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June 3, 2015

A sense of history

Last month saw the centenary of Britain’s worst ever train crash which left 226 dead and 246 injured. The crash happened at Quintinshill, near Gretna but what made it an even greater tragedy was that almost all of the dead came from one community – Leith. The devastating impact of that awful accident resonates to this day as evidenced by the number of commemorative events organised locally and involving all ages and sections of the community. Hundreds of Leithers took part.



On the 22nd May 1915 1915, at Quintinshill near Gretna, the worst train disaster in British railway history left over 200 men from the 1/7th Royal Scots dead. This ‘Leith Battalion’ trained at the Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street which later became the focus point for families looking for information after the disaster.

Working with Out of the Blue in this same building 100 years later, a group of community actors from Active Inquiry and Strange Town Young Company have researched and devised a piece of promenade theatre, Persevere, which guides the audience around the Drill Hall and enables them to catch glimpses of stories of Leithers 100 years ago saying goodbye to sons and brothers, hearing the news of the crash and coping with the aftermath.

In addition, a group of community researchers have worked with Citizen Curator and artist Jan-Bee Brown to research and curate an exhibition, Seven of the 7th, exploring the disaster through the story of seven soldiers who were involved. This exhibition also includes The Tree of Life, produced in partnership with Pilmeny Youth Centre and artist Heather Scott, in which pupils from Leith Academy have researched and helped to make a glass dog-tag for each of the 216 soldiers who died. Producer/Director Ray Bird’s film documentary will be shown as part of the exhibition.

Gretna 100 research group member and descendant of one of the crash survivors Heather Thomson investigates how the sacrifice of the 1/7th Battalion of the Royal Scots is being remembered.

Gretna 100 Click here