Down Memory Lane, February 19 2021

Les McArthur and his wife Christine, right, and the photograph of Dugald, courtesy of Guru Finder, that Les instantly recognised as his father, left.
Les McArthur and his wife Christine, right, and the photograph of Dugald, courtesy of Guru Finder, that Les instantly recognised as his father, left.

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Son’s joy at receiving unseen photograph of sailor dad

The son of a World War Two sailor featured in the Courier two weeks ago has described his joy at seeing a photograph of his father in uniform for the first time.

Les McArthur, originally from Campbeltown but now living in Carluke, South Lanarkshire, got in touch after realising the article in the February 5 edition – an appeal to trace the seaman’s family – was about his dad.

Although some of the details were not quite accurate, Les, aged 75, instantly recognised the figure in the black and white photograph as his father, Dugald McArthur, known as Dugie.

The article referred to him as ‘Douglas MacArthur’ of 7 Princes Street, with another address – No 1 Roading Place – included. The family actually lived at 11 Princess Street, after moving from 1 Roading.

‘What a surprise I got seeing him in his uniform, as we don’t have any photographs like that,’ Les told the Courier. ‘We will forever cherish the photo.’

Royal Navy sailor Dugie was one of more than 150 British and Commonwealth servicemen who were welcomed to the New York home of US Navy family Fraser and Eleanor Casey, and their children, during the war.

Dugald McArthur. Photograph: Finder Guru.
Dugald McArthur. Photograph: Finder Guru.

Some of the servicemen were in New York to carry out training while others enjoyed shore leave while waiting for convoys to assemble before the next trip across the Atlantic. The family’s house became a home-from-home for the men, a place where they could escape the horrors of the war.

In a scrapbook that has become known as the Book of Memories, Eleanor recorded the names and addresses of all the sailors, as well as the boats on which they served, anecdotes about their characters and photographs of them that she took herself. She also wrote to their families to let them know the men were safe, and sent packages to the families of those with young children.

The notes about Les’s dad read: ‘Five children at home, much older than he appears, likes children, very friendly. Headed for Jamaica. Was a fisherman, now a shoe salesman.’

Les was the family’s sixth child, born after his father returned from the war. His older brother, also named Dugald, who still lives in Campbeltown, can remember packages arriving at the family home in Campbeltown from the USA.

Les said his father did not often speak about his experiences of war, which makes the small insight in Eleanor’s notes ‘very special’ to the family.

‘I’m delighted to know where Dad was and I will now be able to contact the Royal Navy who, I’m told, will give me a total list of where Dad was,’ he added. ‘I already have his demob certificate which tells me some of the ships he was on but they will give me more information and details.’

The ongoing project to reunite the servicemen’s information and photographs with their families is being led by history and genealogy buffs Gloria Winfield and Nicola Girling.

Gloria told the Courier: ‘It has been wonderful to make contact with one of these men’s family, and to see the circle completed, from something that Eleanor started and we took on, to now finding Dugald’s family. To bring the family that bit of happiness in these horrible times is amazing.’

For more on the project to reunite the men’s photographs and information with their relatives, visit https://www.finderguru.co.uk/the-casey-project-ww2-photos/