Wednesday, 25 April 2012

One of Carnamah's Fallen: Private 848 Alexander MacLean

Alexander MacLean was born in 1889 in Scotland. He was the son of a shepherd and grew up with his parents and siblings at a rural cottage. Along with his younger brother William he left Scotland at the age of 22 in 1911.

They departed from London, England on the steamship Kaipara on 1 December 1911 and arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 12 January 1912.  Alex had worked as a teacher in Scotland and in 1913 he joined the Education Department of Western Australia. After passing an entrance exam and giving test lessons he was appointed Head Teacher on Probation of the Carnamah State School in April 1913.

The Carnamah State School had opened in 1912 and he was the second to take charge of the small one-teacher school. He received an annual salary of £110 in addition to an extra £12 to compensate for there being no living quarters. Along with a few other local men he paid board for meals and the use of the home of Henry & Mary J. McClymans, but is believed to have slept each night in a tent. This arrangement abruptly came to an end later in 1913 when Mrs McClymans was arrested on the accusation of having tried to poison her husband with strychnine!

When a departmental inspector visited Carnamah he reported that Alex was "inexperienced but eager to improve" and that he was "a good teacher." He was granted leave from his duties in Carnamah on 27 August 1914 so that he could go to war with the expeditionary forces. Another teacher was transferred to Carnamah and the position was held for when he returned, which would sadly never happen.

Alex was passed as fit and accepted for service in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 31 August 1914. He officially enlisted on 14 September and commenced training at Blackboy Hill in the Perth hills. His pending departure to the war was spoken of at a concert and dance in Carnamah on 19 September, and those present decided to send him a letter "wishing him God speed."

He embarked from Fremantle on 2 November 1914 and after further training in Egypt was sent to join forces on the Gallipoli Penninsula in Turkey as Private 848 in the 12th Infantry Battalion. Alex was Killed in Action at the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 - a date we now call ANZAC Day. His brother William also served with the AIF at Gallipoli but survived. Their brother Thomas was Killed in Action in Belgium on 24 June 1917 and their brother Kemp was Killed in Action in France on 28 March 1918.

Alex's name is remembered on the war memorial and honour roll in Carnamah. His name is also on memorials in Lairg and Bonar Bridge in Scotland, and on the honour roll at Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland.

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