Roll of Honour

2nd Lieutenant

George Hair Pagan


The Pagans were a very well-known family of bankers and lawyers in Fife, and George’s early life seemed on a trajectory to carry on the family firm run by his father, Robert Osborne Pagan. He was the eldest son, born on the 17th September 1892 in Cupar, Fife. After attending the local school, Bell Baxter High, he went on to Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh. He then began his legal training at the office of Kidston, Watson and Turnbull and chose to take classes in Law at the University of Glasgow, where he had a prestigious connection. His maternal grandfather was John Young, Professor of Natural Philosophy.

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

He enrolled in the classes of Civil Law and Constitutional Law in 1911 when he was 19, Scots Law and Forensic the following year, Conveyancing in his third and final year. The war broke out at the end of his third year and he was not the only young man in a hurry who put exams and re-sits on hold while he served his country. He joined the Black Watch the day after war was declared.

He was tall and athletic, a popular signalling officer, who enjoyed a challenge and had taken part in a famous ‘rainstorm’ march by the battalion in Scotland before he left for the Front. In June 1915 he was wounded by a spent shell, but sent back to the trenches, perhaps too early, suffering from shellshock. He was sent home to Fife on sick leave and given recruiting duties when he began recovery. On the 1st April 1916, however, he returned to the Front. On the 31st July 1916, 2nd Lieutenant George Hair Pagan was killed at High Wood on the Somme, aged 23.

2nd Lieutenant George Hair Pagan is buried at Serre Road Cemetery (Beaumont Hamel), though this was not his first resting place. Like many more soldiers he was buried, anonymously, in the field where he lay but later, in 1928, his body was transferred to a grave where the Commonwealth Graves Commission could tend it with care and dignity. Touchingly, the things which finally identified him were a broken kilt badge, his officer’s tunic and his boots. Among many tributes to this ‘nice lad’ one officer recalled that he was:

‘so lighthearted and seemingly irresponsible but, and yet withal with a true sense of duty and responsibility’.

George was the first, but not the last, member of the Pagan Osborne family business to be lost in the War. Pagan's cousin George Osborne was killed a year later in 1917 at Gallipoli. George Pagan and George Osborne's names appear next to each other on the Cupar War Memorial.