Major Ian Purvis MC

Bravely fought with the Ghurkas in Burma and fought for the Ghurkas in the UK

Ian Whitelaw Purvis was born on the 26th October 1922, in Lucknow, India, the son of Murray, a doctor in the Indian medical service and Hilda, who was born in The Grange, Suffolk Street, and the daughter of James Whitelaw Hamilton, a contemporary of the Glasgow Boys.

On returning to Scotland he attended Larchfield School before Glenalmond and Queens' College, Cambridge, where he read French and German before the war intervened.

Ian trained as an officer cadet before volunteering for the Indian Army, where he was commissioned into the 6th Gurkha Rifles (Queen Elizabeth's Own).

He joined the 4th Battalion, then engaging the Japanese, and celebrated his 21st birthday with an air dropped bottle of rum. Fighting alongside the Chindits as temporary captain with the Gurkha Rifles in 1944, he was wounded in action during the advance on Mandalay, and was sent back to India to recover. Ian was awarded the Military Cross for leading the rescue of a pinned down group of British soldiers after laying down smoke to conceal the operation from the Japanese.

Ian recovered sufficiently to return to Burma to take part in the victory parade after the defeat of the Japanese the following year.

After the war has finished, Ian returned to the Cambridge to resume his studies but switched course, graduating with MA in Agriculture. He returned to Argyllshire where he took up farm estate management for Adam Bergius, running the Forest Lodge, Jura House and Ardlussa estates on Jura and Glencreggan in Kintyre.

After retiring in 1983 he rekindled his passion for hill walking, having honed his skills as a young man in the Himalayas and Norway, and developed a keen interest in archaeology. It was this interest that led to Ian making headlines.

Ian recalled: “One Sunday in August 1982, I was looking at this ditch, whilst digging a drain on Rosehill Farm in Glencreggan, and realised that layers of gravel were visible all the way from top to bottom. This indicated a raised beach, and my interest suddenly increased when I spotted some small pieces of worked flint lying at the bottom of the ditch. I collected some then and on subsequent occasions and, in the end, had a collection of about 400 flints of various shapes and sizes.” Some of the flints were handed to the Campbeltown Museum with the rest being put in a chest where they were to remain forgotten until February 2001, when Ian was reminded of his flints through an article in Kintyre magazine.

His collection was then handed to Alan Saville of the Archaeology Department, National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh, who examined them and declared that: “These flints are of considerable interest since they are all of Mesolithic date (9000 - 6000 years old), relating to a time when the first peoples of Scotland lived entirely by hunting, gathering and fishing, before the introduction of farming about 6000 years ago. These flints are certainly of sufficient importance for them to be claimed under the Treasure Trove procedures.’

Ian was a quiet, kind and modest man, rarely speaking of his experiences during the Second World War and never discussing his Military Cross, but he never forgot the Gurkhas. Throughout his civilian life he worked tirelessly to as a campaigner for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, supporting the actress Joanna Lumley’s successful fight to allow retired Gurkhas to settle in the UK. In 2006, at the age of 85, Ian published a book of poems “Memories” based on his younger days in Argyllshire, with all proceeds going towards his beloved Gurkhas.

A chairman and member for many years of the community council in Clachan, near Tarbert, Ian became progressively deaf in later years as a result of wartime gunfire, but despite this, and the onset of arthritis and osteoporosis, he led an active live until his final weeks, when he suffered two strokes. He died peacefully at Campbeltown Hospital on 17 August, 2009, aged 86.

Ian was survived by his wife, Anne, a son Alan, three daughters Lindsay, Lorna & Hilary, and two granddaughters.

© Campbelton Courier and used by permission