The Future
Contalmaison Cairn
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News from the Front:

Updated 9th May 2009

Latest News and Events

>>> McCrae's Battalion Trust :

Pilgrimage 2009 - click to download itineraryThe official 2009 pilgrimage to Contalmaison takes place from 29th June to 3rd July. Click on this 'Contalmaison Pilgrimage' button on the left to download the full itinerary (.pdf file).

Read about, and see pictures from, the 90th Anniversary pilgrimage to France


Bernard Sénéchal,  maire of Contalmaison, arrived in Edinburgh on Friday 3 February at our invitation as a mark of thanks for his unstinting support of the Cairn project.

Bernard has not been without his critics at home, where our new memorial has been described by some local incomers as 'too Scottish'. He's risen above this nonsense, however, and become a good friend to the City of Edinburgh. This visit (at the Committee's expense) was simply intended to show him how grateful we are.

He and his wife, Odette (together with 'minder' Julian Hutchings of the Alliance France-Ecosse), were installed in the Royal Scots Club. We took them to the Canny Man's on the Friday evening to sample a typical Scottish pub; on Saturday afternoon Julian drove them on a wee tour to Pitlochry, and on Saturday night we entertained them to a slap-up meal at L'Petite Folie in Frederick Street. The French proprieters of this excellent establishment treated Bernard like royalty, while a neighbouring table of French rugby supporters serenaded him with renditions of 'Flower of Scotland' and 'Le Marseillaise'. It was a surreal evening.

On the Sunday we took him to Murrayfield, where his compatriots were unable to give him a victory. On the Monday morning it was down to business: meetings with the French Consul-General in Randolph Crescent, with Lord Provost Lesley Hinds at the City Chambers, and a flying visit to Tynecastle Park, where he was extensively photographed and interviewed by the Press.

Julian then drove the exhausted couple back to Prestwick, where Ryanair allowed them to board the Beauvais flight half an hour after the official check-in time. Diplomatic immunity for friends of Sir George!

Since then, we have already had numerous expressions of gratitude: Bernard and Odette couldn't believe the warmth of their welcome. They want to come back some day and they tell me that anyone who wishes to visit Contalmaison or the cairn is equally welcome in future. He quoted the 'Old Alliance' several times and kept saying (in fractured English) "Scotland and France - always friends!"


The Memorial Committee is on the point of formally converting into a Registered Scottish Charity, thre McCrae's Battalion Trust. This will be the first charitable institution in the world to be inspired by an infantry battalion of the Great War. The setting up of this body has been a complicated business and I am grateful to Fraser Jackson and Sally Wood of Henderson Boyd Jackson, W.S, for their expert assistance. In due course we hope that the Trust will not only look after the Cairn for posterity, but also act as a focus to  educate folk about Scotland's sacrifice in the Great War. In addition there is almost unlimited scope to raise funds for good causes in the name of Sir George and his lads. What a fitting way to remember such a wonderful unit.

Note that we are still actively trying to raise funds. For example, the paved area around the cairn remains incomplete. There is also the immediate issue of a one-off payment to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission so that our memorial can be added to their list of monitored monuments. This figure (which is currently being negotiated) will in itself amount to several thousand pounds. We propose also in future to make an annual donation to Erskine Veterans' Hospital, so none of the monies that we raise will be wasted. Anyone who wishes to contribute should send their cheques (payable to the 'Great War Memorial Committee') to the following address:

The Great War Memorial Committee, 
Tynecastle Stadium,
Gorgie Road, 
EH11 2NL 


At half-time on Wednesday evening 13th April 2005 at Tynecastle Craig Herbertson and Ed Westerdale performed their tribute to McCrae's Battalion, 'Hearts of Glory'. Before the match the pair presented Memorial Committee chairman Tom Purdie with a cheque for £1,000 - proceeds of the committee's share of the sale of the single. This is a great gesture by the lads and the committee is most grateful. Craig would like to point out that his song is dedicated to everyone in the battalion - regardless of football allegiance. The 'Hearts' part of the title should not necessarily be taken as a club reference: it refers also to the courage in the hearts of every man who took part in the dreadful advance on 1 July 1916. Some of these lads followed the likes of Raith Rovers and Dunfermline; many of them followed the Hibs.


>>> HEARTS GREAT WAR MEMORIAL TIES : see sample and find out how to order here.

>>> THE HEARTS AND THE GREAT WAR by John McCartney:  the original Heart of Midlothian F.C. Roll of Honour from 1918. This scarce illustrated booklet now ranks among the world’s most sought-after pieces of sporting memorabilia. Original copies can change hands for more than £200. We have commissioned the production of a strictly limited number of precise facsimiles – which are also now in great demand. These are only £5.99 including postage and packing. Find out how to secure your own little bit of sporting history here.

>>> OFFICIAL ‘CONTALMAISON CAIRN’ T-SHIRTS:  these incorporate a colour photographic image of the cairn as it was on Dedication Day (7 November 2004) with the now-famous ‘spooky saltire’ forming in the sky directly above. Made from high quality, heavyweight cotton. Everybody’s after one! Available in S, M, L and XL from the project’s official print consultant, Eddie Dalgleish, at Pace Print, 19 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh EH8 9JD (phone 0131 667 0737). Check out the company website at  www.paceprint.co.uk.

>>> HEARTS OF GLORY:  maxi CD and album by Craig Herbertson and Ed Westerdale – as performed at Contalmaison on Dedication Day. Inspired by the book, McCrae’s Battalion, the inspiring title song became a surprise hit in the independent music charts. You’ll also find a rousing new version of Hector Nicol’s famous old ‘Hearts’ song – among a host of other great tunes. Craig and Ed have pledged a generous proportion of their profits to the Memorial Fund. Find out how to order your copy here : www.ruhrfolk.de.

Jack Alexander.

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