Heart of the war

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I write in response to James Leadbetter’s assertion (Letters, 15 November) that accuracy is important when recording the events of the Great War. Unfortunately, Mr Leadbetter has failed to heed his own advice.

The Castle Street recruiting station to which he refers was opened only for the dedicated purpose of raising Sir George McCrae’s new battalion. It consisted of a single upper room at the front of the Palace Hotel on the Princes Street corner. The Caithnesian proprietor, Hugh Mackay, was a personal friend of Sir George’s. At no point was the facility used for general military recruiting. Edinburgh’s official army recruiting office was located at 63 Cockburn Street, where it remained up to the second great world war.

Mr Leadbetter is also mistaken in stating that the Heart of Midlothian players did not sign up for the battalion at 
Tynecastle Park. On the afternoon of 25 November, 1914, 11 players enlisted at Tynecastle in the presence of local Justice of the Peace Alexander Sim.

They completed the paperwork individually and in small groups later at the Palace Hotel. These events were liberally recorded in the contemporary press and referred to on many occasions by the then Hearts manager, John McCartney.

More recent confirmation (if any were needed) came from Walter Scott, one of five additional Hearts players who were rejected on that day at Tynecastle owing to poor physical health.

Walter was a friend of mine – and he was there.

Jack Alexander

McCrae’s Battalion Trust

Edinburgh

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