If you have an ancestor named on the war memorial in Helensburgh's Hermitage Park, the team behind the Helensburgh War Memorial Families Project would like to hear from you.

As part of the Hermitage Park restoration The Friends of Hermitage Park have received a National Lotttery Heritage Fund grant and are seeking information on the military men and woman who died in the Great War – in particular photos, documents, letters and family stories about the people from the area who gave their lives between 1914 and 1918.

A book and website are being planned, for release in October 2020, to show how these people and their families lived before the conflict changed their lives.

Ann Stewart, one of the members of the project team, said: "We hope to show who they were, their families, occupations, education and hobbies as well as when they joined up, their regiments etc, their war experiences and when and where they died.

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"But we need the help of living descendants – people willing to search their attics and under-stair-cupboards, to seek out the old tin or shoe box, and to find these all important pieces of information.

"If you have medals, perhaps we could photograph them, have documents and photos scanned, and get family memories written down for the future."

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Blackpool wasn't the first place that came to mind for finding relations of the men named on the War Memorial.

But after an appeal on the 'Helensburgh Memories' Facebook page, a resident of that seaside town came forward with information on Sergeant Neil Sharkey.

Neil was born and brought up in the town attending the local Clyde Street School.

Part of a large family of 11 children, life would have been crowded in their home at 16 East King Street. When war broke out, Neil was a fruiterer to trade, but he was also a member of the 1/9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Territorials, which he had joined in January, 1913.

While a huge crowd gathered outside the railway station to cheer the boys off in August 1914, some would be shedding a tear as fathers, brothers, husbands and sons moved off to the sound of marching boots and skirling pipes. The family of Neil Sharkey would probably have been amongst the crowd.

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Promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1915, Neil was involved in the second Battle of Ypres where ,out of 1,000 officers and men of the battalion, only 100 remained fit for service.

Neil received a shrapnel would to his hip, but he was one of the lucky ones.

Promoted to corporal he was then transferred to the 8th Battalion. Whilst home on leave he married Mary Orr in Edinburgh in January 1917, when he was promoted to Sergeant, but his marriage was short-lived, and he was killed in action in May that year.

He received the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He was only 21.

His grave can be found in the Duisan British Cemetery in France.

Locally he is also remembered on his parents' gravestone in Rhu and Shandon Parish Church graveyard. Beneath the names of his parents is carved 'and their beloved son, Sergeant Neil Sharkey, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, died France 1918'.

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Although most of the lads joining up came from trades and occupations locally, one was a retired career soldier.

Well known to the youth of the town as janitor at the Hermitage School, and respected by the older generation as an elder at the West United Free Church, Company Sergeant-Major McLaren had retired from the 9th Battalion of the Black Watch after 27 years.

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On the outbreak of war, however, he rejoined his regiment.

A seasoned soldier, he had been involved in the Highland Brigade’s dawn assault on the Egyptian position at Tel-el-Kebir in 1882.

Two years later he was in the thick of the fight with the Mahdi’s fanatical tribesmen at El Teb and Tamai – and the following year, 1885, saw it taking part in the Nile Expedition and fighting at Kirbekan and Abu Klea.

He came home with a Campaign Medal but not a scratch.

In 1914, he found himself back in the army. Proudly wearing his dark green regimental tartan, he once more volunteered.

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He was spoken to by the King and Lord Kitchener at an inspection of the troops in Aldershot; both agreeing that it was "a long time to serve his country" – a meeting that was well reported in the local paper the following week.

However, the Great War was to be his last fight. He was killed in action in September, 1915 and is buried in the Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe.

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Company Sergeant Major McLaren is one of many names on the War Memorial that we could like to know more about.

If you have any information on any of the names, no matter how little, it all adds up to a story of a life, however short, lived and remembered.

At the moment all the Monument has to offer is a list of names. What the project hopes to do is give a story to each name, so that people in Helensburgh, and perhaps far beyond, can all understand more about the lives of these men, and the sacrifice they made.

If you can help, please contact ann.stewart1@btinternet.com.