Alexander Joss Wishart was born in Montrose on 3 April 1885. He was the third child of John Burdett Wishart, a marine engineer from Aberdeen, and his wife, Isabella Joss. By 1889 the family had moved to Rosebank Street in Dundee where, in 1900, his father died shortly before Alexander’s fifteenth birthday. Like many young men in Dundee, Alexander found employment in one of the local mills. However, ‘Sandy’ had other ideas about his calling in life, and shortly after his father’s death he visited the recruiting office in Perth and enlisted with the 3rd Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders.) Unfortunately, Alexander’s military ambitions came to an abrupt halt three weeks later when he found himself discharged from service for being under-age. However, two years later his military aspirations became a reality when he re-enlisted at Perth (claiming to be nineteen when he was only seventeen) and signed up for seven years army service and five years in the reserve. 2571 Pte. Alexander Wishart joined the 1st Battalion, Black Watch on 8 April 1902 and subsequently reassigned to the 2nd Battalion, who were stationed in India, later that year.
While overseas he was promoted to the rank of lance corporal and in 1907 transferred to the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. At the time the Lancashires were based in Karachi which was followed by a posting to Mhow two years later. On 23 February 1910, Alexander was discharged to the Army Reserve having served his seven years in the regular army.
After his return to Scotland Alexander found employment as a Nurse Attendant at James Murray’s Royal Asylum in Perth. It’s likely this is where he met his future wife Margaret Malloch Imrie, who also worked at the Asylum, and on the 7 April 1911 the couple were married at the registry office in Tulloch. Nine months later a son, Edward Alfred Wishart was born in Kinnoull.
Within a week of war breaking out at the start of August 1914 Alexander, who was still a Reservist, was mobilised for service at Preston where he joined the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. The Lancashires arrived in France on 22 August and entrained for Le Cateau where they saw their first action four days later at the Battle of Le Cateau. During the fighting over 250 men were reported as being casualties and it is at this point details of Alexander’s war become a bit sketchy. It was recorded that he was wounded before 23 September and taken prisoner; however, the exact date and circumstances are not known.
Alexander’s service records show that information was received on 9 November confirming that he had been injured and being held a prisoner of war at Gefangenenlager Döberitz – a POW camp near Berlin in Germany. He was held captive for over three years and was eventually repatriated back to the United Kingdom on 3 December 1917. It seems likely that he became part of a prisoner swap, and being a sick man, was immediately transferred to King George’s Hospital in Stamford Street, London to recover. A month later Alexander’s war, and indeed his military career, was over when he was deemed no longer physically fit for active service and discharged.
He returned to Perthshire and took up the position of janitor at the Scone Public School (latterly the Douglas Memorial School.) He was the Secretary of Scone Thistle Football Club and sat on both Association and League boards as the club’s representative. In this capacity, he was especially well-regarded and subsequently honoured by the club’s members who made a presentation to him in recognition of his ‘long and faithful services’.
In March 2012, Eighty-eight-year-old Jack Chalmers, a resident of Scone who was a pupil at the school while Alexander was janitor recalled that:
“Sandy was a nice fellow, strict in what he did – but a fair man. He lived in the janitor’s house with his wife, near where Ernie Miller’s shop is now. I remember if you went out for your lunchtime piece he would lock you out if you weren’t back before the gates shut for the afternoon lessons, he was that precise. One of my pals was locked out once, and he came back with some eggs which he threw at the school clock. Sandy never mentioned the war to us, my father was also a prisoner of war, and he did the same.”
In 1940 Alexander contacted pulmonary tuberculosis and was sick for several months before eventually succumbing to the disease later that year at the janitor’s house on the evening of 24 October.
Photograph courtesy of Keith Wishart