Captain, William Paulin Young M.C., D.C.M. – Survived the War

9th Royal Scots and Royal Army Chaplains’ Department.

The grave of William P. Young and his family at Mortlach Cemetery, Dufftown. © Vincent Stuart

Synopsis of Life and Military Service

William Paulin Young was born on the 10 November 1886 at Edinburgh and was the fourth of a family of seven. His father, the Reverend John Young, for many years was Home Mission Secretary of the United Free Church and, in 1911, Moderator of its General Assembly.

William was educated at Glasgow Academy and while there was in the First XI and thereafter graduated in 1906 with a M.A. at Edinburgh University and, after studying Divinity at New College and taking a course at the Teachers Training College, in 1909 was a student missionary at Loch Etive was licensed by Presbytery of Edinburgh 1910; appointed a teaching missionary to Livingstonia, Nyasaland, now Malawi 15th November 1910 and ordained by Presbytery of Glasgow 7th May 1911. (Following the funeral for David Livingstone at Westminster Abbey in 1874, the United Free Church moved to set up a mission in the region of Malawi, which had been identified by Livingstone himself. In 1875 the Livingstonia mission was founded at Cape Maclear, with another Mission called Blantyre, named after Livingstones birthplace being founded in the Shire Highlands. The Livingstonia Mission was mainly funded by Glaswegian businessmen including, James White of Overtoun and James Stevenson who were chemical manufacturers and James Young who owned the Young Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company.)

When the war of 1914 broke out William returned and enlisted as a Private in the “Dandy Ninth” 9th Royal Scots as No.2357 in September 1914, proceeding with them to France on 24 February 1915 where he was wounded and invalided out as unfit for combatant service with the award of a Distinguished Conduct Medal. On his recovery he was appointed as a Chaplain 4th Class on the 27 January 1916 and returned to France, attached to the 5th Seaforths Highlanders, where he was later taken prisoner around 21 March 1918 at Louverval, Nord, France. It appears that he was sent to Rastatt Prisoner of War Camp, Baden in Germany around that time, before moving to Lahr P.O.W. Camp, near Offenburg, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany about the 5 June 1918, being released from captivity around November of the same year. He was attached to the Royal Air Force A.F.C. from April to May 1919. On the 5 June 1919, he was awarded a Military Cross for his service during the war.

After the war he returned for a further long spell to Livingstonia where he was seen as a man who was keen to develop Africans as far as education was concerned and through him, many mission schools were opened in Chief Muyombe’s area.

On 21 September 1923 he married Anne Neilson Cumming, M.A., B.Sc. the daughter of the Reverend J.B. and Mrs Cumming and about 1924, his daughter Catherine Elizabeth Anne Young was born.

In 1927 he became Principal of the Overtoun Institute, one of the most important formative influences in Central Africa. On 23 January 1928, his daughter Margaret Alexandra (known as Sandra) was born. Sadly his daughter Catherine was to die at Livingstonia, Nyasaland on 24 January 1930.

On 21 April of the same year, along with his wife, he arrived at the port of Southampton from Port Natal aboard the ‘Walter Castle’, his home address was to be ‘Dullan Brae, Dufftown. In January 1938, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for public services in the Nyasaland Protectorate. In September of the same year he was to fall in with Kurt Hahn, the German refugee educationalist and founder of Gordonstoun School, who recognised in him a leader and teacher of outstanding spiritual gifts.

Following the start of the Second World War a number of parents were clearly concerned for the safety of their children, the schools’ position being in between the military bases at Lossiemouth and Kinloss, and so in 1939 ‘W.P.’, as he was known at the school was tasked with taking a contingent of pupils to Glen of Rothes House which was rented by the school for a period of nine months. Following this period, ‘W.P.’ was tasked with taking a group from the school to ‘Plas Dinam’, Berthddu, near the small village of Llandinam in Wales, the home of Lord and Lady Davies at their invitation, this took place in several stages in the summer of 1940, where the group lead by ‘W.P.’ was to be responsible for setting up the house and unloading trucks sent there from the school. During the War, he was also to be responsible for leading the ‘Home Guard’ within the school.

Plas Dinam Country House – © Mrs. Eldrydd Lamp BVSc MRCVS

However shortly after this move, tragedy was to strike when after a spell of Blackwater fever, his wife, Anne’s health gave way and she died on the 15 October 1941.

‘W.P’. was known to be a good all-round sportsman, a good shot and angler as well as a beloved and gifted teacher. He played such an important part in the life of the school that after his retirement, on the dedication of the new St. Christopher’s Church as the School Chapel, he was chosen to light the candles on the Communion Table.

