14th Canadian Infantry Battalion

Chester Farm Military Cemetery, the resting place of James Duncan Montgomery MacGillivray.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

The Soldier

While taking part in operations with his company, of the 14th Canadian Infantry Battalion, in the trenches south of Zillebeke, Montreal-born Private James Duncan Montgomery MacGillivray, age 41, was killed at 7:25 PM on 25 April 1916.


As I search through James MacGillivray’s service record I learn from his attestation papers that his brother William is recorded as his next of kin living at Marblemount and later Concrete, Skagit County, USA. It is while living in Rockport, another town of Skagit County, that William received a parcel containing a silver War Medal and bronze Victory Medal recognizing James’ service in the Great War.

William would receive two other items memorializing James’ service, a parchment scroll sent to him 16 June 1921, He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name is not forgotten.

A bronze memorial plaque, despatched 4 October 1921, was Stolen In the Mail, returned to the authorities ten days later and re-sent to William on 21 October 1921. Upon the circular border edge HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOVR along with the name of the soldier,  in a separate banner, JAMES DUNCAN MONTGOMERY MACGILLIVRAY.

Killed in action

Headstone of Private James Duncan Montgomery MacGillivray.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)


It is here at Chester Farm Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium that we discover the MacGillivray heritage of 170 years previous. Recorded on James Duncan Montgomery MacGillivray’s marker there is an inscription A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THE YOUNG CHIEF WHO FELL ON CULLODEN FIELD.

Culloden, the final Battle of the Jacobite Rising, 16 April 1746, Alexander MacGillvray was killed leading his clan.


As I walk towards the iron gate entry/exit-way, I search through the visitor’s book where people provide their thoughts about their paths here. Another visitor, of a different family – and not a MacGillvray, wrote of their family – and so too it applies to them all, NOT JUST A NAME.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “NOT JUST A NAME”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Duncan’s parents as James and Barbara MacKerracher MacGillivray. No details of them are currently known.

    The McGillivray surname is spelled throughout James’ Canadian Expeditionary Service records as McGillivray (Mc not Mac). This is also true of James’ signature within the records. MacGillivray appears on Commonwealth War Graves records.

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