Robertson Clan: My Grandfather’s War

#52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: A letter to an ancestor

James Cunningham Robertson

B: 1884 M: 1908 D: 1950

Inspired by the day one prompt from Lyn Palermo’s 28-Day Writing Challenge from her Family History Writing Studio.

A letter to your ancestor can help to create an intimate bond with those across time who have shaped our lives.

Dear Granddad James,

I hope this letter finds you at peace, wherever you may be. I never had the chance to get to know you, as you passed away when I was just five years old, but I have always felt a deep connection to you. Growing up, I heard stories about your bravery and sacrifices during the Great War, and I have always felt a sense of pride in your service to Scotland. Grannie Janet told me what it was like before the great war and how the two of you met and married in Falkirk in 1908. She said she fell in love with you because you always made her laugh. I wish I could have seen you both back then.

I can only imagine the horrors you must have witnessed in the trenches, as well as the weight of what you endured for the rest of your life. I am so grateful for your sacrifices, and I know that you and the men you served with, will always be remembered as heroes. In the Camelon Cemetery, there is now a memorial stone for the Falkirk men who died in the war. You might be pleased to know that the people of Carronshore agreed in 2018 that a fitting memorial was needed for all those from the area who had lost their lives fighting for their country. When we went back to Falkirk in 1976, my parents, Annie and Cully, were very proud to show us where your name was written on the tombstone in Camelon Cemetery. I know all of your children were proud of you, including my mother, Annie. She said you never talked much about your time in the trenches, and from my own research into the battles of the Somme, Ypres and Gallipoli, I can understand why.

I wanted to reach out to you now, in the gloaming years of my own journey in life, and let you know that we, my wife and I, are remembering you as we research the Robertson clan in 2023. Reminiscences of history have reverberated in our minds recently as we watched a television program called My Grandfather’s War. Television is a small screen displaying broadcasts in our own homes; I think you would have loved to see it. We also have the Internet, a global computer network, and the ability to find out more about the experiences of soldiers like yourself who served in the Argyll and Southern Highlanders. Oh, yes, computers. I wish I could show you the impact those intelligent machines have had on our world.

My own children are all grown up now and have children of their own. Fortunately, none of them have firsthand knowledge of war in our country. We all live in Australia now after emigrating from Scotland in the 1950s. I often think about the choices you made and the life you lived, and I am in awe of your strength and determination. I hope that in some way I can honor your memory by being a good person and making a positive impact on the world, just as you did.

We are writing your story and preserving the history of the Robertson clan for our descendants, and I want to let you know that you will have a chapter all to yourself; capturing the ordinary and extraordinary experiences in your life. We wish we could speak to you now and ask those questions that would highlight your journey.

If there is a way for us to connect across time and space, I hope that you can feel the love and gratitude that I have for you. I only had the brief chance to meet you in person, when I was a lad, but I will always be proud to call you my grandfather.

With love and respect,



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