Daniel C. “Dan” McIsaac was born on May 5, 1892 at West Port Hood, Inverness County, the fourth of Daniel J. and Catherine “Kate” (McLean) McIsaac’s six children. Daniel J. was employed in the local coal mines, where his two oldest boys, Dan, and his older brothe John, also went to work sometime before 1911. Dan eventually relocated to Pictou County, where he continued to work as a miner.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, the abundance of fit, young men in Nova Scotia’s mining communities attracted the attention of military recruiters. This was particularly true during the early months of 1916, when representatives of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade’s four battalions canvassed the entire province in search of soldiers. On March 19, 1916, Daniel C. McIsaac enlisted with the 193rd Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) at Stellarton. James Arthur “Red Jim” Taylor, from Forks at St. Mary’s, Guysborough County, a mining buddy of Dan’s, accompanied him to the recruiting office and enlisted at his side. Dan's rank was private and he was assigned the service number 901659.
In late May, Dan and Jim travelled with Pictou County’s 193rd recruits to Camp Aldershot for a summer’s training alongside their battalion and Brigade mates—the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 219th Battalions. All four units boarded SS Olympic at Halifax and departed for overseas on October 12. Upon landing at Liverpool, England five days later, the Brigade made its way to Witley Camp.
Significant Canadian Corps casualties incurred in fighting at the Somme, France, during the autumn of 1916, resulted in the dissolution of the 193rd and 219th Battalions before year’s end. On December 5, 1916, Dan and Jim were transferred to the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) and crossed the English Channel to France the following day.
While Dan joined his new unit in the field on January 2, 1917, Dan's friend Jim was temporarily assigned to the 3rd and 4th Entrenching Battalions and subsequently transferred to the 85th Battalion on February 24. He was later wounded during the first day’s fighting at Vimy Ridge, France and died of wounds at No. 11 Canadian Field Ambulance on April 10, 1917.
Dan served in the line with the 42nd until February 23, at which time he was deemed “unfit” and returned to Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre. A thorough medical examination determined that Dan suffered from defective hearing. He was therefore assigned to the Canadian Corps Salvage Company on March 19. Established when the Canadian Corps relocated to the Somme region of France in late summer 1916, the Company’s personnel gathered reusable material in the forward area and stored it in “dumps” for future use.
Dan worked with the salvage unit throughout the spring and summer months, and was transferred to the 8th Canadian Area Employment Company on September 27, 1917, the day prior to the unit’s official establishment at Barlin. Its personnel assisted Town Majors in locations “in rear of the forward area,” acting as traffic control guards, loading and unloading railcars. Dan remained with his new unit throughout the winter and spring of 1917-18. His impaired hearing, however, proved to be an increasing impediment and he was “struck off strength” to the Canadian Labor Pool on July 25, 1918.
Dan returned to England on December 15, 1918 and departed for Canada aboard SS Empress of Britain on February 17, 1919. Following his discharge from military service at Halifax on March 18, he returned to Inverness, where he resumed work in the local coal mines and married. Tragically, having survived almost two years of service in the perilous forward area, Dan C. McIsaac was “accidentally killed by fall in mine” on February 7, 1924. He was 31 years, nine months old at the time of his death.
For additional information on Dan McIsaac, refer to the following online source:
Thanks to Bruce MacDonald of Antigonish, NS, for researching and writing Daniel McIsaac's biography.
I would like to thank Bruce MacDonald and Heather Taylor Facey for providing the studio portrait photo in Section 2. To compliment the collection, I added the studio portrait photo of Dan McIsaac in Section 1 from my own collection.