John Hastie

8420 Private J Hastie, the Black Watch, 12th June 1915

CWGC: Pte. J. H. Hastie, 8420, 2nd Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders); d. 12 June 1915.  P 151

The Grange Cemetery has 40 official WW1 and WW2 war graves but only two are marked by upright Commonwealth War Graves Commission stones.  One in the extension area commemorates James Jude, the other, near the tunnel through the centre of the catacombs, honours John Hastie.

John Hamilton Hastie was born in Edinburgh on 24 July 1881, the son of Robert Hastie and his wife Agnes Hamilton (1842-1910).  Robert Hastie was a baker, employing one man and probably also his eldest daughter, Agnes, who was listed as a baker’s shopkeeper in the 1881 census, when the family was living in the aptly named Bread Street.  

By 1891 they had moved to Maxwell Street and Robert appears to have had three of his children working for him: his eldest son Andrew, a baker’s apprentice, his daughter Maggie, a baker shopwoman, and his son Robert, a baker errand boy.  John, then aged 9, was a scholar.

Robert Hastie died in May 1895 aged 52.  His will reveals that the family were living in Earl Grey Street but his business address was 123 Rose Street.  His relatively early death appears to have meant the end of what looks to have been a family business.  Andrew (1872-1950) carried on as a baker but not visibly in business on his own account.  He married in 1902 and lived in Smithfield Street, Gorgie, until his death.  Robert and Agnes’s two daughters who survived to adulthood both married and moved away and their son Robert disappears after the 1891 census leaving Agnes with her two youngest sons John and William (1888-1966) to bring up.  They both joined the army.

John Hastie enlisted in the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) and served in South Africa during the Boer War being awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal with two clasps – “Orange Free State” and “South Africa 1902”.

In 1911 John Hastie was living in Dalginross, on the edge of Comrie in Perthshire, as a lodger with his brother-in-law, Duncan McInnes, a mason’s labourer, his sister Margaret, and their four children.  John was working as a labourer, but, according to his death certificate, which enabled him to be traced in the 1911 census, he was working for the G.P.O. as a postman before the war.

John presumably re-joined the Royal Highlanders on the outbreak of war as he was among the first troops sent to France, disembarking on 26 August 1914.  He was awarded the 14 Star as well as the British War and Victory medals.

John was wounded twice: by a gunshot in the hand in November 1914 and then by a gunshot in the elbow in May 1915. He died in Edmonton Military Hospital, Middlesex, on 12 June 1915, as a result of septic pneumonia which he had been suffering from for three weeks.  

John’s brother William was more fortunate.  He enlisted in the Royal Scots in 1906 and was serving with the 1st Battalion in Allahabad, India, in 1911.  The battalion returned home on the outbreak of war.  William landed in France on 19 December 1914 and was wounded in May 1915.  The battalion then moved on to Greece and the Balkans arriving at Salonika in December 1915 and spending the rest of the war fighting the Bulgarian army – as on the Western Front in France and Flanders much of the time was spent in static trench warfare.  William rose to the rank of sergeant and was mentioned in despatches while serving in France in 1915 and was awarded the Military Medal in 1917 “for bravery at Salonika” and the Serbian Cross of Karageorge Silver Medal.  He returned home to Edinburgh and married, dying in Inveresk in 1966.

Edinburgh Evening News, 23 June 1915 – Scots who have Died for their Country – “Private John Hastie, 2d Black Watch, died of wounds on the 9th of June.  He had been twice wounded.  His brother resides at 13 Smithfield Street [Gorgie].”