THE LATE LIEUTENANT JOHN MUNRO
Of the Seaforth Highlanders
It iswith profound regret and deep sympathy for the bereaved parents and friends that we record the death of Lieut. John Munro, Seaforths, son of Mr John Junro, 27 Aignish, Lt Munro was recently home from France on furlough, convalescent after suffering from an attack of bronchitis. He had returned to Frnace shortly before the German offensive started and was attached to the famous 9th Division which covered itself with glory in the retreat. Durin gthe first fortnight and before the Germans were brought to a standstill, his parents and friends were very anxious as to his safety; but they received the welcome news that he had come through the ordeal without a scratch.
Mr Morrison,k of the Knock School, under whom Mr Munro served his apprenticeship as pupil teacher, and between whom there was a strong mutual attachment, had a letter on Monday, the 22nd April, written on the 14th, giving information regarding King's Sergeant, Hector Macdonald, Seaforths, also from Aignish, who was attached to the 31st Division: "There are anxious times", he wrote, "and only strength from God can stand the strain of them. May He be with you all at home and with us here, and let His mercy go forth to us".
On Wednesday, the 24th, his father received a wire from the Record Office, Perth, informing him that his son, Lt., John Muro, was killed in action on the 16th April. The sad news has cast a gloom over the whole parish, and the deepest sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents who had also lost their only daughter by a burning accident over twelve months ago.
Mr Munro entered the Nicolson Institute in 1908, having previously obtained his Intermediate Certificate in the Knock School. He took his Higher Leavings in the Nicolson Institute and at the end of the last Session was Dux Medallist. When he entered the Aberdeen University, where he graduated in June 1914, his intention was to go in for the teaching profession and to specialise in Mathematics, but before the end of his third year he had definitely made up his mind to go in for the Church, and was to have entered the Divinity Hall of the Free Church in September 1914. When war broke out in August, he volunteered for service with the Colours and joined the 4th Seaforths. He was sent to France about the end of 1914, and served there continuously but for the short period he was in training at Gales Camp for his commission. During these years, he was in many engagements with the enemy, and had mnay miraculous escapes, till the fateful day, 16 April, when his beautiful and promising life, was ended. He gave his life as a living sacrifice to the cause of freedom, justice and truth, and the fragrance of his life here is a noble inspiration and example to those he left behind him. He was a brave soldier of our King and Country, and also a brave soldier of the Cross of Christ. To know "Ian Beag" was to love him, and his promising life was cut short is a sad loss to the Island and to the Church.
An Appreciation From Point
Last Wednesday, the district was plunged into sorrow when telegraphic intimation was received of the death in action of Lieut. John Munro, 27 Aignish. It is not too much to say that the deceased officer was held, by all who knew him, in the highest esteem, indeed to know John Munro was to love him. His bright demeanour, his unfailing kindness and consideration for others, and his high sense of honour, truly earned for him the title - nature's gentleman. Of his scholarly attainments I will leave it to his old teacher to speak; suffice it to say that they were of such a high order that we, in his native parish of Point, felt justly proud of him. On the outbreak of war he was home spending the vacation. He and a few fellow students immediately joined our County Terrritorial regiment, the 4th Seaforths. He crossed to France early in November 1914, taking part in the severe fighting during those memorable weeks. His soldierly qualities were soon recognised by his superior officers, and promotion to non com rank came rapidly, and in July 1916, he came home to undergo training inan Officers' Cadet School. Passing out of this School with distinction he was gazetted and Lieut. in the Seaforths and was soon again back to the firing line. Last February he was home on a few weeks furlough and left again for France. He came through the heavy fighting which commenced on March 21st unscathed, his battalion being in the immortal 51st Division. He wrote his old headmaster from another portion of the line, and on the 16th he made the supreme sacrifice, fighting for right against might. We can ill afford to lose him. I looked upoin Ian Beag - as he was familiarly called - as such a precious asset of the religion which he profesed and which eh so faithfully and consistently ob served that I, who knew him so well, can hardly associate death with him. For him we know it is a happy change and personally I will always consider it one of my greatest privilegs to have had his acquaintance. To his bereaved parents and brothers we extend our heartfelt sympathy and trust that He who holds our destinies in the hollow of His hand may comfort and sustain them in this their hour of anguish.
3 May 1918
It was with the deepest sense of personal loss that his many friends learned of the death in action of Lieut. John Munro, of the Seaforths.
