Nelson Downie


Service: Army

Unit: Indian Army Reserve of Officers

 Attached to 1st Battalion, 4th Gurkha Rifles

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Nelson was born in Newton Mearns on 5th May 1892, son of Mr John Downie M.A. schoolmaster of Mearns Public School and of Mrs Marjorie Downie, School House, Newton Mearns. In the 1911 census he was listed as an Arts Student at Glasgow University.

Nelson was wounded during an attack by the Mahsuds on 16th May, 1917 and died next day somewhere in the North-West Frontier Province, India. He is buried in Dera Ismail Khan in present day Pakistan and also commemorated on  Delhi Memorial (India Gate) Face 23, on Glasgow University  War Memorial (see tribute below), on Mearns Parish Kirk War Memorial, on Whitecraigs Golf Club memorial and on the family gravestone in New Kilpatrick (Hillfoot) cemetery..

Nelson Downie, born 5th May 1892, came to the High School of Glasgow in 1904, and became one of her finest scholars. At fourteen he had reached VI. Modern, "and was easily first in all his subjects."

He transferred to the Classical side and when he left school in 1909 was Dux of VI Classical A., and had gained in addition, all the most coveted of the school medals and prizes. Among his other activities he was Editor of the Magazine and President of the School Council.

In October of the same year he entered Glasgow University as third bursar. There his successes were many, but the most notable was his winning the Cunninghame Gold Medal in Mathematics and a Fellowship of GBP 200 for Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Then with the old versatility which he had shown at school, he turned again to Classics.

In November 1913, he graduated MA, with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He gained a distinguished place in the Civil Service Examinations with that most difficult combination, Mathematics and Classics, and later continued his studies at Oxford with equal success.

He went to his province as Magistrate of the Indian Civil Service on 11th November, 1915, and in a short time had so impressed everyone by his brilliance, energy, and character that his Deputy Commissioner could say;

"He was one of the finest young men that had ever come to Burma... All who knew him loved and admired him."

And one of his seniors could write;

"He was what we call a real sahib - a perfect gentleman."

In the early days of the war he chafed at the regulation which prevented him joining the Army, and no one was surprised that he entered the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (IARO) when released for service in August, 1916.

(Reproduced by kind permission of the University of Glasgow)

Back to list

Back to top

Image reproduced by permission of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission