Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Henry May – Funeral Service

The Late Admiral of the Fleet Sir William May, Bughtrigg
Last Rites at Christ Church, Duns

Amidst many manifestations of sorrow and deep regret the funeral took place to Christ Church Churchyard, Duns on Friday forenoon when the very esteem in which the late Admiral of the Fleet had been held was evidenced by the very large attendance of mourners present.
The funeral was of a semi-naval character, a detachment of sailors numbering twenty-two under Lieutenant Ward R.N. being present from Rosyth Naval base to act as a Firing Party.

Earlier in the day the coffin containing the earthly remains of the late Admiral had been conveyed by motor to Christ Church, where a service took place at 11:30 a.m.


The church accommodation was taxed to the utmost, and many of the mourners had to remain standing throughout the beautiful service conducted by the Rev. C.T. Beale, Rector of the church.
THe coffin rested in the chancel of the church with many beautiful wreaths. The praise parts were led by the surpliced choir of the church, while Mr M.C. Havard presided at the organ.
The service opened with the singing of the hymn :Let saints on earth in concert sing” after which was repeated Psalm 90. The lesson was taken from the Book of Wisdom chapter iii (a most appropriate passage for one who had followed the calling of a sailor) and Corinthians was next read, after which the hymn “O God our help in ages past” was sung. Prayers followed and the the coffin was borne by estate servants from the church to the grave, while the organists played “Crossing the Bar”


The sad procession as it left the church for the graveside was watched by a very large crowd of people, who had taken up positions outside the churchyard. Fortunately the weather was fine and the spectacle witnessed inside the churchyard was of a most solemn nature. The firing party had taken up their position on the high bank to the south side of the chancel and just above the burial ground of the Bughtrigg family.
The service at the graveside was taken by Mr Beale and included the recital of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s magnificent poem “Crossing the Bar”, which includes:-

“For tho’ from out our bourne of time and place
The flood may bear me far
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.”


The coffin having been lowered into the grave and the service concluded the Royal Navy paid its last tributes to one who had so materially assisted to make it Britain’s “sure shield” during the fateful years 1914-18. Three volleys were fired over the grave, after the first, the first part of the “Admiral’s Salute” rang out on the bugle, the bugler sounded the same call after the second, and then after the third, came the perfect rendering of the “Last Post”, with its perfect message of farewell in its last long note. After a pause came the sharp command “Fix Bayonets” and “Present Arms” and the Senior Service had said farewell to the memory of one her most famous sons.
The whole of the part taken by the Navy’s representations was smartly executed, and made a very deep impression on all present.


From Sandringham, H.M. the King sent the following message to Lady May.

“It is with regret that I have learned of the death of my very old friend Sir William May and I greatly recognise his valuable services both in the Royal Navy and in civil life. I offer you and your sons my heartfelt sympathy in your bereavement”


The Board of Admiralty also sent a message to Lady May which was in the following terms. “The Board of Admiralty deeply regret to learn of the death of your distinguished husband and wish to offer you their sincere sympathy in your bereavement”.


The chief mourners were:-

Lady May widow
Major General Sir Reginald Seaburne May, K.B.E., C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., G.O.C., 49th (West Riding) Division T.A. York and Lady May Son & Daughter-in-Law
Captain Archibald Seaburne May D.S.O., RN and Mrs May Son & Daughter-in-Law
Mr William Drake Seaburne May Grandson
Mr Guy Seaburne May Grandson
Mr John May Brother
Mr & Mrs Armfield Marrow Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law
Miss Marrow
Mrs O. Connor
Mrs Bourne May
Mr & Mrs Sale

The Pallbearers were:- The following estate employees

Mr Loan Head Gardener
Mr Donaldson Gardener
Mr Patterson Gardener
Mr Denholm Chauffeur
Mr Scott Gameskeeper
Mr Miller Gameskeeper


His Majesty the King was represented at the funeral by:-
Admiral Sir Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair, K.C.B., M.V.O., First and Principal Naval Aide de Camp to the King.

