Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Luban Memorial, Malaysia

Yesterday evening I returned home by ambulance car through horrendous snowstorms, having been in hospital for an operation. After two days in the Intensive Care Unit I found myself in a ward of six men, three of us engaged in serious pieces of historical research. One, back in this country from Zimbabwe, publishes in an international journal on philately. Incidentally he and I had a mutual friend from a professional world. Another, a retired Sea Captain, had done research on the ships used by the East India Company. Another man in the ward and I found we have a mutual acquaintance who has enabled me to further my research into the McLean line of my family on the Isle of Coll. Inevitably my full name on a board behind my bed-head started a few conversations on the origins and spread of such a rare surname as McIlhagga, not least on St.Andrew's Day!

I spent a lot of my time reading three genealogical journals and also getting a sense of what life in 18th Century Scotland was like by reading a biography of Robert Burns, appropriate to the opening of the new Burns Museum in Alloway. I spent a little of my time wondering whether anything of interest would be waiting for me in the midst of nearly 400 unread emails. And indeed there were two things which I will pursue in future blogs. First, a Forces Genealogy site has published a database of Prisoners of War 1939-1945. I knew of the 'only one', namely William John McIlhagga, about whom I wrote on 19th September last. The first surprise is that his name did not come up. He died in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in Malaysia, and is commemorated at the Luban Memorial illustrated above. I suppose the reason for his omission is that although he was born in the United Kingdom, he had become an Australian Citizen. The second surprise is that another name did come up, of someone who survived to 'tell the tale'. I will reveal his name when I have done a little more research.

The second thing waiting for me was also a new publication on the Internet, from PRONI, The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (which incidentally is to reopen in a new place at the end of March 2011), a list of twelve McIlhagga Wills from 1886 to 1942, with the details of all of them freely accessible, and the images of four of them downloadable. We can assume that the ones where there is 'no image' had been destroyed. I will study all of this information very carefully to see whether there are any new facts to be shared. Watch this space!

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