Remembering Private Goldwin McCausland Pirie

Goldie Pirie (right) with friends (left to right) Len Bertram, Leo Sullivan, and Arthur Turner.

Private Goldwin McCausland Pirie was born April 12th, 1894, to Hester Emma McCausland (1858-1901) and Alexander Fraser Pirie (1849-1903). Unfortunately, Goldwin Pirie would lose both his parents as a child. He and his siblings were raised by his paternal aunt, Ada Pirie. “Goldie” as he was known, would enlist in August of 1914 and enter the war alongside the 77th Wentworth Regiment of Dundas, the local milita unit.

When the members of the first contingent of the 77th left Dundas, the people of their home town could not let them leave without a proper send off. On Thursday August 20th, 1914, community members braved the steady downpour of rain to watch the contingent leave for the first stage of their journey, which would take them to Valcartier, Quebec. The Dundas Town Council had voted to spend $500 on the troops, and provided each man with a combination knife, fork, and spoon, and a collapsible drinking cup. There were 3000 sandwiches prepared alongside the cheese, biscuits, tobacco, and more, to be used by the men while en route. The Dundas Star reported that private citizens also presented tobacco pouches, cigars, and cigarettes. The Honourary Lt.-Col. of the Regiment, J.J. Grafton, was said to have presented the men with a set of underwear and a silk handkerchief! The town of Dundas was adamant in their decision not to let these men begin their travels empty handed. The community clearly demonstrated how proud they were of their loyal sons who were eager to answer the call of duty.

Once at camp, Goldwin Pirie set off to write letters to his family in Dundas. These letters were published in the Dundas Star, and can still be found today. He wrote of his time with the 77th spent training, and the “Gimme Club”. The Gimme Club members included: Leonard Halliday Bertram, Charles Campbell Gwyn, Leo Ignatus Sullivan, John Woodville Cowper, John Howard Knill, Arthur Edmond Robert Turner, William Henry Gains, Francis John Lavender, and George William Graham. These men would write about their lives and letters often included humorous anecdotes. One is as follows.

Stray Shots

Bill Graham may be away, but what is he? A Wafer?
Milk is plentiful, and as Cowper loses, Willie Gains.
If Sullivan frequents the canteen, why can’t Campbell Gwyn (go in?).
Some fellows would like to have talcum powder in their shoes for hard marching, but we should worry, as we have Lavender.
If a woman drove a Be(e)rtram into camp, what chance would Arthur have to Turner out before Pirie said “Gimme a drink?”Knill.

THE GIMME CLUB (gimme this, gimme that.)
Gim Pirie, Pres.

On September 13th 1914, the young men at the Valcartier Camp were reviewed, and on September 22nd the soldiers were on their way and about to start the second stage in their journey. However, the Canadian men were to have extra protection in the shape of a combined entrenching tool and head shield. The 77th Wentworth Regiment became the 1st Battalion Western Ontario Regiment, and these men were therefore stationed at Bustard Camp. Because of his athleticism, Goldie Pirie was chosen to be trained in the art of bomb throwing.

During the Battle of Ypres, Goldie was wounded in the counterattack of the 1st and 4th Battalions at Mauser Ridge. An article from the Dundas Star reported that he was left for dead on the field for a total of four days. He subsequently suffered from frozen feet in the early spring of 1915, and, in the battle at Langemarck, he was the unlucky recipient of three bullets through the arm, and one in the leg. An article from the “Hamilton Daily Times” (May 20, 1915) claims that Pirie believed he had nothing to worry about and hoped to quickly get back into action. However, Goldwin Pirie would never recover. The injuries he sustained led to his evacuation to the Netley Hospital in England. Two months after he was admitted, Goldwin Pirie died as a result of infected wounds which led to recurring internal hemorrhaging. Although he had been in the hospital for an extended period of time, the news of his death on July 1st, 1915, came as a shock to both his family and the Dundas community.

When a decision was made in the 1980s to name new streets after men listed on the local war memorial, it comes as no surprise that one was named after Private Goldwin McCausland Pirie.


Research conducted and assembled by Marika Pirie found here:

Dundas Star. Articles from August 1914 – October 1915.


This post was written by Claudia Palermo, our Curatorial Assistant, a position made possible by a grant from Young Canada Works in 2014.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada (Youth Employment Strategy) through the Department of Canadian Heritage for the Young Canada Works Program. Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada (Stratégie emploi jeunesse) par l’entremise du ministère du Patrimoine canadien pour le programme Jeunesse Canada au travail.