World War 1 (1914 - 1918)


Image reproduced by permission of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Nelson Downie

Service: Army
Unit: Indian Army Reserve of Officers (Attached to 1st Battalion 4th Gurkha Rifles)
Rank: Second Lieutenant

Nelson was born in Newton Mearns in 1892, son of John Downie M.A. schoolmaster of Mearns Public School and of Marjorie Downie, School House, Newton Mearns. In the 1911 census he was listed as an Arts Student at Glasgow University.

He was wounded during an attack by the Mahsuds on 16 May 1917 and died next day somewhere in the North-West Frontier Province of India.* He is buried in Dera Ismail Khan in present day Pakistan and is also commemorated on Delhi Memorial (India Gate) Face 23, on Glasgow University  War Memorial (see tribute below), on Mearns Parish Kirk War Memorial, on Whitecraigs Golf Club memorial and on the family gravestone in New Kilpatrick (Hillfoot) cemetery.


Nelson Downie, born 5th May 1892, came to the High School of Glasgow in 1904, and became one of her finest scholars. At fourteen he had reached VI Modern, "and was easily first in all his subjects”.

He transferred to the Classical side and when he left school in 1909 was Dux of VI Classical A, and had gained in addition all the most coveted of the school medals and prizes. Among his other activities he was Editor of the Magazine and President of the School Council.

In October of the same year he entered Glasgow University as third bursar. There his successes were many, but the most notable was his winning the Cunninghame Gold Medal in Mathematics and a Fellowship of £200 for Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Then with the old versatility which he had shown at school, he turned again to Classics.

In November 1913, he graduated MA, with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. He gained a distinguished place in the Civil Service Examinations with that most difficult combination, Mathematics and Classics, and later continued his studies at Oxford with equal success.

He went to his province as Magistrate of the Indian Civil Service on 11th November 1915, and in a short time had so impressed everyone by his brilliance, energy, and character that his Deputy Commissioner could say;"He was one of the finest young men that had ever come to Burma... All who knew him loved and admired him."And one of his seniors could write;"He was what we call a real sahib - a perfect gentleman."

In the early days of the war he chafed at the regulation which prevented him joining the Army, and no one was surprised that he entered the Indian Army Reserve of Officers (IARO) when released for service in August 1916. (Reproduced by kind permission of the University of Glasgow)

 *The Mahsuds, also known as Maseeds, lived in the tribal areas between the North West Frontier and Afghanistan.

© 2022 Mearns History Group. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Nuadha