French chalk quarry discovery leads to Pottsville

Zach Hogg BUN250414CAS27

WHEN Glennys Gow learnt Lismore WWI soldier Alistair Ross's name was among 2000 recently found at a French chalk quarry, she wondered if he had any living relatives.

It turns out he has two, and one of them is still living on the Northern Rivers.

Pottsville resident Nicholson Hollingworth's grandmother was the sister of Alistair Ross's father.

It's a connection Mr Hollingworth was unaware of, despite having spent the last 30 years plotting his own family tree which now boasts 32,000 names.

Ms Gow said, after hearing how 2000 diggers' names, including Alistair's, were found graffitied on a quarry wall, she used and Trove to do some research on him.

"I found an incredible article saying that Alistair had been wounded and went home to Scotland and spent time with his family," she said.

"In that article it said he was one of four brothers who served in WW1, two enlisted from Scotland and two from Australia.

"It was from that article I got his father's initials and I was able to link that to the people in Lismore."

Researching the past and digging up family trees is a favourite pastime for Ms Gow who said she got "the bug" from her father who left a "great legacy" for the family by researching their lineage.

"I've always been interested (in history)," she said.

"My uncle was killed in the Korean war, and I remember when the news came from that.

"So I grew up knowing about war.

"To research them and be able to access their service records … you just find out so much that they never talked about and it just brings it all home for you."

In 2010, Ms Gow and her late husband travelled to Europe to visit the battlefields and graves of their First World War relatives - between them there were 12.

"Some are only names on a wall of course, because their bodies were never found, but it's very moving," she said.

Ms Gow said one particular highlight was visiting the burial pits at Fromelles where the Germans had buried soldiers whose families never knew what happened to them.

Both Ms Gow and her husband had a family member who was identified from the burial pits and given a new grave in a dedicated cemetery.

"For some, it's the first time that a family member has been to their grave," Ms Gow said.

"To go to where they're buried, is just very moving."

Topics:  anzac day pottsville wwi

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