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Murray’s WW1 play takes off

A WORLD War One play written by Shetland-based author Donald S Murray last year is to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, in London and inside Belgium’s main wartime museum.

Sequamur – Latin for ‘Let us follow’ – was written last year for the Gaelic Arts Agency’s commemoration of the start of the Great War in 1914.

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Murray, who hails from the Isle of Lewis, focused on the story of William Gibson, a charismatic headmaster of the Nicolson Institute for 30 years who encouraged his pupils to fight for their country.

Teacher, author and playwright Donald S Murray. Photo Carol Ann Peacock

It was inspired by a speech Gibson wrote in 1932 for the unveiling of a plaque for the 148 pupils who lost their lives during the brutal conflict, in which he voiced his own grief, guilt and inner turmoil over their deaths.

The original production in Stornoway was greeted so warmly that Murray was asked to expand it from 40 to 70 minutes, with the help of Peter Arnott from the National Theatre of Scotland.

After a successful tour of Scotland in March this year, the play is now set for a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe in August, the Gate Theatre in London’s Notting Hill, with two shows planned in Ireland and a performance at the In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, in Belgium.

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The play is largely in Gaelic, with elements of English, Greek and Latin thrown in, but each performance is simultaneously translated into English using headphones.

Murray, who has been principal English teacher at Sandwick junior high school for many years, expressed surprise at the success of his play.

“When I wrote it I only expected it to be a one off. It’s absolutely amazing that it’s going to all these places, especially London and Belgium,” the 57 year old said.

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He said that it was also interesting because it looked at the events in Gallipoli, normally associated with Australian troops, where many soldiers from the Scottish islands, including Shetland lost their lives.

He believes the play may still have life in it beyond these performances, but is unsure whether it will ever come to Shetland. “I doubt it, but there is always a possibility.”

Later this year Murray will publish his new book about the impact of the herring fishery on northern Europe, called Herring Tales: How The Silver Darlings Influenced Human Taste and History.

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