He never courted popularity or sought either ecclesiastical or academical limelight – a quiet, humble and singularly wise and Christ-like man. He will long be remembered as guide, philosopher and friend of multitudes of boys at Gordonstoun and his name, with that of his brother Cullen, is still a magic word to conjure with in Malawi.


William died on the 31 May 1969 at the age of 83 years and was buried at Mortlach Cemetery, Dufftown.

His coffin was carried to the grave be senior boys of Gordonstoun, in the midst of a big gathering of friends , staff, and boys old and new.


William Paulin Young was born on 10 November 1886 at Edinburgh.

The following family members have been identified:

  • Wife: Ann Neilson Cumming or Young, M.A.,B.Sc., born 6/3/1900 @ Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • Daughter: Catherine Elizabeth Anne Young, born c.1924, d.24/1/1930.
  • Daughter: Margaret (Zandra) Alexandra Young or Rathbone, born 23.1.1928, d.2021.
  • Father: John Young, born c.1844 at Berwick – Occupation – Minister.
  • Mother: Catherine Copeland Cullen or Young, born c.1853 at Edinburgh.
  • Brother: John, born c.1881 at Edinburgh – Medical Student.
  • Brother: Thomas Cullen, born c.1881 at Edinburgh – App Chartered Accountant.
  • Brother: George Ernest G., born c.18885 at Edinburgh.
  • Brother: Edwin Lang, born c.1890 at Edinburgh.
  • Brother: James Rae Stevens, born c.1891 at Edinburgh.
  • Sister: Catherine Mary Lang, born c.1894 at Glasgow.

His daughter Margaret (Zandra) married 30 July 1949 to Mark Samuel Rathbone.


William P. Young is known to have lived at the following addresses:

  • 1891 – 21 Queens Crescent, Edinburgh.
  • 1901 – 1 Kelvinside Terrace North, Glasgow.
  • 1910 – 38 Drummond Place, Edinburgh.
  • 1918 – 14 Zetland Place, Edinburgh.
  • 1930 – ‘Dullanbrae’, 53 Fife Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • 1939 – ‘Dullanbrae’, 53 Fife Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • 1969 – ‘Blucavin’, Lossiemouth, Morayshire.


William P. Young was awarded the 1914-15 Star,  Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War and also the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Cross for his service. He was also Mentioned in Dispatches.


As William did not die during wartime service there are no known war memorials to him.


Ann Neilson Cumming, the wife of W.P. Young, was one of eleven children to Reverend John Barr Cumming and Elizabeth Simpson Cowie, of Dullan Brae, Fife Street, Dufftown, who were married April 1891. Elizabeth Cowie was the only daughter of George Cowie, Distiller, of Dullan Brae, Dufftown who died in 1896. Rev. James Elder Cumming was the father of John Barr Cumming and was a minister at Glasgow.

Reverend John Barr Cumming the father of Ann Neilson Cumming, had been minister of the local Mortlach Church for about 42 years, from 1886 until his death in December 1928. Elizabeth, his wife continued to reside at Dullan Brae along with her younger children after her husbands death. On the return of W.P. Young and his wife from Africa in 1930 it would appear that they went to reside with her mother. In 1929, the eleven Cumming children inherited £40,000 from their solicitor uncle.

There is currently no information available as to the role of W.P. Young when he returned from Malawi in 1930. There is currently no evidence to show that he was a minister at Mortlach.

The Reverend Cullen Young, the brother of ‘W.P.’, was also an influential figure in the development of schooling and the ministry within Malawi.

Links to Additional Information


  • The Glasgow Academy Session 1969-70 Prospectus.
  • British Army WW1 Pension Cards.
  • Supplement to the London Gazette dated 1 January 1938.
  • Red Cross: Prisoner of War Records.
  • University of Edinburgh Roll of Honour 1914-1919.
  • 1891 Census.
  • 1901 Census
  • England and Wales National Probate Calendar. 1969
  • The National Archive: Army Medal Index Card.
  • Electoral Register – 1939.
  • Ancestry: Incoming Passenger Lists – 1930.
  • Medal Roll: British War and Victory Medals – Royal Scots
  • Book: The Fasti of the United Free Church of Scotland 1900-1929 by John Alexander Lamb published 1956.
  • Supplement to the Edinburgh Gazette dated 5 June 1919, issue 13453 page 1870.
  • Book: Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticane Vol. 9 1929 to 1954 published 1961.
  • Book: Gordonstoun – Ancient Estate and Modern School by Henry L. Bremerton published 1968.
  • Church and Medicine: The Role of Medical Missionaries in Malawi 1875 to 1914 by Agnes Rennick pages 33-34.
  • Gordonstoun: Pioneers and Pioneering 1934-1940 by Mary Byatt.


Contributors to Research:-

  • Vincent Stuart
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