Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 14, 1892
Place of BirthHamilton, Lanarkshire
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinBella MacDonald, mother, 11 Beckford Street, Hamilton, Scotland
Trade / CallingLabourer
Service Details
Regimental Number19756
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion10th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentValcartier, Quebec
Date of EnlistmentAugust 26, 1914
Age at Enlistment22
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathJanuary 26, 1974
Age at Death81
Buried AtBrookside Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

MacDonald, Robert Murray

Robert (Bob) Murray MacDonald was born on 14 April 1892 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire in Scotland. His father Neil MacDonald was from Arisaig in Inverness-shire while his mother Isabella Murray was from Skirling in Peeblesshire, the couple marrying in 1883 in Helensburgh. Son Donald McDonald was born in 1883 in Drumelzier and daughter Mary Laidlaw in 1883 in Kilboucho, both in Peeblesshire. By 1887 and the birth of son John Robert, the family had settled in Hamilton. Other children born in Hamilton were Elizabeth Flora (Bessie) (1889), Robert, Charles (1893), Isabella Murray (1897), William Lockhar (1898), Flora (1900), and Margaret Murray (1903). For many years Neil worked as a coachman and then latterly as a grave digger. At the time of the 1911 census Robert was not living with the family and an age appropriate Robert MacDonald was found working as a ploughman on the Udston farm operated by James and Jeanie Leslie in the Burnback area of Hamilton.

Although a record was not found, according to a later census Robert immigrated to Canada in 1912. With the outbreak of the war he answered the call, traveling to Valcartier, Quebec to enlist on 26 September 1914. His occupation was given as labourer and his mother Bella back in Hamilton as next of kin. The “10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force was a unit of the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), specifically in the 1st Canadian Division from 1914 to 1919. The battalion participated in every major Canadian battle of the First World War, and set a record for the most decorations earned by a Canadian unit in a single battle at Hill 70. The unit was known to its contemporaries simply as The Fighting Tenth.” (Wikipedia) As a Private with the battalion Robert embarked from Quebec aboard the Scandinavian on 4 October 1914.

Once in England the battalion trained at Salisbury Plain and by early 1915 were in France. During the early days of the 2nd Battle of Ypres, at Langemarck Robert suffered an explosive bullet wound to his right leg on 24 April 1915. Shattering both bones, recovery was long and difficult. Invalided to England aboard the hospital ship Salta on 30th of April, he underwent surgery a number of times, bone fragments removed, the wound becoming septic. From July to November he was receiving treatment at the Cambridge Hospital at Aldershot, mid November 1915 to mid April 1916 at the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Taplow, and then on to the 4th Scotland General Hospital in Glasgow. By late August it was decided that Robert be invalided to Canada, embarking from England on 25 August 1916 aboard the Metagama. Admitted to the McKenzie Military Hospital in Winnipeg on 19 September, Robert underwent more surgery in an attempt to straighten the leg, infection remaining a problem. After 184 days in the hospital he was transferred to a convalescent house and then on to the Manitoba Military Hospital at Tuxedo for another 231 days. The injured leg now being 2 inches shorter than his left leg, new shoes with a lift were ordered for him. Robert was discharged from service as medically unfit for further war service on 31 December 1918 in Winnipeg.

In December of 1919 Robert travelled to Scotland to visit his parents. He arrived back in Canada at Halifax aboard the Cassandra on 10 April 1920, on his way to Winnipeg where one of his sisters lived. In 1916 Elizabeth Flora had married John Lothian, arriving in Canada in May of 1919. On 14 January 1921, in Winnipeg, Robert married Jessie Bisset. Born on 8 July 1883 in Urray, Ross-shire in Scotland, she was the daughter of John Bisset (a flesher/butcher) and Jessie Fraser. Her parents had married in 1872 in Urray. Jessie immigrated to Canada in 1911, arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 10th of  April aboard the Hesperian, a domestic on her way to Toronto.

At the time of the 1921 census the couple was living in the Saint James area of Winnipeg, Robert’s occupation given as mechanic on the census. Making Winnipeg their home, they gave birth to one known child, Mary Bisset. Over the years Robert worked at the CP Rails Weston Shop. Upon retiring Robert and Jessie moved to Keewatin, Ontario, a small town about 5 kilometres west of Kenora in northwestern Ontario.

Predeceased by Jessie in 1967 in Kenora, Robert died on 26 January 1974 at his daughter Mary (Vernon) Forrest’s house in Sarnia. Along with Jessie, he is interred in Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg.

By Judy Thorburn

Grave marker photograph by Donald Schmidt,


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