James Christie Speirs (1873-1946) and Mary McDonald (1873-1961)

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a photo of our ancestors but don’t really know who it is. Often, looking through a family’s life and working out birthdates, can give us a clue as to who people are. The photo attached to this story is of James and Mary Speirs with three of their children. James was a military man and served in varying conflicts. He originally signed up for the Scots Guard in 1890, however after six months he was discharged as it was found he lied about his age, being only 16. This did not deter James as he reenlisted numerous times throughout his life. In 1897 he was again in the Scots Guard where he was deployed to Dublin and by 1899 James was fighting in the Boer War, South Africa. Ten years later he was working in general services with the Army Reserve as a member of the Military Foot Police, but with the outbreak of WW1, he was sent to fight in France. James and Mary’s two eldest sons, John and James (jnr.) also fought in WW1, with James (jnr.) being killed in France.

There was a fifteen-year gap between the births of their sons and their other children. The couple adopted a son in 1905 and went on to have three daughters, one of whom died in infancy. Going back to the photo, I always presumed the boy was the eldest son John, but I realised I was wrong, as the time frame did not fit. His sisters were not alive when he was a young boy therefore the lad in the photo was their adopted son Francis. Looking closely at the photo I could see how the girls eyes were very much like their parents, whereby Francis’ were much darker, thus reinforcing his identity. This is one photo where we have been fortunate to pinpoint everyone in it and I just love it when that happens!   

James, Francis Henry Stewart Speirs, Alice, Elizabeth and Mary McDonald Speirs about 1914. Glasgow, Scotland.

James, Francis Henry Stewart Speirs, Alice, Elizabeth and Mary McDonald Speirs about 1914. Glasgow, Scotland.