Multi arts centenary investigation into worst ever UK rail tragedy

28th April 2015

PRESS RELEASE: 28th April 2015

On the morning of May 22nd 1915, Quintinshill near Gretna witnessed the biggest train disaster in British Railway history.  Three trains had collided resulting in 226 fatalities.  Most of the dead were soldiers who had trained at the drill hall in Leith, on their way to Gallipoli.  Those who had waved their young sons, brothers, sweethearts and friends off only days earlier were soon to be faced with the solemn task of identifying their loved one’s body in the Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street in Leith (now part of Edinburgh)

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, on Friday May 22nd 2015, Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust, who now own and manage the Drill Hall as an arts centre and much loved resource for the community will mark the centenary of this disaster, with an exhibition and theatre performance.

Working with Out of the Blue in the same building 100 years later, a group of community actors from Active Inquiry and Strange Town Young Company have created ‘Persevere’ a piece of theatre 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.  Playwright Duncan Kidd has used the findings that our hardworking community research group compiled through interviews and archival research, as the basis for his script.

A group of community researchers have worked with Citizen Curator and artist Jan-Bee Brown to curate an exhibition titled ‘Seven of the 7th’, which will give the audience a visual historical context to a promenade performance within the Drill Hall atrium.  The exhibition includes the ‘Tree of Life’; a permanent visual art installation created by artist Heather Scott and the young people of Pilmeny Youth Centre and Leith Academy. Producer/Director Ray Bird’s film documentary will be shown as part of the exhibition. Together the performance and the exhibition will explore the impact this disaster had on the Leith community.

Project participant Heather Thompson  (granddaughter of survivor Alexander Thomson) says;

“Why should we remember? – we need to learn from the past to prevent making the same mistakes in the future.  It helps us respect those who went before, so that we can respect those who are with us now.”

Out of the Blue Manager Rob Hoon says;

‘The Out of the Blue Drill Hall is historically associated with a hugely significant tragedy for the Leith community. Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund we have been able to explore the impact on individuals and families by people undertaking their own research , uncovering stories and presenting them to the people of Leith (and beyond!)’

Film Premiere 16th May 6.30pm
Quintinshill: Britain’s Deadliest Rail Disaster, a one-hour film produced by Finestripe Productions, investigates what remains Britain’s worst rail disaster. Neil Oliver presents and narrates the story, looking at what happened on the day and at the inquests, inquiries and trials that saw the two signalmen on duty imprisoned for causing the catastrophe. Using dramatic reconstructions and contemporary reports, Neil shines a fresh light on the case against the two imprisoned men.  Advocates, signalmen and experts also help him find out why the disaster at Quintinshill was so deadly and carefully lay out the prosecution’s case as well as the evidence that was never put in their defence. The film will then be shown on BBC Two Scotland at 9pm on Wednesday 20th May. Ahead of broadcast, Out of the Blue will host an exclusive screening on Saturday 16th May for those who helped make the film including Royal Scots veterans and expert on-screen contributors, people connected to the tragedy and invited press.


All events at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall

Film Premiere event
16th May 6.30pm
RSVP by 6th May

Exhibition and Gretna 100 Launch
22nd May 6pm

Persevere Performances
Tickets £6 available at

22nd May 8.30pm
23rd May 6.30pm & 8.30pm
20th June 6.30pm & 8.30pm
12th & 13th August 6.30pm

Seven of the 7th Exhibition (Free entry)
22nd May 6pm – Exhibition and Gretna 100 Launch
23rd May – 13th August – Open from 10am – 5pm (not Sundays) Free entry


Further details via

Further information

For further information, images and interviews and to RSVP for launch or film premier, please contact Out of the Blue Marketing Manager Meg Davies on 0131 555 7131



Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust is based in the Drill Hall in Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh.  Our mission is to provide opportunities for artists and other people who face barriers to creativity, to meet, work, participate, enjoy themselves, learn and develop skills and knowledge.  We are one of Scotland’s leading community, cultural and arts development organisations. Out of the Blue helps to make a real difference to people’s lives by providing economic, cultural, social and educational opportunities.  To find out more about our Gretna100 project and all our other events, please visit

Over the last decade, Glasgow-based production company Finestripe Productions has scored a series of TV hits across genres. Recent highlights include the BAFTA-nominated Channel 4 series Bank of Dave, and its BAFTA-winning follow-up Dave: Loan Ranger, where Burnley-based minibus salesman Dave Fishwick, took on the banks and payday lenders and won. American broadcaster Smithsonian Channel described the history series Million Dollar American Princesses as “interesting, elegant, visually sumptuous and fun”. Landmark single documentaries on the assassinations of John F Kennedy and John Lennon have brought BAFTA and Grierson nominations, cementing Finestripe’s reputation for high quality factual television. For more information, please visit

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  To date it has invested over £588million in Scotland’s heritage.
Heritage Lottery Fund:  Website Twitter: @heritagelottery

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