February - August 2015
“It’s almost impossible, sitting here, to comprehend what it was like that morning.”
Colonel Robert Watson, senior veteran of the Royal Scots, 16 May 2015
On the 22nd May 1915, at Quintinshill near Gretna, 216 men from the 1/7th Royal Scots died in what is still the worst train disaster in British railway history.
A troop train journeying south collided with a local passenger train, and moments latter was hit by a passing express, but the disaster was made much worse by the subsequent fire.
The 1/7th Royal Scots were known as the ‘Leith Battalion’. Based at the Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street recruits were predominantly local residents. This building later became the focal point for families looking for information after the disaster, and where remains were held before the subsequent funeral procession and burial in nearby Rosebank Cemetery.
Almost 100 years later, in 2014, a group of volunteers met at Dalmeny Street to look again at the disaster. The group was interested in local stories and how Leith had changed over the past century. This research informed the community play ‘Persevere’.
In February 2015 members of the group met again to extend their research. Over weekly sessions participants chose to respond personally to individuals, illustrating the lives of those involved in the disaster.
The subsequent exhibition, ‘Seven of the 7th’, exhibited the findings of the research group. This was displayed alongside a permanently sited artwork, the ‘Tree of Life’ by glass artist Heather Scott, produced in partnership with Pilmeny Youth Centre and pupils from local Leith Academy.
The exhibition ‘Seven of the 7th’. Original research material and new archive material, held by Citizen Curator.
Producer/director Ray Bird’s film ‘Gretna 100’ documented the project. Excerpts from this were also shown as part of the exhibition.
Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust, Active Inquiry’s Flashback Drama Company and Strangetown’s Young Company, Pilmeny Youth Centre.
The exhibition ‘Seven of the 7th’ was commissioned by Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust. The Gretna 100 project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Keywords: Project, Local, Leith, Heritage, Gretna, Quintinshill, Rail, Disaster