The Board of Admiralty were represented by:-

Second Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Cyril Thomas Fuller, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.,

Other Naval representatives presented were:-

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Francis Oliver, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O., L.L.D.,
Rear Admiral Theodore J. Hallett C.B.E., C.O., of the Coast of Scotland
Vice Admiral C.M. Stanley, C.B.,C.M.G.
VIce Admiral A.G. Hotham, C.B., C.M.G..
Paymaster Rear Admiral A.R. Parker, C.B.
Captain Werdon Wilson

Amongst others present we noticed

Sir George Marjoribanks Lees
Colonel Oliver Morebattle
J.L Greig Mr Eccles
Major Balfour Newton Don
Captain J.G. Collingwood Cornhill
Colonel C.T. and Mrs Menzies Kames
General and Mrs Baird Kelloe
Colonel Home Bassendean
Mr and Miss Logan Home Edrom
Major and Mrs Hunter Blair Broomhouse
The Rev. A.E. and Mrs Swinton Coldstream Mr & Mrs R.C. Campbell Renton, Mordington Capt. & Mrs J.H.F. McEwen Marchmont Mrs Hay Duns Castle Miss Ross St Mary’s Cottage Sheriff Burn Murdoch Balabraes The Earl of Home and Lord Dunglass The Hirsel Mr J.H. Currie Swinton House General J.F. Erskine Bonkyl Lodge Mrs Ross Hume Ninewells Capt. Fraser Oxendean Colonel Trotter Charterhall Colonel Brown Houndwood Mrs Smith Whitchester Major H.R. Small (Representing Berwick & District 1914-1918 Officers Club) Major J.K.B. Campbell C.O. Lieut. J.B.A. Hankey (Adjutant) The Hon & Master Napier (representing the Depot K.O.S Borderers Berwick) Colonel Pennyman Ord Cottage Berwick Capt. Liddell Grainger Ayton Castle Capt. Houston Mr M.S. Thomson Lambden Mr Farquhar Nisbet Mr R.G. Johnston Duns (County Clerk) Mr R.J. Loyal (representing Berwickshire Miniature Rifle Association) Mr C.J. Moir (representing the Hon. Lady Miller) Depute Chief Constable John George Duns The Rev. W. Morrice Leitholm Mr R Wood (Director of Education) Duns The Rev. Dr. Cairns Duns Mr Provost Carmichael Coldstream Mr S. Forrest Middlefield Mr J.D. Smith Peelwalls Mr T.F. Walton Duns Mrs Beale Duns Dr. McWhan Duns Mr G.A. Russell The Crooks Mrs Elliott Clifton Park Mrs Askew Robertson & Mr Jock Askew Robertson Ladykirk Mr W Elliott Harehead Mr T. Stephenson Chapel Mr John Baoillie Duns Mr James Millar Duns Mr T.A. Gouriay Chirnside Mr Walter Smith (representing the Coldstream Branch of the British Legion of which Sir William was president) Coldstream Mr Thomas More Duns Mr J W. Seggar Coldstream Mr C Clements Duns Castle Mr John Duns Duns Mr John Kirkpatrick Duns Mr W. Gibson Whitsome Mr Thomas Meikle Coldstream Mr G.W.B. Aecher Duns Mr R. Dickson & Mr J Dickson Castlelaw Mr A. Logan & Mr J Logan Castlelaw Mr Hardie Schoolhouse Leitholm Miss Blackadder Leitholm Miss Hiison Leitholm Mr George Jeffrie Leitholm Mr William Mills Leitholm Mr H White Leitholm Mr A Gillie Leitholm Mr & Miss Miller Chatto Mr E Chambers (late Petty Officer R.N. and Sir William’s steward on H.M.S. Dreadnought.) Berwick Mrs Johnston Indoor staff at Bughtrigg Miss Walker Indoor staff at Bughtrigg Miss Burgon Indoor staff at Bughtrigg Miss Russell Indoor staff at Bughtrigg

The entire funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr W.C. McLaren, undertaker, Duns.


