A play inspired by the true story of four miner friends from East Lothian who joined the anti-fascist International Brigades in the 1930s has led to the creation of a new digital archive devoted to the little-known band of volunteers.
Audiences will be able to access specially created tributes to soldiers from each area the play will visit via an augmented reality app.
Two theatre-makers have spent three years collecting dozens of family stories,photographs and other mementos linked to the 549 Scots who travelled to Spain, as well as accounts from historians for the multimedia project, including a travelling exhibition linked to the app, which will be unveiled to coincide with the opening of the play in Prestonpans, the village where the miners – George Watters, Bill Dickson, Jock Gilmour and Jimmy Kempton – were from.
Scots made up a quarter of the 2,400 British men and women who volunteered after MPs voted for a non-interventionist policy in Spain. Most Scots who fought on the side of the Spanish Republic against General Franco were drawn from working-class communities, industries such as mining, printing and construction, and members of the Communist and Labour parties. More Scots, proportionately, volunteered than from any other country, with the fight against fascism seen as part of a wider struggle for democracy and equality.
The play, 549: Scots Of The Spanish Civil War, will visit Wick, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perthshire, Ayrshire and the Borders in May and June. The Heritage Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland are funding the project, created by writer-actor Robbie Gordon and writer-director Jack Nurse.
Gordon, who instigated the project after hearing about the four miners from his grandfather, said: “It was unbelievable to think how four guys from Prestonpans went all the way to Spain off their own backs, against the government’s will, to fight for freedom and democracy.
“We discovered they were really connected through their beliefs and their politics. One of the really interesting things that came out of the research we did was the idea that people from all these different places came together to fight for what they believed in.”