Roll of Honour


William Grierson MacAlister

Mentioned in Despatches


Major William Grierson MacAlister played an important part in the University’s Officer Training Corps as its commanding officer in the years after his appointment in 1909. The son of Robert Drummond and Barbara Mackinley MacAlister, he was born on the 4th June 1878. His father was a manufacturer and the family lived at 39 Ashton Terrace, Glasgow. William was educated at the Glasgow Academy.

Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow
The Memorial Chapel at the University of Glasgow

His father had died by the time he matriculated in the Arts Faculty in the autumn of 1895. William’s path to his first graduation, M.A. in 1898, was straightforward and he earned ninth place in English Literature in his second year. He continued his studies in the Law Faculty where his name appeared frequently in the prize list, with a third place in Civil Law, eighth in Scots Law (with a distinction in the Procurator Fiscal’s examination), sixth place in Constitutional Law and distinctions in Conveyancing and Jurisprudence. He graduated LL.B. in 1901 and began his professional life as a solicitor.

Graduation did not end William’s involvement in the University, however. In 1880 University of Glasgow had raised two infantry companies as part of the local 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The unit became the 5th Bn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) based in Woodlands. William had joined in 1902 and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in that year, Lieutenant in 1908. The Officer Training Corps was established in 1908 in the wake of Haldane’s Reforms of the reserve forces.

William became a member of the University’s Committee on Military Education, chaired by Professor Dudley Julius Medley. At a meeting of the committee on 5th January 1909 William was asked to take command of the Officer Training Corps contingent, a request approved by the War Office. He took a very active part in its establishment in these early years. In addition to this and pursuing his career in law he found time to keep up his connection to Kelvinside Free Church and to continue his interest in the Boys' Brigade. He was also Clerk of Deacon’s Court.

When war began, he served with the 5th Bn. Cameronians, with whom he had such a long and dedicated involvement. He was Mentioned in Despatches and took command of the Regiment when Major Kennedy was wounded. Major William Grierson MacAlister was killed in action at the Somme on the 20th July 1916. He is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. He was 38. The University sent condolences to his sister, Mrs William Mackenzie.