Swan along to see author’s story

The cast of Swan, a play about early 20th century writer and politician Annie Swan from Gorebridge.
The cast of Swan, a play about early 20th century writer and politician Annie Swan from Gorebridge.

The near forgotten story of a pioneering Gorebridge author and politician who made her mark during the First World War is to be told next week.

Gorebridge Community Development Trust, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Midlothian Council, has put together the play ‘Swan’, about one of the village’s most famous exports, Annie Swan, who wrote more than 200 pieces between 1878 and her death in 1943.

Annie Swan and her daughter.

Annie Swan and her daughter.

As well as a renowned writer she was one of the first women to stand for election, standing for the Liberal Party at the 1922 General Election. She was also a founding member and one-time vice president of the SNP.

During the First World War she quit writing and joined the war effort. Sean Watson from the Trust uncovered this story while running a local heritage project and teamed up with 3in1 theatre and Matt Dunn to write a script about it.

He said: “We were keen to take the story to the public and we decided to do that through a production. We started the script a year ago, finished it in January, had a casting call in March and we were able to pull together a cast of 25 people of all ages, mostly locals.

“The play begins in 1910 and continues through to her death in 1943, however the majority of the action is from the First World War.

“She did a lot. Worked with Belgian Refugees, worked with the YMCA in France speaking with the troops, she was sent on an awareness raising tour of America where she became close with future president Herbert Hoover, and organised community kitchens. She received an OBE as well as the Queen Victoria Medal from the King if Belgium.

“It’s an incredibly undervalued story, her contribution was very important and the fact that she was a woman is important as we tend to focus on the war efforts of men.”

Sean, who believes this is the first play about Annie, added: “Her entire life is an incredibly important story, from her writing to politics. I would even go so far as to say her story is of national importance. We hope this raises awareness of Annie and makes local people proud of her.”

Sean praised the mainly local cast: “In terms of casting I was surprised to get such a good response to that. I think it was a combination of having something different to take part in and recognising the importance of the story.

“We are ready, the cast are prepared, they have been a credit to themselves and the community. They have put in so much hard work and are getting so much out of it, it’s great to see.”

Sean also thanked the mining museum for hosting the play which was due to take place at the new Gorebridge Beacon hit by fire in May.