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McCluskie James (real name Robert Hay)

Robert Hay served as James McCluskie. He was born in 1870 in Chirnside, Berwick, Scotland.

The 1871 census for Scotland on Ancestry.co.uk shows that the Hay family were living at Edington Mill Masters House, Berwick, Scotland.  Head of the household was Robert Hay age 44 a Master Miller  employing 3 men, and his wife Mary Hay (nee Hunter)  age 39, they had four children, Jesse age 13, William age 5, George age 3 and Robert age 1. 

Robert’s father died in the fourth quarter of 1871 age 45.

Ten years on we find Robert living with his uncle William Hunter and his wife Jessie Hunter in Abbey St. Bathans, he was attending school.

I have not been able to trace Robert after 1881. His mother Mary is shown to own a Boarding House on the 1901 census and was living in Duns, Berwickshire with her daughter Eliza, born 1872 and son William age 35.

Robert’s mother died in 1910.

Attestation Papers for Private 114086 James McCluskie, Library of Canada.

I am unable to find any connection with the name McCluskie but Robert Hay enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionery Force under that name. He also gave his date of birth as 3rd February 1875 and his next of kin as G Hay of Cockburn Path Berwickshire, Scotland, brother in law, when in fact his date of birth was 3/2/1870 and G Hay was his brother. He enlisted on 20th December 1914 at Swift Current and was described on his medical form as being 5ft 8in tall with a fair complexion , grey eyes and brown hair turning grey, 39 years and 9 months old when in fact he was five years older.

After basic training in Canada, James embarked for Britain on 21st November 1915 arriving on 1st December. He was posted to Shorncliffe Army Camp and served throughout the war as a clerical assistant at Shorncliffe, Bordon and London. On 23rd November 1917 he was posted to France to assist with the Dominion Elections and returned to U.K. on 3rd December 1917. On 27th September while posted at Bordon Army Camp he was promoted to Acting Sergeant without pay but was allowed to draw pay and allowances of rank from 1st December 1918.

The Dominion Elections, September 1917.

The franchise for women in federal elections was achieved, on the other hand, by the end of the Great War. The first step in legislating the federal franchise to women was reached in September 1917, when the Military Voters Act and the War-time Elections Act were given Royal Assent. The Military Voters Act, gave women on active military service, such as Nursing Sisters, the right to vote in federal elections. The War-time Elections Act, further extended the federal franchise to all women who were British subjects, over the age of 21 who were the, “wife, widow, mother, sister or daughter of any persons, male or female, living or dead” who was serving, or had served with the military forces. While the legislation gave the vote to more women in Canada than ever before, some believed that the Unionist government of Robert Borden only expanded the franchise so that new potential Unionist voters could be gained. On January 1, 1919, the franchise was further expanded to all non-Native Canadian women being British subjects and 21 years of age.

On 27th March 1919, James was posted to Kinmel Park Army Camp in Rhyl to await repatriation to Canada.

Tragically he suffered a fatal heart attack in his hut on that day and died of heart failure.

Robert Hay a.k.a. James McCluskie was buried in St. Margaret’s Cemetery, Bodelwyddan.

Robert is commemorated on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.


Learn more about the other soldiers on the Bodelwyddan Memorial

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