Skerray War Memorial was unveiled by the Duke of Sutherland and was the third memorial to be erected in the Parish of Tongue. The service was led by the Reverend H G Maclellan from the Free Church who sang Psalm 46 to the tune of “Shroudwater”, prayers were then said by Reverend Macdonald from the United Free Church.
The names of the twenty-five fallen were read out as the Duke unveiled the memorial and then gave a short speech. Before he left the Duke of Sutherland shook hands with and spoke to the relatives of those named on the memorial; he also spoke to many of the ex-servicemen who were present. The families then laid floral tributes around the memorial alongside a large wreath given by the comrades of the fallen.
On the 23rd of July 1915, the total population of Skerray was five hundred and sixty men women and children; sixty- one men or 11% of the population had volunteered for the Forces. Men from Island Roan were called up from the herring fishing fleet, a total of twelve were at sea with the Royal Navy. (The total list of men serving from Skerray in July 1915 is reproduced at the end of of this section of the website).
Men from Skerray served in the British Army on the battlefield in France and at sea with the Royal Navy, others served with the Commonwealth Forces. The community was decimated by losses during the Battle of the Somme and the fighting around Arras, the loss of two brothers and a brother in law by one family can only be imagined (See John George Mackay from Clashnastruag, Eric Mackay and Hugh Mackay from Modsary).
The stories from this memorial may be unique because many of those named are not natives of the village, but have a strong family connection that has allowed their names to be remembered here. The story of Mrs Fairlie Mackay and her four nephews, two of who are named on this memorial alongside her husband must be unusual, in respect to other memorials in villages across Scotland. One of those named on the memorial (Daniel Mackay, Tubeg) did not die as a result of the war, but from disease in Canada
There are many stories that were untold by those who returned home after the war, the story of William Gunn from Lamigo is only one. He served on HMS ‘Tara’, an armed ex London and Northwestern steamer of 1800 tons, torpedoed by the German submarine U35 off the Egyptian coast. The surviving crew were towed to the coast of Libya and handed over to a desert tribe called the Senussi, waging war on Britain’s ally Italy.
The Senussi held the crew of the Tara prisoner at an oasis in the desert, until the 17 of March 1916. A daring rescue mission was launched by an armoured car squadron led by the Duke of Hamilton, who found the crew and led them back to the British lines.
On the 19 of September 1917 the Reverend Maclellan wrote to the Northern Times about the amount of men being called up from Skerray, saying to date eighty men were serving, twenty-two had been killed, one had lost a leg and one a hand. He said in his letter that Skerray was so drained by the call up, soon there would no more men left to tend the land
At the end of World War One a total of one hundred and eight men from Skerray had served in the Armed Forces. The Roll Honour for the village is inside Tongue Church and has been reproduced at the end of this section.
At the end of World War Two eight names were added to the war memorial, again some of them are not natives of the district but had strong family links here. The story of the eighteen Lovat Scouts from Skerray who served in the regiment through out the war is also unique, only one (Corporal Jimmy Gunn) failing to return home.
Skerray lost so many of its young men to the wars; it can only be imagined what sort of place it would be today if they had all survived and returned home. Many houses in the community now lie empty as a silent memory to the losses of the war years, I hope their memories can be recalled in these pages.
William Mackay (left) and Alick Mackay brothers from Tubeg
William served in the Army Service Corps and Alick in the Seaforth Highlanders
Hector Mackay Clashaidy
Unknown Skerray Sailor