Falkirk men among Quintinshill rail disaster victims

Lance Corporal John Sutherland, The Royal Scots. A teacher from Laurieston died in action in WWI.

Lance Corporal John Sutherland, The Royal Scots. A teacher from Laurieston died in action in WWI.

  • Rail disaster at Quintinshill remains the worst in British history in terms of those killed
  • Troop train that departed from Larbert station in 1915 was involved in three-train smash near Gretna
  • Anniversary of the tragedy to be commemorated next month
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They were the Falkirk district soldiers killed before they had the chance to serve their country on the battlefield 
during World War One.

Three local men were among the estimated 226 victims of the Quintinshill rail disaster on May 22, 1915, when a troop train that had departed from Larbert station crashed into a local service at a junction near Gretna. An express train bound for Glasgow ploughed into the wreckage just moments later.

The 100th anniversary of what remains the worst rail accident in the UK will be marked with memorial services in Larbert, Gretna and Leith - where most of the 
victims lived - next month.

Baillie Billy Buchanan, who is leading the organisation of the Larbert service, has been researching the stories of the Falkirk men who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Private James Robertson (17), originally from 
Carronshore, Private William 
Pettigrew (17) of Larbert and Private J.W. Ballantyne - who moved from Leith to work at a Camelon chemical works - were all members of the 7th Battalion Royal Scots and were killed on that fateful morning.

Pte Ballantyne (21) had married a Camelon woman only two months before the disaster.

Private Matthew Harkins (30), of Grahamston, escaped the initial crash unscathed. But after departing his carriage, he had returned to collect his Glengarry bonnet when the second impact 
occurred. He was left with 
severe burns and injuries but would recover.

One soldier who survived the crash unscathed would be killed at the front only weeks later. Lance-Corporal John Sutherland (27), of the 4th Royal Scots, was injured in action at the Dardanelles, Turkey, on June 29, 1915, and later died of his injuries.

The Falkirk Herald of 
July 24, 1915, reported he had been a teacher at Laurieston School for five years and was a member of Falkirk Operatic Society.

Cllr Buchanan said: “I’m hoping relatives of those 
involved at Quintinshill, or 
anyone who has other 
connections to the disaster, will get in touch ahead of the service next month.”