Today is the anniversary of the Quintinshill Rail Disaster which occurred on 22nd May 1915, the worst train accident in UK history. Quintinshill is in a sparsely populated part of southern Scotland, not far from the English border and the accident occurred between three trains.
One of the trains contained Territorial Army Troops from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion of the Royal Scots, who were en route to embark at Liverpool for Gallipoli during the 1st World War.
The troops had left Leith earlier from their drill hall in Dalmeny Street, Leith. The Drill Hall is now an arts and community craft centre called Out of the Blue.
It still retains much of the feel and space of a drill hall and one could imagine how busy and business-like it was on the run up to the 1/7th Leith Boys heading off to war.
Around half the soldiers on the troop train perished, though the precise number was never exactly known because of the poor condition of the corpses and the fact that the roll of Officers and Men was also destroyed in the accident. However it seems agreed that the number of around 210 of Leith’s finest did not survive.
The bodies were returned to Leith on 24th May 1915 and a funeral for the Officers & Men was held. The cortège took four hours to pass from Dalmeny Street, up Leith Walk and down Pilrig Street to Rosebank Cemetery.
The bodies were interred at a special site within Rosebank Cemetery and a service is held in commemoration annually.
It would be easy to forget the sacrifice of the men of the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, Royal Scots and this terrible accident. The former Drill Hall (Out of the Blue) is open to the public and can be visited most days. There is a great café within. Rosebank Cemetery is also open on a daily basis and the Memorial to the Men is on the far North West corner.
You can also visit these places as part of a walk into and around Leith with Edinburgh Walks (www.edinburghwalks.com).