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'Better meddle wi’ the Deil than The Bairn 'O’ Falkirk’, - Fundraising to support the war effort

Updated: Apr 2

Fundraising was a feature of Edwardian society and was in the form of the charity work of the middle classes. The fundraising was in aid of projects to support the war effort at home and the troops at the front. This went on throughout the war with money being raised to support Belgian refugees, famine relief in Serbia, or in 1917 to endow a bed, ‘Larbert Parish Bed,’ in the Scottish Women’s Hospital, which had gone to Serbia initially, but which was now in Salonika, and fund raising to purchase a destroyer HMS Falkirk.

The tank was a symbol of the new warfare and in Falkirk a great wooden model was mounted on a fire engine chassis and rolled round the district collecting money for new tanks. The ‘Bairn’, as it was called travelled under the slogan ‘Better meddle wi’ the Deil than THE BAIRN O’ FALKIRK’, and it was a huge attraction which helped to raise thousands of pounds. It was not just the ‘Bairn’ that was used to raise funds, during tank week in Larbert in October 1918, the tank ‘Julian’ which had taken part in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, was brought to the town and placed on display. The subsequent appeal raising some £20.000.

(The 'Bairn' was a full size reproduction tank on the chassis of a fire engine)

Community Effort

The communities supported the troops through fundraising, gathering parcels with comforts for the troops and knitting socks and scarves for the men at the front. In early 1915 there was an exhibition in Grange Public School in Grangemouth showing the ‘comforts’ the pupils had prepared for ‘the men who are undergoing hardships in the defence of the Empire’. The parcels contained ‘....some useful article such as soap, cigarettes, boot laces, pencils, pens, writing paper, blackening, toffee. The whole was inscribed with the name and address of the giver and the parcels are to be made up into two lots, one for ‘Tommy’ and the other for ‘Jack’ and will be distributed to both the army and the navy’.

British Red Cross Society fundraising rally outside the old Falkirk Town Hall, Newmarket Street. The 'Bairn' can be seen top left. (Falkirk Herald)

British Red Cross Society

The most prominent fundraising in Falkirk District was by the British Red Cross Society which collected for local hospitals and also for national funds. Flag Days were regularly advertised in the Falkirk Herald and in addition they organised whist drives, jumble sales, bazaars and concerts throughout the District. The naming of ambulance vehicles named after the area, individual or company which had contributed to their cost was a useful fund raising tool. Two were presented in June 1917, ‘Falkirk District No.1’ (this was used in France) and ‘Falkirk District No.2’ (which was used in the local area). The hospitals also benefited from local fundraising with the Falkirk Choral Union being a major contributor. So much so, that the Falkirk Herald mentioned them in their November 1918 article that looked back on the war. The fundraising came in the form of donations of money, goods, services or free admission to events.

HMS Falkirk

In April 1918 there was a War Savings Week in Falkirk District the aim of which was to raise money to purchase a destroyer for the Royal Navy to be named ‘HMS FALKIRK’ over £165,000 towards to the target of £150,000 was raised within five days. Sadly, she was never built. There was a fundraising campaign to raise money to buy tanks with £73,698 raised, the cost of a tank was approximately £3,000. A fundraising scheme that ran from the start of the war to the end was the ‘Tramways Tombola.’ This was a prize draw using the tram or bus ticket that was purchased. In October 1918, there was yet another War Savings Week however; this was not a success with the Falkirk Herald of 26 October reporting that this was due to a lack of contributions from ‘....the monied classes, companies, and corporations.’

On a national scale SSFA branches dealt with over 279,000 cases up to 31 December 1914, which concerned wives and over 653,000 cases that were related to children’s allowances. The total expenditure from charitable funds for the relief of poverty totalled over one million pounds (£58,992,200 in 2020).

Funds to Support the PoWs

In Falkirk District the SSAFA branch carried out this work. It set up the soldier’s home at Strawberry Cottage. It worked in close association with the East Stirlingshire Prisoners of War Fund. This supported local men who were prisoners in Germany. There were 84 men who were prisoners of war in December 1916. These were men captured early in the war and also included three civilians. In the early days the fund did not send parcels to all prisoners as parcels were being sent by relatives privately. Officers received their own private parcels. However, by December 1916 the Fund had taken on the responsibility for supporting both prisoners of war and internees and by December 1918 had sent parcels to some 360.

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