A priceless artefact was recently and most generously donated to the Sedbergh School archives all the way from Canada by former staff member, Jonas Peter Akins. This Boer War sword belonging to Captain Hugh Maxwell Blair (S 1884 – 1890) was bought and donated by former history teacher Mr Akins, who went on to serve in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant after leaving Sedbergh.
Old Sedberghian Hugh Maxwell Blair fought in the Seaforth Highlanders infantry regiment before ultimately being killed in action at Koodoosburg in the Northern Cape of South Africa, on February 7th 1900, aged just 28.
Hugh, who played on the 1st XV at Sedbergh, entered the Seaforth Highlanders from the Royal Military College (passing out first) in 1891, before being promoted Lieutenant in 1894, and finally Captain in 1899. Capt. Blair served with the 2nd Battalion with the Chitral Relief Expedition of 1895, and was present in the engagement at Mamugai, receiving the medal with clasp. He was then employed for a short time with the West African Frontier Force.
Following this, he sailed for South Africa with his battalion on the Mongolian about 21 Oct 1899, and arrived at the Cape the following month in November 1899. They formed part of the 3rd or Highland Brigade under Major General Wauchope, in the Kimberley relief force of 3 brigades under Lord Muthuen. They joined their brigade on the Modder River shortly before the action at Magersfontein. He fought at the Battle of Magersfontein 11 Dec 1899. On 3 Feb 1900 the Brigade marched West from the Modder River Camp to Koedoesberg Drift (about 20km West of Ritchie on the Reit River), where he was killed in action aged 28 years when his carotid artery was cut by a bullet from a shrapnel shell as they secured the hills commanding the drift. Some of the men of his company took it in turns to press the artery, hoping thus to prevent loss of blood and to save his life, but their efforts, although continued for some hours, proved unavailing.
He was buried on the battlefield. His remains were later reinterred in West End Cemetery, Kimberley, and is also commemorated on the Seaforth Highlanders Boer War Memorial in Dingwall, Scotland.
Hugh’s name is also interred on the Boer War Memorial at Sedbergh School, where a service was held on Remembrance Sunday last month in honour of all the Old Sedberghians who gave their lives in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Please see below some photos of the service:
A big thank you to Mr Akins for this generous donation to the School archives.