Leith at War: Memories make History

Last year’s Age Scotland Award winners; Citadel Arts Group are proud to promote their latest inter-generational project. Author Laure C. Patterson tells us more about the project, from the script through to performance week! Thanks too to Director Liz Hare for the pictures and background.

Leith at War Flyer

Yesterday I was in Leith’s Hermitage Court sheltered housing complex with a class of Primary 6 children mixing with residents old enough to be their grandparents. The children were performing scenes from a play based on the living memories of these and other residents. The laughs and tears and shouts of appreciation were for real. Many were mine!

Dress Rehersals

Mark Kydd as Grampa, Angus Skakle as young Eck at Dress Rehersals

As a kid I loved listening to stories. The best were true, told by my dad and my great-aunt, who talked of their adventures in earthquakes, train wrecks and perilous sea journeys. My mum created fairytales full of magic and dreams. Now, in my sixties, I’m listening to stories again: stories of excitement, daring and courage. And they’re all real! They were told to me by Leithers who lived through blitzes, blackouts and bombs in the Second World War, right here on the Leith Home Front.

Pupils from St Mary's Primary and residents of Hermitage Court

Back in March, children from St Mary’s Primary came along to Hermitage Court to enjoy the reading, socialise together and give us their thoughts about the play.

When I joined Citadel Arts Group some years ago I learned a great deal about courage, patience and humour from helping run living memory sessions with Leithers up to 91 years of age. Citadel Arts, with a history of producing community dramas from living memory, kindly offered me the chance to write. So I wrote ‘Leith At War’. Three classes of primary and secondary children have come together to share these stories with their tellers, and one of the pupils stars in ‘Leith At War’. So I was really proud when Age Scotland honoured Citadel last year by voting us Member Group of the Year in a Parliamentary presentation!

Living Memory Group

First read through with our script advisers whose ages ranged from 70s to 90s.l They advised us closely about the events of the play, the way people spoke, details of dress and RAF uniform, to achieve authenticity.

Thank you to all the lovely people who shared their stories with me, to Citadel for taking these stories onto the stage, and to Age Scotland for the great work they do with the older generations who enrich us every day. I hope you can all come and see the play.


‘Leith At War’ is being performed in the Leith Hub (foot of Leith Walk) on 19, 20 June at 7.30pm and 21 June at 2pm. Tickets £7/£5. Click on leithatwar@gmail.com to reserve tickets.



Celebrating real life stories

John McCaughie introduces us to The Living Memory Association; a reminiscence project based in Leith, but covering the whole of Edinburgh.

Bessie, who is 98, has attended some of our social events. Her daughter Pearl describes how much these outings mean to her mum: ‘Mum had a lovely time at the Burns Supper. The Living Memory Association has given her a new lease of life.’

Bessie and Pearl

Bessie and her daughter Pearl. Bessie is holding a photo of her, her husband Harry and daughter Pearl.

As part of a 2nd World War project with local primary schools we invited George, a ninety-one year old, to meet a class of P.7s and tell them about his experiences in the Merchant Navy during the war. The children listened to George’s first hand account of what it was like to sail on the convoys bringing supplies from America to Britain and where torpedoes from German submarines were a constant threat.

Win was born in 1916 in London. She worked in an aeroplane factory during the 2nd World War and campaigned for better pay and conditions for women workers. We made Win a Life Story Book and she was delighted with the results. ‘This is really special to me to have my stories and photos collected in this book. It’s wonderful, truly wonderful.’

Edinburgh Dynamos – a women's football team from the 1950s

Edinburgh Dynamos – a women’s football team from the 1950s

These are just some of the activities we offer to older people living, sometimes isolated lives, in the community. Through reminiscence work we bring people together to share their memories, make new friends and learn form one another.

The charity also offers training in reminiscence skills for anyone interested in working with older people. Our next training day is on 13th September 2013. Please contact John for further details on 0131 553 4580 or john@livingmemory.org.uk.