I was signing books at the Wigtown Book Festival when a distant relative appeared from nowhere and handed me an old black and white picture of my father and mother’s wedding day that I’d never seen before.
Unfortunately, they left before I could thank them properly.
Or speak to them, because I really wanted to ask about my father’s father Robert Macwhirter and his attitude to the First World War. Both my late father and his father were conscientious objectors in the Second World War and the Great War respectively. They paid a price for their pacifism.
My dad had his promotion in the civil service blocked for 14 years, even though he would never have been called up because of his age and status. My grandfather, according to family legend, was sacked as an elder of the Kirk for opposing the call up in 1914. Imagine being thrown out of today’s Church of Scotland for being anti-war.
I am from a generation of my family which has never had to face the moral dilemma of whether or not to fight for my country. And now that the 100th anniversary of the Great War upon us, I’ve been anxious to learn anything I can about my grandfather’s act of principle. It can’t have been easy to be a pacifist in Scotland in 1914.