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Photo of Smillie Kay Gilmour

Smillie Kay Gilmour

Technical Chemist
Birthplace Ayreshire Catrine ScotlandPlace of Residence at HM Factory Gretna A 6 Place of Death Ayrshire Irvine Scotland Date of Birth: April 14, 1892 Date of Death: January 17, 1950


 Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Smillie Kay Gilmour
Gender : Male
Date and place of birth: 14th April, 1892 at Catrine, Sorn , Ayrshire.
Date and Place of Death:  17th January 1950 , 9 Thornhouse Avenue, Irvine, Ayrshire
Nationality: Scottish

Childhood : 7th son of 10 boys , father was married three times
Parents : William Gilmour and Margaret MacMillan
Parents occupations : Wine and spirit merchant of Irvine
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance:  Not known
Occupation: Technical chemist at Gretna but latterly a foreman at ROF Irvine to his death.
Place of residence at Gretna: A6, Eastriggs
Marital status: Married in Dornock
Children : William “Mac” Macmillan Gilmour (honoured  Flying Ace) and Alexander B Gilmour
Travels : None of note
Awards/recognitions:  None
Positions held : None
Trivia / any other information:   Yes – regarding son William .

Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):


Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:

Further links, notes, and comments:

William “Mac” Gilmour (





Smillie Kay Gilmour 14th April 1892 – 17th January 1950 


Smillie Kay Gilmour was born on 14th April 1892 at Mill Square, Catrine, Sorn, Ayrshire. It seems that he was named after his paternal grandmother, Margaret Smellie but the Smellie was changed to Smillie. All census and other records refer to him as Smillie. 

Smillie’s father , William Gilmour of Stonehouse , Lanarkshire, was a wine and spirit merchant who was married three times. Smillie was born to the third marriage.  

Born in 1842, William first married Jane Wilson on 28th October 1864 and was widowed whilst living at Gallowgate,  Glasgow in 1868. He was left with David Gilmour born January 1865 and Robert Wilson Gilmour  both under 3. 

William then married Margaret Brown on 26th December 1871. His address was Corimbla Cottage, Catrine , Sorn, Ayrshire. On 31st August Margaret had a son, Mungo Brown Gilmour  followed by William in April 1874. Mungo became a master draper and died of a cerebral hemorrhage aged 73 in Pollock, Glasgow.9 death registration) . Sadly Margaret died in November 1879. 

William at this point had 4 sons under 10. He then met Margaret MacMillan of Mill Square, Catrine, Sorn and married for a 3rd time on 6th November 1879.  

Margaret and William ,who we know was a Major and a secretary of Ayrshire Rifles Association at some point ( Grandson’s obituary, 4th November 1955), had 6 sons together . logs him in 1860 as a Captain in the 27th Lanarkshire Regiment ( Rifles). 

William Macmillan Gilmour born 1880, This William later became a doctor and married a dentist spending most of their working lives in the Eastern Cape, S Africa followed by Yorkshire.   John Beith Gilmour, September 1881  was an engraver with commercial premises in North Hanover Street , Glasgow. Smillie Kay Gilmour April 1892, John Shaw Gilmour 1884, Elphinstone Forrest Gilmour, 1885 and Hugh 1887.  

John Shaw Gilmour died in 1885  

In 1887, Smillie’s baby brother Hugh died aged 6 weeks of whooping cough. ( death registration) . His half brother David also died in 1887  at sea off the coast of Australia. He was onboard the Lady Elizabeth, was 22 and a clerk. His cause of death on the deaths at sea register  is indecipherable to a non medical eye but it was definitely natural causes. His full death registration was made in Australia. 

Smillie’s mother died aged 49 in 1904. Her address was given as Waterside , Irvine   so the family must have moved from Sorn to Irvine some time between 1887 and 1904.  

Smillie was 12 when his mother died. 

No 1911 census is evident for this family.  

At some point Smillie must have undertaken some formal training in Chemistry and been assigned   to H M Factory Gretna  as a Technical Chemist. This is his job title on the 1918 Electoral register for Eastriggs, his address being A6, Eastriggs which was one of the hostels. His marriage registration gives his address as The Quinton, Worcestor so this could be where he trained or was gainfully employed prior to his munitions work. 

