Diamond War Memorial Project

Private Francis Petticrew (Frank) Blacklay

16th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment) Regimental Number A/21065
Born: ---- Died: 1915-10-26 Aged: 22 Enlisted: ------

Interred in La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Name commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Younger son of James (died on April 15, 1922, aged 69) and Jane Getty (died on March 18, 1933, aged 76) Blacklay, 13, Marlborough Street, Londonderry. Brother of Lieutenant Oliver H. Blacklay, M.D., F.R.C.S., Ed., R.A.M.C.T. (who married Emily Mabel, daughter of Mr and Mrs William Forsyth, Blackhillock, Forres, Scotland, on Monday, September 13, 1915). Also brother of Isabella (died on July 5, 1925); Margaret June (died on November 24, 1951); Agnes (died on October 7, 1963); Helen (died on July 13, 1978); Victoria (who married the Reverend George A. Smillie, M.A., Grangemouth, Scotland, on July 10, 1919, at Great James Street Presbyterian Church, Londonderry); and Marion (married David John Hunter, Gortree, on February 26, 1914).

Private Blacklay had volunteered for service in Winnipeg in the spring of 1915, joining the Cameron Highlanders of Canada as a private. He came to England with the second Canadian contingent, and, after a month's training at Shorncliffe, was sent with a draft to Flanders, being attached there to the 16th Battalion Canadian Scottish. Private Frank Blacklay was well known in Londonderry before he went into the service of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, about four years before his death. He was educated at First Derry School and Foyle College, and attended Great James Street Presbyterian Church, Londonderry. His brother, Lieutenant Oliver Blacklay, was wounded, around July 1915, while serving at the Dardanelles with the R.A.M.C., 3rd E. Lancashire Field Ambulance (Territorials).

An impressive memorial service, which was largely attended, was held in Great James Street Presbyterian Church, on Sunday, November 7, 1915, in connection with the death of Frank Blacklay and other members of the congregation who had lain down their lives in the Great War. The officiating ministers were Professor Woodburn, M.A., and Rev. James Thompson, D.D. A praise service appropriate to the occasion was rendered.

The Reverend Dr Thompson preached from Revelations xxii., 3-4, 'And His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.' At the close of his exposition the preacher said the crisis through which they were passing was well calculated to make them thoughtful, to banish from them all levity and self-seeking. There was a tremendous waste of human life going on; so many young men, the flower of the race, were being cut down that they could not be but saddened, and the end seemed far off yet. That evening they called to remembrance the fact that five young men from their church had already given their lives for their country. There was nothing more that they could do, and the congregation could not withhold a tribute of admiration for the readiness with which they went forth knowing the risks they ran, and the fact that their life meant much for dear ones at home. All honour to their memory! They had earned the glory of dying for the Motherland. The last of those who had fallen was the son of one of the church elders, a noble and promising young man, bearing the honoured name of Francis Petticrew Blacklay. Some four years prior to that time Blacklay had gone to Canada, where he had good prospects. Feeling it was his duty he returned to do his bit in the tremendous conflict that was then being waged, and now the congregation mourned his untimely death. An hour or two ago the preacher just heard some particulars of the way in which Frank Blacklay met his end. A German battle plane ? one of the newest types ? was brought down by a British aeroplane, and it fell within the British lines without receiving much injury. Frank Blacklay was one of those set to guard it while an attempt was made to salve it. He was thus under the enemy's fire, and he and another fell. The preacher had seen a letter, which spoke in the highest terms of young Blacklay's courage and other soldierly qualities. The congregation offered their sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the members of the family to which he belonged and to all households amongst them, which had lost dear ones in defence of their country, and commended them to God.

The name of Francis Petticrew Blacklay was read aloud during a special memorial service held in First Derry Presbyterian Church, on Friday, August 4, 1916, to pay tribute to the Presbyterian soldiers of the city of Londonderry, who had died during the first two years of the Great War. His name was also among a list of Great War dead, associated with Foyle College, Londonderry, read aloud during that College's annual prize giving ceremony, held on Thursday, December 19, 1918.

James Blacklay, 13, Marlborough Street, signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant (September 1912) pledging resistance to Home Rule for Ireland.