Amoung the very many beautiful were the floral tributes were the following:-

Captain & Mrs Mcewen – Marchmont

In remembrance of our long and happy life, from your ever devoted and much sorrowing Kin
In proud and devoted memory of a most generous and devoted father Reggie and Daisy
In remembrance of the best of fathers Archie and Mary
In loving memory Bill, Guy and Bob
Dearest Uncle Willie “Nunquam Obliviscar” (I will never forget) from Alison & Peter
Mr Seaburne May – Southernhay, Ottery St Mary
With deepest sympathy Hilda May
In Loving memory, from John W.F. May, Johnnie & Nancy Ivybridge South Devon
In most loving remembrance and deep sorrow James & Alexander Bourne May – Clewer Green, Windsor
Mrs Bourne May – 9 Sloane Court
With love and deepest sympathy John Kinbarro & Mrs F.J. Morse
With deepest sympathy Miss Ramay – Stainrigg
With love and deepest sympathy Eileen & Alec., Lieut-Col A.C. Allan, Royal Signals
In affectionate remembrance Paymaster Rear Admiral & Mrs A.C. Ramsay Parker & Mr Philip Parker R.N. In Grateful remembrance & the respectful sympathy of the Chairman and Committee of the Royal Naval Benevolent Society With deepest sympathy Mr W. Soltan Davidson,- Leuchie North Berwick With loving memories Molly
From Colonel & lady Edith Trotter
With love from petunia In affectionate remembrance from Brig.-General & Mrs Erskine With deepest sympathy Coldstream Branch of British legion With deepest sympathy Major & Mrs Frederick Drake With deepest sympathy Sue and Daphne – Bayford House Hereford From the Officers THe Depot King’s Own Scottish Borderers With deepest sympathy Clare & Brooke In loving memory from Celia, Eric & John Life’s work well done, now comes rest: In affectionate remembrance Major & Mrs Logan Home & Misses Logan Home – Edrom In loving memory from Marjorie, Bobby & Mary With deepest sympathy Colonel & Mrs Collingwood – Lilburn Tower In respectful remembrance of a very gallant soul Archdeacon & Mrs Sale – Crimble Cottage, Rochdale. Lancs In loving memory of 35 years sincere friendship with a revered chief and great Admiral Surgeon Vice-Admiral Air Robert Hill – 8 Whitehall Court Army & Navy Club From the Officers The Hon. Master of Napier & Mrs Napier – Loanend House Berwick With deepest sympathy Mr Granville Farquhar – Nisbet Duns With great sympathy & personal regards from The Rev. & Mrs C.T. Beale – The Rectory Duns To our old and great friend Cyril & Edith Trotter A tribute or esteem from the Navy Council Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Graves Saule & Lily Graves Saule With deepest sympathy Nancy, Janet & Dulcie Wedderburn Respectful sympathy from Mr & Mrs Chalmers In affectionate remembrance & our heartfelt sympathy Mrs Edward Baird & Brig-General Baird With deepest sympathy Mrs & Mr W.H. Askew Robertson With kind remembrance from Captain & Mrs D.M. Anderson (late 8th Hussars) To the honoured memory of Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Henry May G.C.B., G.C.V.O., with sincere sympathy of the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty
Mrs Hay – Duns Castle
Lord & Lady Home
George & Victoria Bowerhouse
With love Mrs Andrew Smith – Whitchester With deepest sympathy: In remembrance of an old and valued friend Evelyn Miller A token of friendship and sorrow, with heartfelt sympathy from Mr & Mrs Bell Irvine – Makerstoun In memory of a long and much valued friendship from Mrs Hunter – Antonshill With remembrance from the Staff, past and present of Bughtrigg With deepest sympathy Mr & Mrs Ralph Fairbairn – Coldstream In affectionate remembrance Edward & Edith, Vera & Kinbarro – 13 The Boltons SW
The staff 20 St George’s Place York
With deepest sympathy: In grateful affectionate remembrance from The Boy Scouts of Berwickshire
Mr M. & Mrs W Smith – Langrig
From the Pupils & Teachers of Leitholm School
From Major and Mrs Reginald Hunter Blair
With deepest sympathy Mrs Alston & Miss Sheila Stephen – 23 Chesham St London With deepest sympathy Jean & Tom Morgan Grenville Gavin
Gladys & Geoffrey C. Gibson
In affectionate remembrance of the Admiral A tribute of esteem & regard from the Army Council, With deepest sympathy Sir Trevor and Lady Dawson With deepest sympathy Colonel & Mrs Davie – Cumledge With sympathy and affectionate remembrance Lady Levison, Miss Mary & Miss Pamela Levison


  • To visit his full Genealogy Page please click on:- May


  1. I have an Eastman’s Southsea book given to a John May in 1917 as a 6th form prize. I wonder how the book made its journey over to Tennessee… and I also wonder perhaps does it belong to this family

  2. Being that Eastman’s was a Naval school you would think there was a connection. I have looked at all the John May on this site and I am afraid none seem to fit the time frame of 1917 – He would have been 16 to 18 years old. If you do find out any more about this book please do let me know. Thanks Peter.

  3. I have a very old black box with the May coat of arms embossed in gold and the motto “Non tergo sed facie”. Would that have belonged to him or his family?

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