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Chronicles of War

Zeppelins o’er Auld Reekie

Workers Educational Association’s ‘Chronicles of War: Edinburgh’s Experiences of World War 1 on the Home Front’ project and ‘When the War Came Home’ play.

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, this Heritage Lottery funded project gave a group of writers the chance to research and co-operatively develop a play about Edinburgh’s involvement in the Great War. The play enabled local people of all ages to discover the role of Edinburgh people during the War and its effect on them. It dramatizes the impact of World War I on Edinburgh, for both those who went to war and those who stayed at home. Edinburgh’s history has never been brought to life in quite this way before.

The play focusses on the contribution of real life Edinburgh people: Dr Elsie Inglis, imprisoned by the Germans; Sir George McCrae who encouraged players and supporters of Hearts Football Club to volunteer; the poet Wilfred Owen who recovered from shellshock at Craiglockhart Hospital and taught at Tynecastle High School as part of his therapy. Edinburgh buildings that feature in the play include Dalmeny House, the Usher Hall, Tynecastle High School and other buildings in the Gorgie district, the Grassmarket which suffered the first Zeppelin raid, and the old Scotsman offices.

The play includes famous people and also those unknown ones who were caught up in the war. It offers unique insights into the horrors of war, breathing life into the news reports of the day so young people can appreciate the significance of their city to the Great War. This play will be relevant to all generations.

The WEA Playwrights Workshop are delighted to be given the opportunity to work as a group, to record Edinburgh’s significant contribution to the War and the part played by many now forgotten Edinburgh People. This is an exciting collaboration for a group of writers, most of whom have never seen their writing performed or taken out into the community.

As one member of the Playwrights expressed,

"As a retired person I am pleased to be able to contribute to the project; to be working in the historic building of Riddle’s Court and being able to learn and harness new research skills."

Colin McLean, Head of HLF Scotland, said,

“The First World War changed the face of modern history touching the lives of everyone in this country and beyond. HLF  has committed to funding a variety of projects, from organisations large and small that will create a deeper understanding  of the heritage of the conflict. Some of these will capture the memories of individual soldiers, regiments or families, delve  into the stories behind names local war memorials, whilst others like this project in Edinburgh will investigate the impact  the conflict had on a whole city. We have already supported over £35m of projects from across the United Kingdom and  will continue to support as many applications as we can afford that want to commemorate the centenary.”

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK. To find out more about the Heritage Lottery Fund click here.   

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo

The play 'When the War Came Home' was a great success with a performance for Tynecastle High School pupils and two well attended performances at St Brides Centre on Wednesday 14th January 2015 and Tynecastle HIgh School on Friday 16th January 2015. The programme can be found here .

Watch the trailer of the fiilm recorded at Tynecastle: 

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