BLAIR Henry Steel (Harry)
Died 20 Feb 1916 age 51
Service No. 983SA
Drifter HM ‘Gavenwood’
14 Low Shore Macduff
Henry Steel Blair (aka Harry) was born on the 28th June 1865 at School Lane Macduff. He was the son of John Blair, Shipmaster, and Isabella Wilson. Henry Steel Blair was one of five children, known at this time, born to John and Isabella. The children were Isabella b 1849, Alexander Paterson b 1856, Francis William Verel b 1859, George Paterson b 1861 and Henry Steel b 1865.
The family appeared to move around various addresses in Macduff, in 1859 the family were at Church Lane, in 1865 they were in School Lane, in 1871 at 22 Crook’O’ness Street, and in 1881 they were living at 21 Low Shore.
Little is known of Henry’s early life but we do know that in 1881, aged 15, he is described as unemployed, which would not have been a good position to be in. In 1890 Henry’s mother Isabella died, she was aged 54, she died of bronchitis. Henry eventually followed his father and by 1891 he is described as a Fisherman.
Henry had met and married Mary West, the daughter of George West, Fisherman, and Margaret Wood, on the 17th April 1891. Henry was living at High Shore Macduff and Mary was living at 17 Crook’O’ness Street. As the family were settling down to married life their first child came along rather quickly, being born just two months after the wedding. The couple then went on to have at least four other children, Margaret Elizabeth b 1894, James W b 1896, Isabella b 1898 and John G b 1901.
In WW1 Henry had been assigned to the HM Drifter ‘Gavenwood’ and on the 20th February when ten drifters were returning to Brindisi, with the ‘Gavenwood’ leading them in a single line, a large explosion was seen from the other vessels and the drifter disappeared. A search of the area found only wreckage. Two officers and nine ratings, including Henry, died. The ‘Gavenwood’ was struck by one of the mines laid by the submarine UC 14. Henry died along with two other men from Macduff, William Lyall who was the skipper of the ‘Gavenwood’ and Alexander McKay who was an able seaman.
As the body of Henry was never recovered, he has no known grave other than the sea. His memorial along with other naval ranks and ratings that fell in the Great War are commemorated on the Portsmouth Memorial, plus his family grave in Myrus Cemetry.