HC Deb 13 June 1898 vol 59 cc34-6
DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether the military authorities recently stopped Piper Findlater's engagement at the Alhambra Music Hall, and forbade the officers and pipers of the Aberdeen Depot to patronise his performance there; aid whether there is any precedent for this official interference with the free action of a discharged soldier?

MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)

I begrat the same time to ask the Under Secretary of State for War whether Piper Findlater, V.C, has been offered a post as compensation for foregoing a means of gaining his living, a means which was undesirable from a military point of view; and, if so, what is the nature of that post and its emoluments; and whether, arising out of this case, and the possibilities that might arise from similar cases in the future, the Government could see their way to bestow a better pension than the existing one of £10 per annum on soldiers who receive the highest mark of distinction which can be bestowed by their Sovereign, more especially in view of the fact that several V.C. men are known to have lately ended their days either in a workhouse or in great destitution?


The circumstances of this case are as follows: Piper Find-Liter received the Victoria Cross from Her Majesty's hands on 14th May, 1898, and was advertised shortly afterwards to appear at a music-hall. The military authorities requested that this appearance should not take place, it being repugnant to military feeling that an exhibition should be made at a music hall of a soldier who had been so recently decorated by the Queen. For the same reason they forbade the attendance of the officers and pipers of the Aberdeen depot at his appearance in Aberdeen. There are no precedents for such an exhibition. Piper Findlater's financial position is as follows: He receives £10 a year with the Victoria Cross; he has also a pension of 2s. a day, or £36 10s. a year, for his wound and gallant service, and I understand he has had an offer from the highest quarter of a permanent post with a residence, though I am not aware of the precise conditions and emoluments. An ample provision for a man in his position has thus been secured him. In reference, however, to soldiers earning the Victoria Cross, who, from old age, or infirmity not due to their own fault, may be in poor circumstances and unable to earn a living, it has been decided that at the Secretary of State's discretion the sum of £50 a year may be granted by way of pension in lieu of the £10, which has accompanied the Victoria Cross since its institution.


Will Findlater's pension of 2s. a day be permanent or temporary?


The custom is to give these pensions temporarily—in the first instance for a year, as a technical point, until it is decided whether the injury is permanent.


Is there any foundation for the statement in the Question of the honourable Member for North Aberdeen that "several V.C. men are known to have lately ended their days either in a workhouse or in great destitution?"


NO such case has come to our notice.

MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

Did the military authorities prefer their request that Piper Findlater should not appear in the music hall to the manager of the Alhambra or to Piper Findlater himself?


The request was made to the manager of the Alhambra, who met them in a very public-spirited manner having regard to the circumstances of the case.

MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

The War Office, I understand, also applied to the gentleman under whose auspices Piper Findlater appeared at the concert in Aberdeen. May I ask under what legal authority the War Office attempted to interfere with this discharged soldier earning his livelihood in any way he chose?


That is a Question of which notice should be given.


I will put it down.


In regard to the Question of the honourable Member for Sheffield, may I say that I shall be happy to supply particulars of the cases to which my Question referred.