Gone but not forgotten

Bronze miniature, Cambuslang 1914, 1922, by Alexander Proudfoot, acquired by South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture in 2014 with an NFA grant of £114.

A couple of months ago I found myself sitting at home browsing the online catalogue of a local auction house. A listing for a statue of a soldier jumped out at me. I have a deep interest in military history so went in for a closer look. The statue was a miniature of the figure that appears on the war memorial in the town of Cambuslang. I realised this would be an interesting object for the museum collection. The statue has further local significance given that the sculptor based the figure on the first man from Cambuslang to be killed in the First World War. John McAlpine was serving in the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch Regiment when he was killed on 11th November 1914. At the time of his death, John was 37 years old, married and father to six children. Private McAlpine has no known grave and is instead commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

Bronze miniature of fig on Cambuslang War Memorial 2

Bronze miniature of John McAlpine by Alexander Proudfoot

At work, we agreed this was definitely worth bidding for, assuming funds were available. The auction was taking place in less than a week, so we had to move fast. I contacted the NFA to see if an application could be turned around in time, and was given very useful help and encouragement. I submitted the application and was duly informed that the NFA was able to offer us match funding.

Cambuslang Cenotaph 4

Cambuslang War Memorial showing the full-size figure of John McAlpine. Image courtesy of the Friends of Low Parks Museum Society

The day of the auction finally came. We had decided to bid by telephone and I remember standing in my garden waiting on the call, terrified that my mobile signal would fail and we’d miss our chance. Thankfully our bid was successful and we received the statue in time to display as our ‘Object of the Month’ for November. Tuesday 11th November, Remembrance Day, marks the 100th anniversary of John McAlpine’s death – with his memorial figure on display in Low Parks Museum in Hamilton, we will ensure that he and all his fallen comrades are remembered.


Barrie Duncan
Assistant Museums Officer
South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Ltd







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