Traverse Theatre

An area of Edinburgh will be renamed ‘McCrae’s Place’ and a commemorative flagstone will be laid in tribute to McCrae’s battalion at a public ceremony outside the Usher Hall on Friday.

Led by the Lord Provost, the ceremony will mark 100 years since Sir George McCrae’s speech at the concert hall which encouraged 800 men sign up to what became the 16th Battalion: The Royal Scots.

Known locally as ‘McCrae’s’ or ‘The Sportsman’s’ battalion, among the initial volunteers were professional footballers from a number of clubs including the majority of the Heart of Midlothian team. McCrae commanded the battalion through to November 1916, including at Contalmaison in the Battle of the Somme in July that year.

The Lord Provost, The Rt Hon Donald Wilson, is calling for descendants of the men who fought in the battalion to step forward and join the commemorations. He said: “Around 800 men volunteered for McCrae’s Battalion following his stirring speech at the Usher Hall 100 years ago. Many of them were footballers, many of them still boys, and this ceremony is not to honour the war – but to honour the bravery of the great men who put their lives on the line.

Usher Hall Blue Sky Glass

“The story of McCrae’s Battalion is a huge part of Edinburgh’s local history and it seems appropriate to me that it should be remembered in this way. Many of the men who fought would have left families behind, and we are calling for descendants to get in touch and if they can, join us for this ceremony.”

The public street naming will be followed by a ticketed tribute at the Usher Hall, which will be a concert based on the lives of the soldiers. Actor Ken Stott will lead the audience through the history of the battalion and all profits will be divided between the military charities, Help for Heroes and Poppy Scotland.

The events take place on a day where honouring Scotland’s World War One heroes will be at the forefront in Edinburgh.

Before the ceremony outside the Usher Hall, a tribute to one of Scotland’s World War One heroes will be held with the UK Government and the Royal Navy. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh will join Lord Wallace of Tankerness and Royal Navy personnel to lay a commemorative stone outside the Scotland Office in honour of Commander Henry Peel Ritchie – the first member of the Royal Navy to receive the Victoria Cross during World War One.