 A modern day technical chemist’s role  is dealing  with waste management issues so it is possible that Smillie worked in this same field during WW1. 

Whilst working and living at Gretna, Smillie’s brother Elphinstone Forrest Gilmour died in action near Arras, France. His probate quotes” died on or since 28th March 1918” Elphinstone “ died of wounds “ ( He had married in March 1917 and left a widow Elizabeth Forsyth Crawford Gilmour and a 2 month old son, William  MacMillan Gilmour.  

His name is on the Arras Memorial “Arras, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France 

* A structure erected in honor of someone whose remains lie elsewhere. Age: 33 

Regiment/Service: Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1st/4th Bn. attd. 8th T.M. Bty. 

Son of Maj. William Gilmour, V.D., and Margaret Macmillan Gilmour; Husband of Elizabeth Forsyth Crawford Gilmour, of ‘Friarscroft’, 32, Waterside, Irvine, Ayrshire.” Finda 

It is unclear how this would have affected Smillie.  

The social life of workers of all classes at H.M.Factory, Gretna are widely documented – numerous newspaper articles of the time as well as Chris Brader’s “ Timbertown Girls” . 

Smillie met and married a local girl , Georgina Geddes Beattie. It is unclear whether or not she also worked at the Factory. 

They married on 24th June 1919 at Dornock Parish Church .  The marriage registration tells us that Smillie was 27 at the time, a technical chemist of The Quinton , Worcester. No record can be found of his time in Worcester but perhaps this is where he trained in chemistry. Georgina at the time was 25, the daughter of the Alexander Ogilvie Beattie , miller of Bellevue, Dornock and Williamina Beattie nee Latimer.  

Three months later in September 1919, Smillie’s father died aged 77 and within 12 months a Smillie and Georgina had their first child, a son, William Macmillan Gilmour. This naming is common practice in Scotland, names after  a grandfather and a second name using the mother’s maiden name. What was unusual here was that this baby had a cousin also called William MacMillan Gilmour, son of Elphinstone who was killed in the war. 

A second son was born in 1924, Alexander Beattie Gilmour.  

We learn nothing more of Smillie and family until 20th January 1950 when the Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette announces his premature death.  

DEATH OF MR S.K.GILMOUR. We regret to announce the death of Mr S.K.Gilmour, 9 Thornhouse Avenue, Irvine on Tuesday night. The deceased , who was a native of the town and in which he was a well known figure , respected by all, had been employed at the Royal Ordnance Factory, and his sudden death is deplored by his friends and work’s associates alike. To his widow and two sons we offer our deepest sympathy.” 

Smillie’s death registration gives more detail of his role at ROF Irvine. He was an “ Ordnance Factory Foreman” He died of Hyperfeisis, coronary Ischemia that he had suffered for 1 month , and coronary thrombosis. 

Delving into the history of ROF Irvine it is clear that there were numerous problems. In 1940 an explosion at the factory killed 17 people including an assistant foreman. There is a plaque on Burns Street , Irvine as a memorial to those killed in the explosion. It is highly likely that Smillie was employed at ROF Irvine at the time. 

Following WW2, ROF Irvine was involved in the emptying and destruction/recycling of surplus ammunition. 

In April 1949, a proposal was put forward in the House of Commons ( Hansard) to reduce the workforce  by 240 , leaving just 300 staff members. This was to happen in September as most of the surplus ammunition had been emptied.  Unrest at the factory amongst the workers is widely reported in the local press of the time .  

“Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette – Friday 01 April 1949 – 

R.O.F. EMPLOYMENT, Representation made by Irvine Town Council to the Ministry of Supply to hold a joint meetin; with shop-stewards at the R.O.F. Irvine, to discuss the possibility of the factory being used for peace-time requirements have failed. Despite the matter of reduced work at the factory having been referred to local members of parliament it would now appear that fewer will be employed there in the near future. From an unofficial but reliable source, we learn that 250 employees will be discharged before September.” 


