Matthew John Biggs

Matthew John Biggs
Born 1885 at Maryhill, Glasgow, Matthew was one of five children born to William and Annie (née Cameron). At the time of Matthew's birth his father was a bugler in the 1st Battalion, The Scottish Rifles, and Matthew was born at the Battalion barracks at Maryhill. By 1901 Matthew worked as a van boy. He might have been employed by his father, who had left the Army and was running his own business as a hardware merchant. The family home was at 26 Dundrennan Road, Glasgow.

Marrying Jemima Pentland in 1909, Matthew and his wife lived at 16 Kilnside Road, Paisley. By then Matthew worked a flesher, the Scottish word for a butcher. The couple had two children.

Matthew enlisted at Paisley as a driver with the 2nd/1st Renfrew Fortress Company, Royal Engineers.  In late November 1915 he was transferred to St Ives, part of the 1st/1st Renfrewshire Field Company, Royal Engineers, who were billeted in Whitton House in the Broadway.

On Sunday 5 December 1915, a mere ten days after arriving in the town, Matthew lost his life in a tragedy that shook the town. Going out for a stroll at 6.45pm to meet some friends, after walking through the Parish Church grounds, in pitch darkness he failed to take the turn into Barnes Walk and walked straight into the River Great Ouse backwater. In flood, the depth at that point was as much as fourteen feet and Matthew was wearing a heavy Army coat. His cries for help were heard by a comrade and some of the worshippers in the church, but there was so little light available he could not be seen. By the time a police constable with flashlight arrived all was quiet.

Matthew's body was found the following day. The Hunts Post report the event and inquest on 10 December 1915. He was aged 29 years. Matthew is commemorated in St Ives Parish Church and is buried in St Ives Public Cemetery.

Many of those involved with the inquest donated their fees to Matthew's widow, who attended the inquest. Unfortunately she did not receive an Army pension. Matthew's death was judged to be through accident rather than as a result of war.

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