George Greig Wishart was born shortly before dawn on 22 April 1892 at 5 Anderson Street in Arbroath, Forfarshire. He was the son of Alexander Wishart, a plasterer journeyman from Coupar Angus and Betsy Greig. In 1901, when George was eight, he was living with his parents and four siblings at 17 Lindsay Street in Arbroath and attending school. Life for the Wishart children took a turn for the worse when their mother died suddenly of pneumonia in November 1902 and Alexander, perhaps unable to take care of his children, took to the bottle and became something of a monster, neglecting his offspring and ill-treating them. He eventually found himself in court as a result of his actions. An article published in the Evening Telegraph on 5 February 1904 reported that:
Alexander Wishart, plasterer, Lindsay Street, Arbroath, was convicted in Dundee Sheriff Court to-day of cruelty to his children. Several witnesses spoke to the dirty manner in which the accused’s house was kept and to his drunken habits. In answer to the Sheriff Thomas Crawford, Inspector in Arbroath of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children stated that he had no hopes of Wishart reforming. His Lordship decided to give the man a chance, remarking that accused would have a better chance of reforming outside than inside the prison. The case was continued for a month.
Things did not improve, and Alexander was back in court less than a month later. The Dundee Courier of 5 March 1904 reported that:
Alex. Wishart, a plasterer, belonging to Arbroath, but working in Dundee, appeared before Sheriff Campbell Smith in Dundee Sheriff Court Yesterday for the second time with a month on a charge of neglecting his five children. The Inspector, who had been accused, said that his behaviour had not shown any improvement, but the children had received clothing from the schoolmaster. Accused said he paid a woman for looking after his children, but the Fiscal retorted that she was blind and unfit for the necessary duties. The Sheriff ordered accused to find 25s caution, or go twenty-five days to prison.
The Dundee Evening Post also noted that the children had been found to be living in ‘a dirty and verminous condition’ and that their father had said that they were ‘as well off as any other working man’s children’.
In light of the situation, it’s unsurprising that George started to go off the rails, eventually finding himself in court later that year. On 12 December the Evening Post reported that:
At the Arbroath Police Court this morning, Provost Alexander on the bench, George Wishart, schoolboy, residing in Lindsay Street, Arbroath, was charged with having, on the 7th of last month, stolen from the counter in the shop in High Street, Arbroath, occupied by Alex. Watson, tobacconist, a tin containing fifty cigarettes. The boy pleaded guilty.
Chief Constable McNeill stated that the boy went into the shop with the pretence of asking for empty boxes, and just took the box off the counter. The boy’s father, who was in Court, stated that he was employed in Dundee just now, but he had a man and a woman looking after the boy, as his wife was dead.
The Provost said that he thought that it would be better if he took charge of the boy himself, and as this was his second appearance he would make a sentence a fine of 2s 6d, with the option of three days.
The situation worsened, and two months later George was in court again, this time for committing an act of burglary with another local boy. The Arbroath Herald of 23 February 1905 reported:
Henry Bothwell, aged 15 years, and George Wishart, aged 13 years, bot residing in Lindsay Street, Arbroath, were charged in the Sheriff Court, Dundee, on Thursday before Hon. Sheriff-Substitute Smith, with breaking into two shops in Arbroath by means of false keys, and stealing small sums of money, and with stealing a shirt from a green in Reform Street. They pleaded guilty.
Mr Al. Agnew, the prosecutor, stated that from information received from the Arbroath police he believed the accused were connected with several other acts of dishonesty, but he thought the three which he had included in the complaint were sufficient to justify the Sheriff in taking the course which he had to suggest – to send Bothwell to the Reformatory, and Wishart to an Industrial School. The pair had been running wild, and they were leading younger boys into a similar kind of behaviour. The Hon. Sheriff-Substitute acquiesced in the Fiscal’s proposal and granted orders committing Bothwell to Rossie Reformatory until he attains the age of 19 years, and Wishart to Baldovan Industrial School until he is 16.
George left Baldovan in 1908, and the following year, on 17 May 1909, he visited the recruiting office in Arbroath and enlisted in the Army. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and assigned to the 30th Brigade, with whom he was enumerated with at the Military Barracks in Dundalk in the 1911 Irish census. At some point during the next two years, he went into the Army Reserve and returned to Arbroath where he found work as a shipyard labourer. A keen rugby player, George became a member of Ardenlea Arbroath FC and was eventually signed by Hunslet Northern Union in Yorkshire on 22 July 1913. He played several reserve games and two in the first team before the outbreak of war interrupted his career.
As a reservist, George would have been mobilised for active duty as soon as war was declared, and was sent to join the 56th (Howitzer) Battery, 44th Brigade RFA. The brigade was part of the 2nd Division and briefly based in Brighton before moving to Southampton where they embarked for Boulogne on 16 August 1914.
George would see action at the Battle of Mons (and the retreat), then the Marne (5-12 September) followed by the first battle of Aisne where his battery remained until early October. Having been the first Wishart to set foot in wartime France, George unhappily gained the distinction of also becoming the first to lose his life and died of wounds at No.6 General Hospital in Nantes on 7 October.
He was buried in the Nantes (La Bouteillerie) Cemetery in France, however, after the war, George’s name wasn’t commemorated on any local war memorials, nor were any obituaries published in Angus newspapers. He has not been entirely forgotten and is recorded on the Scottish National War Memorial.