School pupils from across East Ayrshire have marked Armistice Day with a commemorative event held at Kilmarnock Railway Station, ninety eight years since the end of World War One.
The pupils also unveiled a special exhibition called ‘Then and Now’ which tells the story of the life and times of railway workers at Kilmarnock Railway Station and Kilmarnock Railway Works and how they and their families were impacted by the unfolding events of the First World War.
Working with Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust and boosted by a £10,000 award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Primary pupils were supported by peers in secondary schools, Kilmarnock & District History Group and East Ayrshire Family History Group, piecing together stories from the time.
Each pupil chose an individual worker and visits to the Burns Monument Centre to make use of ‘Scotland’s People’, a fascinating online archive, formed a key part of the pupils’ research into the individuals they chose.
Many of the workers worked for Glasgow & South Western Railway Company in Kilmarnock. The railway company lost over 300 men during the conflict and, in 1922, a memorial was unveiled in their memory at St Enoch Railway Station.
The service held at the station was similar to the1922 dedication service, and pupils from Grange Academy Music Department provided musical accompaniment including the Last Post and the National Anthem.
Senior pupils from St Joseph’s Academy read works from a local wartime poet Pate McPhun and a passage describing the events in Sarajevo (and in Kilmarnock) on the day Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, triggering WWI.
Research had established links to relatives of the workers who served during the Great War, including Jessie Morran, whose father was Private Andrew Allison.
East Ayrshire Council Leader Douglas Reid was another relative attending as his great uncle Hugh Boyd was another of the workers the pupils studied.
Laura Kennedy (P7) Gargieston Primary said:”Taking part in this project helped my maths, geography and writing skills. I enjoyed the time researching my railway worker and have made a lot of new friends.”
Abbie McEwan (P7) Crosshouse Primary added: “It was fun getting to go up to the Burns Monument Centre and using the resources there. I learned about the history of Kilmarnock and different streets. I also learned about World War One, including different regiments and where battles took place and who was involved
Stephanie Primrose, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “The ‘Then and Now’ project is an incredibly detailed and moving exhibition, telling the story of the First World War through the lives of those who worked on the railway.
“It’s a fantastic project and I’d urge everyone to go along to Kilmarnock Station and see it.”
East Ayrshire Council Leader Douglas Reid said: “History is all around us and literally on the doorstep, as I learned more about my own great uncle Hugh Boyd, who lived at North Hamilton Street, Kilmarnock.
“I was particularly moved when I learned that he had been killed at Gallipoli at the age of just 21 and I realised that some of the workers studied by the pupils were not much older than them when left home and went to fight for King and Country.
“The real tragedy is that so many of these young men never came home and I’m pleased our young people today have been able to bring new life to the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so many years ago.”
‘Then and Now’ is on show at Kilmarnock Railway Station until 25 November 2016, and will then be moved to the Ayrshire Archives as part of a wider public resource.