Hearts in 50 objects: No.45 – Haymarket war memorial

Around 35,000 people were in attendance
Around 35,000 people were in attendance
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This photograph shows the opening of the Haymarket War Memorial in 1922, attended by a staggering 35,000 people.

It was raised in honour of those who gave their lives fighting in World War I and has special significance to Hearts, who lost seven first-team members during the conflict.

Harry Wattie, Duncan Currie, Ernie Ellis, Jimmy Speedie, Jimmy Body, Tom Gracie, John Allan all perished in conflict. Paddy Crossan and Robert Mercer eventually suffered wartime gassing, while Alfie Briggs ended up crippled and unable to play football again.

They had all joined the so-called footballers’ battalion, also known as McCrae’s Battalion, and headed off to battle in 1914. Although the War ended in 1918, the huge sense of loss was still very real four years later when the clock tower was opened in their honour.

The photograph shows the depth of interest on such a momentous occasion. As well as people crammed together on the pavements and roads surrounding the monument, there are also dozens crammed on walls and along railings in the background.

Some even put their safety at risk by climbing on to the rooftop of a building merchants across the street, such was their desire to be present when Edinburgh honoured the fallen World War I heroes.

Hearts officials, staff and players attend a memorial service at the Haymarket monument every year and it is considered a hugely important part of the club’s history to this day. Supporters are rightly proud of their heritage and also attend the service.

It should also be pointed out that there were not only Hearts players involved in McCrae’s Battalion. Some from city rivals Hibs, Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dunfermline Athletic, East Fife and St Bernand’s also signed up and made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Haymarket Memorial was temporarily removed in 2010 to allow construction of the tramway across the road junction. It was replaced in a slightly different position in 2013, in time for the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of World War I.