Jack Aitken gets very brief mentions in the Deeside Advertiser and Liverpool Echo. He does not appear on the Grange Hill Memorial, but is on the Deeside Advertiser’s 1922 list and on West Kirby’s parish memorial. He was born in Scotland, the son of John Aitken (a shepherd born in about 1841 in Monimall, Fifeshire) and Martha Black (also born in about 1841 in Temple, Edinburgh), who had married in Borthwick on 1st July 1864. Jack was the fourth child; he had three brothers – Andrew, James and Archibald and one sister – Mary, who were all born in Humbie.
Jack’s association with West Kirby appears to have come via his wife – Margaret Larkin who was born in Bromborough in about 1877, the daughter of a farming couple – John and Anne Larkin, from Edenderry in County Offaly, Ireland, who had lived in Rock Ferry, Bromborough and Eastham. Jack and Margaret married in the March quarter of 1899 in Wirral and by 1901 were both employed at Hooton Park Club in Hooton Hall as domestic servants. By 1911, Margaret’s mother, Mary was widowed and living at Manor Farm in West Kirby Old Village with three of her children. Jack and Margaret do not appear on the 1911 census. Perhaps they were in Canada by this stage.
Jack joined the Canadian Army in Calgary on 30th December 1914. His attestation papers record his birth date as 16th October 1880. He was lying about his age, probably in order to ensure that he got in, claiming to be 34, instead of 38. Interestingly, he reported that his next of kin was Mrs Aitken who was living in West Kirby. Perhaps, upon the declaration of war in August 1914, Jack had begun arranging Margaret’s return to Manor Farm to be with her mother and this is the reason why his enlistment occurred over four months later. However, The Deeside Advertiser implies that Jack had been working on his mother-in-law’s farm not long before the war. An alternative story, therefore, is that Jack had only recently emigrated to Canada, leaving his wife in West Kirby until he got settled and was able to pay for her passage. Just to complicate things even further, Jack told his attesting officer that he was not in the militia, but had done two months’ drilling with the Army Service Corps. It is not clear when this had occurred. He is described as being 5’ 7” tall and possessing a 39” chest with a 3” expansion. He had a fair and ruddy complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.
Sadly, we currently know nothing about his four year service in the army, because he is never again mentioned until his death in the Arras area only two months before the end of the war. The Liverpool Echo of 20th September 1918 carries the notice of his death, finishing with the words “Deeply mourned by all.”
Birth: c.16th October 1876 in Upper Neith in the parish of Humbie, Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland
Death: 3rd September 1918, killed in action aged 42
Addresses: Upper Neith Cottage (81-91), Hooton Hall (01), Calgary, Alberta, Canada (?), Manor Farm, 11 Village Road, West Kirby (?)
Occupation: Stableman (01), Locomotive Engineer (14) and Farm Worker (?)
Unit: 10th Canadian Infantry
Number and Rank: 434171 Private
Commemorated and Buried: WK, France: Beaurains Road Cemetery, Beaurains B.33
Sources: BR, CWGC, DA, LE, GB, SR, Census: 01
Information from An Imperishable Record The People of North-West Wirral and the Great War
Written by STEPHEN JOHN ROBERTS