Pupils’ tribute to Hearts hero

13 Hearts players joined  McCrae's Battalion
13 Hearts players joined McCrae's Battalion
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HE was once an ordinary school pupil just like them – but his heroics during the First World War carved him a legacy the city still honours nearly 100 years after his death.

Former Hearts star Jimmy Boyd, who joined the famous McCrae’s Battalion, has become the inspiration for a play to be performed by pupils at his former secondary school.

The popular footballer was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 having famously become one of 13 Hearts players to volunteer for service under city soldier Sir George McCrae – prompting hundreds of fans and other men to do likewise.

“It is 95 years since the Battle of the Somme, but staff and pupils still pay tribute to their ex-pupil who fought and died there and all other ex-pupils who have served their country,” said Sandy Potter, pupil support manager at West Calder High School.

Around ten pupils and two members of staff from the West Lothian school will take part in The Scarf next week, which tells the story of two fictitious characters – Duncan and Jimmy – who follow the example set by the Hearts players and join the 16th Battalion of the Royal Scots, which became known as “McCrae’s Own” or “McCrae’s Battalion”.

The play, set during the conflict and named after a scarf given to the character Duncan by his girlfriend, Amy, to wish him luck before heading off for battle, was originally planned to take place on Remembrance Day last year but had to be cancelled due to cracks on the stage wall at the school, which have since been repaired.

It will now be held next Thursday.

Mr Potter said: “The play tells the story of how both boys take part in the Battle of the Somme and was inspired by the story of Lance Corporal Jimmy Boyd.

“As a result of a project, and a short film we made called Lest We Forget about Jimmy Boyd a few years ago, pupils attend the remembrance services at Haymarket and at the village of Contalmaison, in France, to lay a wreath on behalf of the school and Jimmy Boyd’s family.

“After the service in Contalmaison last year, we decided to do something a bit different to mark the occasion and have written this play.”

Pupils from third, fourth, fifth and sixth year are taking part in the production, as well as two former pupils.

There will also be a photographic display of the ceremonies at Contalmaison in the school foyer on the night, as well as photos of Jimmy Boyd.

Staff and pupils from the school’s craft, design and technology department have even built a replica model of a nine-inch Howitzer field artillery gun, which will be on display.

It is hoped that members of the charity McCrae’s Battalion Trust, which was inspired by the sacrifice of the infantry battalion during the Great War, will attend the performance.

McCrae’s Battalion was nicknamed after Sir George McCrae who led them. Thirteen Hearts players volunteered for service despite the fact they were leading the Scottish First Division (now SPL) at the time.

Five hundred of the club’s fans and hundreds of other local men followed suit, including players from Hibs, Raith Rovers and East Fife. Many, like Boyd and teammates Duncan Currie, Harry Wattie and Ernest Ellis, died in the Battle of the Somme.

n Tickets for The Scarf cost £4/£3 and are available from the school or at the door on the night. The production starts at 7.30pm.