Donald Malloch McGregor

In loving memory of John McGregor died 25th July 1906 aged 61; Elsie Gordon Smart, his wife, died 30thJanuary 1922 aged 73.  Their children: Lizzie died 31st January 1878 aged 1 year 6 months; John died 20thNovember 1898 aged 26; Arthur Burns Corporal ¼ Seaforth Highlanders, killed at Cambrai 20th November 1917 aged 32; Donald Malloch, Lieut. Royal Air Force, killed in an aeroplane accident, Cirencester, 16th July 1918 aged 24; Elizabeth Arthur, his mother, widow of William McGregor, died 6th December 1902 aged 84; Jane Hay mother-in-law, widow of Alexander Smart, died 14th February 1875 aged 49.

CWGC: Lieutenant D M McGregor, 45th Training Depot Squadron, R.A.F.; d. 16 July 1918; A 132

Donald Malloch McGregor was born at 49 Lauriston Place on 21 October 1893, the youngest of ten children of John McGregor (1844-1906) and his wife Elsie Gordon Smart (1849-1922).  John McGregor was a butcher.  His eldest surviving son, William (1879-1964), took over the family business of John McGregor & Son in Lothian Street after his father’s death in 1906, while five younger sons followed different careers.  The 1911 census lists two of them, Alexander Smart McGregor (1881-1962) and Arthur Burns McGregor (1885-1917), working as clerks for type founders, while the other three were working in the milling trade.  The inventory submitted after their father’s death, together with other sources, shows that George Arthur McGregor (1882-1972) had borrowed money from his father and was in partnership with David Miller as grain merchants and millers at Bonnington Mills, Edinburgh.  The partnership was dissolved in July 1911 and George became the sole partner trading as McGregor & Co., millers and grain merchants.  The 1911 census shows George listed as a Grain merchant and miller and an employer and he and his wife, Mary Glass, who he had married the previous year, were living in Inverleith Gardens.  Two of his brothers, Kinnell Paterson McGregor (1888-1971) and Donald Malloch McGregor (1893-1918), were living with their mother in Lauriston Place and working as clerks for George.  

At least four of the McGregor brothers served in World War 1 and two of them died.  Neither William or George have been traced serving in the war but Alexander was a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery and Kinnell a private in the Army Service Corps.  They returned home.  Arthur and Donald did not. 

Arthur Burns McGregor was killed in action in November 1917 while serving with the Seaforth Highlanders and is commemorated on panel 10 of the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval.  It appears that his fate was unknown for some time as he was listed as wounded and missing for several months with inquiries being made by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the hope that he might be a prisoner of war.  He had married Janet Dickson Armour in 1912.

Donald Malloch McGregor was occupying a key position at Bonnington Mills.  McGregor & Co. had secured Donald’s exemption from being called up on the grounds that his occupation was on the list of occupations certified by Government departments for exemption. In September 1916 an exemption had been agreed to 1 February 1917 provided another employee joined up, but in March 1917 the firm failed to secure a further exemption for Donald and the case went to appeal.  

The appeal papers available on Scotland’s People describe Donald as “Flour Miller, Rice Miller and Feeding Stuffs Miller – Sole Manager of Working Plant at Bonnington Mills”. He was in charge of the entire forwarding and shipping of the whole produce of the mill.  He had a highly specialized training in many branches of the milling trade and had been employed in this occupation for six years before 15 August 1915.  The firm had around 1600 customers and goods to the value of about £140,000 p.a. passed through his hands.  Unskilled men had been brought in to replace members of staff who had joined the Forces and they needed expert supervision to avoid complicated machinery, which it would not be possible to replace, breaking down.  The mills were running continuously producing human food and livestock feeding stuffs and “under the Government’s new Flour regulations, Rice Flour Milling, in which the firm specialises, is now of the utmost importance in the National interests”.  Donald was working 14-hours a day and an arrangement had been made “with the Military Representative whereby this man [Donald] would be retained in the firm if another manager joined up”.  As a result Donald had taken over the whole management from September 1916 in order to release his brother – presumably Kinnell McGregor – for service and by spring 1917 he was serving in France.  The firm’s appeal fell on deaf ears and was rejected, albeit with a recommendation that Donald should not be called up before 15 May 1917. 

Donald joined the Royal Flying Corps, initially as an Air Mechanic, but he was discharged from the Recruits Depot at South Farnborough on 12 September 1917 “having been appointed to a temporary commission as 2nd Lieutenant (on probation) on the General List, for duty with the Royal Flying Corps”. At that point his military character was Good and he was described as Keen and efficient.  He saw service in France before returning to England and being posted to Rendcomb aerodrome in Gloucestershire.  He was flying as an observer with Lieut. Frederick Armitage Hewens as pilot when they were both killed on 16 July 1918: their Bristol Fighter nosedived into the ground and caught fire.  The cause of the accident seems to have been unclear as the plane was said to be in good working order.