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New Lanark exhibition - New Lanark and World War One

A new exhibition at the World Heritage site of New Lanark explores how the Great War affected the women of the textile village.

New Lanark and World War One: Mill Production, Women's Roles and Personal Experiences of War runs from 16 August to 1 October 2014 at School For Children, New Lanark. The exhibition will feature a strong focus on families, both now and then, exploring their connections to the village. It will also examine how the war affected mill production, celebrate the women who worked in the mills while their husbands, sons and brothers fought and look at the lives of the villagers during the years from 1914-1918.

A commemorative poppy wreath will be a focal point of the exhibition with visitors encouraged to add to and leave their messages as tributes to the fallen.


New Lanark World Heritage Site in Lanarkshire was the creation of textile pioneer Robert Owen who, in the eighteenth century, created a cotton mill along with housing and facilities for his workers. More than 2,000 people lived at New Lanark at the height of its production in 1799, when the mill was the largest cotton mill in Scotland. Nowadays, visitors can explore the historic buildings, discover more about the history of the site and experience regular living history events.


There were around 120 men who either enlisted at Lanark or New Lanark or were connected to the village through family members who joined the forces. Of those 120 men, 29 were killed and are commemorated on the New Lanark war memorial. There were three Regiments that the majority of the men served in, they are: The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), The Highland Light Infantry and the Lanark Yeomanry (above right).

There are several personal stories which have come to light which bring the names on the war memorial back to life and give an insight into the families, the soldiers themselves and their lives before the war.

The McPherson brothers, James Walker McPherson, Joseph McPherson and Gavin (Guy) McPherson (left) all fought in the war. Unfortunately Joseph did not survive. He was married to Euphemia Graham and they had two girls Mary and Marion who were very young at the time of Joseph’s death. Joseph was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Scots and was killed on 26 August 1917, aged 25 years. James was also in the Royal Scots and survived. He later became the New Lanark postmaster and lived in the village for most of his life.

Guy was in the 147 Machine Gun Corps and also survived the war. He went on to become Lord Provost of Lanark and Lord Cornet of Lanimers and was very well known in the community.

Another story is that of William Robert Hawthorne, 4th Royal Irish Regiment, killed 2/9/18, aged 19 years. William was originally from Dromore, County Down, Northern Ireland and moved to New Lanark as a young boy with his family who were weavers and part of the Irish migration of the early 1900s to New Lanark.

William went to New Lanark Primary. He had a brother, Jim, and two sisters, Agnes and Annie, who were just children when he was killed. He wrote many letters to his parents during his time as a soldier and these will be displayed at the exhibition.

New Lanark, South Lanarkshire ML11 9DB; tel: 01555 661345; website.

Read more about Scotland and World War One in our dedicated feature section.

(Archive images copyright New Lanark; top image copyright Graham Lewis)

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14/08/2014 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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