Smillie died in January 1950. Did he lose his job? Was he responsible for many of the workers who were to be made redudndant. Did work related stress contribute to his death? The death announcement is certainly very unusual in that it uses the word deplorable.  

On 26th October, 1955 we learn that Smillie and Georgina’s elder son William Macmillan Gilmour dies suddenly at the age of 35. His death registration gives William’s address as 2, Carachon Crescent, Balloch. He died at the Western Infirmary Glasgow of “ heart failure following the administration of an anaesthetic for a surgical operation” This is the cause on the corrected version of the registration. We learn that is was an appendectomy ( ) 

An obituary for William in The The Irvine Herald of Friday 4th November 1955 gives an  insight into life of Smillie and family between 1936 and 1955. It is such a rich text that I am including the full transcript. 

“THE IRVINE HERALD NOVEMBER 4, 1955 TRAGIC DEATH OF SQUADRON LEADER W. M. GILMOUR. His Distinguished War Career. General regret was felt in Irvine at the death, which occurred in a Glasgow Hospital on. Wednesday of last week of Mr William M’Millan Gilmour, who was one of the most  popular young men reared in  Irvine. “Mac” was deservedly loved for his charm of manner and fresh spirit endeared him to a wide core of friends. Born in Trvine 35 years ago the received his schooling at Irvine Royal Academy, then started work in the branch of the British Linen Bank at Stewarton. In 1938 he was one of several local young men who joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and after being called tip at the beginning of hostilities, won his “wings” in the snring of 1940. He saw service during the Battle of Britain and afterwards served in the North African campaign. The Distinguished Flying Medal was awarded him in 1941 when his rank was that of Sergeant Pilot. He received his R.A.F, commission soon afterwards and in April, 1943; was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (also for gallantry on active services. The citations in each case commended him for outstanding bravery. When demobilised he held the rank of Sanative Leader (Acting Wing Commander). and after his long and active war service must have looked forward to a long and useful life as a civilian, a hope MAC entertained by his many firm friends. In 1947 he received an appointment with the firm of Westclox Dumbarton, and just about a year ago became works manager ‘ for the company. He was the elder son of the late Mr Smillie K. Gilmour, and of Mrs Gilmour, 9 Thornhouse Avenue, Trvine, and grandson of Major William Gilmour, who was for many years secretary of the Ayrshire ‘Rifle Association. Only last year he married Miss Catherine Campbell, of Dumbarton. the wedding taking place in Canada where both were at the time, and within the past month their happiness seemed to be complete when they secured a new home in Balloch. Only rather indifferent health, as a result of war experiences, kept him from getting right to the top of the tree at the game of tennis, which he loved. He won the Scottish Boys’ Championship in 1937, and followed up the same season by annexing the East. West and Bute Boys’ Championships all In the same year. Since then he has won many prizes at the game and was considered one of its greatest stylists. He was also a member of the Irvine Golf Club at Bogaide and the excellenee of his play may be gleaned from the fact that he had brought his handicap 4own to 3. In 1946 he replied to the toast of “The Imperial Forces” at the annual celebration of the Irvine Burns Club. and he also unveiled the war memorials in Trvine Royal Academy and Fullerton Parish Church We would offer our deepest sympathy to his sorrowing wife and mother. and brother  Alex who holds a banking position in London.” 

Many gaps filled.  

Little is known of Alex except that he also joined the RAF ( Forceswarrecord.) and that he died in October 1973 in Edinburgh. ( deceasedonline) 

Photos and detail of “Mac’s “ life and career can be found at William “Mac” Gilmour (   Smillie would have been very proud. He would have suffered the anxiety of both  sons being actively engaged in WW2, of the “ outstanding bravery” of “ Mac” and of his Distinguished Medals and of him leading 19 Squadron ( Mustangs) on D Day although he would not have known of this until after the event. 

William’s young widow, Catherine, gave birth to a daughter on 10th March 1956 at Redlands , Glasgow just a few months after his death. The birth was reported in The Irvine Herald of Friday 16th March.  

Georgina outlived both her husband and her two sons and died in 1976, twenty years after the birth of her grand daughter.  

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