New book reveals terrors of the Somme

One hundred years on since the Battle of the Somme, the memoirs of one of South Uist’s First World War soldiers, Donald MacDonald, are to be released.

Published in a new book ‘From Small Lochs to Great Lakes’, are the stories of a sailor, soldier, crofter and laterly, single­father of six.

The book was launched earlier this month at the Kildonan Museum, South Uist.


“In a heavy bombardment with death and desolation around you, your heart pounding like a piston, thinking the next shell would be yours, you thought the end of the world had come and when the shelling stopped, the brave little skylark rose high above us with her sweet song of hope and courage, you felt there is a God.”

Born in 1897, Donald was one of 10 children from a humble crofting and fishing family in South Uist. His story spans almost nine decades during the most turbulent times in modern history.

Enlisted at 16 years of age into the Cameron Highlanders, MacDonald fought and was wounded at Givenchy, at the Battle of the Somme and at Arras. His memories recall with candor the horrendous conditions of the trenches and battlefields.

After training as a diamond cutter, Donald’s inter War years saw him traverse the Atlantic to find work in farming in Canada, in the car factories of America and as a sailor on the Great Lakes until the profound impact of the Great Depression forced him home.

During the Second World War Donald served in the Merchant Navy and as a rigger on the Clyde shipyards.

The book charts momentous moments in island life from ‘salvaging’ whisky from the SS Politian and the introduction of road access.

When widowed at 57 years of age with six children all below the age of 10 years old, MacDonaldpersevered to keep the family unified.

MacDonald wrote his memoirs whilst in his 80’s before his death in 1985. The original handwritten manuscript was painstakingly transcribed and typed by a family friend in the late 80’s but only digitised a few years ago which allowed it to be edited by his daughter Peggy to form this unique record of a remarkable life.

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