This is the story of Adam McLeod Walton, born on 6 June 1898 in Bridge of Weir who died on 22 August 1917 at Ypres, Western Belgium. That is the name which appears on his birth certificate, the 1911 census, his military service record and the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site. On the village cenotaph, he appears as Adam McLeod.
Names, particularly middle names, played an important part in the history of Adam’s family. His forebears had a very proper sense of their history, using the old tradition of naming patterns to identify earlier generations, a practice that proved very helpful in tracing his family tree. Adam’s great grandfather, William Forsyth Law, was born in 1827 in the village of Freuchie, Fife, son of Alexander Law and Isabella Forsyth. His great grandmother, Janet Montgomery, was born in Houston, Renfrewshire, also around 1827. William and Janet married in Glasgow in February 1851 and their first child, Mary Montgomery Law, was born in April of the same year.
The family – William, Janet and ten children – moved around lowland Scotland, finding work on the farms. In 1871, William was a labourer on a farm at Devol, Port Glasgow and his daughter, Mary Montgomery, worked as a farm servant. Mary had her first child, John, in 1871. Although the couple did not marry, Mary made clear to the world who her son’s father was, naming the boy John Munro Law. The baby is recorded simply as John Munro on the census.
Mary left home shortly afterwards for Kilbarchan. Here she earned a living by taking in washing and cleaning. She moved in with Matthew Walton, an Irish labourer of unknown origins, and they had three daughters – Mary Montgomery, Jessie Montgomery and Jane Montgomery. The couple married in 1884 and had two sons – William Law (who died in infancy) and David Law. John Munro, legitimised by his mother’s marriage, became known as John Law Walton. By 1891, Matthew Walton had moved out, and Mary continued to take in washing while raising the five children in a Kilbarchan tenement. Her three daughters went on to become thread mill workers in a local factory, John left home and David worked as a grocer’s messenger boy.