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September 10, 2014

Leith remembers

Britain’s worst ever rail disaster occurred near Gretna , involving a train carrying  a battalion of the Royal Scots Brigade bound for Gallipoli in WW1, had a profound and lasting effect on the community of Leith. Of the 226 soldiers killed, the majority were local. The bodies were brought back and laid out in what is now the renowned community arts base – Out of the Blue Drill Hall. Memorials are dotted around Leith as constant reminder of that tragedy. A big project is being planned to mark the 100th anniversary.




The Gretna 100 Project has been designed to commemorate the Quintinshill Rail disaster of May 22nd 1915, when three trains collided resulting in 246 injured and 226 fatalities; making it the worst rail disaster in British history in terms of fatalities.  Many of those who lost their lives in the collision were on a troop train carrying soldiers  from the 1/7th Leith Battalion of the Royal Scots Brigade.  These young soldiers, largely from Leith, Portobello and Mussleburgh, were headed to Liverpool and the ship that would take them to the front at the time of the crash.  The rail disaster and resulting loss of life had a devastating impact on the people of these communities.  Families were asked to come to the Drill Hall to undertake the sombre task of identifying their loved ones.

Gretna 100 has three aspects of the project.  There will be a participatory research group which will meet weekly in September to gather materials which will then be used to form the basis of a devised theatre project and a piece of visual art.

Research Group

The research group will meet on Mondays from 8th September-3rd November from 3-5pm at The Drill Hall. Sessions will include training in participatory research and interview techniques. Members of this group will spend time collecting images, memories, stories and objects related to the disaster. These will become the starting point for the drama piece and will also feature in the exhibition.

Drama Group

The drama group will meet on Monday evenings from 13th October at The Drill Hall from 6.30-9.30pm. This will be a collaboration between Active Inquiry and Strangetown theatre companies. Using the objects and stories collected by the research group they will be devising an original piece of theatre for performances on 22nd May as well as during the Leith Festival in June and the Forest Fringe in August.


An exhibition of work and images about or inspired by the disaster will be on display at The Drill Hall. The research group will feed into this exhibition as well as local schools and a specially commissioned piece in collaboration with Pilmeny Youth Centre. We are happy to consider any other proposals for the exhibition.

For more information or to book a place on the research or drama group please contact Gavin

If you would like to be a part of this project or have some photos or stories to share with us, let us know.

Please contact