Remembering the railway casualties

Plaque is unveiled to honour vicitims of two train disasters

A MOVING ceremony at Castlecary saw a plaque unveiled to honour the victims of two tragic rail disasters – which united the leaders of two separate local authorities to remember those who died.

North Lanarkshire Provost Pat Connelly joined forces with the Provost of Falkirk Council Jim Johnston to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Castlecary rail disaster of 1937 and the Castlecary rail crash of 1968.

The first event claimed a total of 37 lives and nearly 100 injuries after a collison – and the second caused the death of two railwaymen in a light engine after it hit an unoccupied rear carriage which had stopped at the now defunct Castlecary Station.

DETERMINED

Residents had been determined for many years to have a commemorative plaque, and ideally saw this being placed on the famous Castlecary Arches railway bridge – in a move which did not win the backing of the rail authorities.

However, a spot of behind the scenes diplomacy on the part of Falkirk councillor Billy Buchanan plus the Castlecary Community Council and Residents Association meant that the plaque found another home – in a spot which brought to mind another tragedy in the village.

A Garden of Remembrance was created to commemorate two children who died when a mineshaft suddenly opened up in the village swing park, and understandably, this has become something of a focal point in itself.

So it was judged that the plaque would be ideally situated in this already poignant location – and this was unveiled last Wednesday, by both provosts, plus the wife of one of the victims, Mrs Molly Shanks, who had travelled all the way from Dingwall to attend.

In fact, it was her son Roddy Shanks who is a pipe major in East Kilbride Pipe Band who played the lament in what proved to be an extremely apt tribute to his father.

Wreaths were laid and a minutes silence was also observed. In addition, an understated but highly emotive Prayer of Dedication was said for those who had died in the tragic trio of incidents, which runs thus:

DEDICATE

"We are gathered here today in this memorial garden at Castlecary to dedicate this plaque to the victims of the Castlecary Rail disaster of 1937 and the Castlecary rail crash of 1968

"We will also remember why this garden was built and we remember that tragedy. As we go and leave this place with our own thoughts and emotions we should be satisfied that we, the few, have not forgotten or will ever forget, the victims of Castlecary."

Castlecary Community Council's Albert MacBeath who is also involved with the Castlecary Residents Association said that the ceremony had at last given locals a chance to formally commemorate those who had died.

"We have wanted to do this for a very long time – and the ceremony itself was perfect. It was very emotional, especially the lament.

"Having the plaque means that people from Castlecary and the relatives of those who died can sit in pleasant surroundings and remember those who died," added Mr MacBeath.

Provost Connelly added: "It was a pleasure and a privilege to attend the commemoration ceremony – it was a fitting way to remember the victims.

"I commend the effort that has been invested in the creation of this official tribute by Falkirk Council," he added.

Report: CLARE GRANT