Mystery of Sergeant's Christian name

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BOTH Helensburgh Baptist Church and the Helensburgh Cenotaph in Hermitage Park agree that Staff Sergeant Pirret, a recipient of the Military Medal, died in France in 1917.

But strangely they disagree about his Christian name. In Baptist and other accounts he is named as Norman McLeod Pirret, but on the Park monument he is Edward Pirret.

It is highly unlikely there would be two Staff Sergeants with this unusual surname who both won the M.M. and died in 1917. Perhaps the burgh name was a nickname, or just a mistake.

Norman Pirret was born in the St Giles area of Edinburgh in 1888, the son of foreman stone masson James Pirret and his wife Isabella, who lived in the city.

A postman, he married Christina Henderson Scott, known to her friends as Tina, at 50 St John Street, Coatbridge, on March 11 1912, and on November 16 the following year the couple, now living at 35 Kildonan Street, Coatbridge, had a daughter, May.

Norman enlisted at Edinburgh and initially served as a corporal in the 11th General Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps, being posted to France from August 25 1914.

Mrs Pirret transferred her membership from Coatbridge Baptist Church to Helensburgh Baptist Church, receiving the right hand of fellowship on May 9 1915, and Norman came into membership on February 3 1916, though absent on duty, during Holy Communion.

During his service he was promoted to Acting Staff Sergeant and served in the 1st Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, being awarded the Military Medal for Bravery in December 1916.

The congregation of Helensburgh Baptist Church were proud of this and decided to send a congratulating letter.

Sadly his successful career was cut short and he died of wounds received in action on July 10 1917, aged just 29 years.

He is buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, West Vaanderen, Belgium, and he was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

His widow died in Ontario, Canada, on February 7 1966 and is buried at Westmount Baptist Cemetery in Collingwood, Simcoe County, where she had erected a memorial headstone (right) for her husband.

Their daughter May, who was predeceased by her husband the Rev James Taylor, died in Georgetown, Ontario, on October 27 2003 in her 90th year. Her death notice showed that Norman had two grandsons and a granddaughter, and four great grandchildren, two male, two female.