IN a series of articles Esther Clark, the great granddaughter of Ayrshire’s Miners' MP, Sanny Sloan, will be sharing her research with us into his life and times.

Here is the third instalment —

After they were sacked, Sanny’s sons managed to get union work as check-weighmen.

The coal companies were legally obliged to allow these in the mines. The union paid for them to check that coal companies did not cheat the miners on the weight of coal produced as had been common.

The younger ones had started in the pits and four of them went to Canada where they could earn plenty and even come back on holiday. Two went, then one came home and took another brother out until there were four all in Alberta.

All of them fought in the First World War and only one of the four, Charles Wilson Sloan, survived. Another brother, never in Canada, also was killed.

The youngest to die was Robert at 19 at the Second Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915. He was a Reserve in the Scots Guards at home for a year and was a “motorman” when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Calgary Highlanders.

The Canadian War Records say he was 5ft 11, with fair hair and blue eyes. He died when the Germans first used chlorine gas. Apparently the French soldiers were holding the line when gas clouds appeared and they retreated as did the Germans, as both knew what was happening.

The Canadians moved up to replace the French and were gassed. Robert has no known grave and is commemorated at the Menin Gate.

Pictured here, in his uniform, is Robert Thomson Sloan, the baby of the family. He was in the 10th Battalion of the Alberta Regiment/Canadian Infantry/the Calgary Highlanders. The large feather indicates this.

The photo was the only one in Sanny’s family possession and was found in Sanny’s son John’s house when he died. Only subsequent identification of the regiment and family research clarified the position.

The next to die was William who died at 23. He had gone to Canada with an older brother Thomas in 1910, worked for two years, come home on holiday and had taken Robert back to Burmis Alberta where he was a miner.

He was a sapper in a 2nd Tunneling Co, Canadian Engineers and again was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He died on June 28, 1916 but at the time was declared missing. He has a grave at West Vlaanderen Belgium.

Thomas was the next to die. He was married to a Scots- Canadian young woman Mary Ann Murphy and they came home to visit his family with their small son for him to say cheerio to his folks.

While here he was barred in Ayrshire, so worked at Woodmuir Colliery near Bathgate. His wife and son returned to Canada and he joined the Scots Guards.

He fought in France and Flanders. He died without trace on September 15, 1916 and is commemorated at Thiepval Memorial, the Somme.

The telegram telling his mother of his death arrived on the same day as that to say that William’s death was confirmed. Her hair turned white.

Sanny wrote to the War Office asking that Donald, who was at the Front, be brought to a slightly safer place because of the state of their mother but was told that it was an honour to die for your country.

Thomas’s wife Mary Ann remarried about six years later and it was a happy marriage with more children. However when she died as an old lady her love letters from Thomas were in her handbag. This is such a poignant story and so illustrates the heartbreak of the times.

Donald died three months after Sanny had asked for him to be moved, on January 1, 1917 aged 33 years. He had fought eighteen months at the Front in the Black Watch and was buried at Arras.

Donald had been a miner but also a professional footballer, playing for Ayr, Greenock Morton, Belfast Distillery, a non sectarian team, Everton and Liverpool.

There is a film clip of him playing for Ireland v. England in Manchester in 1906.

At Belfast he was known as the Young Giant as he was 6ft 1 and 13st . He married a Belfast woman Edith Emily Page and they had two children there and two in Glasgow. He never saw his fourth child who was born after he went to fight.

Donald died when the baby Robert was a year and three days. At the time they were coping in Glasgow and Everton F.C. were helping Edith to set up a shop. However the baby died of whooping cough in the April and Edith went to Belfast where her family largely remain. She never remarried.

So, five brothers fought and four died. Charles had come back from Canada and joined the H.L.I. After the War in 1923 he married a young Rankinston war widow, Jane Young who had four daughters.

Her husband Thomas Clifford also appears like the four Sloans on both Rankinston and Coylton War Memorials.

Charles and Jane had a son together called Thomas and then in 1926 Charles returned to Canada and three years later the family joined him. He spent the rest of his life in Oshawa Ontario working for General Motors.