Tartan Pimpernel Rev Dr Donald Caskie to be honoured at the scene of his heroics

He was the crofter’s son from Islay whose wartime heroics as a Church of Scotland minister helped thousands of Allied troops escape from France and saw him face a Gestapo death squad.
Rev Dr Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. Picture: TSPLRev Dr Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. Picture: TSPL
Rev Dr Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris. Picture: TSPL

Now Rev Dr Donald Caskie’s remarkable story will reverberate around the Scots Kirk in Paris next weekend in a special “homecoming” performance of the play, the Tartan Pimpernel.

Dr Caskie was the minister of the Scots Kirk in 1940 when the Germans invaded France and this will be the first time the play, by Glasgow-based playwright John Hughes, has been performed in the church.

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The Islay-born minister helped around 2,000 allied military personnel escape occupied France during the Second World War.

Hughes said: “We have toured the play around Scotland and performed in towns that have a connection to Donald Caskie including Irvine, Greenock and Skelmorlie.

“We ended the tour in Bowmore and we are delighted that we will be taking the play to where our story begins – the Scots Kirk in Paris.

“It starts in June 1940 with Donald Caskie denouncing the Nazis from the pulpit and this is where we will be performing.”

Dr Caskie, nicknamed the Tartan Pimpernel, fled to Marseille after the Grermans invaded France where he ran a Seaman’s Mission where helped Allied soldiers escape before being arrested.

He then moved to Grenoble where he continued to arrange for the escape of soldiers, seamen and airmen under the cover of being a university chaplain.

Dr Caskie, who ignored repeated calls from British Intelligence to return home, was betrayed again and imprisoned by the Gestapo and sentenced to death. His life was only saved through the intervention of a German pastor and he spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp.

The play is being staged in Paris with the help of the Scottish Government which has an office in the city.

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Scottish Government culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, said: “It is fitting that the play will be staged in the same week as Holocaust Memorial Day, especially this year, when we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“We must never forget the Holocaust as an example of what human beings can do when fundamental human rights are abandoned and bigotry and intolerance are allowed to flourish.”

A memorial plaque was unveiled outside a former military fort near Nice in honour of Dr Caskie last year.