Outside the school’s main hall is a memorial to the pupils and staff of Trinity Academy who lost their lives while engaged on active service during the First World War. Most people are aware of its existence but although we walk past it every day, how often do we actually look at it and what do we know of the names inscribed upon it? My initial response to this question was “probably very little”.
Even though we hold a Remembrance service each November, I felt it was important to highlight the existence of the memorial. Given that it is was the centenary of the start of World War One last year, I felt the need was especially important.
With the help of pupils in S1, I have managed to put together some research on the 73 names on the memorial. My plan was to find out about every person listed. Unfortunately, details for some of the entries have been hard to find. However, we have managed to find out about the vast majority of the people on the memorial.
On the 1st May 1920, an appeal was launched for funds for the Trinity Academy War Memorial. A sum of £150 was targeted. Any surplus was to be used “for some scholastic object”. The appeal was obviously a success as the unveiling of the War Memorial Tablet took place on 5th November 1921. The service was conducted by the Rev D. Kilpatrick. Rector Thomas Duncan read the Roll of Honour and Lord Salvesen unveiled the Memorial Tablet.
The names of 71 pupils and two teachers were recorded. Lance Corporal Audrey Chapman and Private James Sugden both served in the 16th Battalion Royal Scots, more commonly known as McCrae’s Battalion. The 16th Royal Scots included 16 members of Heart of Midlothian FC, arguably the leading club in the country when war broke out. The Trinity boys were both killed in action on the 1st July 1916 during the first day of the Battle of The Somme.
There is one female name on the memorial. Elizabeth Thomson, aged 36, of 19 Summerside Street, joined the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1918. Her own medical record records a latent heart murmur and her short service was interrupted by periods of illness. She died in Croydon War Hospital on 26/10/1918 and is buried in Rosebank Cemetery on Pilrig Street.
Elizabeth Thomson’s neighbours, Albert and Wedderburn Gardner were brothers, both serving as 2nd Lieutenants in the 8th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders. The family lived at 18 Summerside Street and their father and uncles were proprietors of the Leith Burgh’s Pilot, one of three local newspapers of the time. In another life, perhaps their future lay in journalism? They were killed in action within four months of each other in 1917 fighting in France.
Private William Ritchie stands out from the majority of entries on the memorial. At 42 years of age he is one of the oldest of all the people on the memorial. William Ritchie joined the staff at Trinity Academy in 1896 and remained here until 1908 when he left to take up a position at Lorne Street School. He became Second Master at Links Place in 1912 before joining the 5th Royal Scots when war broke out. Along with 5 other Trinity men he died during action at Gallipoli.
Not everyone who appears on the memorial died in action. 2nd Lieutenant Charles Law was only 18 years old. He lived at 40 East Trinity Road and upon leaving school worked in the British Linen Bank on George Street. He joined the Royal Flying Corps but was killed in an accident in February 1918 in Norfolk.
The memorial contains many other similar stories, of lives cut short by conflict and of young men who were present at momentous events in history, perhaps not as key players but as victims of circumstance. The majority of those commemorated served on the Western Front while a handful served in the Navy and a couple of people fought against the Ottoman Empire in modern day Syria and Iraq.
Our aim is to turn the information found into a searchable website with details of each person listed on the memorial. You can now download the roll of honour on this page and please feel free to get in touch if you can provide any further details for any of the names contained in the file.
Written by Adam Caldwell