Almost 100 years on from the start of World War One, there is a group of men whose service has long since been forgotten about – these men were Eastern European immigrants from Russia and the Baltic States who had settled in Scotland.
Many of them were escaping the clutches of Czarist Russia’s Army, where they would serve many years for little reward.
From the 1890s on, many decided that enough was enough and left with the intention of moving to the United States.
At this time, there was an active trade between ports such as Leith to the Baltic states , with coal being a prime export from Scotland.
One of the main exporters was the Lothian Coal Company, with numerous ships going to and from Hamburg.
Rather than come back empty, the filthy coal ships offered immigrants cheap passage to a new life, which the immigrants thought would be in the USA.
To their horror, they were deposited in Leith.
The Lothian Coal Company was not slow to take advantage of their situation, the Lady Victoria Colliery had just opened in Newtongrange, and many men were needed to man its new and highly productive coal seams.
John Duncan’s full feature appears in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.