Gilbert McKinnon Wishart was born on 23 November 1884 at 43 Shamrock Street in Glasgow. He was the third son of William Wishart, a mason from Fowlis Wester, Perthshire and his wife, Mary McKinnon.
In 1890, when Gilbert was five, his father left Scotland and sailed for the United States where he arrived in Boston on 26 May. On the list of passengers, William gave his final destination as Kansas City and indicated his intent to settle in America. A year later on 17 June 1891, Gilbert’s mother and her five children crossed the Atlantic, leaving Glasgow for Boston (via Derry & Galway) aboard the Prussian. They arrived on 30 June and travelled on to Kansas where they joined William, who had found work as a stonecutter.
During the summer of 1893, the Wisharts left Kansas City for St Louis where they found accommodation at 2260 Scott Avenue. Later that year tragedy struck when William fell ill with pneumonia and died shortly before Christmas on 13 December. As a result, and perhaps without either financial or family support to help her raise the children, Mary decided to return to the UK, subsequently arriving in Liverpool aboard the Pavonia on 9 March 1894. By 1901 she moved back to Glasgow and lived at 3 Sawmillfield Street. She found work as a charwoman and the household income was bolstered by four of her five children who also brought home a wage. Gilbert was employed as a van driver though life must have been tough as he was enumerated in the 1911 census as being an inmate of the Rutland Model Lodging House. Model lodging houses were basic accommodation for single people with little means (in this case, men) and an alternative to common lodging houses, which were often squalid, or the workhouse.
On 5 February 1916, while employed as a contractor’s carter, and perhaps knowing that conscription was about to come into force, Gilbert enlisted in Glasgow with the Seaforth Highlanders. In a medical examination, he was described as being 5ft 5 ½ inches in height, of good physical development with dark brown hair and having a large scar on the outer side of his right upper thigh, which was recorded as being the result of an accident. Gilbert was passed fit for service and sent into the Army Reserve until 5 June 1917 when he was mobilised and posted to the Territorial Force County Association in Cromarty. On arrival, he was assigned to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion Seaforth Highlanders.
On 21 September 1917 Gilbert married a domestic servant named Jessie Penman at the parish church in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. Six days later, on 27 September, he embarked for France and was sent to the 18th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples, where he was sent to join the 1/4th Seaforths three days later. It seems unlikely Gilbert joined his new unit in the field, as a week later he was transferred to the Labour Corps 776 Area Employ Company. The reason given was ‘benefit of service’ which could have been that he possessed skills (in this case maybe connected to his trade as a carter) that were deemed more useful elsewhere than on the front line. He was allotted a new service number (418953) and retained infantry rates of pay.
Gilbert remained with the Labour Corps until 3 January 1918 when he was admitted to 56 Casualty Clearing Station suffering from the 25- year-old wound in his leg that had been aggravated by active service. From the CCS he was transported to No. 10 General Hospital before being transferred back to the UK on board the S.S. Weston.
Between 19 January and 12 February 1918 Gilbert received treatment for his right thigh (along with eczema) at two military hospitals in Nottingham, before being given three weeks leave. After returning to duty, and perhaps not completely healed, he was sent to convalesce at the Dundee War Hospital, where he remained until 21 May.
After being discharged from hospital, Gilbert was attached to ‘R’ Company of the Army Service Corps Forage Department at Edinburgh, where it’s possible he took charge of a company of boys engaged in the production of forage for the horses and mules working in France.
Although Gilbert would not return to France, he continued with his role in the RASC until 17 May 1919 when he was given a month’s leave before being transferred to No. 8 Coy Royal Army Medical Corps at York. He was posted to the 2nd North General Hospital in Leeds and remained there until 12 September, when he returned to York before heading north to Kinross for demobilisation.
Gilbert’s war came to an end on 13 October 1919, and he took up his old job as a contractor’s carter and fathered a son and daughter with Jessie. He died in Oakbank Hospital, Glasgow on 28 February 1949, aged 64. He had been suffering from acute intestinal obstruction and broncho-pneumonia. At the time he had been living at 18 Dover Street, and his wife died seven years later in 1956.