Secret of 'lost' brother of tragic WWI family
HE WAS the youngest of five brothers, spared from the trenches of the First World War in which three of his siblings were killed and a fourth was injured.
But what became of Frank Cowie remained a mystery to researchers who uncovered his remarkable story during the release of previously secret files from the National Archives of Scotland.
Now, following an appeal for relatives of the Scottish soldier to come forward, the tale of the rest of his life can finally be told.
Mr Cowie was granted an exemption from overseas service in 1916 by Lothian and Peebles Conscription Appeal Board.
The rare move was made on the grounds of "exceptional hardship" after his mother, Elsie, wrote and begged them to spare her youngest son, who was then just 19.
Archivists were intrigued and last year appealed to the public to find his descendants.
Now, they have discovered that Mr Cowie did not waste the chance he was given to survive the Great War.
His daughter, Judy Barrett, travelled to Edinburgh at the weekend to reveal the tale of Scotland's real "Private Ryan".
She said her father had emigrated to Nigeria to work in farming but eventually settled in South Africa with a large family.
Now living in Southampton, she revealed how she had discovered the archivists were looking for her.
"My grandson Joshua, ten, was asked to trace his family history for a school project, so his dad, my son, Graham, searched the internet and came across the story online," she said.
The family believe Mr Cowie had already been serving behind the front line in France when his exemption was granted and he was called home.
After the war, he moved first to Nigeria, then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, where he worked as a trader with the Arab camel trains coming off the desert. He was then head-hunted by a major importing firm in South Africa's East London city.
Another daughter, Wendy Jackson, who still lives in East London, said: "My father was, like many Scots, not inclined to easily reveal emotion, but he obviously felt very deeply about his brothers' end and the fact that Norman, his surviving brother, ended the war in hospital with one lung left, due to gassing.
"What this did to his mother, whom I never met, was always of concern to him. 1915: three sons killed and a fourth wounded."
The first brother to be killed was John, who died in France in February 1915 on the Western Front. James died in July the same year while serving with the navy, and Lindsay died two months later in the Battle of Loos.Mr Cowie's first wife died from cancer after the couple had three children - Diana, Wendy and John. He went on to meet Judy's mother, who already had two daughters from a previous marriage.
Ms Barrett said: "We always used to sit at the table for dinner and talk - that was very important to my father. Knowledge was important to him - we'd regularly have quizzes at the table."
A devout Christian, he had a strong sense of values. Ms Barrett said: "Looking back, I can see that he was aware of how fortunate he had been - he really had that attitude that you had to grab life, to grab every minute."
She said her father remained close to his Scottish family, coming home when he could.
On his death in 1975 aged 79, he had become such a well-known businessman that his passing was recorded in his local paper in South Africa. It revealed he had had a hostel named after him after helping to raise funds to help build the refuge.
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