Montrose man’s role in WW1 to be told at Fringe Festival

Fiona Ritchie Walker and her mother Elizabeth Walker at Montrose Beach
Fiona Ritchie Walker and her mother Elizabeth Walker at Montrose Beach

A Montrose man’s role in a First World War firing squad will be told by his granddaughter when she makes her Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut next month.

Writer Fiona Ritchie Walker will be using poetry, family stories and audio to tell her grandfather’s story.

‘Taking Aim’, which is part of Appletree Writers’ Spoken Word Sundays programme at the Fringe Festival, centres on the life of Peter Charles Bert Ritchie – known as Bert or PCB - who took over his father’s ironmongery business in Castle Street and was a well-known figure in the town.

Fiona said: “Although my grandfather died when I was very small, I lived in his house above the shop until I was four, so my first memories are from there.

“My mum, Elizabeth Walker, is a great storyteller and I grew up hearing tales about the family.

“Two that really stuck in my mind are how Arbroath Railway Station and a packet of cigarettes played an important part in my grandparents meeting, plus what happened when my grandfather was part of a firing squad during the First World War.”

In fact, it was the poem that Fiona wrote about the firing squad, ‘What I Know About That Morning’, that led to her being invited to take part in Spoken Word Sundays.

She said: “Appletree Writers’ founder, Hannah Laverty – who is based in Dunbar – heard me read the poem in Newcastle and asked if I would like to develop a programme around it. Of course I said yes.”

Earlier this year, ‘What I Know About That Morning’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Poetry Competition, when judge Roger Elkin described it as “a solid example of disciplined writing which echoes the courage of its subject matter”.

Fiona continued:“Like many people in this centenary year marking the start of World War One, I’ve been researching family records, but then I’ve been using them as a springboard for my own writing.”

Fiona is an award-winning writer whose poetry has been widely published in magazines and anthologies.

Her latest collection, ‘The Second Week of the Soap’, was published last year by Red Squirrel Press.

A former journalist, she worked on several Scottish titles, including the Montrose Review and the Press & Journal, before moving to London.

She now lives in Blaydon, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Fiona will be presenting ‘Taking Aim’ on Sunday, August 10, at 6.30 p.m.

She said: “The venue at The Whole Works in Jacksons Close on the Royal Mile is quite intimate and a perfect setting, so I’m looking forward to taking part.”

Tickets for the 45-minute show are £6 and £5.50 for concessions and are available from the Edinburgh Fringe Box Office and website and via the Appletree Writers’ website .

The Spoken Word Sundays programmes are available at Montrose Library, the Review office and Dunninald Castle.