Robert Wishart was born shortly before dawn on 30 October 1885 in a small terraced cottage on the Leven Road in Kennoway, Fife. He was the illegitimate son of Anna Mitchell Wishart, a domestic servant from Leven who had been working in service on Broughton Street in Edinburgh before her son’s birth. It was probably during this time she met William Robertson, a police constable, also living on Broughton Street, who was subsequently recorded in the Register for Corrected entries in 1886 as Robert’s ‘natural’ father. It seems likely Robert was named after his maternal grandfather, who was a retired mason from Kennoway.
In 1891, when Robert was five he was living with his mother and grandparents at No. 8 Easter Kennoway. Shortly afterwards, Anna married a local miner named John Honeyman in Edinburgh and started a family with her new husband near Kennoway in Bonnybank.
It’s not known whether Robert continued to live with his grandparents or moved in with his new family, however by 1901 he was lodging at 2 Lundin Street in Leven and working as a joiner’s apprentice. Ten years later he was boarding nearby on Hawthorn Street in the home of a local tailor named James Kidd. Robert had served out his apprenticeship and was working as a full-time joiner.
Robert enlisted in Edinburgh shortly after the outbreak of war (probably in September 1914) and joined the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders.) After training, he was sent overseas on 15 January 1915, when he was probably part of the draft of 90 men who arrived with the 1st Battalion while they were billeted in Bethune.
Much of Robert’s story over the following four months echoes that of Piper Andrew Wishart. Both men were part of ‘D’ Coy, and it seems highly likely that they knew each other. Like Andrew, Robert was involved in the Battle of Richebourg on 9th May; however, Robert fell in the attack and was killed in action at some point after his company went ‘over the top’ shortly before 4 pm.
Two days before he died Robert wrote the following letter to his mother:
7 May 1915
I feel I had better write you today. I have never got that “Harrison’s pomade” from you yet. You don’t need to trouble about the handkerchiefs now as I have got some. I am as fit as ever but don’t write till you hear from me again as we expect to be in another big affair soon and who knows this may be the last letter, however we are here to take the chance and I have escaped so far. It is terrible now I think that everything that can be invented for taking life is in use. In the event of anything happening you will share with Mrs. Kidd as I leave her to pay off a suit of clothes which I got. I paid them always as the account was sent in I got all my clothes made at G. Brace’s Leven. I will close with best wishes to you all and hope that God willing I may come through it all.
Your Loving Son,
Robert’s body was never recovered or not identified, and he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in France as well as the Lundin Links War Memorial in Scotland.