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Fair Isle WWI film

A FILM made by pupils from Fair Isle’s tiny primary school about World War One veterans has been selected as one of the top four entries in a nationwide war memorial competition.

The pupils uncovered real life stories of local heroes as part of a campaign by the Royal British Legion Scotland to commemorate the conflict’s centenary.

The film Our Boys shows how life during the war devastated the local community. Pupils conducted interviews with Fair Isle residents and relatives of veterans honoured on the memorial.

One of those stories featured the McLean brothers, who served in the same division and died three days apart in the trenches in France. The body of the older brother, Kenneth, was never found.

Local resident Brian Wilson is interviewed talking about his grandfather William Stewart Eunson, who served in Shetland and died aged 36 in 1916 of meningitis.

Fair Isle Primary School’s head teacher Nicholas Lucas said: “Of the 139 residents on Fair Isle at the time 26 went off to World War One and eight never returned. That’s a big part of a small community.

“People didn’t talk about it. It was so devastating and felt so strongly here. It changed everything on the island. Speaking to people whose families were affected helped the pupils make a real connection to the war. It really brought it home to them.”

Lucas said the war could be “complicated to understand” but the process of making the film “really made it hit home to the children”.

“The research also helped them learn more about wider local history,” he added. “Half of the Fair Isle men who died in World War One never made it to battle because they died of diseases. So the research helped the pupils understand about what health was like at the time.”

The other three shortlisted entries are from St Andrews in Dumfries, Leuchars in Fife and Ballater in Aberdeenshire. The winner will be announced by 28 March.

RBL Scotland chief executive Kevin Gray described the Fair Isle film as “fantastic” and said it showed “how much they had engaged with their history and war memorial heritage through the stories of real people”.