A native of Aignish, Point, John Munro early showed promise of brilliant gifts. In the Nicolson Institute, of which he was Dux in 1912, he distinguished himself for all-round scholarship, being that rare combination, literary and scientific. Nothing, indeed, came amiss to his clear intelligence.
He was just on the eve of entering the Free Church Divinity Hall, after having graduated at Aberdeen University, when war broke out. He heard the call and enlisted in the spirit of the Crusader.
After a very short training at home, he was sent to France with the 4th Seaforths in 1914. He had something to say, from dire personal experience, of nearly every name of sinister import over there: Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Loos, La Bassee, Delville Wood, Beaumont-Hamel, Cambrai, the Somme. And yet though he had seen all and suffered many of the miseries of war, he had come out of it all with his fine body unscathed and his finer spirit unclouded - until the fatal day came when Lewis was once more bereft of one of the noblest of her sons.
Now that he has fallen, it seems to us as if we had always known that, although he turned up to see us now and then, always the same gentle soul, a day should come when he would return no more to the island he loved.
Each time he came, the glory of the morning to which his face was set shone on him more and more until it seemed at times as if there were a light on his face. Remote, on some Mount of Transfiguration of the soul, he seemed at times to those of us who were struggling and fighting after our own sordid fashion away down in the foetid valleys of life. What dreams and visions he must have had, true Celt as he was, to keep him so fresh and pure among all the bloody welter of war.
Like all the truly great of soul, he was simplicity and sobriety itself, with a wide charity which sought out and found the best in every person he met. he attracted the most diverse personalities to himself, the thoughtful and the shallow, the good and the careless. In each, with his clear foreseeing imagination, the imagination of the poet and the visionary he saw something to interest and to love. Like the Master he so closely followed, even to the death, he was no [...] Pharisee keeping himself aloof from the unrighteous, but on the contrary a friend and an inspiration to those who often fall by the wayside of life.
One remembers how the Chaplain of the 4th Seaforths mentioned him as one of three Lewismen who had impressed him most in his sojourn in France. One remembers also how that same Chaplain, who seemed to have a great love for John Munro, expressed the hope that he might he spared to live through the long travail of this war, as he looked forward to a life crowned with usefulness and honour for him. And now his head lies low beside the Somme in stricken France.
But has he and others who have left us with aching, empty hearts died in vain? Are they not with us now even more than when the mortal flesh clogged their immortal spirits? While we others wither and fade with the toil and sorrow of the years, shall they not be always our younger brothers "straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow".
Shall they not live always in a green corner of our memories and be an undying inspiration to us to be like them "staunch to the end against odds uncounted".
"As the star that shall be bright when we are dust
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness
To the end, to the end, they remain".
In a private letter to the Editor, a schoolmate, a college chum and fellow officer of the late Lieut. John Munro, pays a fine tribute to the memory of that gallant soldier and Christian gentleman. Although the letter was not written for publication, we take the liberty of quoting a few sentences.
"The sad news of John Munro's death came to us through the "Gazette". Needless to say it was keenly felt by all who knew him. Many here served with him in France, where they learned to admire his many noble qualities. I have heard many of them remarking on his calm courage. John knew how to live and how to die. I had a letter from home with news of [...] about him, but I had a postcard from himself on 25th April, dated 15th, promising a letter at first opportunity, and I thought he had come out for a rest and would come through with his usual good luck. It is difficult to believe that his kindly smile will never greet us again. The news of his death will sadden his many friends of school and college days, to whom memory of Iain Beag will ever be a cherished treasure. His gentle voice, his soulful smile and beautifully refined laugh bespoke a heart of pure and rare sincerity for that we loved him no less than for his large-hearted understanding and sympathy. However perverse a man was, John noted the good in him. He loved everybody and everybody loved him. Among his friends Iain Beag was hero-worshipper as no man I ever knew. It was not his seeking for he never courted popularity but his beautiful modesty could not hid the perfectly controlled Man. As such his influence among his friends was and still is, greater than they can ever estimate. How much we owe to him we shall never know. He is gone to the Tir nan og of beautiful souls, but his influence part of him lives in us his friends. I find it difficult to write in restrained language and I know many of his friends will have the same difficulty. He was the noble centre of our hardy circle. His people at home have my heartfelt sympathy."
17 May 1918
Was awarded MC for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when he covered the withdrawal of the battallion with his platoon until it was nearly surrounded and extricated it from a very difficult position in a most skilful manner.