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TV star Neil explores border rail disaster

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By Lisa Barbour
Annan and Eskdale

A DOCUMENTARY investigating a horrific rail crash near Gretna Green will be screened next week — just days ahead of the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

 

‘Quintinshill: Britain’s Deadliest Rail Disaster’ will be televised on BBC Two Scotland on Wednesday at 9 pm, and repeated on BBC Four on Thursday at the same time.

The one-hour show will be presented by historian and former Annandale Observer reporter Neil Oliver, who will look at what happened in the build-up to the collision on May 22 1915 as well as examining the case against the signalmen and whether the court verdicts and conclusions from the official inquiries would be the same today.

Neil, who begins his investigations in fields close to Gretna Green, said: “The
fields here today are every bit as peaceful as they would have been at the outbreak of the First World War. But by 1915 things were starting to change
— on the sea, in the trenches and in Government.

“The reality of the Great War was beginning to dawn. Military disasters were plaguing the Government and more men were desperately needed on the front line.

“And then in May 1915, on the railway line that cuts through these fields, everyone got precisely what they didn’t want – another disaster.”

The collision at the Quintinshill signal box, which claimed an estimated 226 lives and left hundreds more injured, involved a military train filled with troops heading for Gallipoli and two passenger trains.

Duty signalmen George Meakin and James Tinsley were found responsible for the disaster and were both jailed on the charges of culpable homicide.

Reading detailed first-hand reports in the Annandale Observer at the Ewart Library in Dumfries, Neil added: “This is especially fascinating for me. This is the Annandale Observer from May 28 1915.

“Now I trained as a journalist at the Annandale Observer; that was where I did my indenture as a cub reporter. And it’s great to see my journalistic ancestors covering the event.”

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