant’s family.
Since 2014, former Forfar councillor Ron Scrimgeour has placed a memorial cross in honour of Sergeant Ralph Scrimgeour at the Forfar Armistice Day commemorations in the heart of the Angus town.
An honorary member of the Black Watch Association Angus branch, Mr Scrimgeour took up the interest in his namesake after being invited by the Royal British Legion to write a tribute as part of a project commemorating the name of every British or Commonwealth soldier who died in the First World War.
Sergeant Ralph was killed on June 14 1917 at the age of 25 and is buried at the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial in Belgium.
However, until recent days, 72-year-old Mr Scrimgeour knew little about his antipodean military counterpart of a different era, until a plea to a New Zealand newspaper unearthed the Sergeant’s family.
Coincidentally, the soldier’s descendants had worn Sergeant Ralph’s medals in his memory at the Hawke’s Bay ANZAC commemorations last month.
Sue Read (nee Scrimgeour), from the region on North Island’s east coast, is one of two surviving nieces of the Kiwi serviceman and said she was delighted to learn of the Scottish connection.
Her father, Frank, was Ralph’s only brother. Sue’s grandfather, three of his brothers and two of his sisters moved to New Zealand from Methven in Perthshire between 1864 and 1879.
Two siblings remained in Scotland and Sue is interested to try to find out if she and Ron may be distantly related.
Mr Scrimgeour said: “I spoke to Sue by telephone this week and it was a really lovely call.
“Ridiculous as it may seem, someone from Arbroath now living in New Zealand also phoned her up about it and told her they knew me.
“I was honoured to be able to recognise Ralph’s ultimate sacrifice and the fact that he lies in a grave so far from his homeland touched me greatly.
“I’m just so pleased to have made contact with the family and hopefully we can try to find out if there is a distant family connection.”
He also hopes his young grandchildren, Eve and Alex, will continue the tradition of one Scrimgeour’s recognition of another for the ultimate sacrifice.
Ron’s tribute to Sergeant Ralph Scrimgeour read:
No worlds of mine can glorify
The sacrifice you made
You gave your life that I may live
A life beyond your grave
But rest in peace, dear Sergeant Ralph
You lie with the bravest of the brave”.
Sue said her parents had remembered Ralph as “a very special man, who loved life, his family and friends”.
“His letters home to NZ during the war were loving, affectionate, informative and a pleasure to read,” she said.